About Gary Lavergne







2003 TX Bk Fest


In 1984, a Moroccan national named Abdelkrim Belachheb, walked into a Dallas nightclub and gunned down seven people. Six died. 

Despite the fact that the crimes occurred in a state that prides itself on being tough on criminals and quick to use lethal injection, the death penalty was not an option for the Belachheb jury. Even though he had committed six murders, and his guilt was never in question, his crimes were not capital murders under the statutes of that day. 

Part of the epiphany that followed included the realization that terrorist acts such as mass murder did not automatically fall under the capital murder umbrella. Curiously, had Belachheb killed only one person and taken the time to steal a dime from a purse or an ashtray off of a table prosecutors could have gone for the death penalty. 

As a direct result of the Belachheb murders, during the 1985 regular session, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 8—the “multiple murder” statute. The Act made serial killing and mass murder capital crimes.

Today, Abdelkrim Belachheb is serving six life sentences in a Texas prison under the highest security for what he did on June 29, 1984. Pro-death penalty advocates argue that he escaped justice through a loophole in Texas law that was closed by the legislature less than a year after his mass murder. Others argue that he illustrates why we do not need capital punishment--for his is a fate Worse Than Death. 



 Forensic art courtesy of Karen Taylor, Facial Images

See an interview with Gary Lavergne about his book WORSE THAN DEATH...

"Gary Lavergne has turned his impeccable journalistic talents to a Texas multiple murder that has been mostly forgotten during the intervening years of mass killings and acts of terror. But Lavergne vividly recreates the crime and its aftermath and brings the reader inside the vortex of a horrendous and senseless crime. Through his meticulous and dispassionate presentation, he reveals what it was like to stand in the shoes of the victims, their families, the police, and the prosecutors, and finally, even the murderer. Lavergne's answer to what is "worse than death" is an important and timely addition to the American debate over the death penalty."

-Gerald Posner, Author, Why America Slept

"This is a superbly written book about an extraordinary case whose significance ranged from influencing death penalty legislation to directly foreshadowing the types of security lapses that led to September 11th. It is among the best I have read in its genre, presenting details and nuances from every perspective--perpetrator, victims, investigators and prosecutors--but always with deep regard for the humanity behind the case. We understand everyone, which makes this account of the tragic, random intersection of lives at the vortex of a crime all the more perceptive." 

-Bob Brown, Correspondent, ABC News 20/20

In his newest true-crime book, Gary Lavergne expertly and vividly revisits a largely forgotten multiple murder at a night club in Dallas, Texas in the 1980s, and shows us why we must not shrink from the face of evil and why, imperfect as it is, the criminal justice system must strive nonetheless to achieve justice. This is also a powerful indictment of the INS's porous policies regarding admitting dangerous criminals into the U.S.--seventeen years before 9-ll.

-Don Graham, Author, Kings of Texas

"As mass murders go, Abdelkrim Belachheb's shooting spree in a Dallas nightclub eighteen years ago was on the modest side, if only because his gun jammed. The six people he shot off their barstools wasn't even the highest body count that summer, when twenty-one people were gunned down in a McDonald's outside San Diego. Yet if American authorities had responded to the lessons of the Dallas murders, Sept. 11th might have been just another day.

Belachheb wasn't a terrorist, but a Moroccan national with a long criminal record who was wanted for violent crimes in Europe but was nonetheless issued a U.S. visa, based on nothing more than the information he himself supplied. Sound familiar?

Gary Lavergne connects the dots in a way one only wishes the I.N.S. had, in this vivid and highly relevant account of a case that led not to increased national security but to tougher Texas laws on how the death penalty is administered. His portrait of a killer he calls 'a poster boy, not for capital punishment, but for life in prison' is unforgettable."

-Melinda Henneberger, former investigative reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the New York Times.

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