Lucifer’s Child, by Elliott Epstein
192 pages, published by AuthorHouse (September 30, 2010)
On Oct, 27, 1984, police and firefighters responded to a call to an apartment building at 317 Main St. in Auburn to investigate a report of smoke. The tenants wouldn’t answer the door, so firefighters broke it down and rescue personnel ran in to find two adults and a young child standing silently in the living room — and a dead little girl in the oven.
That horrific but true scene is depicted in the initial pages of “Lucifer’s Child,” Maine attorney and former journalist Elliott Epstein’s riveting and well-researched account of the murder of 4-year-old Angela Palmer. Mainers and people across the nation were shocked by the horrific murder of Palmer, who was stuffed into an oven and burned to death by her mother’s live-in boyfriend, John Lane.
Epstein was a young attorney at the time the case was being prosecuted and witnessed the trial proceedings. His well-written account of Angela’s death and its aftermath depicts the murder and the days after, and trial action, and includes detailed research into the childhood and backgrounds of both Lane and Cynthia Palmer, Angela’s mother. He also talked extensively with those involved with the case, including teachers, social workers, investigators, relatives from both families and tenants in the building where Angela was murdered.
On that day in 1984, Lane beat Angela, threw her in the oven, wedged a chair against the door and turned it up as high as it would go. He told police immediately after the murder that it wasn’t Angela that he had killed, but “Lucifer,” a slimy green monster that threatened him.
Palmer was sitting in the next room, drugged, and claimed to be oblivious to what happened. She initially refused to believe that anything had happened to her child and later said that Lane had forcibly medicated her before the crime.
The two were tried together in Bangor in 1985. Lane was convicted and imprisoned for life, but Palmer was acquitted.
“Lucifer’s Child” is a chilling but compelling account of the murder and how it affected the state and changed the lives of many of those involved.
Epstein is a first-time author who has been a trial lawyer for more than 30 years. He lives in Auburn and practices with the firm of Pickus & Epstein in Portland and Auburn.