Pros: Quick read, somewhat interesting, generous photos.
Cons: Not enough information about why Nestor (Chino) DeJesus was a sadist.
Last week, I was in the mood to read some true crime. When I spotted Lee Butcher's 2006 book Love Me of I'll Kill You at the local military discount store, I thought of two things. First, this true crime book was liable to be trashy and second, it looked like a quick read. What can I say? Sometimes I don't mind a little lowbrow reading.
Love Me or I'll Kill You is the tragic story of Paula Gutierrez, a pretty young woman from Colombia who now sits in prison because she became romantically involved with a madman. In the late 1990s, at age 14, Gutierrez was living in New York City and had already had an abortion after having been pregnant at age 13. One day, she met 15 year old Nestor (Chino) DeJesus on a New York City subway platform. They began a hot love affair, had lots of sex, and smoked a lot of marijuana. Chino managed to charm Paula's conservative Colombian parents, but when he and Paula were alone, he was evidently extremely abusive and cruel. It wasn't long before Paula became his slave and the mother of his daughter, Ashley.
In 2001, the couple moved to Tampa, Florida, where they were completely broke. They had no money to buy food for their then two year old daughter. What they did have was a MAC 11 pistol, a canary yellow SUV, and a desperate plan. On July 6, 2001, the pair donned hats and bandannas and robbed a bank, netting about $10,000. A few minutes after the couple had left the bank, a dye pack in the stolen money exploded. Things went downhill from there.
An hour after the robbery, Chino had shot one cop dead, and the two robbers were confronted by two SWAT teams. They broke into an apartment and took a hostage. Then they made plans to commit suicide. But only Chino would actually follow through with the suicide pact, leaving his girlfriend to take the heat for their crime. Because Officer Lois Marrero had been killed during the robbery, Paula Gutierrez was charged for her murder, even though it had been Chino who pulled the trigger.
Though this book is every bit as lowbrow and quickly read as I thought it would be, it's also somewhat compelling. Butcher begins with the fairly tense story of the crime itself, explaining how these two young people ended up committing a crime that was sure to fail. I got a sense of the desperation the two felt as they were committing this crime.
On the other hand, Butcher doesn't provide as many details about how Chino managed to become so controlling over Paula Gutierrez. He writes that she was terrified of him and provides a few examples of why she was scared. But I didn't really get the essence of who Chino DeJesus was, aside from Butcher's continued assurances and quotes from people who knew him that he was a rageaholic. There weren't any enlightening anecdotes to show how DeJesus gained so much power over his girlfriend. I didn't get a really good sense of why she was considered "battered".
Love Me or I'll Kill You includes a relatively generous photo section, which shows a damning picture of Paula Gutierrez hold the murder weapon and smiling wickedly, as well as a shot of Chino DeJesus after he shot himself. Thankfully, the picture of DeJesus is not as graphic as it could be. Butcher also includes information about the public defender who represented Paula Gutierrez and why she chose to take such cases.
I think Love Me or I'll Kill You is an okay read for its genre. I've read better true crime, but I've also read much worse. Butcher seems to have some empathy for Paula Gutierrez that may or may not go over well with readers. I do wish Butcher had elaborated more on the relationship Gutierrez and DeJesus had before the crime occurred. Perhaps if I'd had more information, I might have been more inclined to share some of Butcher's apparent empathy for Gutierrez. In a way, it seems like this book promised a story that it didn't really deliver. But it's not a bad read for those who just want to know about the crime itself and a little bit of the backstory behind it.