Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

'Evil Next Door'

Posted April 6, 2010

Publishing a book is a lot like having a baby.  You spend months preparing for the big day.  Along the way there are many painful moments – from research, to writing at 2:00 in the morning, to a seemingly never-ending cycle of editing.  

The day the book comes out is a birth of sorts.  It appears all of the work is done, but this is not the case.  In many ways, it is just beginning.  The job of raising a child, like that of marketing and selling a book, continues indefinitely.

Today, my third book is born.  "Evil Next Door" is the story of a 2002 murder case in Raleigh that I covered for WRAL-TV. 

Amanda Lamb talks about new book, 'Evil Next Door' Amanda Lamb talks about new book, 'Evil Next Door'

A young, beautiful, kind woman by the name of Stephanie Bennett was raped, tortured and killed in her North Raleigh apartment.  Because it appeared to be the work of a stranger, the brutal crime turned the southern city upside down with fear.  The killer left his DNA all over the crime scene, but detectives could find no match. 

Despite hundreds of hours of investigation, the case went cold.  It wasn't until two new investigators from the Raleigh Police Department, Jackie Taylor and Ken Copeland, inherited the case and looked at it with fresh eyes, that a suspect was located.  

Still, it would be months before the case would be solved.  A cat-and-mouse game between the killer and police lasted several months as they tried to get a DNA sample from him.  But Drew Planten was a scientist, a bright man who knew how to prevent detectives from getting hold of his DNA.

In the end, after more than three years of investigation, the Raleigh Police Department solved the case. Planten was arrested for the first-degree murder of Stephanie Bennett. 

"Evil Next Door" looks at the case the case from many different perspectives.  I re-interviewed investigators, prosecutors, family and friends, as well as other women who were stalked by Planten. 

Nothing can bring Stephanie back, but those who work in the criminal justice system hope that by constantly re-examining cases like this one, we may learn things that will help us as a community to prevent them someday.

Even though "Evil Next Door" is my third book, I am always mindful of just how lucky I am to be pursuing my dream of writing books.  With each book, I learn something new about writing and about my subject matter.  I have lived with this book for nearly two years. 

I appreciate the support of everyone who helped me put the pieces of the story together.  I also appreciate all the support I have received from my readers who continue to encourage me on this journey.  I plan to give birth to more books, but for now, I will concentrate on raising this one...

"Evil Next Door" is available at your local independent booksellers, as well as at the major chain bookstores and online.  Please join me for a book launch at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh Thursday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.  For a complete list of book signings please visit my Web Site at www.alambauthor.com.

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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.