MetroWest Daily News March 1, 2014
By Zachary Comeau
Daily News Staff
March 14. 2014 12:15AM
Hopedale: Authors give talk, write book about 1999 Wellesley murder
HOPEDALE – Marty Foley listened as his friend and co-author Tom Farmer recounted Foley’s early-morning interactions with Dr. Dirk Greineder, a murder suspect, on a fall morning in 1999.
As Foley, a police detective, and his team searched the doctor’s house for clues – weapons, gloves, receipts or packaging – Foley sat in the living room, eye-to-eye with Greineder as his team rummaged through the doctor’s house.
Griender’s children and neighbors protested, but to no avail – Foley had his suspect, Farmer read.
“Foley could sense he was considering admission,” Farmer read from the duo’s co-authored book “A Murder in Wellesley” on Wednesday night at Bancroft Memorial Library.
“(Greineder) knew what I knew,” Foley said after the reading.
The book recounts the events of the murder of May Greineder on Halloween 1999 at Morse’s Pond in Wellesley. May Greineder’s husband, Dr. Dirk Greineder, was found guilty on June 29, 2001, of first-degree murder in his wife’s death. The couple had been married for more than 30 years.
Foley, a retired state police detective and Farmer, a former reporter for the Boston Herald who covered the trial, collaborated on the book, which reads like a novel, but tells a true story.
According to Foley, the investigation, trial and feedback from the book have taught him more about domestic violence than any other case.
He said after beginning the book tour, a victim of domestic violence emailed him and told him, “It’s all about control.”
According to Foley, the doctor was “losing control” of his family and sheltered wife, who was going back to nursing school. His children, for the most part, supported him throughout the trial and were always seated behind their father in the courtroom.
Donning small white lapel pins promoting domestic violence awareness, the two authors used the platform of literature and the “horrible case of domestic violence” to raise awareness of domestic violence, which Foley said affects one out of every four women in the country.
A portion of the proceeds from book sales during the tour will be donated to Jane Doe, Inc., a statewide advocacy coalition dedicated to preventing and abolishing sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking in Massachusetts.
When an audience member asked Foley what May Greineder’s life was like away from her husband, he responded that it was nonexistent.
She went to church, but “didn’t have a live social network,” he said of May Greineder, a stay-at-home mom who never worked but started attending classes for a nursing degree.
“Her family was her social structure,” he said.
Her attempt at a social life by taking classes and trying to make new friends “would not sit well with a controlling person,” Foley added.
Another audience member asked Farmer how he stayed objective as details unfolded about the murder and the doctor’s “secret life,” which consisted of prostitutes and pornography.
According to Farmer, two unsolved killings in the area led to public suspicion of a serial killer, so it wasn’t until Greineder hired a lawyer and began issuing statements that the public began to think the doctor could be a murderer.
But, Greineder maintained his innocence throughout the trial and continues to appeal his conviction in the courts, Farmer said.
“Only he knows,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll tell us anything.”
Zachary Comeau can be reached at 508-634-7556 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZComeau_MDN.
“Mesmerizing from its first pages to its breathless conclusion, A Murder in Wellesley takes you on a twisting path that delves into the darkness lurking behind the façade of a perfect marriage. In bone-chilling detail, the authors recount a brutal murder in a wealthy suburb and reveal the step-by-step procedures investigators take to catch and convict the killer. The true-life narrative is cross between a murder mystery and a CSI spin off with heartrending portrayals of the victim and her family as well as an insider’s perspective on crime solving. Anyone fascinated by crime dramas will find this a page-turner.”—Stephanie Schorow, co-author, The Boston Mob Guide, and author, The Crime of the Century: How The Brink’s Robbers Stole Millions and the Hearts of Boston
“Farmer and Foley have cobbled together a fascinating true crime story that keeps you engaged all the way through. The detective work by Foley is brilliant, entertaining and frustrating as he weaves through the lies and deceit of a prominent physician convicted of planning then staging the murder of his wife. You will feel Foley’s suspenseful ups and downs as Farmer takes you from the crime scene to the courtroom exposing lust, sex, greed, and internal politics.”—Rod Englert, author of Blood Secrets: Chronicles of a Crime Scene Reconstructionist
The Greineder murder case – one that I covered as a journalist and one that still gives me chills. In A Murder in Wellesley, authors Tom Farmer and Marty Foley show me all that I didn’t know about the investigation and its consequences. They take you deep into the heart of the murder probe and deeper into the black heart of the unlikely killer. All families have secrets but those revealed on a quiet morning along a wooded trail may lead us to re-examine ourselves and the mirage of the American dream, which in many cases is nothing but a violent night terror that even when fully awake there is no cure.
– Casey Sherman, national bestselling author of Search for the Strangler and The Finest Hours.
Publishers Weekly, July 2012
The bizarre case of the 1999 murder of May Greineder of Wellesley, Mass., is explored in all its unsettling detail by Boston Herald reporter Farmer and former Massachusetts State Police detective Foley, a key investigator. The Greineder family seemed picture-perfect: a rock-solid 31-year marriage and three successful children. But on Halloween, 1999, Dr. Dirk Greineder and his wife, May, took their dog for a walk in the woods; hours later, May was dead with a fractured skull and multiple stab wounds. From the outset, Dirk was the main suspect. The police found work gloves, a folding knife, and a small hammer hurriedly stashed near where witnesses saw Dirk emerge from the woods, contradicting Dirk’s story that he left May, who had a bad back, took their dog to the pond, and returned to find May’s mutilated corpse. Damning evidence mounted, including revelations that Dirk visited hardcore porn sites online and solicited prostitutes. While his guilt is never in question for the reader, Farmer and Foley imbue the investigation and subsequent trial with suspense, going to great lengths to flesh out the players. 20 illus., 1 map. (Oct.)
By Bob Brown
A new book about the gruesome Halloween morning murder of Wellesley’s Mabel Greineder by her husband Dirk at Morses Pond is about to debut. Not coincidentally, the authors will be visiting Wellesley next month to hawk their book, almost exactly 13 years after the killing.
A Murder in Wellesley: The Inside Story of an Ivy-League Doctor’s Double Life, His Slain Wife, and the Trial That Gripped the Nation is written by Boston Herald reporter-turned-flack Tom Farmer and Marty Foley, who was the lead state police detective on the Greineder case. The book pitch promises “the untold story” and claims to include information from those who previously have declined to speak publicly about this case that “bitterly divided” the Greineders’ families.
The case gained national prominence in the early 2000s as salacious details of allergist Dirk Greineder’s secret life of porn and prostitutes, against the backdrop of our “well-heeled” community, aired nationally on Court TV. Numerous TV, magazine and newspaper reports rehashed the story, including an A&E documentary program called City Confidential.
Greineder, now in his early 70s, was sentenced to life in prison for murder in 2001 and he has repeatedly sought to appeal the decision (the state Supreme Judicial Court will hear more arguments in November).
We’d heard tell of this book a few years back while at a Wellesley Police Department open house, after pointing out a copy of an earlier rehash of the case, Murder at Morses Pond, in one office. But Farmer, who got decent airtime during an NBC Dateline examination of the case several years back in light of his covering the story for the Herald, declined to discuss his project with us then.
He’s ready to talk now: Farmer and Foley visit Wellesley Books on Oct. 18 at 7pm.
New Book to Detail Greineder Murder and Trial
The book, co-written by former Boston Herald reporter Tom Farmer and former lead state police detective Marty Foley, will be released Oct. 9.
Former Boston Herald reporter Tom Farmer and former lead state police detective Marty Foley teamed up to write A Murder in Wellesley: The Inside Story of an Ivy-League Doctor’s Double Life, His Slain Wife, and the Trial that Gripped the Nation, according to The Swellesley Report today. The book is set to be released Oct. 9, according to the book’s publicity website.
The book will detail the events of Oct. 31, 1999, when famed allergist Dirk Greineder led his wife Mabel on a walk at Morses Pond where she was found dead. Dirk Greineder was convicted of his wife’s murder in 2001.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court review the case based on a DNA ruling in Chicago.
Posted September 24, 2012
A gruesome slaying that gripped the town of Wellesley and uncovered the double-life of an affluent allergist will be recounted in a new book, called “A Murder in Wellesley,” due out Oct. 9, and written by two people familiar with its details: Tom Farmer, a reporter who followed the story from beginning to end, and Marty Foley, an investigator on the case.
Dirk Greineder was convicted in 2001 of murdering his wife Mabel on Halloween day in 1999, slitting her throat during a walk at Morses Pond. Prosecutors said that he acted to cover up his obsession with prostitution and Internet pornography. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Greineder has maintained his innocence, arguing that an unknown assailant killed his wife when they became separated. The US Supreme Court recently sent his case back to the Supreme Judicial Court for further review based on the presentation of DNA evidence at Greineder’s trial by an analyst who did not actually conduct the tests.
Farmer and Foley will be doing a book signing on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at Wellesley Books, according to a press release from Wellesley Books.
To buy the book, go here.
From the release:
A MURDER IN WELLESLEY takes the reader far beyond the headlines and national news coverage spawned by “May” Greineder’s killing and tells the untold story of the meticulous investigation led by Marty Foley, the lead State Police detective on the case, from the morning of the murder through Dirk Greineder’s ultimate conviction. Exhaustive interviews with key figures in the case, including many who have not talked publicly until now, contribute to an unprecedented behind-the-scenes account of how investigators methodically built their case against Greineder and how the sides taken by Dirk and May’s relatives aided the investigation but bitterly divided their families.ABOUT THE BOOK
Exhaustive interviews with key figures in the case, including many who have not talked publicly until now, contribute to an unprecedented behind-the-scenes account of how investigators methodically built their case against Greineder and how the sides taken by Dirk and May’s relatives aided the investigation but bitterly divided their families.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Tom Farmer, a former award-winning Boston newspaper reporter and editor, covered the Greineder murder case for the Boston Herald. Marty Foley spent more than 24 years with the Massachusetts State Police before retiring in 2007 with the rank of Detective Lieutenant.
Gloucester Daily Times
Tom Farmer, a former Gloucester Times editor, has co-written a book about a Boston-area homicide committed on Halloween more than a decade ago.
The victim had been out walking her dog that morning on a nearby trail.
“The bizarre case of the 1999 murder of
May Greineder of Wellesley, Mass., is explored in all its unsettling detail by Boston Herald reporter Farmer and former Massachusetts State Police detective (Marty) Foley, a key investigator. . . . While Dirk Greineder’s guilt is never in question for the reader, Farmer and Foley imbue the investigation and subsequent trial with suspense, going to great lengths to flesh out the players,” wrote Publishers Weekly.
The investigation focused on May Greineder’s husband, Dirk Greineder, an Ivy League physician, who led a double life involving prostitutes, pornography, and Internet trysts.
The book titled “A Murder in Wellesley” was published by the University Press of New England.
Before coming to the Times, Farmer worked as a reporter at the Boston Herald where he covered the Greineder murder case.
Published September 29, 2012
Lynnfield Weekly News
By Bayard Stern
BOSTON — More than a decade after first reporting on a sensational murder case for the Boston Herald, writer Tom Farmer has co-written the nonfiction book “A Murder in Wellesley.” The book chronicles the murder case of Mabel “May” Greineder. Farmer’s coauthor was the lead investigator in the case, Marty Foley.
Raised in Lynnfield and Peabody, Farmer was a writer and editor for the Herald from 1997 to 2005 and started reporting about the case on Oct. 31, 1999, the day of the murder. He had previously worked for the Lynn Daily Item as its police reporter.
“I followed it very closely all the way through the appeals,” said Farmer, a 1980 graduate of St. John’s Prep who later graduated from Boston University. “I got to know the police who were involved, the prosecutors and relatives of May Greineder. So I was already very familiar with the details when I was asked by Marty Foley to work with him on a book about the case. I was excited about the project from the beginning. But there were times when I thought it would never be published because the appeals process kept dragging out and we had been working on it for so long.”
After his appeals failed for a new trial, Dirk Greineder was convicted in 2010. The case was aired nationally on Court TV. Scheduled for release in hardcover and digitally on Oct. 9, the book is published by Northeastern University Press.
It is described as an in-depth account of the case where May Greineder was murdered along a wooded trail in Wellesley by her husband, Dirk Greineder, while they were walking their dog. The case was first and foremost tragic, but it received so much local and national attention for several reasons, according to Farmer.
“For a prominent doctor to murder his wife in such a violent way was hard for many people to believe,” he said. “From the outside, they seemed like a perfect family. And the more that was discovered about the case, the stranger it became. The book is more than just a rehash of the case. It really is a behind-the-scenes look at many aspects of the investigation and how it progressed. It doesn’t hold back. Like any complicated case, there are ups and downs, successes and setbacks and some errors that were made. It really gives a person an idea of what it’s like to be involved in a very high profile case. It gives a sense of how it impacts the friends and relatives of someone who is killed by domestic violence. It’s a heartbreaking and emotional experience. There are a number of people who have never spoken publicly about their experiences during the case that we interviewed. The book has a lot of information that hasn’t been released until now.”
As a reporter, Farmer covered many cases concerning domestic violence. During his 20-year journalism career, Farmer also contributed to the Boston Globe, and Gloucester Daily Times. He currently works for the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency as a communications specialist.
Foley, who was in law enforcement for more than 24 years with the Massachusetts State Police until he retired in 2007 with the rank of Detective Lieutenant, said he saw countless cases of domestic violence.
These experiences led the authors to agree that part of the proceeds of the book are going to the organization, Jane Doe Inc., which is a statewide sexual and domestic violence advocacy organization in Massachusetts.
“This case was tragic, but all cases like this a
re,” Foley said. “Jane Doe Inc. is a great organization that educates young men about domestic violence as well as everything else they do to help women. Writing this book was also kind of therapeutic for me as well. As the lead investigator, I really felt responsible for the victim of the case. We represented her during the case. You want to make sure you do it correctly. Writing the book was a humbling experience and I’m pleased with how it came out. It was an education for me to learn about all of the time and effort it takes to write something like this and then get edited.
“I’m still asked all the time about that particular case. That something like this could happen in a normal, everyday American family that seemed like they had it all, interested a lot of people. He was a very well respected doctor, they had three great kids and everyone liked May.”
During his law enforcement career Foley worked as a uniformed trooper and longtime detective for the Massachusetts Attorney General and Norfolk County District Attorney Homicide Unit. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was transferred to the State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Section, where he later became the unit’s commander. He now works as a product manager for the defense contractor Qinetiq North America.
Published Oct. 4, 2012
Meanwhile, exposing real-life dark tales, the new “A Murder in Wellesley” by Tom Farmer and Marty Foley, explores the 1999 murder of May Greineder by her physician husband Dirk Greineder, who purportedly lived a double life filled with pornography and prostitutes.
“Wellesley women (and men, for that matter), and Wellesley itself, are all easy targets for fiction writers’ imaginations and for exaggerated prose,” Bob Brown, author of the town news blog “The Swellesley Report,” said in an e-mail interview.
The town has a “well-earned” reputation for being wealthy, he said, adding drolly that he’s “pretty sure it’s a law that anyone from outside of town who is writing about Wellesley has to (use) one of the following words on first reference: ‘affluent,’ ‘wealthy,’ ‘chic,’ ‘prosperous’ or ‘well-heeled.’ ”
Posted Oct. 6, 2012
Scribes sought to tell slain wife’s tale
By Gayle Fee And Laura Raposa With Megan Johnson Inside Track | Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | http://www.bostonherald.com | The Inside Track
It’s been 11 years since renowned Wellesley allergist Dr. Dirk Greineder was convicted of killing his wife, Mae, bludgeoning her with a hammer and slashing her throat in a local park. But the physician, who was trolling porn sites and ringing up hookers before and after his 58-year-old wife’s murder, continues to appeal his case — most recently to the U.S. Supreme Court. And that has fueled interest in “A Murder in Wellesley,” a true-crime tome written by former Boston Herald reporter Tom Farmer and retired Massachusetts state trooper Marty Foley.
“Every case affects you, but this one hit me pretty hard,” said Foley, who led the investigation into Mae Greineder’s brutal murder for the Norfolk District Attorney’s office from beginning to end. “I felt that poor Mae got lost in the case. … After reading the transcripts, I don’t know, it just felt cold to me.”
Farmer — who covered the case from Halloween morning in 1999, the day Mae’s lifeless body was found in the park around Morse’s Pond, to the conviction — said the victim’s niece, Belinda Markel, was the driving force behind the book. The Manhattan mom, like Foley, felt her beloved aunt was lost in the investigation and wanted the full story to finally be told, he said.
“Belinda is still devastated,” Farmer told the Track. “She and Ilse (Mae’s sister) never spoke to the press except for a couple of sound bites on the courthouse steps, so they added a lot to the story. And the jurors were incredible.”
“Talk about a guy who was tried before a jury of his peers, it was Dirk,” said the ex-reporter, who now works for Mass. Housing. “The foreman was a CEO, there was an MIT professor, a dentist, a student from Johns Hopkins. Their insight was invaluable.”
In fact, the gathering of evidence in this case reads like “CSI: Norfolk County.” How dogged investigators, crime lab techs and DNA experts worked the case is fascinating for fans of the TV franchise. But it was a banana, held by a juror wearing the gloves that were found at the crime scene, that helped the jury understand blood splatter patterns.
“It was like a bolt of lightning hit them,” said Foley.
In fact, in 2006, the doctor lost what was known as his “Banana Appeal.” His attorney argued before Judge Paul Chernoff that the jury was conducting its own experiments with the gloves and alleged jury misconduct.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the murder conviction in 2010, but Greineder gets another shot at overturning the verdict because the Supreme Court sent the case back to the SJC on other grounds last summer. Arguments will be heard this fall.
Farmer and Foley, who will appear at Wellesley Books on Oct. 18 to sign copies of their new hardcover, have pledged to donate a percentage of the book sales to Jane Doe Inc., a statewide domestic violence education group.
“This was the ultimate act of domestic violence,” said Foley who spearheaded the effort. “Domestic violence at its worst and simplest form.”
File Under: Disturbia.
EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA
October 8, 2012
Bradford man’s first book recounts shocking Wellesley murder
By Jill Harmacinski firstname.lastname@example.org
From the crime scene to the courtroom, Boston Herald reporter Tom Farmer covered every twist and turn in the Halloween murder of Mabel “May” Greineder, a Wellesley mother of three killed by her husband, Dr. Dirk Greineder nearly 13 years ago.
It was a case that captured national attention, with the trial aired on Court TV. From Halloween 1999 right through the end of Greineder’s six-week trial, Farmer dogged the story. Today, Farmer’s first book, “A Murder in Wellesley,” a chilling account of Greineder’s murder and her husband’s conviction, is officially released.
“From the day of the murder on, I worked the story,” says Farmer, 51, a Bradford resident for the past 21 years. “I thought it would make a good book.”
So did State Police Det. Lt. Marty Foley, the lead investigator in the Greineder murder case. He and Farmer spoke little more than pleasantries to each other during the investigation and trial. But after reading Farmer’s accounts of the case in the Boston Herald, Foley later decided to collaborate on the book with Farmer.
“I liked what Tom was writing. He was compassionate toward the family … He was there everyday. You could tell he had an interest,” Foley says. “He was very accurate and articulate in what he wrote.”
Foley said the book research was intense and thorough. Foley himself is a major character in the book, along with May Greineder’s sister, Ilse Stark, and niece, Belinda Markel, and prosecutor Rick Grundy. Police officers, crime scene investigators, chemists and jurors who decided Greineder’s fate are also quoted.
“We didn’t say anything that wasn’t absolutely positively true,” Foley says.
Dirk Greineder, a renowned Boston allergist, was convicted of savagely murdering his wife as they took a walk that morning on a local trail. The couple, married in 1968, appeared to have a perfect life and wonderful family. But the murder investigation uncovered Dirk’s secret double life that included prostitutes, pornography and internet hook-ups.
Also, questions are posed in the book that only Greineder can answer. And he hasn’t, Farmer notes.
“He’s a classic sociopath,” he says.
Farmer is pleased that those who read early release copies of the book “haven’t been able to put it down.”
Farmer, who now works as a communication specialist for MassHousing, said the book was a decade in the making.
In 2002, he started interviews and writing the book on a computer in his dining room. In 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Greineder’s conviction, giving him and Foley the green light to publish the book.
“We wanted to wait until all the appeals were exhausted,” explains Farmer, a reporter for nine years at the Boston Herald and 10 years prior to that at the Daily Item in Lynn. After leaving the Herald, Farmer also worked as an editor at the Gloucester Daily Times. He grew up in the Peabody and Lynnfield area.
Farmer says the hardest part of compiling the book was deciding what went in and what was left on the cutting room floor. “That was all unchartered territory for me,” he says.
Foley, who retired from the state police in 2007 after 24 years, praised Farmer for his excellence “at bridging all the stories together in the book … It’s just enough CSI and a camera over the shoulder.”
A portion of the book proceeds will be donated to Jane Doe, a statewide coalition dedicated to preventing sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.
While basking in the excitement of their first release, both Farmer and Foley aren’t ruling out another book in the future.
And to those out there with a book idea of their own, Farmer’s advice is, “Do it.”
“But don’t get frustrated. It’s hard to get an agent or publisher. It took us a couple of years,” Farmer notes.
Farmer is planning a book signing in the Merrimack Valley in near future.
“A Murder in New England” was published by University Press of New England in Lebanon, N.H. For more information on the book, check out amurderinwellesley.com.
Tom Farmer and Marty Foley were guests of Howie Carr on WRKO AM 680 on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, to talk about A Murder In Wellesley.
Tom Farmer and Marty Foley on Fox 25 on Oct. 15, 2012
Tom Farmer and Marty Foley were on NECN’s Broadside with Jim Braude on October 15, 2012.
Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, Oct. 16, 2012
New York Daily News Books Blog. Oct. 30, 2012
BY Alexander Nazaryan
On the morning of Oct. 31, 1999, Dr. Dick Greineder and his wife May decided to take a walk. Later that day, trick-or-treaters would arrive. Just then, it was clear and bright. They drove from their home at 56 Cleveland Rd. in the wealthy Boston suburb of Wellesley to Morses Pond, a park that abuts the prestigious women’s college bearing the same name as the town.
The Greineders, who had been married for 31 years, parked their van where Turner Rd. was blocked from further vehicular traffic. With them was Zephyr, one of their two German shepherds; the other, Wolf, had recently become too aggressive for such leisurely strolls.
What happened next has been in some form of dispute for the past 13 years. Dr. Greineder – then a respected allergist at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, today an inmate at a Massachusetts state prison in Norfolk – says he and his wife were walking through a wooded area of the park when she started complaining of a bad back.
He went ahead with Zephyr, doubling back some minutes later. When he returned, Dr. Greineder found his wife lying in the undergrowth, her neck slashed and her chest full of puncture wounds. He says he checked her vitals, ran back to his car (where his cell phone was charging) to call for help and then returned to the side of his already-dead wife. Greineder has always maintained that an unknown assailant had killed May.
That is not what the police would determine, nor what the prosecutors would argue successfully before a jury. Their unwavering position has been that Greineder killed his wife, first by striking her on the head with a hammer, then stabbing her to death. They point to what they claim is DNA evidence from the crime scene, a pair of recovered work gloves that match those Greineder used at home, the blood splatter patterns on Greineder’s clothes and statements he gave after the crime, which range from the contradictory to the bizarre.
Most damningly, they painted for the jury that convicted Greineder of murder in the summer of 2001 the portrait of a man who solicited prostitutes and reveled in hardcore Internet pornography. Prosecutors claimed that May had already discovered her husband’s stash of Viagara and was on the verge of uncovering his entire sordid sex life, which is why he supposedly felt compelled to silence her.
Though Greineder’s lawyers have generally maintained that his sex life was extraneous to the case at hand, they are as hard for the reader to disregard as they must have been for the jury.
That conviction came just before 9/11, so it is somewhat understandable that Greineder’s case has receded in the public memory. But, in fact, that case remains in limbo: Just this June, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Massachusetts’ highest court to reexamine the conviction based on what may have been compromised DNA-based testimony from prosecution experts. That means that Greineder could yet have another day in court to plead his case.
Now we have “A Murder in Wellesley: The Inside Story of an Ivy-League Doctor’s Double Life, His Slain Wife, and the Trial That Gripped the Nation,” by Tom Farmer, who reported on the story for the Boston Herald, and Marty Foley, then a detective with the Massachusetts State Police and one of the lead investigators on the case. The shared authorship is slightly misleading, since it is quite obvious that Foley was less an author than a voluble primary source, along with Belinda Markel, a niece of the Queens-born May who seems to have concluded rather early that Dirk was responsible for her murder and appears to not have been very shy in giving her side of the story to the authors of this book.
Among those, however, who have never believed that Greineder was guilty are his three children, Kirsten, Britt and Colin. Like him, all three are Yale graduates; Kirsten and Colin are also doctors. “My father did not commit this crime. My father did not kill my mother,” Kirsten said confidently during his trial from the witness stand – and there is, after all, no confidence quite like the confidence of a daughter in her father. Her siblings were similarly unwavering.
Farmer and Foley are at the other extreme, certain from the very first that Greineder is their man, a cold fish with a cruel heart. Their is a discomfiting self-assurance about “A Murder in Wellesley,” a certainty that the best true crime knows to avoid. Foley and his colleagues, unsurprisingly, shine with near-impeccable professionalism, while Greineder is made to seem a pervert and a liar, one who is more concerned about his dogs than his dead wife, given to rambling statements about his own innocence before he has been charged with anything and sending naked pictures of himself to potential threesome prospects.
There is plenty here to indict Greineder in the reader’s mind: DNA testing aside, it is hard to square the doctor’s assertion that he had tried to revive his wife with the fact that his hands were clean. The prosecution alleged he used gloves during the murder, then tried to dispose of them, unsuccessfully. As would be noted during the trial, Greineder’s clean hands are “not consistent with the lifesaving effort the doctor had described.” That cleanliness, in the end, was damning.
As far as the reader is concerned, the details dished out by Markel (and, I imagine, her mother Ilse Stark, who is May’s sister), which suggest that Greineder was at best callous, at worst insane. In these pages, he refers to his dead wife as “the body,” and after a funeral that is portrayed as having been done on the cheap, he greets mourners in a mood that is “unusually jovial, even frivolous…almost boisterous,” at one point joking with the Yale swimming coach, as Farmer and Foley tell the tale.
What never becomes clear is just why Greineder would kill his wife, even if, as was alleged, she had discovered his stash of self-prescribed Viagara and was on the cusp of finding out about his hooker trysts and predilection for porn. After all, some men cheat and many look at porn; of these, plenty are discovered by their spouses, but very few – almost none, statistically – resort to murder. Farmer and Foley stay on the surface of the case, almost never mentioning the motive, which leaves you wondering if they ever came up with a good one. They call the doctor “a murderous sociopath,” but that is a match lit in total darkness. The question – why? – hangs, irksome, in the air.
A courtroom does not need a motive, but a good true crime book, like a good crime novel, does. Without motive, you are left with a kabuki theater of victims and villains, moving through time with unstated purpose.
The Greineder case brings to mind that of Jeffrey MacDonald, who sits in prison for the murder of his wife and two daughters on Feb. 17, 1970 and whose case begat Joe McGinniss’ “Fatal Vision,” Janet Malcolm’s “The Journalist and the Murderer” and, most recently, Errol Morris’ “A Wilderness of Error.” Both men are Ivy League doctors (Greineder: New Haven; MacDonald: Old Nassau) with seemingly happy families and little apparent cause to commit uxoricide. Indeed, both have continued to profess their innocence and both hope to still be freed on appeal. Yet for now, they remain in federal prison.
Why do we read their stories? For one, they are much more interesting than our own, allowing for the katharsis – the release of pity and fear by watching the suffering of another – that Aristotle said was the crux of great tragedy. But there is something else, too. The comedian Chris Rock once said that you have never been in love until you’ve fantasized about killing your significant other, elsewhere describing marriage as “f—-ing boring.” To be yoked to another person, whom you can never completely know, is indeed a frightening enterprise. When you put that ring around your betrothed’s finger, you are buying a stock whose value may rise or dip, just as your own may. You’re going all in, and you could end up broke – and broken.
Of course, some wing the whole matrimony business, which is possible with enough prime-time television. Others simply divorce. But then there are those troubled few whom “till death do us part” takes on an especially gruesome connotation. They seem unable to accept either the essential illusion of happiness that undergirds most marriages nor the admission of misery that is suggested in all divorce. And so, what Rock says in jest, they do in earnest.
“True crime,” though, is something of a misnomer. The murder of a 19- year-old black male in Dayton is certainly, tragically “true,” but you are unlikely to find his story on the shelves. His story, sadly, is too true, too common – the opposite of Greineder’s story or MacDonald’s. While “true crime” may be merely a form of classification, it is more than that, suggesting an anxiety that some might perceive the tale as fiction. There is a desperate need, then, to emphasize that this happened, it really did, which would make “This-really-is-true crime” a more accurate name for the genre. At one point, an acutely anxious Greineder tells his family members, “This isn’t real. This is a movie.” The rich irony is that it is, in fact real, though it also has the benefit of being cinematic – even though that benefit, of course, is one only the reader can enjoy.
It is a curiosity of history that both Google and Viagara were introduced in 1998, the year before the events described in “A Murder in Wellesley.” No two products have done more to either save or damn masculinity. In 1999, when May Greineder was murdered, both were still novelties; today, there are some who pop Viagara for pleasure, while only the dullest naif doesn’t know what Google’s “private browsing” window is for.
If Greineder and MacDonald did kill their wives, then there is an obvious madness to their thought – the same rage that had Clytemenstra stab Agamemnon so many centuries ago. I imagine the rage of a febrile animal, trapped and running out of ideas – until he hits upon the most gruesome one. This is tragedy. Pass the popcorn.
Boston Public Radio with Emily Rooney Nov. 15, 2012
Marlborough Enterprise, Dec. 9, 2012