New book focuses on 2003 drownings of 3 children at Clinton Lake

New book focuses on 2003 drownings of 3 children at Clinton Lake

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"The Unforgiven: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Search for Love and Justice," was written by Pantagraph reporter Edith Brady-Lunny and Steve Vogel, author of the best-selling book "Reasonable Doubt" about the Hendricks family murders. 

BLOOMINGTON — The 2003 drowning deaths of three young children at Clinton Lake, the subsequent investigation and the trials of their mother and her boyfriend are chronicled in a new book.

Entitled "The Unforgiven: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Search for Love and Justice," is co-authored by Pantagraph reporter Edith Brady-Lunny and Steve Vogel, and is scheduled for release May 3.

“This was an exceptional case that captured national media attention,” said Brady-Lunny, who covered the case from start to finish, beginning the night of the drownings. “We’ve pulled together a lot of previously undisclosed information about the investigation into whether this was a horrible accident or a murderous plot.”

Amanda Hamm’s three children were in the back seat of her car, driven by her boyfriend Maurice LaGrone Jr., when it entered Clinton Lake in the fall of 2003. The adults escaped. The children, ranging in ages from 23 months to 6 years, did not.

“It was an unspeakable tragedy that traumatized the region and splintered families,” says Vogel, author of the best-selling book, "Reasonable Doubt" about the Hendricks family murder case in Bloomington. “The outcome remains controversial to this day, and things recently came full circle with Illinois child welfare workers’ concerns about children born to the mother since the drownings.”

Brady-Lunny, The Pantagraph's courts and legal affairs reporter, also is a  reporting fellow at The Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College in New York.

LaGrone is serving a life sentence for his role in the children's deaths; Hamm was convicted of child endangerment, served 14 months in prison and is now Amanda Ware after marrying since her release.

The case is frequently compared to the one involving Susan Smith, convicted of drowning her two young sons in a South Carolina lake. She was sentenced to life in prison in 1995.  

The book has earned praise from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Maurice Possley, who said, “The line between murder and accidental death can be exceedingly thin. This narrow world is the core of 'The Unforgiven,' a richly-told true story.” 

"The Unforgiven" is being independently published in paperback and e-book editions under the BookBaby imprint. 

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The fight by a former Clinton woman and her husband to regain custody of her three children did not begin in 2014, when the state took the children, or in 2006, when she was convicted of child endangerment in the drowning deaths of her first three children, a prosecutor told a Cook County juvenile court judge Monday.

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