A Two Decade Journey to Justice
Review by Kim Cantrell
William “Bill” Edward Groseclose was twice divorced and determined that he would never allow another wife to divorce him; especially one with whom he had a child and would have to pay child support to.
But that’s exactly what his third wife, Deborah “Debbie” Watts Groseclose intended to do after an dispute that turned violent on New Year’s Eve 1976.
Having young children, however, can slow down the best of well made plans – especially those involving divorce – and in late June 1977, Debbie and Bill were only in the early stages of dissolving their marriage.
Bill, however, had long been planning on how he could eliminate the divorce process altogether.
For a paltry (even for 1977 prices) sum, Groseclose recruited, with the help of his friend Barton Wayne Mount, Oklahoma native Ronald Eugene Rickman to murder his wife and mother of his (almost) one-year-old son. Rickman, in turn, would talk his ex brother-in-law Phillip Michael Britt, in to assisting him.
Murder In Memphis, written by Debbie’s aunt Dorris D. Porch and sister Rebecca Easley, tells the disturbing story of how Debbie was attacked in her own home, raped, and abducted then left to die in the trunk of a car, parked in a lot on Peabody Avenue, during the hot and humid Tennessee summer months, where she was discovered five days after being left there.
There story is told from a victim’s family’s point of view. And, in that sense, it is an interesting, albiet heartbreaking, story. However, from a purely true crime aspect, it is greatly lacking. A few examples of such would be the little to no information provided on the backgrounds of Bill Groseclose or his hired thugs; extremely minimal victimology – such as facts surrounding Debbie’s first marriage; and, with the exception of a couple of paragraphs and psuedonym for the name, there is nothing about Bill’s previous two marriages or why they ended.
Positive points forMurder in Memphis? It is the only book written on this 1977 case. Trial procedure enthusiasist will enjoy the details of this case as it follows from the initial investigation to the final appeals. And, lastly, victim’s rights advocates will rally behind a family who refused to give up.
Because this book will suit some tastes while leaving others sorely disappointed, I won’t make a recommendation either way. This time, it’s strictly up to you!
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Updates from this book:
As of this writing, William “Bill” Groseclose, spends his time as prisoner number 83408 at West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, Tennessee. His next parole hearing will be in September 2013.
Ronald Rickman, a.k.a. prisoner number 83407, is presently incarcerated at the Morgan County Correctional Complex (the replacement for the infamous Brushy Mountain State Prison) in Wartburg, Tennessee.
Having been denied parole several times, Phillip Michael Britt remains behind bars at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee. Britter, better known as prisoner number 83210, is scheduled for another parole hearing in August 2011.
Author Dorris D. Porch passed away on July 24, 2010. Her sister, Debbie’s mother, Aline Davis Watts, passed away on November 26, 2007.
Peggy Steed Douglas continues to live in Millington, Tennessee.
Debbie’s daughter, Tonya Foley (Shackelford), lives in Arlington, Tennessee, and works as a District Manager for Walgreens.
- State of Tennessee vs. Ronald Eugene Rickman; Appeals Opinion May 17, 2002.