My Ghost Has a Name: Memoir of a Murder

My Ghost Has a Name: Memoir of a Murder

by Rosalyn Rossignol


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On October 20, 1999, thirty-eight-year-old Nell Crowley Davis was bludgeoned, strangled, and stabbed to death in the backyard of her home in Bluffton, South Carolina, near Hilton Head Island. In My Ghost Has a Name: Memoir of a Murder, Rosalyn Rossignol tells the story of how Davis's sixteen-year-old daughter, Sarah Nickel, along with the two teenage boys, came to be charged with the armed robbery and murder. Since no physical evidence tied Nickel to the murder, she was convicted of armed robbery and given the same sentence as the boys—thirty years. In the months that followed, Nickel vehemently insisted that she was innocent.

Torn by Nickel's pleas, Rossignol, a childhood friend of the murder victim, committed herself to answering the question that perhaps the police detectives, the press, and the courts had not: whether Sarah Nickel was indeed guilty of this crime.

During five years of research, Rossignol read case files and transcripts, examined evidence from the crime scene, listened to the 9-1-1 call, and watched videotaped statements made by the accused in the hours following their arrest. She also interviewed family members, detectives, the solicitor who prosecuted the case, the lawyers who represented the defendants, and the judge who tried the case, as well as Nickel.

What Rossignol uncovers is a fascinating maze of twists and turns, replete with a memorable cast of characters including a shotgun-toting grandma, a self-avowed nihilist and Satan-worshipper, and a former Rice Queen of Savannah, Georgia. Unlike all previous investigators, Rossignol has uncovered the truth about what happened, and the reasons why, on that fateful October day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611178265
Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
Publication date: 11/30/2017
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 583,647
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Rosalyn Rossignol is an associate professor of English at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, where she teaches writing and literature. She is the author of two books on the fourteenth-century poet Geoffrey Chaucer, as well as short stories, poetry, articles, and nonfiction essays. My Ghost Has a Name is her first work of creative nonfiction.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Phone Call 1

1 Death in the Afternoon 5

2 Death in the Afternoon, Scene 2 11

3 He Said/She Said 17

4 Ridgeland Cemetery, October 20, 2004, 4 P.M. 32

5 Digging Up the Past 39

6 The Future in an Instant 55

7 Hell Is Murky 63

8 The Role of the Press 73

9 Conspiracy to Kill a Goose 76

10 The Solicitor's Worthless Check Unit 83

11 Meeting Sarah 93

12 Writer's Block 100

13 The Nelsons 106

14 The Nelsons after Dark 115

15 Juror Number 13 121

16 The Public Defender's Office Weighs In 125

17 John's Birth Mother 130

18 Mama; or, I Digress 136

19 Sarah's Best Friend 139

20 "A modern day Svengali" 146

21 Father's Day at Broad River 151

22 The Church of Satan 169

23 The Judge Wore Leather 175

24 Madmen, Freaks, and Evil People 183

25 The Necromantic Ritual Book 189

26 "How he'd like to kill someone" 193

27 The Beginning of the End 207

28 Short but Not Sweet 216

29 Sentencing 225

30 Postconviction Suspense 229

31 An Unexpected Letter 242

32 Putting It All Together 249

33 When the Hurly-Burly's Done 257

Epilogue 262

Acknowledgments 263

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