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Cruel Heart

The True Story of a Beautiful Co-ed, a Vicious Murder, and the Trial that Tore Apart a Town

William Van Meter

St. Martin's True Crime

On the morning of May 4, 2003, a well-loved, hard-working freshman student named Katie Autry was found dead in her dormitory room at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. She had been raped, stabbed, drenched in hairspray, and set on fire. The story of Katie’s horrific murder made local headlines—and there was a huge public outcry to bring her killer to justice…

Stephen Soules, an unemployed high school dropout, had given Katie a ride home from a party on the night of her murder. With him was Lucas Goodrum, a twenty-one-year-old, sometime drug dealer with a known history of domestic abuse. Soules claimed that Goodrum forced him to participate in the crime, and received a life sentence in a plea deal. But what really happened in Katie’s dorm room that night? And which of the two accused is the real killer? Cruel Heart is the true story of a crime that sent shockwaves through a small Southern town—and the mysteries that still remain… 

REVIEWS

Praise for Cruel Heart

Praise for
CRUEL HEART

“Characters and events alike in Van Meter’s harrowing and mesmerizing account of a Kentucky coed’s murder are etched with photographic clarity as the narrative moves toward its end with a sort of doomed inevitability.” —William Gay, author of I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down

“A keenly observed, nearly meditative examination of the crime and its rippling aftereffects, the book does what the best true-crime literature almost always does—it shines a light on the spookily arbitrary and always-inexplicable nature of violence. It’s the kind of book that will have you looking over your shoulder on a dark walk home.” —The Fader   

“Van Meter’s narrative style reads like a classic novel. There was so much rich material, he was careful to avoid any embellishments.” —Metro

“Van Meter recounts the drama and intensity of the ensuing trials. Reminiscent of Truman Capote, this young journalist returns to the south of his roots to write about this violent crime, and in doing so, paints a vivid portrait of the town, the characters who fill it and the simmering class conflicts that polarized the town.” —Wisconsin State Journal

“William Van Meter’s Cruel Heart is not just a story of ‘murder’ but one of race, class, gender, and region. There are many layers of moral universality in this small-town murder case that far outreach the suburbs of southern Kentucky in their magnitude. . . . This is narrative nonfiction packed with the overpowering magnetism of a sensationalist page turner.” —Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects

Praise for
CRUEL HEART

“Characters and events alike in Van Meter’s harrowing and mesmerizing account of a Kentucky coed’s murder are etched with photographic clarity as the narrative moves toward its end with a sort of doomed inevitability.” —William Gay, author of I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down

“A keenly observed, nearly meditative examination of the crime and its rippling aftereffects, the book does what the best true-crime literature almost always does—it shines a light on the spookily arbitrary and always-inexplicable nature of violence. It’s the kind of book that will have you looking over your shoulder on a dark walk home.” —The Fader   

“Van Meter’s narrative style reads like a classic novel. There was so much rich material, he was careful to avoid any embellishments.” —Metro

“Van Meter recounts the drama and intensity of the ensuing trials. Reminiscent of Truman Capote, this young journalist returns to the south of his roots to write about this violent crime, and in doing so, paints a vivid portrait of the town, the characters who fill it and the simmering class conflicts that polarized the town.” —Wisconsin State Journal

“William Van Meter’s Cruel Heart is not just a story of ‘murder’ but one of race, class, gender, and region. There are many layers of moral universality in this small-town murder case that far outreach the suburbs of southern Kentucky in their magnitude. . . . This is narrative nonfiction packed with the overpowering magnetism of a sensationalist page turner.” —Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • William Van Meter

  •  

    WILLIAM VAN METER contributes to such publications as New York magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and the New York Times. A native of Bowling Green, Kentucky, he lives in Brooklyn.

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    Available Formats and Book Details

    Cruel Heart

    The True Story of a Beautiful Co-ed, a Vicious Murder, and the Trial that Tore Apart a Town

    William Van Meter

    • Mass Market Paperbound

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    FROM THE PUBLISHER

    St. Martin's True Crime

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