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New Book Explores Justice System Through Clinton Lake Drownings

Edith and Steve
Ryan Denham
Edith Brady-Lunny and Steve Vogel are co-authors of the new true crime book, “The Unforgiven: The Untold Story of One Woman's Search for Love and Justice Paperback.”";s:

Edith Brady-Lunny has covered hundreds and hundreds of cases as The Pantagraph’s courts reporter. But Amanda Hamm's is the one that stayed with her.

Amanda Hamm was the mother of three children who drowned in 2003 at Clinton Lake. Hamm and her then-boyfriend, Maurice LaGrone, where charged with their murder. LaGrone was convicted of murder; Hamm was convicted of a lesser charge, child endangerment, and served about 14 months in prison.

The Unforgiven book cover
The book goes on sale May 3.

Brady-Lunny lives in Clinton, where the Hamm-LaGrone saga unfolded. She’s now co-author, with veteran journalist Steve Vogel, of a new book about the case called “The Unforgiven: The Untold Story of One Woman's Search for Love and Justice Paperback.” It goes on sale May 3

“I hope that it helps people gain some insight into the criminal justice system,” Brady-Lunny said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. “Because of all the true crime books and TV shows, people sometimes have a pretty sophisticated understanding of what happens now. There are a lot of shows that talk about false confessions and how shortcuts in the criminal justice system can have negative consequences for certain people who don’t understand what kind of situation they’re in early on in a case.” 

The book tracks the opening moments of the case—the tragedy at Clinton Lake—all the way through Hamm’s release from prison in 2008. That includes her long court battle for rights to three new children born to Amanda Hamm (now Amanda Ware) after her release.

“Everything that is part of a case does not get presented in court,” Brady-Lunny said. “A lot of decisions have to be made along the way by the lawyers and the judge as to what they deem relevant. A jury may only get a slice of the true reality of what happens. In this case, it took two trials (LaGrone and Hamm) before everything was finally laid out.” 

Working with Brady-Lunny on her first book is Vogel, author of the book “Reasonable Doubt” (1989) about the Hendricks murders in Bloomington. It’s required reading for any Bloomington-Normal resident, particularly those working in (or following) the media. While “Reasonable Doubt” put readers in the jury box to make up their own minds about who killed the Hendicks family, Vogel said “The Unforgiven” isn’t about the who or the what—it’s about the why.

Was it murder, recklessness, abandonment, stupidity, or all of the above?

“In this case, it’s a great story of human interest,” Vogel said. “People have different opinions about whether justice was done in this case. What we’ve done is roll out a lot of information, some of it not ever really disclosed in the court cases to a full extent.”

Brady-Lunny and Vogel will discuss their book Wednesday at the League of Women Voters of McLean County Annual Dinner in Bloomington.

You can also listen to the full interview:

GLT's full interview.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.