By JOHN GLATT
Published: May 31, 2013
Inside the mind of Thomas Gilbert Jr., the Upper East Side golden boy who killed his own father.
Read: AIR MAIL
Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell, and the End of an American Family
St. Martin’s Press
At first, the residents of Kauai Beach Resort took little notice of their new neighbors. The glamorous blonde and her tall husband fit the image of the ritzy gated community. The couple seemed to keep to themselves—until the police knocked on their door with a search warrant. Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell had fled to Hawaii in the midst of being investigated for the disappearance of Lori’s children back in Idaho—Tylee and JJ—who hadn’t been seen alive in five months.
For years, Lori Vallow had lived a life of devotion to her children and her Mormon faith. But when her path crossed with Chad Daybell, a religious zealot who taught his followers how to prepare for the end-times, the tumultuous relationship transformed her into someone unrecognizable. As authorities searched for Lori’s children, they uncovered more suspicious deaths with links to both Lori and Chad, including the death of Lori’s third and fourth husbands, her brother, and Chad’s wife. In June 2020, the gruesome remains of JJ and Tylee were discovered on Chad’s property. In a shocking development, horrifying statements revealed that the couple’s fanatical beliefs had convinced them the children had become zombies.
Bestselling author and journalist John Glatt takes readers deeper into the devastating crimes of Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell in an attempt to unravel the lethal relationship of this doomsday couple.BUY NOW
A Murder Among the Manhattan Elite
St. Martin’s Press
By all accounts, Thomas Gilbert Jr. led a charmed life. The son of a wealthy hedge fund manager and a ﬁnancier, he grew up surrounded by a loving family and all the luxury an Upper East Side childhood could provide: education at the elite Buckley School and Deerﬁeld Academy, summers in a sprawling seaside mansion in the Hamptons. He was strikingly handsome, moving with ease through glittering social circles and following in his father’s footsteps to Princeton. His friends saw him as a leader; his parents adored him.
But Tommy always felt different, and the cracks in his façade began to show. What started as quiet exhaustion turned into warning signs of OCD, increasing paranoia, and—most troubling—an indescribable, inexplicable hatred of his father. As his parents begged him to seek psychiatric help, Tommy pushed back by self-medicating with drugs and escalating violence. When a ﬁre destroyed his recently-estranged best friend’s Hamptons home, Tommy was the prime suspect—but he was never charged. Just months later, he arrived at his parents’ apartment, calmly asked his mother to leave, and shot his father point-blank in the head.
Now, journalist John Glatt takes an in-depth look at the devastating crime that rocked Manhattan’s upper class. With exclusive access to sources close to Tommy, including his own mother, Glatt constructs the agonizing spiral of mental illness that led Thomas Gilbert Jr. to the ultimate unspeakable act.BUY NOW
July 21, 2020
Which family members were you the most excited about being able to interview? Would you say that they were supportive of the story being told?
I was lucky enough to gain the cooperation of Chris Watts’ family early on. I was in Spring Lake, North Carolina researching the book when I saw Chris’s mother Cindy mowing her lawn. I went over and introduced myself and Cindy said she couldn’t talk at the moment, so I gave her my card. She called me later that day and embarked on an ongoing interview for the next year.
Her insight into the tragedy of Shanann and her two granddaughter’s deaths was invaluable and she also facilitated interviews with Chris’s father Ronnie, sister Jamie and some of the people that knew them the best.
Cindy and Ronnie were as confused and baffled at what had happened as everyone else, as they struggled to make sense of what Chris had done. They also felt railroaded by the Colorado legal system, who refused to allow them any contact with Chris before his guilty pleas.
I think they wanted me to tell the real story of what had happened and how their son never received a single psychiatric evaluation as to why he had killed his family.
Was there anyone that you wish you could’ve spoken to that you were unable to reach?
I would love to have spoken to Shanann’s family, but unfortunately they did not return my calls. I totally understood as they are still recovering from this dreadful ordeal.
During your research, were you able to talk to Chris Watts directly?
No I didn’t, although I contacted him through his family but he did not wish to talk.
Were you able to attend Chris Watts’s trial?
Actually there was no trial as Chris did a plea deal to admit killing his family in return for having the death penalty taken off the table.
What surprised you the most about this case?
I think I was most surprised at how Shanann so successfully created an ongoing image of the perfect family on social media and how far from reality it really was.
How much traveling did you do for your research? Were you able to visit any key locations mentioned in the book?
I spent a month on the road researching the book, travelling to North Carolina and Colorado to get a feel for Shanann and Chris’s lives and talk to as many people as I could.
What do you personally feel was the final trigger that moved Chris Watts to murder his family? Was it his wife’s pregnancy, his affair, etc.?
Personally, I think what drove Chris Watts to killing his family was Shanann’s pregnancy, which ironically he had previously told her he wanted. There was also a financial motive as they were getting deeper into debt and having another child would be very expensive. His affair with Nichol Kessinger also played a big part, but as in so many of the books I have written the big question is: why not get a divorce instead of resorting to murder?
Imagine that the Watts family lived 30 years ago, before social media. Do you think their story could have ended differently if the added stress of looking like a perfect family on social media for Shanann’s business had not existed?
I don’t think this tragic story would have happened before social media. Shanann was an astute businesswoman who used social media for her livelihood. A key part of her job was to hard sell Thrive on social media and create almost a soap opera of the perfect family. I think the pressures on Chris to participate in her videos etc., also contributed to what ultimately happened.
With over 25 books under your belt, you’re quite a prolific writer. Have you ever started researching a crime but then decided to not write a book about it? If yes, what was the crime?
Luckily, I have never had to abandon a true crime book yet.
Has COVID changed how your ability to research and write your next book? If yes, what kinds of adaptation(s) have you made?
So far it hasn’t affected me but I’m hoping that the travel situation will relax, as I love to do on-the-ground research where the crimes took place so I can get a real feel for what happened.
You mentioned in a prior interview for The Family Next Door that compartmentalizing things is key when researching disturbing crimes. Was there any particular aspect of this case that you struggled to compartmentalize?
There were a lot of aspects of Chris Watts’ case that I found highly disturbing. It was hard to compartmentalize when I was on the phone with a sobbing Cindy Watts, who was still trying to understand why her son had done it. She never saw any hint that he would be capable of such a horrendous act.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a book about Thomas Gilbert Jr., who was convicted last year of murdering his father, who ran a hedge fund. The Gilbert Family were highly prominent in New York society and mental illness played a huge part in what happened.
What are you currently reading?
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larsen.
The True Story of Chris Watts, His All-American Family, and a Shocking Murder
St. Martin’s Press
In the early morning hours of August 13th, 2018, Shanann Watts was dropped off at her Frederick, Colorado home by a colleague after returning from a business trip. It was the last time anyone would see her alive. By the next day, Shanann and her two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, had been reported missing, and her husband, Chris Watts, was appearing on the local news, pleading for his family’s safe return.
But Chris Watts already knew that he would never see his family again. Less than 24 hours after his desperate plea, Watts made a shocking confession to police: he had strangled his pregnant wife to death and smothered their daughters, dumping their bodies at a nearby oil site. Heartbroken friends and neighbors watched in shock as the movie-star handsome, devoted family man they knew was arrested and charged with first degree murder. The perfect mask Chris had presented to the world in his TV interviews and the family’s Facebook accounts was slipping—and what lay beneath was a horrifying image of instability, infidelity, sexual ambivalence, and boiling rage.
In this first major account of the case, bestselling author and journalist John Glatt reveals the truth behind the tragedy and constructs a chilling portrait of one of the most shocking family annihilator cases of the 21st century.BUY NOW
The Heartbreaking Imprisonment of the 13 Turpin Siblings and Their Extraordinary Rescue.
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
On January 14, 2018, a seventeen-year-old girl climbed out of the window of her Perris, California home and dialed 911 with shaking fingers. Struggling to stay calm, she told the operator that she and her 12 siblings—ranging in age from 2 to 29—were being abused by their parents. When the dispatcher asked for her address, the girl hesitated. “I’ve never been out,” she stammered.
To their family, neighbors, and online friends, Louise and David Turpin presented a picture of domestic bliss: dressing their thirteen children in matching outfits and buying them expensive gifts. But what police discovered when they entered the Turpin family home would eclipse the most shocking child abuse cases in history. For years, David and Louise had kept their children in increasing isolation, trapping them in a sinister world of torture, abuse, and near starvation.
In the first major account of the case, investigative journalist and author John Glatt delves into the disturbing details and recounts the bravery of the thirteen siblings in the face of unimaginable horror.BUY NOW
Crime Watch Daily investigates the blockbuster case of Lacey Spears, a Kentucky mother who set off on a desperate journey to find a cure for son’s unexplained illnesses.
Watch John Glatt on “Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen”
“She always wanted to be looking after children and when she left school, she went into child care, and when she started taking care of children, people would notice how much more time she would spend with the children than everyone else,” said author John Glatt, who wrote My Sweet Angel: The True Story of Lacey Spears, the Seemingly Perfect Mother Who Murdered Her Son in Cold Blood.
The True Story of Lacey Spears, the Seemingly Perfect Mother Who Murdered Her Son in Cold Blood
St. Martin’s Press
Lacey Spears made international headlines in January 2015 when she was charged with the “depraved mind” murder of her five-year-old son Garnett. Prosecutors alleged that the 27-year old mother had poisoned him with high concentrations of salt through his stomach tube.
To the outside world Lacey had seemed like the perfect mother, regularly posting dramatic updates on her son’s harrowing medical problems. But in reality, Lacey was a text book case of textbook case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. From the time he was an infant, she deliberately made Garnett sick to elicit sympathy from medical professionals, as well as her hundreds of followers on Facebook and other social media. When a Westchester County jury found her guilty of killing Garnett in April 2015, she was sentenced to twenty years to life in prison.
Using Lacey’s own never-before-seen Facebook, Twitter, and blog posts, an exclusive prison interview with Lacey herself, as well as interviews with her family and the three police investigators who broke the case, My Sweet Angel gives the definitive account of this extraordinary case that shocked the world.BUY NOW
Getting Backstage and Personal with Rock’s Greatest Legends
In 1968, rock promoter Bill Graham launched the Fillmore East in New York City and the Fillmore West in San Francisco, changing music forever. For three years, every major rock band played the Fillmores, performing legendary shows: Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Allman Brothers, and many more. Author John Glatt tells the story of the Fillmores through the lives of Bill Graham, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Carlos Santana, and an all-star supporting cast. Joplin opened the Fillmore East and delivered some of her greatest performances there and at its San Francisco twin. Carlos Santana grew up as a performer at the Fillmore West after being discovered by Graham on audition night. Always unpredictable, Grace Slick’s electrifying Jefferson Airplane was the de facto resident band at both Fillmores. Chronicling the East and West Coast cultures of the late ’60s and early ’70s—New York City with its speed, heroin, and the Velvet Underground versus San Francisco with the LSD-drenched Summer of Love—Glatt reveals how Graham the made it all possible . . . that is, until August 1969 when Woodstock changed everything and musicians suddenly realized their power.
But why did Bill Graham shutter both Fillmores within weeks of each other in 1971, during the height of their popularity? Live at the Fillmore East and West reveals how Graham’s claim that “The flowers wilted and the scene changed,” was not quite the whole story.BUY NOW