Wrecking Crew with ButtonWRECKING CREW: Demolishing the Case Against Steven Avery

WildBlue Press, November 2018

In 2016-17, while working for the USA TODAY NETWORK’s Wisconsin Investigative Team, author John Ferak wrote dozens of articles examining the murder case against Steven Avery, who had already beat one wrongful conviction only to be charged with the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005. The case became the wildly successful Netflix “Making A Murderer” documentary.

In WRECKING CREW: Demolishing The Case Against Steven Avery, Ferak lays out in exacting detail the post-conviction strategy of Kathleen Zellner, the high-profile, high-octane lawyer, to free Avery. To write this book, Zellner, perhaps America’s most successful wrongful conviction attorney, gave Ferak unique access to the exhaustive pro bono efforts she and her small suburban Chicago law firm dedicated for a man she believes to be a victim of an unscrupulous justice system in Manitowoc County.



Failure of Justice with ButtonFAILURE OF JUSTICE: A Brutal Murder, An Obsessed Cop, Six Wrongful Convictions

WildBlue Press, May 2016

Everyone felt the same way: small-town Nebraska widow Helen Wilson didn’t have an ounce of meanness inside her body. Then on February 5, 1985, one of the coldest nights on record, the unthinkable happened. The sixty-eight-year-old resident was murdered inside her second-floor apartment, but why?

Local residents were floored. What type of monster would target a vulnerable widow to fulfill his homicidal sexual fantasies? The crime scene was eerily ritualistic. The trail of evidence turned frustratingly cold until an astonishing breakthrough occurred four years later. A torn scrap of money recovered at the crime scene became the presumed smoking gun that helped solve the hideous crime. The news of six arrests was absolutely stunning to the locals in this easy-going, blue-collar community of 12,000 residents. But why were six loosely connected misfits who lived as far away as Alabama, Colorado and North Carolina being linked to the rape and murder of a beloved Nebraska widow? 

As they sat in jail, the constant threat of Nebraska’s barbaric electric chair scared the daylights out of these troubled souls, except for one of them. Joseph White remained defiant in his fight to prove his innocence. It didn’t matter. All six of the condemned were convicted of murder and sent away to prison for the ghastly crime. The town moved on, convinced that justice was served.

For more than twenty-five years, the Beatrice 6 rotted in prison, until the unthinkable occurred in 2008. Now, the red state in America’s Heartland faced a real quandary that could only mean one thing: Nebraska had a colossal FAILURE OF JUSTICE on its hands. 

In his latest thrilling true crime book, bestselling and award-winning author John Ferak explores the murder, investigation, trial, conviction and eventual exoneration–the largest such ever in the United States–of the Beatrice 6.


Body of Proof with ButtonBody of Proof: Tainted Evidence in the Murder of Jessica O’Grady?

WildBlue Press, 2015

Jessica O’Grady was a tall, starry-eyed co-ed in search of finding her Mr. Right. Christopher Edwards was a 19-year-old deceitful and darkened soul. David Kofoed was a veteran crime lab commander who was on the prowl for more high-profile sensational murder cases to keep his prestigious forensics lab in the media spotlight.

In May of 2006, Jessica’s sudden and mystifying disappearance quickly turned into the biggest news story in Omaha, Nebraska. Hundreds of volunteers scoured lakes, creeks, riverbeds, forests, parks and barren fields.

But it did not matter how hard people tried, nobody could find Jessica’s body. Clearly, something awful and grisly happened to Jessica inside a west Omaha home where one noteworthy clue made Edwards the prime suspect. Enter CSI commander Kofoed. A week later, he emerged on the case. By that point in time, Kofoed had already gotten away with producing false clues and planting blood in two other high-profile murder cases across Nebraska’s Heartland. O’Grady’s friends and family were sad. They starved for answers. They demanded swift justice. Kofoed faced a dilemma. If authorities wanted to solve the homicide of Jessica O’Grady, they had to move fast.

Would he be tempted to work up some secret magical evidence back inside his Omaha crime lab to avenge Jessica’s murder? Or would he let Christopher Edwards continue to mock law enforcement and roam free in the community? Find out in BODY OF PROOF, author John Ferak’s sequel to his debut book, BLOODY LIES, a Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year true crime award winner.


Dixie with ButtonDixie’s Last Stand: Was It Murder or Self-Defense?

WildBlue Press, 2015

The gray ranch along Third Avenue in the sleepy Midwestern town of less than 400 people was the recurring site of screaming, mad chaos and horrific domestic violence.

Then one day, abusive husband Scott Shanahan was gone. Some thought he packed his bags and left town. Weeks passed. Months went by. Still no sign of the volatile wife beater. But what really happened to him was so shocking and so unbelievable that even grizzled, long-time law enforcement officials were aghast by the sight and awful smell. The town wondered why Dixie Shanahan managed to live with her husband’s rotting body inside her master bedroom — for fourteen months.

Dixie’s Last Stand presents a number of interesting dilemmas for America’s criminal justice system. Do these get-tough-on-crime mandatory prison sentencing laws that tend to treat all violent crimes in a cookie-cutter fashion need to be abolished? And what’s the fine line between self-defense and intentional, premeditated murder in a case that involves repeated instances of domestic violence? Under that scenario, should it be OK for the spouse who feels trapped and threatened in a horribly abusive and rocky marriage to go ahead and kill her lousy, no-good husband? On the other spectrum, what if the facts of the death scene were pretty black and white. What if the domestic violence victim was not being beaten or threatened at that particular time? What if the woman just killed her abusive husband during the night while he comfortably slept? If those were the cold, hard facts, should the woman be thrown in prison and treated like any other hardened, cold-blooded killer who takes up space in one of our country’s many maximum security prisons?


Bloody Lies with ButtonBloody Lies: A CSI Scandal in the Heartland

Kent State University Press, 2014

The remote farming community of Murdock, Nebraska, seemed to be the least likely setting for one of the heartland’s most ruthless and bloody double murders in decades. In fact, the little town had gone more than a century without a single homicide. But on the night of Easter 2006, Wayne and Sharmon Stock were brutally murdered in their home. The murders garnered sensational frontpage headlines and drew immediate statewide attention. Practically everybody around Murdock was filled with fear, panic, and outrage. Who killed Wayne and Sharmon Stock? What was the motive? The Stocks were the essence of Nebraska’s all-American farm family, self-made, God-fearing, and of high moral character. Barely a week into this double murder investigation, two arrests brought a sense of relief to the victims’ family and to local residents. The case appeared to fall neatly into place when a tiny speck of murder victim Wayne Stock’s blood appeared in the alleged getaway car. 

Then, an obscure clue left at the crime scene took the investigation down a totally different path, stretching into Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin. By the time this investigation was over, the charges against the original suspects were dismissed and two new individuals emerged from the shadows. Author John Ferak covered the Stock murders from the very beginning, including all of the trial proceedings. When the criminal prosecution finally ended in 2007, he remained puzzled by one nagging question: Why was the blood of victim Wayne Stock in a car that was ultimately proven to have no connection to the murders?

Over the next few years, the astonishing “bloody lies” were revealed, culminating in a law enforcement scandal that turned the case on its head and destroyed the career of Nebraska’s celebrated CSI director, David Kofoed.