Bestselling author Anita Paddock will be at the Women’s Literary Club of Van Buren June 24-25 for a signing of her new book, “Closing Time.”
Paddock will speak about the book and sign copies at the Women’s Literary Club at the historic Old School Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Webster in Van Buren from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. both days.
Though the event is free to attend, donations will be accepted to go toward the preservation of the Women’s Literary Club historic building, which was the location of the first library in Van Buren and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Closing Time” recounts the events leading up to and following the 1980 murder of Kenneth Staton, a well-respected owner of a jewelry store in Van Buren, and his daughter Suzanne Staton.
“The crime shocked Van Buren residents,” said Mary Jane Hurst, Women’s Literary Club president.
Kenneth and Suzanne Staton were found murdered in their jewelry store in Cloverleaf Plaza. They had been tied up and executed, and nearly $100,000 dollars of diamonds and other jewelry had been stolen.
Two men were convicted of the crime. Eugene Wallace Perry was executed for the crime in 1997, and Richard Anderson continues to serve a life sentence at a detention center in Kansas.
Paddock wrote the story on the Staton murders, she said, at the request of Ruth Staton-Morrison, Kenneth Staton’s widow, now remarried.
Paddock worked with Staton-Morrison and the two remaining daughters of the couple, and communicated with Anderson by mail, to recount the murders, she said.
One of the most remarkable things about the story for Paddock was the family’s stoicism, she said, and their decision to reopen the jewelry store weeks after the murder of their family members.
“If you can imagine, after your father and your little sister had been murdered in that store, and $100,000 of merchandise had been stolen,” Paddock said. “But they were stoic about accepting this and going on with their life.”
Kenneth Staton, before his death, was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and unable to walk without the aid of crutches. To support himself and his family, he had learned to repair watches and jewelry and opened the store in Van Buren.
“He had worked hard to open that store, and they wanted to honor his memory,” Paddock said.
The Staton murder is the second of three murder cases in the Van Buren area that took place within a two-year span of which Paddock has written.
Her first novel, “Blind Rage,” recounts the events following the 1981 murder of prominent Van Buren citizen Ruie Ann Park. After her book was released, the case was featured on the television show Crime Watch Daily.
Paddock is considering writing a third book based on the 1981 murders of Thomas Simmons, she said. Simmons, who lived in Kibler with his sister at the time, was convicted of killing four people, including a Fort Smith police detective.
Paddock, a longtime resident of Fort Smith, is originally from Van Buren. A former librarian, she is on the Fort Smith Public Library board and is a volunteer writing instructor for the Fort Smith Public Library.
Light refreshments will be served at the Women’s Literary Club book signing, and “Closing Time” will be available for purchase, Hurst said. The book can also be ordered online.
This is Paddock’s first book signing in Van Buren for “Closing Time.” Other book signings in Crawford County will be June 29 and July 1 at Chapters on Main, July 10 at the Van Buren Public Library, Aug. 6 at the Drennen-Scott Historic Site, and Aug. 19 at the Kirksey Maternity Hospital event center in Mulberry.
Women’s Literary Club of Van Buren meets the third Monday of each month at 1 p.m. Anyone interested in reading and historic preservation is invited to join. Contact club secretary Sandra Thicksten at (479) 632-4288 for information.