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Desperate Housewives

Murderesses practice a form of self-expression this chronicler digs.


John Stark Bellamy II maintains that women are more ruthless killers than their male counterparts. "Men usually commit murders as a secondary consequence of something else they're involved in, whether it's robbing a bank or getting away from police," says Bellamy. "With women, it tends to be extremely personal. "

For proof, look no further than Bellamy's latest book, Women Behaving Badly: True Tales of Cleveland's Most Ferocious Female Killers: There are the grandmother, mother, and daughter who conspired to murder the daughter's husband in Lakewood in 1919. The serial killer who poisoned several husbands and a couple of her children over two decades. And a sister who offed her brother for his money.

When Bellamy left Cleveland for Vermont about a year ago -- after more than a decade of chronicling the city's history of grisly murders and tragic accidents in five blood-soaked books -- he felt he had drained the market. So he relocated to tony Vermont to tap a new burg for its stories of death and mayhem. So why's his new book still set here? "I can't shake Cleveland murders," he laughs.

Actually, the book is an anthology featuring 14 stories from his other collections, plus two new tales. "I lived with that stuff for a decade and a half," says Bellamy, who's researching Vermont murders for a new project. "It's printed on my DNA at this point."

There's something about bludgeoning broads that appeals to people, says Bellamy. They just make for more intriguing baddies. "Virtually all of my favorite Cleveland murders were committed by women," he says. "They expressed themselves in very unusual ways."

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