Murder, She Wrote

Sister of slain ASU co-ed pens memoir more than 30 years later

In July 1993, a few months after he was denied release for the 12th time, Mumbaugh killed himself in his cell, carefully inserting a thin shard of glass into his heart. He had twice made unsuccessful suicide attempts after previous parole efforts failed, prison officials said.

Jane Bernstein, who never got to meet Mumbaugh, says she wishes she could have looked him in the eye and asked him why he killed Laura. Nevertheless, she says, she was able to learn some valuable lessons.

"I got close enough to him to see something about the danger of somebody who doesn't understand the whole of his own heart -- the source of his own anger and rage," she says.

Murder victim Laura Bernstein and fiancé Howard Trilling, circa 1966.
Murder victim Laura Bernstein and fiancé Howard Trilling, circa 1966.
Author Jane Bernstein.
Author Jane Bernstein.

That insight helped her get out of a violent marriage. Now a creative-writing teacher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Jane Bernstein is 50 years old and the mother of two daughters, 16 and 20. As for her parents, her father suffers from Alzheimer's disease and won't be reading Bereft. Her mother is still in denial and told Jane Bernstein that she won't read the book when it is published.

Jane Bernstein says that while there is no easy way for a family to deal with a murder, she realizes her family's method -- dictated by her mother -- just added to her pain.

"There is no easy and smooth way to go through something as devastating as this, something that rips the family to shreds," she says. "But people have to be able to come through the long course of their grief and not feel ashamed of it."

Contact Laura Laughlin at her online address: laura.laughlin@newtimes.com

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