I actually finished the book by the second blog post so this fourth post is going to be more of an analysis of the point of view of the book. This book was written after months of author Jeff Kunerth interviewing Patrick Bonifay, the actual shooter and the perceived planner of the murder. As a result, I would think that the book would try to paint Patrick in the best light possible because it was somewhat from his point of view. The contrary is actual true, Patrick basically takes all of the blame for the murder, says Cliff was very hesitant to get in the car before the murder, and the book reveals that Eddie did not even know the murder was going to happen.
I believe either one of two scenarios took place. One, Patrick believes that even though the other two former teen murderers have life in prison, that they have the possibility of getting out through another trial, or some kind of parole change to their sentence. He feels guilty that he brought this upon them and would rather them get out then him. The other possibility is that Kunerth, took what Patrick said with a grain of salt and then tried to piece together the story from official police reports, news outlets, and a sprinkle of his own opinion. I personally believe it is a mixture of the two possible scenarios. Either way the book was a fantastic read, and fit very well into the subject I intended to study with this project!
Patrick Bonifay Eddie Fordham Cliff Barth
Corey Bryant Elisha Thornton Joshua Cook
In my first two posts I have mainly left alone the comparison between the 1991 Trout Auto Parts murder and the 2017 Drug Deal murder that I planned on comparing, but in this third post I will go more in depth into it.
The above lineups happen to have the shooter (and main planner) on the left, the driver who was supposedly not involved in the middle, and the third friend who assisted the shooter but did not actually pull the trigger.
In the Trout Auto Parts book, Patrick Bonifay was the only one of the three kids that was involved in the planning of the murder. Cliff Barth knew about the plan but he was hesitant to leave his house when Eddie and Patrick picked him up. Eddie Fordham was Patrick’s friend with a car. Eddie was having a tough time fitting in at Escambia High and Patrick abused his loneliness. It is unclear whether he knew that he was driving to and from a murder.
In this last section of the book, we get to see the trials up close. The district attorney tries to give Patrick a life sentence and the other two involved life in prison. In 1991 in Florida, only the majority was needed to sentence someone to death. Patrick was originally given the death penalty but after a long court battle it was changed to life in prison. Even though their levels of involvement differed greatly both Cliff and Eddie ended up receiving the same penalty as Patrick, life in prison. I personally don’t think this is fair because we aren’t even sure if Eddie knew a murder was going to happen, and Cliff was blindly following his leader Patrick. Now the three murderers must live the rest of their life in prison.
In the 2017 murder, Corey Bryant is very similar to Patrick Bonifay as he was the shooter, Elisha Thornton is very similar to Eddie Fordham, as was the driver and it is believed that he never got out of the car during the fight, and Josh Cook and Clifford Barth bear resemblance as the friend alongside. In both cases innocent men were killed and that is not okay, but I hope this trial can come along differently in the coming months/years.
I am currently about two/thirds of the way through the book and have gotten through the backstories of the children’s upbringing, the lead up to the murder, and the actual murder itself.
I found it very interesting to hear that all three of these children had very rough upbringings, which I don’t think is true of the Gwinnett County drug deal murder. Patrick Bonifay, the actual killer, was tossed between his drug addict mother’s trailer and his grandfather’s house from year to year. He was the real bad boy of the kids and did all the dirty work (Planned robbery/murder, bought gun/bullets, shot the victim). Eddie, the driver was from a rich family but never really fit in as a kid. He is the most comparable to my old friend as he was the driver, and is trying to convince police that he did not know that a murder had occurred until he got back to his home and saw blood on Patrick. At this point in the book, I’m not sure if this is true. Cliff the third participant had just moved to Pensacola from Alaska and was having trouble making friends.
These kids had also been committing petty robberies together for a few months, so they were looked at as criminals. I think this difference between the types of kids the Trout murderers were and the Gwinnett County drug deal murder makes this part of the biography somewhat incomparable. Some of the kids’ post-trial thoughts have started to come out but the meat of the trial when they face life in prison or even the death penalty in 17 year old Patrick’s case is where I believe I will find the most similarities between the two cases.
As a whole, I have found this book extremely intriguing as this murder in a small suburb of Pensacola through the whole town out of whack. I look forward to peering into the minds and tactics of the three children to see how they interpret and cope with the fact that they were just involved in a murder of a defenseless man.
When I first was assigned this project about a month ago I didn’t have a striking desire to read a specific type of biography. In the past I have read many sports biographies, so I looked into that and narrowed in on my current sports passion, golf. (Congrats, to Sergio on his Masters win!) I was set to read one of a few Tiger Woods biographies, but last week my choice of selections dramatically changed. On our day off of school last Monday, I was scrolling through the AJC top stories, as I do most days, and the saw the headline “Georgia high school baseball player jailed on murder charge”. I clicked on the headline and saw the headline picture, a mug shot that I thought I recognized. When I scrolled down and read the name I couldn’t believe it, it was one of my old friends from middle school. I have no current relationship with this kid, and have not seen him since 6th grade but it was still shocking to see. I followed the story intensely last week, and it was chilling to see news coverage of him wearing jail attire at his bond hearing. It has now come out that he was just driving the car, but he could still face many years in prison. As I gear up to follow this case over the next few months or even few years, I wanted to choose a biography of a teenager or group of teenagers who was in a similar situation.
The first similar biography I found was Trout: A True Story of Murder, Teens, and the Death Penalty by Jeff Kunerth. This book is about a true situation in Pensacola, Florida when three teens were charged with the murder of an auto parts store worker. Two of the three teens charged never left the getaway car similarly to my middle school friend. This book goes in depth into the lead in to the murder, the actual night of the murder, and then the long trial over the coming years for the three teens. From the fact that three teens, two that were 17 and one 18 were the murderers, to the fact that it was a robbery gone wrong, to the fact that one or both of the kids never left the getaway car, makes this a perfect biography to preview the upcoming months of the coming trial.