About Gary Lavergne

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BEFORE BROWN

A SNIPER IN THE TOWER

BAD BOY FROM ROSEBUD

WORSE THAN DEATH

Reviews
Excerpt
2003 TX Bk Fest

Cajuns

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Lavergne's historical narrative of this horrific crime and the ensuing trial was clear, concise, and insightful... The overall strength of the book is the descriptive and detailed narrative of the events leading up to the crime and the actual crime itself. His use of the court records and extensive witness interviews and an easy-flowing writing style provides almost a perfect re-creation of the night... Worse than Death is an engaging and informative look into the fields of criminal justice and law enforcement and provides excellent analysis, research, and writing about one of the most significant mass murders in Texas history.

International Social Science Review

Even if Worse Than Death does not follow the form of social science research monographs, it nevertheless tells an interesting story that can provide the reader with a little more insight about criminology through an examination of the workings of the mind of one more deranged criminal.

Texas Lawyer

Worse Than Death worth the read: For such a strong book about a nearly forgotten bit of Texas criminal law history, there's something off-putting about the screaming three-word title of "Worse Than Death."

The cryptic title seems to suggest that the book is no better than the rest of the pulp usually found on the aisles of the true-crime section at a local bookstore. Most of those are usually breathless tales of bloodlust or crusading bits of pseudo-journalism bent on indicting the use of capital punishment.

But to assume either about Gary M. Lavergne's latest work would be a big mistake...  Lavergne is the director of admissions research at the University of Texas and a veteran author of books on Texas murderers, including works featuring mass murderer Charles Whitman, "A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders," and serial killer Kenneth McDuff, "Bad Boy From Rosebud: The Murderous Life of Kenneth Allen McDuff."

The words in his latest title are taken from the last line of the book in which Lavergne sums up the current existence of prisoner Abdelkrim Belachheb. Lavergne eloquently describes Belachheb, a lesser-known Texas murderer, as a megalomaniac... fortunately for the reader, Lavergne does a good job explaining Belachheb's impact on the Texas Penal Code.

Even without an interview with his subject, Lavergne manages to paint a three-dimensional portrait of Belachheb, using the trial transcript, interviews with the people involved in the trial, legislative hearing records and even the trial judge's personal notes on the case...

But for anyone who practices criminal law in Dallas, the detail Lavergne provides about Belachheb's trial is especially interesting. He describes the courthouse veterans who tried Belachheb -- including former 291st District Judge Gerry Meier, former Dallas County assistant district attorneys Norman Kinne and Rider Scott, and defense attorney Frank Jackson -- using a wealth of vignettes from the trial to illustrate each of the trial participants.

East Texas Historical Association Journal

Gary Lavergne... does an excellent job of exploring the unique aspects of these murders, including capital punishment, the insanity defense, and Belachhebs's easy entry into the United States... Worse Than Death reads like a good mystery novel but constitutes an important contribution to the debate over crime and immigration in the United States. Lavergne once again proves he is an excellent writer and superb story-teller.

San Antonio Lawyer

Worse Than Death gives the reader a unique view of the criminal mind of a mass murderer, as well as of the serious problems constantly confronting our immigration authorities in screening those who seek entrance into the United States. Gary Lavergne makes us acutely aware of how innocent, unsuspecting people can be confronted by sudden tragedy and sudden death...

Tales From Early Texas by Jerry Turner

Worse Than Death tells the whole tale. Lavergne has already written two great books about Texas badmen. If you like a good book, pick up a copy of Worse than Death. It is an excellent read that tells a lot about life in today's Texas.

Brazosport Facts

Worse Than Death is a thoughtful look not only at this case, but also at the capital punishment issue and the question of immigration screening.

Midwest Book Review
(See http://www.midwestbookreview.com/ibw/dec_03.htm#crime)

Worse Than Death: The Dallas Nightclub Murders And The Texas Multiple Murder Law by Gary M. Lavergne (Director of Admissions Research, University of Texas - Austin) is the straightforward accounting of a 1984 multiple murder in Texas - when Moroccan national Abdelkrim Belachheb walked into a restaurant and shot seven people, six of whom died. The confessed and convicted defendant could not be sentenced to death due to a quirk in the state law, and could only be given life imprisonment - arguably "worse than death." House Bill 8, the "multiple murder" statute, was passed directly in response to the case. Worse Than Death examines all sides of this horrific incident, including the legal, political, and cultural debates concerning it. This criminology and judicial case study has direct relevance to present day concerns about violent immigrants and our contemporary legal system nationwide.

MobMagazine.com 
(See: http://www.mobmagazine.com/managearticle.asp?C=70&A=7411)

The Dallas Nightclub Murders and The Texas Multiple Murder Law by Gary M. Lavergne is the straightforward accounting of a 1984 multiple murder in Texas - when Moroccan national Abdelkrim Belachheb walked into a restaurant and shot seven people, six of whom died.

The confessed and convicted defendant could not be sentenced to death due to a quirk in the state law, and could only be given life imprisonment - arguably "worse than death."

House Bill 8, the "multiple murder" statute, was passed directly in response to the case. Worse Than Death examines all sides of this horrific incident, including the legal, political, and cultural debates concerning it.

This criminology and judicial case study has direct relevance to present day concerns about violent immigrants and our contemporary legal system nationwide.

 

Dallas Morning News

A night of gunfire that still echoes

Book looks at nightclub murders and how they changed Texas law

Sunday, June 27, 2004

By DAN R. BARBER / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

In Texas, the name Abdelkrim Belachheb stands ignominiously with those of Charles Whitman and George Hennard, like bodies of Old West badmen on public display in open pine-box caskets.

It's been most of 20 years since that summer night when Mr. Belachheb walked into a North Dallas nightclub and killed six people, but longtime Dallas residents and many Texans will likely remember his name. Shortly after midnight on June 29, 1984, the Moroccan-born wig-wearing and self-proclaimed ladies' man entered Ianni's Restaurant and Club with a semiautomatic pistol and a sociopath's score to settle.

Gary M. Lavergne, a university researcher and author of A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders, has resurrected that night's horror six dead, one wounded in his newest book, Worse Than Death: The Dallas Nightclub Murders and the Texas Multiple Murder Law.

Worse Than Death is an engrossing, heavily footnoted (though inelegantly written) account of how one twisted man changed lives and the Texas criminal code. The murders in the club at Midway Road and LBJ Freeway exposed the inconsistency in the state's capital punishment statutes. Before the slayings, a mass murderer did not automatically face the death penalty unless he killed during commission of another felony. Worse Than Death is a graphic tale with bloody crime scene photos of the dead though redacted and in black and white. Victims' portraits in happier times provide a sad memorial to the mostly forgotten names of Mr. Belachheb's victims: Janice Smith, Marcell Ford, Linda Lowe, Ligia Koslowski, Frank Parker, Joe Minasi. More recognizable names, at least to Dallas residents, also fill the pages of Worse Than Death: Dallas County District Court Judge Gerry Holden Meier, a no-nonsense judge known to some as the Iron Maiden, and later, Attila the Honey; Norm Kinne, one of the county's best prosecutors who later in his career displayed a replica wooden shark fin, an admirer's gift, in his office; Dallas homicide detective Bill Parker, who arrested Mr. Belachheb two hours after the slayings; and defense attorney Frank Jackson, a former professional football player.

Worse Than Death details how Mr. Belachheb came to the United States and Texas, how he felt victimized by the world, what precipitated the slayings and their place alongside mass murders by Charles Whitman, who in 1966 killed 15 people on the University of Texas at Austin campus, and George Hennard, who killed 23 in a Killeen restaurant in 1991. But perhaps the most startling revelation is that Mr. Belachheb, who remains in an Amarillo prison, is eligible for parole on June 29, 2004, the 20th anniversary of the slayings. According to his prison "datasheet," however, his projected release date is 99 99 9999.

According to the author, that's computer code for "never."

Freelance writer Dan R. Barber lives in Forney.


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