I Knew Her As Gracie

By Andy Betz

Sometime after my father moved from the old house to the new house (in Missouri), I met Gracie.  She was neither beautiful nor well accomplished, but she was nearby and that alone spoke volumes to her character.

Our home sat on a small ten acre vegetable farm far removed from the center of the town with a population and date of founding that mirrored each other.  Gracie was my closest neighbor, living with her father a mere 1.5 miles away.  He ran the local co-op and she ran the house.  Together, they morphed into a business duo of self-taught acumen and hard won success.  The Leptons (Gracie’s last name) acquired their status through hard work and it showed.  Frank Lepton had been elected to almost every local government position and appointed to those requiring no balloting.  Gracie was the equivalent of the royal debutante in a county without a tiara, throne, or scepter.  Gracie didn’t need such trinkets, she had moxie and chutzpah.  That was enough for farm country.  It was more than enough for me.

Gracie had a habit of keeping a journal that she said, detailed all she held dear, all she loved.  Like every other teenage boy with a crush on any girl that pays any attention to me, I wanted to read Gracie’s diary.  I wanted to read it so desperately that I snuck into her house when I figured she was out in the fields and rummaged through her room.  It took but a few minutes to find it tucked under her mattress and I began reading.  What I saw made me uneasy.  Gracie was not a typical teenager.  Gracie plotted and planned the murders of many of the influential townsfolk in the county.  She detailed the how, when, and where of each and let no detail too small for examination.  I was shocked.  Here was simple Gracie Lepton, burgeoning murderer and no one knew but me.

It was getting late and I placed the diary back where I found it, only to find a manuscript with one entry.  In it, Gracie details (in typed print) how she killed the little Samuelson girl five months ago with a river rock.  Gracie smashed the girl’s face and buried the body in a shallow grave.  I heard about the girl’s disappearance and the untold misery her parents endured before they sold their land to the co-op and left for good.  The police never solved the case and the body was never recovered.

Now I am scared.  I had evidence of a murder.  I folded the manuscript and tucked it into my pants.  I barely escaped the Lepton’s house before I heard Mr. Lepton return with Gracie from a shopping trip in town.

I ran all the way home.

Then I started to think.

How did I know this wasn’t a fake?  The shallow grave showed no pictures or location (short of a few clues) and I wasn’t going to admit that I illegally entered a home to steal someone’s personal property.  I couldn’t go to the sheriff.  I couldn’t go to my father.  Most of all, I couldn’t let Gracie know I knew.  I had to remain as if I didn’t know a thing.

That is, until I could find the grave of the Samuelson girl.  Then, I would have all the proof I needed.

September turned to October then all the way until April.  I saw Gracie every day at school and remained aloof.  She thought I was playing hard to get and redoubled her efforts to have me notice her.  We were both sixteen now and love was in the air.  Gracie became a bit prettier over the winter and the warm weather brought that out in her.  I was noticing and I was remembering.


Spring was the perfect time to go looking for a shallow grave.  Gracie thought it was a perfect time to go for a walk together.  I thought that if I went with her, she might make a mistake and show me the spot of the murder.  I didn’t completely enjoy Gracie’s company, but I didn’t completely believe her typed story either.


I began walking Gracie home every day after school, ever the gentleman, and listened to every word she spoke.  I agreed to each foray she proposed off-the-beaten-path to verify which Gracie I suspected was the real Gracie.

By May, she gave me my first kiss.  By the end of school, we were going steady.  Her father was happy.  My father was happy.  Gracie was happy.  I should have been happy.


I found the ravine she mentioned in the manuscript and it sent shivers down my spine.  The Samuelson girl may be buried among the 100 yards of its length.  I still had my doubts about Gracie, even as we walked over and through the ravine daily.

Even as I found a variety of skeletons (animals for food) unmasked from old campfires, exposed by summer rains, it was unnerving to see a bone and not believe my girlfriend was a murderer.  Gracie thought I was a bit squeamish, but I insisted I wasn’t and demanded we pass through the ravine to prove my conjecture. 

Rarely did I have the opportunity to pass through by myself.  But when I did, I scoured the area as quickly as I could.  The ravine was a shortcut between our homes and thus, I should be making good time (and not good excuses) going to pick up Gracie or coming home.

Then, one day, in late August, just before twilight, I struck gold.  I found a human skeleton in the ravine.  It was of a child and had a skull crushed by a blunt object.  I was so elated that I had my proof that I shouted in glee.

That is when the Sheriff and three deputies turned on the lights, pointed their guns, and arrested me for murder of the Samuelson girl and four other children buried in the ravine.

My trial consisted of one witness for the state, Gracie Lepton.  She testified she found the manuscript in my books (forensics showed only my fingerprints on the papers) and told her father.  Her father told the Sheriff.  He began a surveillance of my comings and goings and why I always insisted on traveling through the ravine.  When I wasn’t there, the police found the remains of the other children.  On the day I found the remains of the Samuelson girl, the Sheriff found me.  Gracie testified that she had cooperated with the Sheriff to keep me under constant watch until I led them to the last set of remains.  My gleeful shout closed the books on their investigation. 

A jury of my peers convicted me on the murders of five children.  I received life for each conviction.

The trial bankrupted my father and he sold his farm (at a loss) to the co-op to avoid bankruptcy.  It was too much for him to take and he now resides in a state home receiving proper care.

I saw a television commercial with a campaign ad for Gracie Lepton running for County Commissioner on a tough-on-crime platform financed by the income of five recently purchased farms (from this year alone) and the five previously purchased farms (from the years before and during my trial).  She promised to continue the work against murderers of children for as long as it took.

She would spare no expense.  Of that, I have no doubt.

Bio: The works of Andy Betz are found everywhere a search engine operates.  Andy has written many great things that have been posted to The Yard: Crime Blog, including, “Water” with Jaysa Brown, “The Less You Have, the More It Hurts To Lose It”, “I Knew Her as Tigist“, “How My New Life Began“, “Et Tu“, “Senny” with Dounia Saunders, “Oleander“, “The Best Advice I Ever Got“, “If I Ask Your Opinion“, “As the Sun Sets“, “Walter,” “The Saddest Lies“, “By Morning”, “Nicole and Julia: Death at Poolside”, “Julia and Katherine” “The Caretaker”, “The Carlton Theater” with Samantha Fowler, “minus“, “Starting Over Again“, “What I’ve Learned Watching Murder“, and “Today’s Lecture“.  He has also been interviewed.

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