Monday, January 09, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- The Saga of Lisa Hackney, Part 3

Being the third installment of the continuing saga of Lisa Hackney, a.k.a. Melanie Mills, a.k.a. Lisa Mills, a.k.a. Lisa Thomas, a.k.a. Elisabeth V. Thomas, a.k.a. Elisabeth von Hullessem, a.k.a. Roswitha von Hullessem, a.k.a Roswitha Thomas, a.k.a. Roswitha von Meerscheidt, a.k.a. Roswitha Mills, a.k.a. Hullessem von Meerscheidt, a.k.a. a number of others that I don’t know. For those who need a refresher course, Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Megan MacBeth is notified that her mother has died in Germany. Months later she goes to the airport to pick up her mother’s boyfriend who, she assumes, is bringing back her mother’s personal possessions and there’s her mother, alive. Later that same evening her mother tries to kill her and by accident, she runs over her mother with her car, which saves Megan’s life. Her mother survives and accuses Megan of trying to kill her. Eventually, charges against Megan are dropped.

So begins the synopsis for “Elisabeth von Hull’s” thriller Sins of the Mother, a spinetingling novel of greed, murder, money, sex, and betrayal. According to Ms. “von Hull’s” query letter, “This novel is based on actual events that occurred in my life and have been fictionalized.” (Um...yeah. Really, really fictionalized.) Despite the not exactly scintillating writing skills demonstrated in these documents, Ms. “von Hull” did manage get her novel published, under a different title, Sins, and a different name, L. R. Thomas. The publisher is--wait for it--PUBLISHAMERICA!!!

Can you stand the irony???

OK. I’m composed again. Sorry about that.

(How I got hold of the query and synopsis is another howler. Apparently, when she was still Melanie Mills, Hackney was giving it to agency clients as a template for their own queries and synopses. [Note to writers: if an agent wants to use your query letter, run fast in the opposite direction.] When the Banff story broke, a former client noticed the eerie similarities, and sent me the documents.)

Hackney departed Banff in late November 2003. Almost at once she popped up again...on eBay. As Elisabeth von Hullessem, she posted an auction entitled “Fugitive Von Hullessem/Hackney/Mills,” described as “an invitation to a 1 hour lunch with the author, the first week of May 2004 in beautiful Victoria BC. Background check of buyer will be required.” Also included was an autographed copy of Sins, a signed photograph, and an excerpt from her “humorous” autobiography Damsel in Distress. The opening bid was set at $10,000. When eBay yanked the listing a day after it was posted, there were no bidders (imagine that).

Hackney now seemed to vanish completely. Writer Beware knew that the Arkansas sheriff’s office was seeking extradition, but we weren’t all that hopeful that anything would come of it.

Then, in mid-March, I got an e-mail from someone claiming to be a realtor in Victoria, B.C. He wanted to know if I had any information on Melanie Mills other than what was posted on the Writer Alerts page of Writer Beware. I told him I didn’t, and asked if he had news of her. He didn’t respond. I wasn’t sure what to make of this; I half-thought it might be Hackney herself, checking up on Writer Beware’s info (this happens more often than you might think--scammers emailing us under fake names to find out what we know. Usually we can spot these contacts, but not always).

But it wasn’t. About a week later, I was contacted by a Canadian reporter for comment on Lisa Hackney’s March 23 arrest in Victoria, BC, on a Canada-wide warrant of extradition. There wasn’t much I could say but “Huh?”, because I hadn’t known she’d been arrested. Turns out that she’d shown up in Victoria in early March, claiming to be best-selling author "Melanie Mills", in town to purchase a multi-million-dollar estate. The realtors she contacted agreed to work with her, but something about her story didn’t seem quite right. When they did an Internet search, what should they find but the Writer Beware website, with all of Hackney’s aliases and shady dealings laid out for everyone to see. They tipped off the police, who promptly tracked her down and arrested her.

(You have to wonder about someone who gets into so much hot water under an alias that she’s forced to abandon that identity--by faking her own death, no less--but then, less than a year later, starts using the alias again. Hackney knew about the Writer Beware alert. She knew about the long thread at the Absolute Write Water Cooler full of messages from angry former clients of her literary agency. Couldn’t she come up with a different name?

Criminals really are their own worst enemies.)

Hackney was jailed. While in custody, she made an apparent suicide attempt by covering her face with cellophane, and ripped her clothes to shreds. At her arraignment in B.C. Supreme Court on March 30, she appeared in a “bunny suit,” the white overalls usually reserved for dangerous prisoners. She claimed not to know who or where she was. A brief psychiatric assessment was ordered, but the psychiatric nurse who performed it couldn’t determine whether or not the amnesia was an act. On April 1, the judge ordered a full psychiatric evaluation. The evaluation determined that Hackney’s amnesia wasn’t for real (gee). On April 23, the way was cleared for her extradition hearing.

It was all over but the crying. On January 7, 2005, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that Hackney should be extradited to Arkansas to stand trial on the assault, battery, and theft charges she fled in 1999. The order was signed by the federal Justice Minister in August. Hackney immediately filed for judicial review of her case. However, she lost her fight this December. She was returned to Arkansas and the custody of the Madison County Sheriff's Office, and, as I noted in Part 1, booked on her original failure to appear. On January 6 she pleaded innocent (!). Her trial has been set for January 20. She's being held in lieu of $75,000 bond.

In a strategic consolidation of her multiple aliases, she’s now calling herself Roswitha Elisabeth Melanie Mills.

What’s next for our wacky scammer? Another cellophane-assisted suicide attempt? A new wardrobe of bunny suits? Alien abduction? Perhaps that's why she jumped bail in 1999. If nothing else, Hackney can take comfort in the fact that her masterwork, Sins, is still for sale. Here’s the listing at Barnes&Noble.com. Note the enthusiastic review by one M. Mills, avid mystery/thriller reader.

The diligent scamhunters at Writer Beware will be watching.

20 comments:

Heather Brewer said...

Wow...if I hadn't heard it here, I'd have thought it was a tale of pure fiction. That lady needs medication, at the very least.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Medication, hell...she needs to be slapped up side the head more than once, and then a few for good measure!

James Goodman said...

this is definately a case of truth being stranger than fiction. I have chills just thinking of what kind of mind it would take to act like that.

A. J. Luxton said...

What a Hackneyed story.

(I just couldn't resist...)

Xopher said...

Medication? Maybe. But definitely prison. Lots and lots of prison.

Daniel said...

This is wonderful, truly wonderful! Of course it would be better if it was fiction and if no real people had been wronged by this nutjob, but the story! It's another one of those stories I wished I had invented ;)

Anonymous said...

Man, that is something else. Of course, I'm not speaking from the say perspective as the poor folks she scammed, but that's pretty entertaining, really. Thumbs up on the telling and synopsis, too. Neurosis, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the only *other* review of her book on Barnes and Noble is... Ms. Mills again, under a different alias. (A quite Google-search shows that she has used that email address in the past.)

Minna H said...

I don't think any medication will cure her greed...

Both reviews give the book five stars. Suspicious...

marty said...

Necroing the post, I know, but after finding this blog (from Miss Snark) I've been reading from the start.

She's a scammer in many fields, assaulted her mother by running her over (or trying to), thief, liar.

But her most heinous crime: Reviewing her own book on Amazon!!!
:)

Laurie said...

Thanks for the entertaining read!

Anonymous said...

HELP! I have a friend who has a woman staying with him who claims to have written Sins. Is most likely just a fringe weirdo?

Sam said...

Any possibility a woman staying with a friend of mine and claiming to be LR Thomas, author of Sins is really her? Or just another whacko?

Anonymous said...

Someone claiming to be LR Thomas has surfaced in SoCal. Wondering if you have a pic of this woman or know where I could find one to compare. Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

There is a woman living in Redondo Beach who claims to be the author of Sins. She is using the name Remmi Mills. Is that at all possible?

Anonymous said...

There is a woman living in Redondo Beach who claims to be the author of Sins. She is using the name Remmi Mills. Is that at all possible?

Anonymous said...

I think the police need to check out this person living in Redondo Beach calling herself Remmi Mills. Sounds like she might be up to her old tricks again.

alytus said...

Wow. What we got here is a classic sociopath, in the flesh. The whole story reminds me of a book I read years ago: The Mask of Sanity, by Hervey Cleckley. The impulsiveness, the tendency toward petty crime & scams, punctuated with the freakishly violent episode (running down her own mother?!) Yeah ... I'd call this a textbook case. And they aren't reformable, unfortunately. Think we can expect to hear about Ms. Mills & her adventures for the rest of her un-incarcerated life.

Thanks for the great posts. I don't know whether to be more amused or horrified by this whole thing.

Anonymous said...

You HAVE to see Remmi Mills' myspace profile. Her display name is sea angels and she has many modeling pics supposedly of herself. However, the real life haggy looking pictures of her do not match up with the others(even allowing for age)Too sad . . . .the illusions in her mind live on.

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=81394211&MyToken=d96c65d3-6fbb-4edb-b8e5-c73f6b0eed3c

Jessica said...

Well, if you're going to be crazy, good for her for being queen of the crazies?