In 1959, a terrible double murder took place near the small Kootenay community of Fruitvale, leaving Kent Townsend and his two sons without a wife and mother.
Alison Townsend MacNicol, his daughter from a later marriage, and now a resident of 100 Mile House, teamed up with her childhood friend and author, Brian T. Seifrit, to bring the story to print in their book, A Bloodstained Hammer.
The incident took place on the family hog farm where a hired hand took care of day-to-day tasks while Kent worked at a smelter in Trail. The book describes the many problems, including excessive drinking, which plagued the farm hand due to his limited intelligence.
One night, in a fit of drunken rage, the hand rapes and bludgeons to death Kent’s wife and eight-year-old daughter, Emily, while their young boys, Richard and Jack stay safe in another room.
The hand steals the family car and flees, only to be caught shortly after when he boards a ferry. The story explains how he uses an insanity defense to lighten his sentence and the long-lasting effect the entire ordeal had on the family.
Kent continued to live in the same house and eventually married a nanny he’d hired to care for his boys. Alison and two sisters are a product of that marriage.
When she was in Grade 7, the murderous farm hand was released from prison.
“My parents never talked about the murder, but they were always scared he would come back and finish the rest of us off.”
For many years, Alison felt the story needed to be told, but she put it on the back-burner to avoid upsetting her quiet and reserved brother Richard, who was five when the murder took place.
When he passed away in 2009, she felt the time was right and contacted Seifrit, whose family lived in a neighbouring house while Alison grew up. It had been 26 years since the two last saw each other.
They collaborated on the book, referring to court transcripts for the needed facts, but used their imaginations to describe life on the farm and thoughts going through the heads of all involved.
Alison says the story of the murder is still alive in the Kootenays, as she was reminded on a recent trip back to her former home for a book signing.
“An older lady said she remembers the day completely. It was a major tragedy.”
The book is fiction, based on facts, with first names changed, and Alison says it was difficult to write.
“It was overwhelming, but it was always in the back of my mind to do it.”
It’s available at Nuthatch Books and Amazon.com.