SOLVED MA - Jane Britton, 22, Harvard student, Cambridge, 7 Jan 1969

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I was just coming here to post this. Don -- I am so excited to see this book you teased two years ago is actually going to be published and, based on that review, it sounds like it's great! Also, having participated in this thread, I was tickled by the Websleuths mention in the NYTimes book review. Anyone know what name here was Becky's (assuming she had one)? Was she the OP by any chance?
 
Looks interesting, from link, thanks!..
  • Nov. 4, 2020 rbbm.
''A young archaeology graduate student at Harvard is bludgeoned to death by the professor with whom she’s having an affair. The murder weapon is a stone tool from the university’s Peabody Museum. Under cover of darkness, the professor steals into the museum with the woman’s corpse and conducts a macabre funeral rite, draping her body in ancient jewelry and sprinkling it with red ocher powder.

Harvard, determined to avoid bad publicity, thwarts a police investigation, protects the professor and silences the press. It’s as if the murder never happened.

This is the story Becky Cooper heard as a Harvard junior in 2009. It lodged in her mind and would not let go. Intuitively, she knew the details couldn’t all be true, but the idea that her university was capable of covering up a murder did not strike her as far-fetched.

“The very things that made me love Harvard — its seductiveness, its limitlessness — also made it a very convincing villain,” Cooper writes in “We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence,” her book, 10 years in the making, about the case at the heart of the rumor. “Harvard felt omnipotent.”

''She acquires Britton’s letters and journals. She files Freedom of Information Act requests with the C.I.A., F.B.I., Drug Enforcement Administration, State Department and Defense Department, as well as records requests with the police in Boston and Cambridge and the district attorney’s offices in Middlesex and Suffolk Counties. She trawls Websleuths, a cold-case site. She even spends a month on a dig in Bulgaria, in emulation of her dead subject.''
 
I was just coming here to post this. Don -- I am so excited to see this book you teased two years ago is actually going to be published and, based on that review, it sounds like it's great! Also, having participated in this thread, I was tickled by the Websleuths mention in the NYTimes book review. Anyone know what name here was Becky's (assuming she had one)? Was she the OP by any chance?

I can say that she was not the OP. I can say that a Websleuths poster (who is not Becky) played an important role in putting pressure on the DA's office to reopen the case. She may wish to identify herself at some point; it's not for me to do that.

I read an Advance Review Copy of Becky's book earlier this week (we agreed not to talk about or exchange our books until they were both finished) and it's extraordinarily good. I felt sure We Keep the Dead Close would be good . . . but it's great.

Here's mine:

Shibai

Publication date November 27th.

Also, because book launches in pandemic times are all virtual, you can go here:

We Keep the Dead Close

for a calendar of the talks.
 
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I can say that she was not the OP. I can say that a Websleuths poster (who is not Becky) played an important role in putting pressure on the DA's office to reopen the case. She may wish to identify herself at some point; it's not for me to do that.

I read an Advance Review Copy of Becky's book earlier this week (we agreed not to talk about or exchange our books until they were both finished) and it's extraordinarily good. I felt sure We Keep the Dead Close would be good . . . but it's great.

Here's mine:

Shibai

Publication date November 27th.

Also, because book launches in pandemic times are all virtual, you can go to Becky's Instagram page and learn how to sign up to see and hear her talk about her book. Two of the people she'll be talking with are heavy hitters, to put it mildly.

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Looking forward to reading your book, congratulations!

Don Mitchell
Shibai
''In Japanese culture, shibai means "drama," or "play," but in Hawaiian slang it means "smokescreen," "," "gaslighting." In this uncategorizable work, Don Mitchell weaves together the brutal 1969 murder of his friend, Harvard graduate student Jane Britton, with harassment by law enforcement and the media, the language and culture of the Nagovisi people of Bougainville, the Big Island of Hawai'i and the high barrens of its dormant volcano Mauna Kea, ultra running and walking, and the New York milieus of Buffalo and Ithaca. The unforgettable Jane Britton threads through the book, along with one of the suspects, the State Police detective who eventually solved the case, and Becky Cooper, an investigative journalist in whose book about Jane's murder Mitchell is a continuing presence. Addressing himself in the second person, Mitchell creates a fascinating meld of fiction and nonfiction, past and present, speculation and discovery that excavates layers of truth, of error . . . and of shibai.


On one level, Shibai recounts Mitchell’s compelling and brutally honest odyssey in dealing with this traumatic event for half a century until the murder was finally solved in November 2018. But on a deeper level Mitchell forces the reader to grapple with the passage of time, the nature of truth, indeed with life and death itself. And he takes us on a captivating cross cultural journey, moving from the remote Pacific island of Bougainville to the dramatic Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island to the bowels of the Cambridge police station. Mitchell’s life took turns he never expected and he weaves a fascinating tale in seeking to make sense of it all.” -- Michael Widmer''
 
Shibai


''From Michael Widmer, whose first reporting job as a cub reporter from UPI was Jane's murder: "In the early morning of January 7, 1969, Jane Britton, a gifted Harvard graduate student in archaeology, was murdered in her Cambridge apartment. Don Mitchell, a close friend who lived in the neighboring apartment, never heard a thing but found her body the next day. On one level, SHIBAI recounts Mitchell’s compelling and brutally honest odyssey in dealing with this traumatic event for half a century until the murder was finally solved in November 2018. But on a deeper level Mitchell forces the reader to grapple with the passage of time, the nature of truth, indeed with life and death itself. And he takes us on a captivating cross cultural journey, moving from the remote Pacific island of Bougainville to the dramatic Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island to the bowels of the Cambridge police station. Mitchell’s life took turns he never expected and he weaves a fascinating tale in seeking to make sense of it all.”

And from Jendi Reiter of Winning Writers, "In this compelling hybrid memoir and true-crime account, Mitchell recounts how the cold-case murder of his friend Jane Britton, a fellow graduate student in the Harvard anthropology department, was solved after 49 years. Shibai, a Japanese word for a stage play, also means "gaslighting" or "" in the slang of Mitchell's native Hawai'i. As an anthropologist among the Nagovisi people of Bougainville, Mitchell learned early that truth is always filtered through the stories we tell ourselves and the roles in which our culture casts us. When Becky Cooper, a journalist for the New Yorker, contacts him for a book she is writing about Jane's case, he discovers, in retelling the story to a stranger, that his long-held assumptions about the murder don't hold up. With him, the reader relives the Kafka-esque terror of being suspected by the police, the frustration when the investigation is stonewalled or misled by people he once loved, and the sorrow and relief of finally filling in the gaps about Jane's last moments. The resulting saga is a profound and subtle meditation on memory, aging, and our responsibility to the dead. Like a shadow that provides contrast in a photograph, Jane's unlived life stands as a counterpart to Mitchell's honest and self-aware journey through the milestones of his 70-plus years, from the triumphs and disappointments of his academic career to his deep relationship with the Hawaiian landscape and people."
Thanks to Michael and Jendi for helping get Shibai launched. Look for it around November 23rd, in print and Kindle.''
 
Shibai


''From Michael Widmer, whose first reporting job as a cub reporter from UPI was Jane's murder: "In the early morning of January 7, 1969, Jane Britton, a gifted Harvard graduate student in archaeology, was murdered in her Cambridge apartment. Don Mitchell, a close friend who lived in the neighboring apartment, never heard a thing but found her body the next day. On one level, SHIBAI recounts Mitchell’s compelling and brutally honest odyssey in dealing with this traumatic event for half a century until the murder was finally solved in November 2018. But on a deeper level Mitchell forces the reader to grapple with the passage of time, the nature of truth, indeed with life and death itself. And he takes us on a captivating cross cultural journey, moving from the remote Pacific island of Bougainville to the dramatic Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island to the bowels of the Cambridge police station. Mitchell’s life took turns he never expected and he weaves a fascinating tale in seeking to make sense of it all.”

And from Jendi Reiter of Winning Writers, "In this compelling hybrid memoir and true-crime account, Mitchell recounts how the cold-case murder of his friend Jane Britton, a fellow graduate student in the Harvard anthropology department, was solved after 49 years. Shibai, a Japanese word for a stage play, also means "gaslighting" or "********" in the slang of Mitchell's native Hawai'i. As an anthropologist among the Nagovisi people of Bougainville, Mitchell learned early that truth is always filtered through the stories we tell ourselves and the roles in which our culture casts us. When Becky Cooper, a journalist for the New Yorker, contacts him for a book she is writing about Jane's case, he discovers, in retelling the story to a stranger, that his long-held assumptions about the murder don't hold up. With him, the reader relives the Kafka-esque terror of being suspected by the police, the frustration when the investigation is stonewalled or misled by people he once loved, and the sorrow and relief of finally filling in the gaps about Jane's last moments. The resulting saga is a profound and subtle meditation on memory, aging, and our responsibility to the dead. Like a shadow that provides contrast in a photograph, Jane's unlived life stands as a counterpart to Mitchell's honest and self-aware journey through the milestones of his 70-plus years, from the triumphs and disappointments of his academic career to his deep relationship with the Hawaiian landscape and people."
Thanks to Michael and Jendi for helping get Shibai launched. Look for it around November 23rd, in print and Kindle.''

Great, thanks for the notice! I can't wait to read this. Thank you, Don, for writing it. I'm going to recommend it around Websleuths, too. The term shibai is often relevant to cold case murders and something many members here can relate to.
 
Snip:
...
Cooper tells us that in 2009, when she first heard about Britton’s murder, “the body was nameless.” Just another girl, found dead. Even as she comes to learn so much about Britton’s personality and family background, Cooper learns other things: for instance, that female grad students in Harvard’s anthropology department until recently kept a secret file on Britton’s murder that they handed down from one class to the next and that they viewed her murder as a “cautionary tale … about the dangers that faced women in academia.”

Cooper says Britton’s story “was still so alive in the community because it was an exaggerated, horror-movie version of a narrative that was all too common.” Consider this: One of the prime murder suspects for a time was Britton’s advisor. Cooper interviewed that now elderly professor and he told her that after Britton’s death, he received a call from the dean who offered him Harvard’s full support without reservation. Cooper recalls the professor grinned as he added: “[The dean] didn’t even ask me if I did it!”
...
How A 1969 Murder At Harvard Turned Into A Cold Case And A 'Cautionary Tale' | WAMU
 
A bit of self-promotion here. My book about the case is now available in print from the usual online sellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble) and can be ordered through your local bookstore. There's a Kindle, and it's also on Kobo.

On December 13th at 3 PM Eastern, Becky Cooper and I will be doing a Zoom event, sponsored by Odyssey Bookstore (Ithaca NY) and Saddle Road Press (my publisher). I'll post registration details when they are ready. It will be free, of course.

Shibai
 
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Forty years later, in the spring of her junior year at Harvard, Cooper was told a fantastical version of the tale — one in which a professor was the killer and the whole affair was ‘hushed up’ by Harvard. She was hooked: ‘From the moment I heard the story about the murder, so much about it barbed me.’ The next time the story came up, a year later, the professor was given a name: Carl Lamberg-Karlovsky, still teaching archaeology, and still, after four decades, the subject of hair-raising gossip.

Is Lamberg-Karlovsky a brutal murderer? Did he have an affair with his student and then kill her to keep her quiet when she threatened to tell his wife or his colleagues? Or is the tall, handsome, imperious professor just a convenient stand-in for malignant patriarchy, ‘a symbol of the abuse of power and the institutional oppression of women in academia’? Either way, he’s compelling as a possible suspect. And Jane Britton is a compelling victim — ‘bold, witty, warm’ — so it comes as no surprise when Cooper confesses that she has essentially fallen in love: ‘I felt connected to her with a certainty more alchemical than rational.’
Who killed Jane Britton in 1969? | The Spectator
 
Im sorry to stir this up again. But i just finished the book and i dont quite sit well with the outcome. Like there are so many aspects that arent solved or that the police didnt even consider. I just feel like theres an other person that murder Jane Britton. Like if u look at Michael Sumpters murders before hers just doesnt fit in, yeah she has similar looks but he murder the other two diffrent. Like Becky Cooper said in her Book and i quote "Her name is Ellen Rutchick. [...] Police entered her thenth-floor apartment and found her lying on her back on the living room floor - beaten, raped, and strangled with the hi-fi cord from her stereo set." and his second murder "On December 12, 1973, Mary McClain [...] The next day, she was found in her bed, raped and strangled, and covered with bedding." And these werent the only murders from Michael Sumpters. But as u can see, he always strangled his victims. And Jane wasnt strangled. She died because of a blunt force trauma from a blow to the head. And the red ochre was spreaded in this pattern: "circle line ... which is run ... just across her back, onto the pillow, and up to the wall." as a Detective Halliday describes. And Becky did research on that, i cant find the direct quote, and it turned out that its really hard to spread powder this way and it goes everywhere and you really want to do it. All in all it couldnt been an accident.

So yeah sorry if i stir this all up again but im just not completly confinced that Michael Sumpters killed her. He raped her thats 100% sure but killed im not sure. And i know that this case will maybe never get 100% solved but i atleast want to think about the other possibilities. I also wanted to know if im not the only one thats why i posted this and maybe if we all think about it one more time we will come up with something no one has thought about before and become a little more closer to the mystery.
 
Sept 24 2021

Chronicle of a Death Ignored
''Chronicle of a Death Ignored
Joyce Carol Oates
Becky Cooper’s We Keep the Dead Close is as much a study of corrosive institutional patriarchy as it is an investigation into an unsolved 1969 murder at Harvard.
February 11, 2021 issue

''Mystery, like unrequited love, is best experienced in anticipation. Before myriad possibilities are collapsed to a single blunt conclusion, before the riches of the imagination are reduced to the merely factual and a cast of captivating suspects is reduced to a single guilty perpetrator, the romance of mystery lies in its very irresolution. Whether the genre is true crime or mystery-detective fiction, whether its mode is the straightforward police procedural or the elaborate puzzles of the locked-room mystery, it begins with death made specific: a dead body. (Nearly always the body of a “beautiful” young woman or girl, as if in homage to Poe’s dictum that “the death…of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.”) As in a chess game, the opening gambit precipitates all that follows, though the author, knowing the solution of the mystery before she sets out, will structure the text in such a way that it moves inexorably toward its conclusion even as it must digress, misinterpret, and mislead, to provide the heft required of a book instead of, for instance, an article or a column of newsprint. It might be said that the art of mystery is the art of obfuscation.

"In a cast of suspects of whom one is the guilty party, but not obviously so: if the murderer is too easily detected, the reader will feel cheated; if the murderer is a minor character or a stranger inadequately integrated into the narrative, the reader will feel doubly cheated. Something of the same structure is required in works of true crime except, in these cases, there remains the very real possibility that the murderer will turn out to be a total stranger, not a suspect, identified through an impersonal means of detection like forensic DNA testing, and all that precedes this identification—the close scrutiny of suspects and persons of interest; attention paid to background, circumstances, speculation; indeed, most of the investigation and its chronicling—will turn out to have been irrelevant. “It was random? It was senseless? It could have been anyone?such a revelation defeats the purpose of the heroic effort of detection, like a postmodernist mockery of narrative itself that refuses to provide the meaning that justifies the story’s existence.
 
yeah that sounds reasonable but still. She even said that they found two diffrent DNA samples and Michael Sumpters only matchted the one which was more present and they never found the other one...
 

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