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Fighting the Devil: A True Story of Consuming Passion, Deadly Poison, and Murder

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Millionaire's wife wanted everything. She wasn't satisfied with a lavish lifestyle, and her rich husband stood in her way. She knew her middlle-aged lesbian lover would do anything to set her free, even if it meant premeditated murder.
A few years after the millionaire's death, a bottle of arsenic and mail to the millionaire was found in a storage locker rented by a woman under an assumed name.
Nobody could have predicted the murder or the aftermath with its strange twists and unexpected results as the millionaire's ex-wife becomes a sleuth to help solve the murder.

336 pages, Paperback

First published May 25, 2010

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About the author

Jeannie Walker

11 books567 followers
Jeannie Walker is an Award Winning Author

Walker's debut book was a true crime, "Fighting the Devil" and was the 2011 NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARDS TRUE CRIME FINALIST and 2010 BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS TRUE CRIME WINNER, Reader's Choice & Foreword Clarion Reviews gave it a FIVE STAR RATING.
Other true stories - "I Saw the Light", "Thomas, the Friendly Ghost", "Forever in My Heart", "Regrets" and a color illustrated children's book, "The Rain Snake".
"Fighting the Devil" is a True Crime about the excruciating arsenic murder of her millionaire ex-husband. She became a sleuth and played a key role in helping law enforcement solve the murder.
The motive for the murder was: Wickedness and unscrupulous Old Fashioned Greed.
Walker said, "I wrote the true crime to speak for my children's father as he no longer has a voice."
"I Saw the Light" - is a true story about her Near-Death Experience.
"Thomas, The Friendly Ghost" - is a true story about a guardian angel- who chose Walker to tell his story.
"Forever in my Heart" is a true story about trying to unlock the secret of an unsolved murder.
"Regrets" is a true story of abuse and forgiveness.
"The Rain Snake" is color illustrated children's book about the miracles or prayer and love.
Walker studied creative writing in New York and Connecticut. She is a member of the International Association of Writers, an avid reader of mystery novels and the ex-wife of a murdered man.
Walker believes in karma and justice.

Please check out Walker's WEBSITE at: http://jeanniewalkerbooks.com
BLOG: http://jeannie-walker.blogspot.com/
PAGE ONE: http://bit.ly/eVeFTD
IAN: http://bit.ly/gF2Z3h
LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/h84wli

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5 stars
76 (54%)
4 stars
33 (23%)
3 stars
12 (8%)
2 stars
9 (6%)
1 star
10 (7%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 76 reviews
Profile Image for Jeannie Walker.
Author 11 books567 followers
October 9, 2010
This is a true story about the arsenic murder of a Texas millionaire. The motive to poison the wealthy 49-year-old man to death was Old Fashioned Greed - A million dollar estate and $350,000 life insurance policy. The millionaire's ex-wife became a real-life Sherlock Holmes to help solve the case.
Profile Image for Alana.
3 reviews
December 10, 2010
I was amazed at this powerful and emotional book. It aroused all my emotions, joy, anger, love, hate, horror, fear. It is a tremendous book.Fighting the Devil
1 review
August 25, 2010
This book was fantastic. I could not put it down. Everybody should buy this book and read it. It was blood chilling. I learned the devil will get people will do anything for money, including poisoning a person to death.
Profile Image for Castlerock.
10 reviews
October 9, 2010
I found the book very intriguing and interesting. I kept reading it until my eyes got too tired.
It's that interesting. Just goes to show that sometimes you don't really know people like you think you do. I'm going to recommend it to all my friends.
Profile Image for Goldleader.
6 reviews
October 10, 2010
I just finished reading the book, Fighting the Devil by Jeannie Walker. Thought it was a terrific book! When I checked out the author's website, I just had to get the book to read. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down...It is a good read!
Profile Image for Goldleader.
6 reviews
October 10, 2010
I thought this was an exceptionally well written book. It grabbed my attention from the start to finish. I would recommend it to everyone who loves true crime, mystery and suspense. It is a good book and a good read!
Profile Image for Royalreader.
8 reviews1 follower
October 12, 2010
I thought this was a marvelous book. It was interesting from the first page to the last page. I hope there will be a sequel and this book made into a movie. It was definitely a good read. I loved it!
Profile Image for Valerity (Val).
974 reviews2,749 followers
January 14, 2012
An amazing story written as only Jeannie could tell it from her perspective, and she's done a superb job. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I felt every high and low right alongside her, and more than once was moved to tears.
Profile Image for Carol Ann.
3 reviews
December 9, 2010
I was given Fighting the Devil as a gift. I loved it. I could not stop reading until I finished it. It is an extraordinary book.
Profile Image for Haresh Daswani.
Author 1 book184 followers
May 7, 2011
It is my first time to read a true crime book and I found this book exceptionally unique.

What I like about certain books are the true colors and culture of the writer. Jeannie's strong traditional Christian inclinations, finding paranormal signs, and depiction of local police and justice was very insightful of her town and her story. It is so real, it feels so real, that when reading the book, I was with her as she fought for justice.

This book was a fast read, but in the end it can get very technical, so be prepared. It is a very valuable book for insight to those who want to better understand the required motivation one needs to fight for justice, and how far one has to go, and keep on going, until justice is served.

What made the story enjoyable was a good illustration of the characters, humanizing and completing their profile to better understand who they were and who they became.

An enjoyable read
Profile Image for TJ.
2,782 reviews168 followers
March 7, 2011
This book is an account of one woman's experience living through the murder of her ex-husband, then following the steps it took to uncover the murderer and bring about justice. It does not read like a novel but more of recounting from memory - a step by step telling of events, adding legal evidence and backstory as necessary. It is obviously amateur but also intriguing, especially if one is interested in the journey from crime to punishment in a "Law & Order" kind of way but given from a lay-person point of view.

There are black and white photos through out which bring the reader a real and up-close look at everyone involved. It also adds a bit of creepiness as we look at the author smiling over the casket or read captions that state how much fun the deceased is having with his wife in the same chapter that tells of their hatred for each other. The photos are many, from a picture of a bottle of Cranapple juice beside a bottle of arsenic to a professional photo of the author with the caption "sad that her ex-husband died" Some are very enlightening, some are just weird.

Overall, this is a very intriguing account if one is interested in the road that leads to justice. If one is looking for a good murder mystery novel, however, Agatha Christie is still the way to go.
20 reviews100 followers
March 17, 2011
I thought Fighting The Devil was motivating and full of heart wrenching drama. I have to admit that the first few pages and one of the first reflections back had me really worried, but that soon passed and I was drug in. I cannot believe that someone, Jeannie, could go through a series of events such as these and be brave enough to tell about such things. Most people who live through events like she has block them and act as if they had never happened. But Jeannie Walker did not do this. She faced her fears the first time and went on a hell bent mission for truth, and then she dwelled on her thoughts as she wrote them down to inspire others.
Truly inspirational and heartfelt, as well as a tear jerker
Profile Image for Ellen Maze.
Author 44 books247 followers
February 12, 2012
At first blush, Fighting the Devil isn't what it appears to be. Reading the cover synopsis, I expected a true-life who-dunnit/mystery thriller. What I got was so much more. This novel is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, inspirational, and oftentimes harrowing memoir of the life of one of the bravest women I know: Jeannie Walker. Faced with living with a tyrant, she manages to find forgiveness in her heart, and love--the kind of love God has--for a person who treated her lower than dirt.

Yes, you will learn the details of the true-life murder of Jerry Eli Sternadel, but be prepared to be taken on an amazing life journey with a woman we'd all like to have for a sister.
3 reviews
January 2, 2011
Fighting the Devil is a powerful suspenseful thriller and a disturbing story about greed, lust, deception, hate, love, evil and faith.

Fighting the Devil by Jeannie Walker
Profile Image for Fran.
Author 45 books124 followers
February 9, 2012
Fighting the Devil

Jeannie Walker

Reviewed by Fran Lewis

When you want justice to be served you often have to handle it yourself. When Jeannie Walker realized what really happened to her ex-husband at the hand of his wife and bookkeeper she could not longer keep silent and took matters into her own hands. What you are about to read in this review is the story of one brave and courageous woman who decided to Fight The Devil with everything she had!

Money often plays an important role in some marriages and there are women who will go to any extreme to fleece, milk and gain control of their husband’s estates and wealth whether during their marriage, as a result of a divorce or in this case collecting a huge insurance policy upon a spouse’s death. The please for help from Jerry Sternadel were unanswered and fell on deaf ears. Strapped down, tied to his hospital bed, tubes places throughout his body, unable to articulate his wishes, Jerry dies a slow and torturous death many times over. While his wife Lou Ann refused to allow him the medical help needed for his recovery when sick at home, his son Sandy took the appropriate action necessary without any regard for Lou Ann’s rants and raves. The fear in his eyes, the helplessness and torment he received reminded the author of an incident the she endured at the hand of her late ex-husband. Recounting how he tied her to their bed, raped her without any regard for her dignity or feelings makes the reader wonder why she would even show any compassion for him other than he is the father of her 2 children. Abused, mistreated both during and after the marriage verbally and physically, Jeannie Walker withstood more than any one ever should. As she continues to relate another incident involving Lou Ann’s sadistic behavior regarding her two children you see the most heinous, diabolical and sick plot unfolding filled with hate, lies, deceit and betrayals even before the final outcome plays out.

When Jeannie enters the funeral home with her daughter they are both taken aback by the physical injuries, scratches and bruises on Jerry that can be readily observed. But, it is an acute and astute observation by Jeannie that sets a chain of events in motion. Noticing that his right ear appeared pink and soft as opposed to the left hard and cold made both mother and daughter think that Jerry was trying to send them a message. Knowing in their hearts that he was poisoned and abused by Lou Ann and his bookkeeper Debbie Baker, Jeannie’s next stop was the Sheriff’s office and doing some detective work on her own. While Becky and Sandy remained at the funeral home with Lou Ann, who banned Jeannie from seeing Jerry, Jeannie set out to get her own brand of justice.

As the author shares their beginning life to together and the tragedies incurred both hers and his, you begin to see another side of Jerry that should have signaled what was yet to come. Angered that she stayed out with a friend and accusing her of not going to Church, which is where she was, she spent the night praying and driving around lock out of her own home. Many other incidents happened but Jerry decided to become his own man, develop his own plumbing business but their life together would take many downhill turns.

The loss of a friend and family member comes into play as more than tragic and Jeannie premonition that something was going to happen to Jerry’s brother is quite chilling. But, Jerry had his own obsessions and no matter how much money he made and how close to his dream of becoming a millionaire he reached he was never satisfied, never had enough and his verbal and mental abuse of Jeannie as described in detail by the author helps the reader understand just how difficult her life was and why she decided to leave him. As you listen to the author’s words, hear her voice and understand the frustrations, accusations and harangues that she went through with Jerry you wonder why she fought so hard for justice for his death.

The moments and days before his death are vividly described and seriously disturbing as the author relates what happens to Jerry each time Debbie and Lou Ann are in the room and the fact that not one person on the staff of the hospital realized that his condition turned sour and really critical each time they left the room or gave him something to drink. You can visualize the deterioration in the man’s body, demeanor and his spirit as he tried to tell everyone that he was in trouble, who was causing his pain but no one listened or seem to believe him. So, why didn’t any really hear what he was saying?

How could anyone stand by and let this happen? With the voices of the his children coming through loud and clear along with Jeannie’s why wouldn’t the hospital staff take some action to find out just what Lou Ann and Debbie were doing since they were aware of the fact that Jerry was poisoned? It makes no sense that they did not heed the warning signs or even realize the gravity of the situation until it was too late. Even after his death the only ones that grieved her his children, his mother and his close friends. Jerry Gamble the man he worked with in plumbing and a good friend realized too late what Jerry was trying to tell him why strapped down in the hospital. Sometimes what we do comes back to haunt us and in this case Jerry paid a heavy price.

When Jeannie meets with Sheriff Bogard she learns more about the workings of the case, who the suspects are and how she can assist in the investigation. Lies are told by many of the players in this case and girl named Holly changes her story several times in order to protect the guilty. Even though a young man named Tommy gets sick from drinking the Cranapple in the refrigerator in Lou Ann’s house, she changes her story and the order of events even though the Sheriff knows she is lying. As the case draws on more evidence comes to light that Debra Baker might have poisoned not only Jerry but her parents too. One shrewd and sick woman who will do anything for money and now for Lou Ann’s friendship or is it Jerry’s wealth too? When Sandy, Jeannie’s son comes forward and talks with the Sheriff more information comes to light. Yet, no matter how much solid evidence they get no one has been arrested. No matter how you look at it why didn’t the hospital staff realize that every time Lou Ann and Debra left Jerry’s room after being alone with him he got worse?

Suspects questioned. Fraud, lies, checks to many people that were drawn, horses sold off and one woman who stood to gain it all. The case drew a lot of attention and many of Jerry’s friends came forward but too late. One friend Jerry Gamble did not heed the words of his friend when he saw him in the hospital right before he died. His son enlisted a lawyer but finally came forward to assist with the case. His mother Jeannie seems to be in the thick of it all and the Sheriff and police included her just about every step of the way. Throughout the book author shares the biographies of many of the characters so the reader gets a first hand picture of the character of each of the suspects, those involved in the investigation and some of Jerry’s friends and neighbors. Added to the mix are the premonitions and feelings that both Sandy and Jeannie get as if Jerry is guiding their every move. Asking Jeannie to become a direct part of the investigation, handling the arsenic piece and trying to find the many links that would solder the chain of events and hopefully catch a killer or killers, makes the story even more interesting and an ending, even though true, filled with twists, turns and the unexpected.

Sometimes the victims stand trial along with the guilty. The system does not always prevail as we learn in the horrific ending to a quest for justice. Fighting the Devil is not just about the two demon women and their accomplices to kill a man, who might not have been a sterling citizen, honest husband and not exactly the great person, but nonetheless did not stop the wrath of these two woman and the end result. Court transcripts, news articles, medical reports and observations plus the voice of Jeannie tells the story. The twists and turns will make you cringe and bring chills down your spine.

As Jeannie did the research about arsenic poisoning why didn’t the police launch the investigation while he was in the hospital? Where this winds up and who is brought to justice and who is not I won’t give it away.

Wait until you learn who was accused, who stood trial and who the suspects were? Wait until you learn the verdict? Wait until you see who attended the trial? Wait until you hear the discussion of the jurors and their interviews and when you hear the verdict you will be flabbergasted.

The book is quite compelling, difficult at times to digest the events, which situations filled with graphic accounts and pictures of the events. Marked with greed, hate, forgiveness and cruelty Jeannie Walker has resolved in her own mind to forgive him in death and I think if he had survived even in life. Read the trial transcripts and the first verdict you just won’t believe it. But, Jeannie Walker was relentless and her oath and promise to many did not stop her from filling the court as a victim of a violent crime. The Texas Department of Justice Victim Services responded as she wanted to make sure Debra Baker, now in prison for check fraud would not get parole. Reliving the entire 13 years and telling her story to them in writing was quite compelling. There were letters from her family, friends, the DA and much more. Now: For the end result! Read it to find out for yourself you won’t believe the verdict, the end result and just who was found guilty and who still needs to be brought to justice. The Devil has not been quieted or permanently fought until Jeannie’s quest is completed. This is truly a remarkable, compelling and well-written story of a system gone wrong, of a jury that did not measure the end result and one woman who won’t give up.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

Let’s dedicate this review to Becky, Sandy, Jeannie, and Shana and of course Jerry.
You will rest in peace because Jeannie will never give up!

Profile Image for Rich Weatherly.
Author 2 books75 followers
June 5, 2012

The author of Fighting the Devil and several reviewers have shared the synopsis and overview of the book. I won’t attempt to restate what has been so clearly presented. To be honest, this isn’t a genre that I usually read. That said, once I started reading, I was hooked from the beginning. Jeannie’s story is far more compelling than I anticipated. It was hard to put down!

Published Review
“ForeWord Clarion Reviews: Readers who enjoy suspense, strong female leads, and crime drama, like Law and Order, will cling to every word of Fighting the Devil. Those with weak stomachs are warned that this book contains graphic descriptions of slow death by poison. Read this nail-biter with the lights blazing!”

Walker, Jeannie (2011-02-19). Fighting the Devil . CreateSpace. Kindle Edition.

The author and I both hale from north Texas and are approximately the same age, so that connection drew me in at first. It is an amazing story of a how this couple who started from humble beginnings became amazingly successful through hard work and smart business practices. The author deserves much of the credit for that success, having supported,and encouraged her husband to pursue his dreams. Over time the relationship deteriorated. Jeannie and Jerry Sternadel separated and eventually divorced.

I mentioned earlier that I won’t restate the synopsis. Suffice it to say, Jerry Sternadel died a terrifying death by arsenic poisoning. All evidence clearly pointed to his ex-wife Lou Ann and his bookkeeper, Debbie Baker.

Something I didn’t expect in the story involves supernatural events which the author describes in great detail. She experiences a premonition that a brother-in-law will die a premature death and he does soon afterward. There are scenes where she appears to be forewarned of danger on a lonely dark road only to be confronted by the face of a devil. Other scenes describe a host of demonic creatures. There are even a couple of ghost stories.

After Jerry Sternadel died, the author’s first actions were to protect the interests of and to support her children. As she learned more about the death of the father of her children, her sense of justice drove her to set the record straight. Jeannie Walker stopped at nothing when it came to supporting her son and daughter through the tragedy. Her love is an open book.

It is hard for me to imagine living through so much tragic loss brought on by cold blooded murderers all because of greed. I felt much of the emotion experienced by the author and her family because the facts are presented so clearly. Jeannie’s loyalty to family and her ex-husband helped her to build support from friends and the officials she worked with.

Much of the book focuses on her conversations with witnesses, law enforcement officers, public officials and experts as she probed for evidence that would lead to a conviction of the guilty.

For me the story had a conversational tone with realistic and detailed dialog. It was like sitting in on a real conversation. From the onset, it is clear who the guilty parties are. Jerry Sternadel even pointed them out from his hospital bed, describing embezzlement and stating they were trying to kill him. As far as the prosecution was concerned, all the evidence was circumstantial. That’s where Jeannie Walker’s determination and persistence kicked in.

She continued to dig for new evidence and when found pass the information to the appropriate officials. The trail was long and complex but she was relentless.

I have profound admiration for Jeannie Walker. One of the guilty parties went to prison; eventually. The one with the strongest motive and opportunity did not. To some extent, this is a story about justice denied. Something tells me that if more evidence is to be discovered, Jeannie Walker will find it.

For more, read: http://jeanniewalkerbooks.com/
Profile Image for Jo Anne B.
235 reviews18 followers
August 13, 2011
Holy cow! Such an incredible book. I watch Dateline and 48 Hours Mystery and this blows them away. I never read an book about a murder mystery that happened in real life, let alone from someone personally involved with the victim. This was such a thorough recount of a woman's relentless efforts to right her ex-husband's death and bring his murderers to justice. It was so well written you couldn't help feel like you were reliving the events with Jeannie as she told the story.

I actually can't believe Jeannie would dedicate so much of her life to this investigation. Her ex-husband Jerry that was poisoned to death was not a good person. One time while they were married he locked her out of the house thinking she was out cheating on him. "I didn't know at the time, but sleeping in the car that night had been just the beginning of the seemingly endless mental and physical abuse I would suffer and endure in the days and years ahead." She believed "Jerry was suffering from some kind of disorder or illness of the mind." He became obsessed with money but was never satisfied nor happy. When they divorced, she let him have all their assets, custody of their two kids (he even banned communication with them). But Jerry continued to threaten her and  stalk her even putting sugar in her gas tank, and loosening the lug nuts on her tires. He remarried and molested his new wife's daughter for years. She said "One of the reasons I will do everything to help you put people who poisoned Jerry behind bars is because I truly believe Jerry was changing intoma God-fearing person." What faith Jeannie had! You couldn't help feel sorry for Jerry for how much he suffered from the poisoning all while knowing the truth about who was behind it all.

What bothered me were the strange premonitions, feelings, and signs Jeannie thought were from God. They seemed far-fetched and unbelieveable. I know it is a true story but I have a hard time accepting this.

I have to give Jeannie for her endless pursuit in the investigation. She was even deputized in order to help the police more in their investigation. Thankfully there are people like this to see that justice is served. 

I hope Jeannie and her family feel some resolution and peace about Jerry's death.
Profile Image for Brent.
148 reviews
September 21, 2011
I ready this book specifically because it was so highly rated. However, WHO are these people giving this load of crap 5 stars? Does the author have that many friends on Goodreads with itchy mouse fingers?

This book is about a horrible tragedy. But the real tragedy is in how it's written--recycled information that she's already covered, but brought up again in a slightly different way--and the laborious slog it requires to make it to the end. As soon as I read the last page, I felt as if I had been released from prison.

I ALMOST felt bad for Jeannie Walker's late husband--being poisoned with arsenic is certainly no way to go--however, he sounded like a horrible, selfish individual that only cared about himself. I actually didn't feel that bad for him when he died, as it kind of sounded like the best thing that could have happened to him.

The worst part is that this book really offers no closure or even answers. There is no satisfaction in realizing that justice has been served, or that really anything has been done. And I realize that Ms. Walker is not a professional writer, but good golly. Most parts made me laugh out loud at the absurdity and amateurism of the statements that a publisher had allowed to be mass printed. I should have been clued in immediately by the image on the cover of a woman wearing a fedora. Because all good, stereotypical detectives MUST wear a fedora. I applaud Jeannie Walker for trying to uncover the truth, and her attempt to get her story out there, but I wasn't left with outrage and the desire to mete out justice, but just outrage that this is how she chose to do it. Maybe you should have reached out to "48 Hours" or something? Anything less painful and time consuming would have been more appropriate. And would probably get you the justice that you're clearly looking for.

Look up the story on the Internet instead of wasting your life reading it.
Profile Image for Ellen Maze.
Author 44 books247 followers
March 14, 2011
At first blush, Fighting the Devil isn't what it appears to be. Reading the cover synopsis, I expected a true-life who-dunnit/mystery thriller. What I got was so much more. This novel is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, inspirational, and oftentimes harrowing memoir of the life of one of the bravest women I know: Jeannie Walker. Faced with living with a tyrant, she manages to find forgiveness in her heart, and love--the kind of love God has--for a person who treated her lower than dirt.

Yes, you will learn the details of the true-life murder of Jerry Eli Sternadel, but be prepared to be taken on an amazing life journey with a woman we'd all like to have for a sister.

Ellen C. Maze

Author of Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider,
Christian Fiction/Vampire
recently #52 in Horror/Occult on Amazon
Curiously Spiritual Vampire Tales
Profile Image for Mary Vernon.
131 reviews13 followers
September 7, 2011
I really wanted to like this one. This was the book we chose in book club. The actual story line itself with the murder of the ex-husband is pretty interesting. I enjoyed reading the facts of the case. I'm intrigued with the "Snapped" episode on the Oxygen channel and in the future will look for the re-run of the Debra Baker episode. Having said all that, I'm really not sure how this book has received so many positive reviews. In my opinion, the dialogue was unrealistic, there were too many side-stories and a lot of irrelevant information. Also, there were some pretty creepy events that make it hard to take seriously as true events. I'm not saying strange things did not happen to the author. I'm just wondering if possibly they were unnecessarily over-dramatized.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
Author 10 books155 followers
September 10, 2011
While reading this book, my heart ached thinking of Jeannie Walker's children. No adult, let alone a child, should ever have to suffer through this much pain. It could possibly take years more for Jeannie and her children to recover from the heartache, injustices and horror. Without giving too much away, it is sad the battle for justice must continue, but I would do no less than Jeannie is continuing to do today. My having been a legal secretary/paralegal years ago, I should have been able to foresee the outcome. It took me by surprise I assume because I was unaware of the Texas laws regarding this matter. I am now fully informed and outraged. I support Jeannie in her struggle to get the laws changed and wish I had a magic wand I could use to take away her childrens' pain.
Profile Image for Marilou George.
186 reviews53 followers
November 30, 2011
Jeannie Wallker's "Fighting the Devil" tells the true story of Murder and it's effects on the people left behind and their search for Justice. From the beginning this book grabbed my attention. The fact that this was a true story and a story that involved the Author made it even more interesting. Jeannie Walker's courage in sharing details of her and her children's lives and in her constant search for truth and justice are truly amazing. If this book is not on your must "read list" list you are truly missing out!!
Author 4 books54 followers
September 16, 2014
The story has an explosive start. It really gripped my attention. A man has been poisoned to death and ex-wife is out to find out who did it, she goes from NY to Texas. Then the author digs into past and details how the man had tortured her during her tumultuous marriage, and then comes back to present.
The storyline held my interest throughout the book. It was hard to understand why a mistreated woman care so much about an ex-husband. But I think after a long time, people tend to forget and forgive, and 'he is my kid's dad' feeling takes over.
Profile Image for Martha Cheves.
Author 5 books67 followers
February 1, 2012
Fighting the Devil – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat, Think With Your Taste Buds and A Book and A Dish

I had to put a gown and mask on. Lou Ann and Debbie helped me do that and I walked in and I saw Jerry had some tubes, one running up his nose and I believed he had a little…uh…a hospital gown on. His hands and feet were tied to each side of the bed with some sort of restraint. Jerry raised his head up and looked at me when I walked in. He said, “Gamble!” I said, “Yeah, Jerry! What in the world are you doing up here?” He said, “Oh, I’m sick. They’ve been doing all kinds of tests on me.” I said, “Well, you’re gonna have to get well so that you can get out. You gotta get a lot of things going, you know.” He said, “Gamble, you gotta help me get out of here! They’re trying to kill me. I’m gonna die! I’ve got $35,000 missing. They took it. Those two women took it. They’re trying to kill me. They fed me … Lou Ann and Debbie, they’re trying to kill me. You gotta help me get out of here! You gotta help me! Cut me loose! Gamble, cut me loose!”

This was just one of many pleas from Jerry Sternadel after he had been admitted to Bethania Hospital, not once but for a total of 3 times before dying of arsenic poisoning on June 12, 1990. Most people ignored his pleas after talking to his wife Lou Ann and his company bookkeeper Debbie Baker. They assured anyone who asked that Jerry was getting better and would be coming home soon.

Arsenic poisoning creates one of the most horrible deaths as it eats away at the bodily systems until the body shuts down. Symptoms are severe gastric distress, esophageal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea with blood. The skin becomes cold and clammy and the blood pressure falls. If death isn’t immediate, the skin becomes jaundice and is unable to void. There may be moments of paralysis and if death is delayed by several days, the arsenic will hit the liver and kidney. Convulsions and coma are final signs and death usually comes from circulatory failure. This is a horrible way to die! A bullet to the head would be more humane.

But, this is the death that Lou Ann and Debbie chose for Jerry Sternadel. Now came the task of proving they were the ones guilty of administering the poison and how. Jeannie Walker, who is not only the author of Fighting the Devil, but also Jerry’s first wife and mother of Jerry's only children, spent years working with the police and interviewing friends of Jerry. She even hired a private detectives, all to prove the two women were guilty of murder and have them stand trial. Will she succeed?

When I read Fighting the Devil, I was amazed at the court systems within Texas at that time. There was actually a law that would allow a jury to find a defendant guilty of murder but still be able to receive parole and a fine! Apparently the law was written for those who kill their abusers after years of abuse. But will it work for someone as cunning as Lou Ann and Debbie? This book made me aware of the trials the actual victims are put through. Yes…the victims are actually put on trial as their character is dissected and torn apart. Then there’s the jury. Spending time in a locked room with 11 other people trying to decide if someone is guilty or not and then deciding what sentencing they will receive can, I’m sure, get to you and make you actually rush through your decision just to get it over with.

The actual case of Jerry Sternadel’s death kept me reading even as my anger for the system grew. I have to admire Jeannie Walker for her determination to find closure for her children and their families. This case caught the attention of the producers of Oxygen channel’s Snapped series and was aired on February 17, 2005. The case is still open and justice is still being sought. I personally hope that for Jerry’s family and friends, closure will soon be found.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com Stir, Laugh, Repeat
Profile Image for Todd Russell.
Author 5 books105 followers
August 21, 2011
Successful business owner Jerry Sternadel died of arsenic poisoning in 1990. The book makes a strong case that the poisoning was at the hands of Sternadel's wife and bookkeeper. Sternadel claims to have caught them stealing $35,000 from the business and was going to go public with it when they fed him some arsenic-laced taco salad from a fast food restaurant in Texas.

I was tipped off that I might like this true crime book from a Goodreads message directly from the author, Jeannie Walker. Jeannie didn't spam me, she looked at what books I've been reading recently (JFK being one of them) and wrote me a note explaining why I might like her book. Smart marketing that worked. I went right over to Amazon, one-clicked and paid $4.95 for her Kindle book. Was so impressed by her personalized approach, in fact, that I jumped the book to 'current reading' instead of putting in my TBR stack. Kudos to the author for using Goodreads effectively.

And once I started reading the book, I was hooked. Tore through this in a few reading sessions.

Jeannie Walker and Jerry Sternadel had two children together but divorced while the kids were small. Walker tells a dark story of Sternadel being a mean, abusive husband with stalker tendencies. I didn't find myself having much compassion for the man until Walker details his slow, painful death by rat poison.

The rat poison was so nasty that the FDA banned it in the late 80s.

Several times during this book I found myself wondering what was wrong with the hospital? Why didn't the doctors suspect that Sternadel's increasing levels of toxicity were because those supposedly taking care of him were the ones poisoning him? I realize the Devil in the book title refers to the killers, not the hospital or the justice system which somehow, strangely decided to only prosecute one of the two alleged killers (huh?!). Or maybe the devil is the jury who came up with a bizarre sentence for the crime based on a Texas law loophole?

The author details the amount of time, effort--including her own spiritual beliefs--and hard work to bring the perpetrators in this disturbing crime to justice. Although the homicide occurred in 1990, the details surrounding the crime and investigation are brought to present day (as of this review date, 2011). There are a bunch of pictures included, although on the Kindle they were a bit rough. Probably easier to enjoy in the paperback version.

As for the writing? The author did an excellent job exposing the human horrors responsible for her ex-husband's murder, including various bits of detailed information with a power amplified by someone personally connected to the events. It's not often I've read true crime books by somebody this close to the actual crime that also tell a good story (not just relating interesting facts). Usually they have help from another writer or it's an attorney involved with the case (like Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi or the OJ book by Marcia Clark).

I took away a star from the rating because some parts of the story are a bit repetitive (like the part about the boy who accidentally drinks the arsenic-laced juice) and the Kindle formatting needs significant work in the first 40% of the book. The formatting gets better as the book continues. Several paragraphs are grouped together with no indenting and this threw me unnecessarily out of the narrative.

Formatting concerns aside, this is one of the better true crime books I've read by someone personally connected with a horrific crime. I feel for Jeannie's children and grandchildren who were denied a longer life with Jerry Sternadel because of avarice. Recommended reading for those who enjoy true crime.
Profile Image for Patricia.
Author 7 books11 followers
February 7, 2012
Fighting the Devil
By Jeannie Walker
Reviewed by Patricia A. Guthrie

Fighting the Devil could scare Lucifer out of anyone who’s perceptive enough to know he’s there and may be living with them.

Millionaire Jerry Sternadel is admitted into Bethania Hospital in Texas for a mysterious illness that baffles his doctors. He recovers and the next day he’s admitted again for the same symptoms. After three recoveries and three admittances, on July 12, 1990, he dies. By this time, authorities have already conferred with hospital officials.The diagnosis; arsenic poisoning.

Jerry discovers thousands of dollars missing from his plumbing business. After investigating, he realizes his bookkeeper, Debbie Baker embezzled funds from his accounts and demands the money back. He gets more than he bargained for when some not-so-healthy doses of arsenic turns up in a lunchtime taco salad and is discovered in the cran-apple juice in his refrigerator. A week before the man's death, a teenager visited the rancher's home and becomes ill after he drinks the juice that was in the rancher's refrigerator. He still suffers some after effects of the poison.

As we follow the story, we watch Lou Ann Sternadel and Debbie Baker feeding him fluids as he lies in his hospital bed. When Jerry realizes he’s being poisoned, he tells everyone who will listen; loudly. Terrified, he struggles to get away from the “two women.” Thinking he’s hallucinating, the hospital staff strap him down because he’s “out of control.”

The author, Jeannie Walker, ex-wife of Jerry Sternadel, becomes suspicious of her ex’s mysterious illness and death and decides to investigate.

We follow Ms. Walker’s journey from the first phone call from her daughter to the arrest of one of the two perpetrators to the woman’s bewildering sentence; ten-years probation for a first degree murder conviction. We learn of numerous probation violations each one caught and fought by the family of the victim, until she finally violates one too many times and lands in prison for her ten years. And, what about the other culprit? Jerry Sternadel’s second wife? Is there a beach in the Bahamas with her name on it? After all, she’s inherited her husband’s estate, horses, cattle and life insurance policy.

And two years later, we learn that a bottle of arsenic is found in a storage locker rented by Debbie Walker.

What’s interesting and sometimes tedious, is her offering the same information over and over. But they come from different people’s perspectives, from the sheriff, the deputies, the DA,forensic experts, friends and family of the victim. You learn about the family through their tragedy, and the son who’s almost framed for Jerry’s murder. You get to know the criminals involved in the case.
The detailed descriptions of arsenic poisoning, the stages and final death of the victim is fascinating and not for the faint of heart. The glossary at the end of the book gives the reader the valuable information needed to understand terminology and a lesson in poisoning and forensics.

Ms. Walker has a knack for detective work.Her story is fascinating. This book reminds me of Anne Rule’s true crime dramas.

Her weakness lies in her inexperience in writing. The book was written as it happened, and each character explains the events in his point of view. But, her writing technique needs polishing, a learned and practiced skill. Instinct in detective work is a God given talent.

Reviewed by Patricia A.Guthrie

Profile Image for Rickey.
Author 1 book39 followers
February 21, 2011
After reading the first chapter of this book, you are drawn into this emotional story and come to understand that Jerry Sternadel was not a very nice person. He treated his ex-wife, his wife, his children, his stepchildren, employees, and business associates very badly. But did he deserve to be poisoned with arsenic like a rat? Definitely, not!

Fighting the Devil by Jeannie Walker is about the arsenic murder of her ex-husband Jerry Sternadel, a Texas millionaire. With meticulous detail, the author chronicles the events of a murder that happened about 20 years ago. Her recollection of the details are amazing, to the point that you are almost overwhelmed with information about this case.

I really don’t like to give out spoilers in reviews, but several things in the book will surprise you. One was the actions of the hospital after it was determined that Mr. Sternadel was suffering from acute arsenic poisoning. Wouldn’t they launch an immediate investigation to find the source of the poisoning? As you read the book, the results of the criminal investigation, and, especially, the sentencing phase of the trial will come as a shocker. Do you know what the range of punishment in Texas for first-degree murder is? Another surprise will be who was brought up on criminal charges and who wasn’t, and who did not even attend the murder trial! Some of the interviews after the trial with some of the jurors was also very enlightening – the pressure they were put under to come up with a unanimous verdict, even one they disagreed with in their hearts, so the trial could be over and they could go home.

Although Fighting the Devil is a disturbing story of evil caused by greed, it is also a story of forgiveness. Although treated very badly by her volatile ex-husband, it seems that Jeannie Walker had truly forgiven him of his meanness and made it her personal goal to see that the murder or murders of her children’s father be brought to justice - even after years had passed! Separating this book from ordinary true crime novels, Jeannie Walker, in a stroke of writing genius, also includes omens she senses during these trying times and her battles with demons in her nightmares. Evil demons truly strike us first in our minds, and then the evilness in our minds allows our bodies to do evil things; hence the human quest for some form of spirituality to keep our minds healthy.

I think the author is still determined to bring others involved in the murder of her ex-husband to justice. She seems to be a very focused woman, a driving force in the criminal investigation and the cohesive factor holding her family together during these trying times. With not all suspects brought to justice, from the determination I sense in this book, I’m sure that Jeannie Walker will not stop now in her quest for justice.
Profile Image for Naomi.
4,700 reviews140 followers
May 9, 2012
Ms. Walker's book Fighting the Devil proves that sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Her book depicts the story of her ex-husband, Jerry Sternadel's arsenic poisoning by his wife and bookkeeper for financial gain.

Readers may be familiar with this case through its depiction of occurances on Oxygen network's show, Snapped. Ms. Walker gives readers a picture of who Mr. Sternadel was from his young life to the time of his death, as well as a detailed account of the investigation and trial.

I read this book in one day and have to be honest with the readers of this review, sad to say, the only thing that kept going through my mind was "you live by the sword, you die by it." In most true crime novels that I have read, I have always had sympathy for the victim of the crime. I couldn't garner one inch of sympathy for this man. In the graphic depiction Ms. Walker wrote about, all I kept thinking was that this man could have had a line of people waiting to kill him. I don't know if that was her intentions to write that way or not, but that is def. the way it came across.

One very mild criticism I would give to the author relates to her use of "religious" incidents which she described in the book. I felt that they did not "add" to the story and were unnecessary to the storyline. I thought that they came across as being very out of place.

Another light criticism that I felt came across in the book is that I would have liked to have seen it tightened up. Readers must understand that this isn't a professional author and I feel that her book demanding justice for her exhusband and that justice really was denied, again, imo, I think going back to his "choices and actions". As I was reading this, I kept thinking of the Russ Stager case, in which, his exwife, Jo Lynn Snow was instrumental in bringing Barbara Stager to justice.

On a sidenote, I would like to comment to two GR members who gave this book one star and then flippantly alleged that the author had faked reviews. Before making allegations please check your facts. Had you have done your homework and broken down the reviews, as I did, you would have noted that less than 5 percent of the 4 or 5 star reviews of this book on Amazon would have fit into something that could even closely be considered "faked" reviews. In my blogging and reviewing role, I assess these "actions" of potentially faked Amazon reviews on authors' works on almost a daily basis. You clearly didn't. Just sayin'
Profile Image for Mark Young.
Author 5 books41 followers
March 4, 2011
Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote, “Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” Author Jeannie Walker’s non-fiction book, Fighting the Devil, is about striving to understand a motive as old as Cain. Cold-blooded murder. This path of understanding came at a cost—Jeannie must reveal her pain and loss in order to tell the whole story in its unblemished truth. This took an act of courage. Jeannie had cause to walk away, distance herself from a man who brutally victimized her in the past. However, she decided to become involved for the good memories she still held for this man, and for the two children she shared with him who needed to know the truth.

On June 12, 1990, self-made millionaire Jerry Sternadel died a horrible and painful death while strapped to a hospital bed in Texas. Before he died, Jerry pleaded with friends, family and medical staff to save him from two women who allegedly were slowly poisoning him. No one stepped forward, everyone believing the victim's current medical condition caused these hallucinations. As the end drew near, those who cared about him began to have second thoughts.An autopsy revealed the victim died of extreme arsenic poisoning.

Even before the man’s death, suspicion fell on those believed to be responsible. It took a Herculean efforts by the author, a sheriff who fought to bring justice to this case right up until his own untimely death, and the cooperation of others in order to haul this investigation before the courts.

This story records human frailties. Each player on this stage displays the whole gambit of human motivations and passions—love and hate, greed and selflessness, good and evil. Jeanie tells the story in her own way, her own style, while sharing her religious journey from spiritual darkness into the light. Regardless whether you share her viewpoint about good and evil, about God and the devil, readers will readily join this author as this story unfolds, waiting until the very last page to see if justice prevails.
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