I can vividly remember September 11, 1969. I was a freshman at Slippery Rock State College, as it was then known, and I turned 18 that day. My dad left work early that day, drove up to The Rock to pick me up and take me into downtown Pittsburgh where I registered with the Selective Service for the military draft, an ominous event back in those days. I then had a birthday dinner at home and was driven back up to SRSC and my not so luxurious dorm room in Sentinel Hall.
Anyway, this memory come to mind when I read this book by James Hollock, "Born To Lose: Stanley B. Hoss and the Crime Spree That Gripped a Nation", for as I was celebrating my 18th birthday, convicted rapist Stanley Hoss engineered an escape from the old Allegheny County Workhouse in Blawnox and set off a series of events that would end up in four murders, kidnapping, at least one more rape, and additional car thefts and armed robberies too numerous to recount.
Eight days after Hoss' prison escape, he shot and killed a Verona, PA policeman, two days after that he abducted a young Maryland woman and her two year old daughter, two weeks after that, Hoss was finally captured, and not without a fight, in Waterloo, Iowa. The Maryland mother and daughter were not with him, and their bodies have never been found.
If you are an aficionado of "true crime" stories, then you really should read this very well researched and written book, which was published in 2011. "Born to Lose" paints an absolutely chilling portrait of the small time petty thief turned cold blooded killer, Stanley Hoss, a man who has been described as the absolutely perfect argument for the institution of the death penalty. As one contemporary review of the book put it ""Describing him as pure evil doesn't quite do Hoss justice."
If you grew up in or currently live in the Pittsburgh area and Allegheny County, this book is especially interesting because it takes place, almost literally, right in our back yards, and many of the names will be quite familiar to you. District Attorney Bob Duggan, FBI Special Agent Ian MacLennan, TV newsie Bill Burns, Cyril Wecht, and even current ubiquitous local attorney Edgar Snyder play a big role in this story. Also, you will recognize the locales - Allegheny River valley towns such as Tarentum, Natrona Heights, and Oakmont, and Pittsburgh landmarks such as the old Allegheny County Jail on Ross Street, the Courthouse, and even the Common Plea Restaurant, and, of course, the Western Penitentiary on the Northside, where Hoss committed yet another despicable crime.
When I saw this book in a book store last week, I did have a vague recollection of the name of Stanley Hoss, but I had forgotten the details of his story and the complete and utter heinous nature of his crimes. Reading this book brought back the memories of it, and it also prompted me to remember just what exactly I was doing while living in the same general area at the time of Hoss' crimes and his various trials.
If you have forgotten this story, or even if you have never heard of it in the first place, Google "Stanley Hoss" for an overview of his story, and then, if you like reading True Crime literature, get hold of a copy of this book and read it. As I said, it is meticulously researched by author Hollock, and very well written.
Stanley Hoss died in prison in 1978, officially a suicide, but there are some who say that a complete sociopath/psychopath like Hoss would never have taken his own life. The chilling questions that ran through my mind as I read this book were "How is that people like Stanley Hoss come to exist in this world, and just how many others like him are out there?"
Four Stars from The Grandstander.