In the summer of 1985, a 22-year-old street prostitute named Donna Gentile was found murdered, her body dumped on the side of a road in the remote Pine Valley area east of San Diego. Gentile was lying in the dirt and broken glass battered and nude, her clothes thrown on top of her. In a final chilling detail, her mouth and throat had been stuffed with gravel, a message from the murderer that Gentile had been killed for being a snitch. And she was a snitch. In addition to acting as a low-level police informant, she had been known to rat out a San Diego Police Officers when it served her interests.
Gentile’s murder was one in a string of murders of young prostitutes in the mid-1980s continues to haunt the city of San Diego to this day. Were they related? Was the right man convicted or is the killer still out there, responsible for even more murders spanning decades? Were members of the San Diego Police Department involved?
Author Larry Avrech addresses all of these mysteries and more. And he should know – Avrech is a former San Diego police officer who knew Gentile when he worked her area of town. He also found himself swept up in her orbit and accusations. With the help of a sympathetic senior member of the District Attorney’s office who recognized the injustice of the accusations, Avrech spent years uncovering and untangling the sordid relationship between Gentile and the department, eventually clearing his name of any wrongdoing, and playing a big role in identifying the real killer.
Avrech’s account of the story is full of twists, shocking developments, and is a thrill ride from start to finish.
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