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"It began to really feel like a haunting."

Ellen McGarrahan was a young reporter at the Miami Herald when she volunteered to witness the execution of Jesse Tafero, who’d been convicted of killing two police officers. That execution went horrifically awry, and watching it changed the course of Ellen’s life. She left journalism, became a private investigator, and reinvestigated the murders attributed to Jesse Tafero, in an effort to determine whether she’d witnessed the execution of an innocent man. Ellen details her reexamination of the crime, and the surprising evidence she uncovered, in Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice, an Edgar Award finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, and one of Marie Claire's 10 Best True Crime Books of the Year.

In this episode of Book Dreams, Ellen talks with Julie and Eve about the reasons that Jesse Tefaro’s execution “began to really feel like a haunting”; the forces that drove her to put her life on hold 25 years after his death to re-examine the crime that two noted death penalty scholars and many others believed he hadn’t committed; and the investigative skills she used to uncover evidence that goes far beyond what was revealed by the criminal justice system.

Ellen McGarrahan is the author of Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice. She worked for 10 years as an investigative reporter and staff writer at newspapers, including The Village Voice, The Miami Herald, and SF Weekly. In 1996, she began working as a private detective and has since founded a private investigation agency.

Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice



A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

One of Marie Claire’s Ten Best True Crime Books of the Year

“The experience of inhabiting that investigation with McGarrahan is so intense readers should experience it for themselves. For me, the even deeper draw here is McGarrahan’s struggle to come to terms with the evil she was drawn into as a young reporter.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

“Extremely entertaining . . . McGarrahan’s obsession with rooting out the truth in the case leads her [to] Florida, Ireland and Australia, where she tracks down any detail that might potentially help her know what happened.”The New York Times

“[A] haunting memoir, which also unfolds as a gripping true-crime narrative . . . This is a powerful, unsettling story, told with bracing honesty and skill.”The Washington Post

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