Every small town has a moment when the real world abruptly intrudes, shattering the town’s notions of itself and its people. For citizens of Marshall, Michigan, that moment came August 18, 1967. Nola Puyear was working downtown at the Tasty Cafe that morning when she received a package. She opened it and was instantly killed in a fiery explosion.
In the months that followed, law enforcement and prosecutors wrestled with a crime that to all appearances was senseless. Evidence recovered from the blown-up restaurant, including a bottle of pills that had been tainted with lye, suggested a concerted plot to murder Mrs. Puyear. But why had someone wanted to kill the well-liked woman, by all accounts a pillar of her close-knit community? For that matter, was Marshall really the quaint paradise it seemed to be?
Secret Witness brings to light startling new evidence and freshly uncovered facts to address these and other questions that, to this day, surround one of Michigan’s most brutal murders. Based on extensive interviews with surviving prosecutors, police, and witnesses, Blaine Pardoe re-creates the investigation that pried into Marshall’s dark underbelly and uncovered the seamy private lives led by some of the town’s citizenry but led to only tenuous theories about the bombing. The book also examines the pivotal role played by the Secret Witness program, an initiative by the Detroit News that offered rewards for anonymous tips related to violent crimes. What’s ultimately revealed is the true depth of evil that occurred in Marshall that day. Every small town has dirty little secrets. This time, they were deadly.
On August 18, 1967, postman Donald Damon delivered a package to Paul and Nola Puyear at their Tasty Cafe in the peaceful community of Marshall, Mich. When Nola opened the package, a bomb exploded, killing her and ripping apart the restaurant interior. Since Nola had no enemies and no motive was evident, investigators were puzzled as fearful townsfolk came to "the slowly growing realization that a murderer might lurk among their number." While Paul Puyear's numerous extramarital adventures initially made him the prime suspect, investigators soon uncovered a web of similar escapades among other residents: "Marshall's rumor mill had plenty to say about the clandestine affairs of its citizens." The Detroit News's Secret Witness program, offering monetary rewards for anonymous tips, led to the arrest of "squirrelly" Enoch Chism, a violent man beset with personal demons. Novelist and nonfiction author Pardoe (Lost Eagles) reconstructs the day of the bombing, the investigation, Chism's trial and conviction, and the aftermath. The heightened terror of these events is compared with Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. However, with a cast of more than 80, this compelling crime tale provides a peek into small-town secrets that reads less like Hitchcock and more like the sordidness of a Grace Metalious novel.