Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mama's Boy: The True Story of A Serial Killer and His Mother by Richard Penciak

This is a book from my guilty pleasure genre: true crime.  It was a random pick from my work library (as it usually is).  While there are many things unique to the case of Eric Napoletano, I'm not sure it's the most interesting True Crime I've ever read.

Napoletano had a close relationship with his mother, Carolyn.  By close, I mean strangely close.  Eric and Carolyn spoke several times a day and argued like brother and sister.  When Eric was only 11, he met a 48-year-old man whom Carolyn was content to let Eric visit and eventually live with.  Although Carolyn didn't care for "Uncle Al," they had their unique devotion to Erin in common.

Carolyn never felt any of the women in his life were worthy of him.  Eric had a penchant for minority women, whom Carolyn despised and referred to with racial slurs.  She even refused to attend his weddings.  Eric's pattern with women would begin with infatuation and doting, and progress to isolation, abuse, and even death.  Because of Eric's close but antagonistic relationship with his mother, it's difficult to imagine she had no idea of the toxicity of his relationships.

In 1984, Eric's girlfriend Marilyn Coludro was found dead, having been stabbed several times.  About a year later, Eric had moved on and gotten married.  When things went sour in the marriage and his wife left him, his mother-in-law, Gladys Matos, was shot dead on a street corner.  And in 1990, when police came to Eric looking for his missing wife, Eric and his mother went to the station only to complain about the police harassing him.  Myra Acevedo was later found dead by strangulation.

It wasn't until Acevedo's murder, which fell under the jurisdiction of a New Jersey Detective, that Eric's past began to be scrutinized.  Although Eric lived in New York, which had previously investigated him, those efforts were hindered, in part by Carolyn, who worked for the New York City Police Department.  Her position enabled her access to Eric's investigation in which she abused her position.  Her questionable actions while working were either ignored or avoided by transferring Carolyn to other positions, still within the department.  Carolyn also provided alibis for Eric and even filed a complaint against a detective investigating the Matos murder.

Although seemingly cooperative at times, "Uncle Al" appeared to know more about Eric's relationships than he let on.  FBI wiretaps into Al's, Carolyn's, and Eric's phones was the first federal wiretap used in a serial homicide case.  The wiretaps were crucial in showing that not only was Eric a participant in these crimes, but so were his mother and "Uncle Al."  Although the degree of their involvement was never really made clear.

To make things more complicated, Eric had two sons.  One of whom, Eric Jr., was struggling with behavioral problems.  It seemed the parent-child cycle of dysfunctional behavior was repeating itself.  And based on the circumstances of Acevedo's murder, it was possible Eric's sons were potential witnesses to the events surrounding Myra's disappearance.

The story is interesting, but I think one of the most compelling aspects, Eric's relationship with his mother, wasn't fully realized.  Penciak used excerpts from interviews with Carolyn throughout the book which provided her chilling and infuriating perspective on Eric and his crimes.  But I wanted to know more about their dynamic, perhaps more antecdotes from when he was younger.  The narrative in general was also a bit bland.  But the story itself was interesting enough to keep me reading, although I'm ready to move on to another book.

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