The unsolved 1968 murder of Irene J. Izak has haunted her family, friends and law enforcement officials.
It also haunted Watertown Daily Times staff writer David C. Shampine.
“It's just something that stuck with me throughout my career,” Mr. Shampine said. “It kept coming back to me.”
The body of Irene J. Izak, a 25-year-old French teacher from Scranton, Pa., was found in a ditch near the grounds of DeWolf Point State Park on Wellesley Island early on June 10, 1968. She had been savagely bludgeoned about the head, although a revived investigation 12 years ago revealed a blow to the back of her neck was likely what killed her. The murder was reported by a state trooper, David N. Hennigan, who had stopped her car about an hour and 20 minutes earlier on Interstate 81 near Watertown.
No arrest was ever made. Late in 1998, the victim's remains were exhumed at a cemetery outside Scranton for examination by Dr. Michael Baden, chief forensic pathologist for the state police. He made the determination about a blow to her neck.
Miss Izak, who had taught in Rochester and Binghamton, was on her way to Laval University in Quebec for a job interview and was traveling at night so she would make better time, her family members said.
Mr. Shampine has documented the circumstances around her death in the book, “The North Country Murder of Irene Izak — Stained by Her Blood.”
Mr. Shampine, who has worked at the Times for nearly 40 years, inherited coverage of the murder when he became the paper's crime reporter and said people familiar with the case often would bring it up to him in passing.
“Somebody would lay a subtle hint about, ‘You know who they think did it? You know, it couldn't have been anybody else.' Every once in a while, somebody would confront me with it.”
But Mr. Shampine said he was shy about doing a book. “It was something I had never done,” he said. “Helen Ewasko, one of the victim's sisters, she asked me if I was going to write a book about it. That sort of planted the seed.”
But it was “an insider” in the case, not identified in the book, who caused that seed to grow and spurred Mr. Shampine to write “Stained by Her Blood.”
“When he laid it out on the line to me; about how significant the suspicions were, I felt I had to go with it,” he said.
Those suspicions center on Mr. Hennigan. Mr. Shampine documents circumstantial evidence surrounding the trooper. The book's title refers to bloodstains found on his uniform the night of the murder, which the trooper reported was caused when he was checking Miss Izak for signs of life.
Mr. Hennigan, who retired as a trooper in 1983, died last year. He was ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Ogdensburg in 1980 and had served at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, where he spent 10 years as business administrator for the parish and the parochial school.
“It was not by my choosing that this book is coming out after his death,” Mr. Shampine said. “I tried for several years to get it published while he was alive. It's coming out now because History Press opened the door to me.”
History Press, based in Charleston, S.C., has published — this year and in 2009 — two of Mr. Shampine's collected history columns in books. The “Times Gone By” columns appear regularly in the Times. Mr. Shampine also informed History Press publishers about his finished manuscript on Miss Izak's murder.
Mr. Shampine said he has at least one concern about the book. “I'm concerned how this may be received by Mrs. Hennigan (Mr. Hennigan's widow) and I regret that,” he said.
But, he added, he was careful when putting together the details in “Stained by Her Blood.”
“There were detractors and there were supporters,” he said. “Unfortunately, the people who may have wanted to speak on a suspect's defense didn't want to speak. When I tried to reach some of these people, they would just blow me off.”
But Mr. Shampine said he believes a book around Miss Izak's case was “meant to be.”
“I was struggling to get this thing published, and out of the clear blue sky History Press came to me about the history columns,” he said. “And the day they came to me about the columns, I thought to myself, ‘These guys are going to publish this murder story.' It took a while, but here we go.”
Mr. Shampine will be at Borders at Salmon Run Mall from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday to sign copies of the book.