Murder in the U.P.

MARQUETTE – When Marquette native Sonny Longtine retired from teaching after more than 30 years in the classroom, he wasn’t planning on starting a second career.

But over the course of the past 20 years, Longtine has become a non-fiction writer whose latest book “Murder in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” was recently released.

“I am Marquette born and raised and graduated from Northern Michigan University with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” he said. “I taught for several years in suburban Detroit, then migrated back to the Upper Peninsula.”

Longtine taught government and American history in the Gwinn Public Schools, retiring from that post when he turned 55.

“That’s when I started writing,” he said. “I have been at it for maybe 20 years. I certainly didn’t expect to have another career.”

His friend Laverne Chappell wrote for a magazine and encouraged Longtine to do the same.

“She invited me to write some and that’s where it started,” he said. “I write non-fiction and it’s all U.P. stuff.”

His first book, “Marquette Then and Now” was published in 1998. Another work “Wading in Blood: Murder in Michigan” told the true stories of a number of homicide cases in the state and caught the eye of the publisher The History Press.

“They said they would like to make it just an Upper Peninsula murder book, but the volume wasn’t there with what I wrote originally, so I had to go out and research four more cases into that.

“But I was quite honored to be picked up by a major publisher,” he said. “They have offices in Charleston, S.C., and London and more than 2,500 books in print.”

Longtine said the publisher put him through the paces with their parameters and specifications.

“They really leave no stone unturned,” he said. “They have editors and sales people and publicists and they really know what they’re doing.”

It was three years ago “Wading” was published, telling 21 U.P. murder cases. The new book, “Murder in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” has 24 new cases in it.

“It’s a span of 160 years, going way back to the 1850s,” Longtine said. “The newest case in it was the Richardson murder.”

That case, which garnered national attention, involved Thomas David Richardson of downstate McBain, who was accused of pushing his wife from a cliff at Pictured Rock National Lakeshore in Alger County in 2006. Richardson was convicted of her murder.

“That case was very interesting. I went into the court to listen while the trial was going on,” Longtine said. “And I was able to interview the prosecutor.”

Longtine said he always is aware that researching murder cases can be a delicate matter.

“One of the most difficult things with contemporary cases is that family members are still alive and are very sensitive about things,” he said. “Some people I contact would volunteer to talk about what happened but others said it was too painful, that it was bringing up stuff that was incredibly unpleasant. That I understand.”

Longtine strives to find out as much as he can about the victim of the crime as well as the perpetrator. And that research can stay in his mind for a long time.

“Probably the one that has stayed with me most is the (David) Goodreau murder case up in Houghton. He killed Jodi Watts and Kathryn Nankervis,” Longtine said. “He was an unlikely suspect. He was a social worker and a family man. No one had any idea of the dark side of his life.

“That one was probably the one that stayed with me the most.”

The Upper Peninsula averages about five murders a year, Longtine said. About 50 percent of the slayings are solved, which is on par with the national average.

“Murder in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” is available at all Bookworld stores in the U.P. as well as at Snowbound Books in Marquette. Longtine is in the process of contacting other vendors in the peninsula to see if they will carry the book.

Also, he has a PowerPoint presentation he can present to interested groups about his books.

For more information, contact Longtine at 228-4716 or via email at

Longtine is changing the subject for his newest work.

“My next book is ready to go. It’s called ‘Magnificent Mansions and Courtly Cottages’ and is about architecture in the U.P.,” Longtine said. “It should be available in early summer.”

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.