“This account returns the focus to the victim, her life, and her family.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Mike Varnado’s ability to tell a great story is topped only by his work as a first-class detective.”
—Chris Buchanan, documentary film producer for PBS and
associate producer of Angel on Death Row
Victims of Dead Man Walking is the true story of the rape and murder of Faith Hathaway by Robert Lee Willie and Joe Vaccaro. Detective Mike Varnado provides a vivid eyewitness account of the investigation into her murder. Varnado was only twenty-five when he discovered Faith Hathaway’s body. Finding her killers and bringing them to justice has been one of the most important endeavors of his life.
But for Varnado, Faith’s family, and the citizens of their quiet Louisiana community, the nightmare did not end with the capture and conviction of the murderers. While on Angola’s death row, Robert Lee Willie was counseled by Sr. Helen Prejean, who wrote about him in her best-selling book, Dead Man Walking. He also served as the primary model for the character played by Sean Penn in the Academy Award-winning film version of Dead Man Walking. As Willie and his story achieved worldwide notoriety, Faith Hathaway, her short life, and her brutal death were almost forgotten by everyone but those closest to her. Victims of Dead Man Walking reminds readers of an aspect of the death-penalty debate that is too often forgotten—the innocent victim of crime, the victim’s family, and the police officers, lawyers, judges, and ordinary citizens called upon to perform difficult but necessary roles in the pursuit of justice.
About the Authors
Mike Varnado has been a detective in Washington Parish, Louisiana, for more than twenty years. At the time of Faith Hathaway’s murder, he was chief investigator for the district attorney’s office. He has twice been honored with Louisiana’s Victims and Citizens Against Crime Outstanding Law Enforcement Award. He lives in Franklinton, Louisiana.
D. P. Smith is a lawyer and freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee.