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Heart Full of Lies

Cover of Heart Full of Lies

Heart Full of Lies

A True Story of Desire and Death
by Ann Rule
Borrow Borrow Borrow

In perhaps the most profound character portrait she has ever drawn, America's bestselling true-crime writer, Ann Rule, asks, Can the female really be deadlier than the male? In Heart Full of Lies, she answers that question in one of her most intriguing tales ever -- a riveting story of seduction, betrayal, and murder.

Liysa and Chris Northon seemed the epitome of idyllic lovers when they married on a moonlit beach in Hawaii. Their friends admired the romantic couple: Chris -- tall, athletic, handsome with a thatch of blond hair, a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines -- and Liysa -- attractive, charismatic, seductive, an acclaimed surf photographer, with a tanned, perfect body. Their son, Bjorn, looked just like his dad, and they were raising Liysa's son by a previous marriage. They had beautiful homes on the mainland and in Hawaii.

But it wasn't long before Chris saw a side of Liysa that he hadn't glimpsed before. Nothing was quite enough for her -- she wanted more money, more property, and a future that included fame as a Hollywood screenwriter. She complained to her closest friends that her husband was a heavy drinker who beat her. The marriage seemed to be unraveling, but Chris struggled to hold it together, afraid he'd be separated from Bjorn and from Liysa's son, Papako. And then the worst happened.

On a sunny morning in October 2000, Chris Northon lay dead in a sleeping bag at a campsite beside a pristine river, while his wife drove four hours to a friend's house, sobbing inconsolably. She appeared to have been beaten, and had a black eye and bruises on her knee. Was Chris's death a tragic accident or a deliberate homicide? Was Liysa involved? Questions arose that made Oregon State detectives suspicious, yet her family and friends stood staunchly by her, incredulous that anybody would ask such questions.

Ann Rule became involved with the mystery of Chris's death when one of his fellow pilots at Hawaiian Airlines contacted her, and only later did she learn that the ranking Oregon State Police investigator had thought of her to tell this bizarre story. A book that leads the reader from Hawaii to the Northwest to Hollywood, Heart Full of Lies is an extraordinary character study as well as a brilliant investigative report that will keep you enthralled to the very last page.

In perhaps the most profound character portrait she has ever drawn, America's bestselling true-crime writer, Ann Rule, asks, Can the female really be deadlier than the male? In Heart Full of Lies, she answers that question in one of her most intriguing tales ever -- a riveting story of seduction, betrayal, and murder.

Liysa and Chris Northon seemed the epitome of idyllic lovers when they married on a moonlit beach in Hawaii. Their friends admired the romantic couple: Chris -- tall, athletic, handsome with a thatch of blond hair, a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines -- and Liysa -- attractive, charismatic, seductive, an acclaimed surf photographer, with a tanned, perfect body. Their son, Bjorn, looked just like his dad, and they were raising Liysa's son by a previous marriage. They had beautiful homes on the mainland and in Hawaii.

But it wasn't long before Chris saw a side of Liysa that he hadn't glimpsed before. Nothing was quite enough for her -- she wanted more money, more property, and a future that included fame as a Hollywood screenwriter. She complained to her closest friends that her husband was a heavy drinker who beat her. The marriage seemed to be unraveling, but Chris struggled to hold it together, afraid he'd be separated from Bjorn and from Liysa's son, Papako. And then the worst happened.

On a sunny morning in October 2000, Chris Northon lay dead in a sleeping bag at a campsite beside a pristine river, while his wife drove four hours to a friend's house, sobbing inconsolably. She appeared to have been beaten, and had a black eye and bruises on her knee. Was Chris's death a tragic accident or a deliberate homicide? Was Liysa involved? Questions arose that made Oregon State detectives suspicious, yet her family and friends stood staunchly by her, incredulous that anybody would ask such questions.

Ann Rule became involved with the mystery of Chris's death when one of his fellow pilots at Hawaiian Airlines contacted her, and only later did she learn that the ranking Oregon State Police investigator had thought of her to tell this bizarre story. A book that leads the reader from Hawaii to the Northwest to Hollywood, Heart Full of Lies is an extraordinary character study as well as a brilliant investigative report that will keep you enthralled to the very last page.

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    Chapter One

    The mountains and high plains of extreme northeastern Oregon are so far from well-traveled freeways that even most Oregonians have never been to this wilderness area where the sky seems close enough to touch. These are the "Oregon Alps." Serious outdoorsmen and those with family ties to Wallowa County follow the thin red lines on the map that promise at most only "paved highways," up and up through the mountains from Pendleton or La Grande. The summits are more than five thousand feet high, and then the roads descend through tiny villages whose buildings are mostly gray shadows of their former incarnations, tumbled with old-fashioned perennials and weeds, fading storefronts and little churches with peeling paint: Adams, Athena, Elgin, Minam, Wallowa, Lostine. Near the end of the road is Enterprise -- the county seat -- and finally the hamlet called Joseph, named for the great chief of the Nez Percé tribe. All these towns, so far-flung from city lives, have a presence and a feeling of serenity that comes only with long history and time without urgency.

    Enterprise and Joseph blossom in the summer as tourists who have discovered Wallowa County arrive. Sheltered between the Wallowa Mountains to the west and the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area to the east, Enterprise, population 1,900, is a wonderful place to live, but only if one is self-employed, working for the county or the city, or serving the needs of the residents. It is too distant from the larger Oregon cities along the coast or in the center of the state to make commuting feasible. The only industry of any sort is up the road eight miles, in Joseph. Perched on the shore of Wallowa Lake, Joseph has embraced sculpture and bronze foundries as a very successful economic lifeline; every street corner has a statue that seems to burst with life frozen in mid-movement -- maidens and cowboys and eagles in flight -- each statue large enough to require a truck to pack it out.

    In the summer, Wallowa Lake is a burning hollow in the mountains, with its azure water reflecting the sun and the sky. The water there is cold, but not cold enough to deter boaters and water-skiers, who seem somehow out of place on the waters where Native Americans once fished. The mountains and the soaring trees have always been there and will always be there; the humans playing on the lake seem, in contrast, quite temporary.

    Deer wander at will in Joseph, strolling along the narrow roads, peering into windows, and mingling with tourists at food stands and riding stables. A lift carries tourists who aren't afraid of heights far up the Wallowa Range. Flowers of every variety burst forth in the short summer season, boldly defiant against winter for their precious few months in the sun.

    The center of Wallowa County government is in Enterprise, where a courthouse built in 1909 sits in the center of parklike grounds. Ninety-four years' worth of feet have worn away the interior stairways as generations of citizens went about their business with public records and the laws of Wallowa County. Bright greenswards and paths crisscross the courthouse square, and baskets of trailing geraniums, ivy, and sweet alyssum make it resemble a set for The Music Man. There are concerts in the bandstand on the courthouse lawn, and the melodies floating on a summer's night are nostalgic enough to sting the eye with tears.

    In 2000, Dan Ousley was the district attorney of Wallowa County. He was a familiar presence before judges and juries in the courthouse in Enterprise. But he was well into his second term in office before he ever had to deal with a murder that wasn't an open-and-shut case. And...

About the Author-
  • Ann Rule is the author of thirty New York Times bestsellers, all of them still in print. Her first bestseller was The Stranger Beside Me, about her personal relationship to infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. A former Seattle police officer, she knows the crime scene firsthand. For more than two decades, she has been a powerful advocate for victims of violent crime. She lives near Seattle. Visit her at AnnRules.com.
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