Little, Crazy Children: A True Crime Tragedy of Lost Innocence (Hardcover)

Little, Crazy Children: A True Crime Tragedy of Lost Innocence By James Renner Cover Image
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For readers of Ann Rule and Gregg Olsen, a riveting new true crime book from the acclaimed author of True Crime Addict and creator/host of the podcasts True Crime This Week and The Philosophy of Crime, as he explores the unsolved murder of 16-year-old Lisa Pruett in the real life town of the bestselling novel Little Fires Everywhere for a painstakingly researched account of a senseless and heartbreaking tragedy and the people who were pulled into its aftermath.

In September of 1990, in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, sixteen-year-old Lisa Pruett, a poetry lover and member of a church youth group, was on her way to a midnight tryst with her boyfriend, when she was viciously stabbed to death only thirty feet from the boy’s home.

The murder cast a palpable gloom over the upscale community and sparked accusations, theories, and rumors among Lisa’s friends and peers. Together they wove a damning narrative that circled back to a likely suspect: “weird” high school outcast Kevin Young. Without a shred of evidence the teen was arrested, charged, and tried for the crime. His eventual acquittal didn’t squelch the anger and outrage among those who believed that Kevin got away with murder.

With a fresh perspective and painstaking research culled from police files, court records, transcripts, uncollected evidence, and new interviews, James Renner reconstructs the events leading up to and following that heartbreaking night. What emerges is a portrait of a community seething with dark undercurrents—its single-minded authorities, protective status-conscious parents, and the deeply peer-pressured teens within Lisa’s circle.

Who had the capacity for such unchecked violence? What monsters still lurk in the dark? After more than thirty years, questions like these continue to fester among the community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, still deeply scarred by wounds that remain hidden, unspoken, and unhealed.

About the Author

James Renner is an investigative journalist, podcaster, and critically acclaimed author of both nonfiction and fiction books, including True Crime Addict and The Man from Primrose Lane. Previously the host of Lake Erie’s Coldest Cases on ID Discovery, he currently hosts the podcasts “The Philosophy of Crime” and “True Crime This Week.” He is the Founder and Director of The Porchlight Project, a nonprofit that provides genetic genealogy for cold cases in Ohio. He lives in Akron with his wife and children and can be found online at

Praise For…


“A few things became emphatically clear when I finished Little, Crazy Children by James Renner: Front and center was Renner’s passionate, strong investigative skills, and his deep commitment to the case. Renner always delivers an intimately personal style, while providing eye-opening revelations—all on a canvas painted with a compelling, hard-to-put-down narrative. And this new book does not disappoint.” —M. William Phelps, New York Times bestselling author, creator, executive producer, and host of the #1 Apple podcast PAPER GHOSTS

"Little, Crazy Children is a multilayered and twisty tale of murder in the wealthy Cleveland suburbs, and Renner explores it with forthright grace—a sharp-eyed, thoughtful companion on a journey through a disturbing and compelling unsolved mystery." —Dan Chaon, author of Sleepwalk

“Little, Crazy Children is a compelling page-turner with astounding revelations. In this intriguing account of a determined journalist's quest for justice, James Renner skillfully uncovers dark secrets of both the living and the dead.” —Leslie Rule, author of A Tangled Web

"Little, Crazy Children leads us slowly into the underside of an ordinary suburb, where trust is eroded by a terrible crime, neighbor turns on neighbor, and everyone casts stones at the scapegoat. Renner has unearthed a dreadful moment in time and followed its lasting repercussions. An engrossing, chilling read." —Mikita Brottman, author of Couple Found Slain

"Renner's storytelling ability is brilliant. Prodigiously researched, this book will keep you guessing until the very last page." —Aphrodite Jones, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Sacrifice

"James Renner owns this cold case. He's chased its solution down every twisty path, revealing errors, shattering rumors, and testing theories about the murder of Lisa Pruett and the circle of kids who seem to know things no one's saying. Absorbing and illuminating."
—Katherine Ramsland, author of Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer


[Renner] is just plain fun to read.” —The New York Times Book Review

“You have not read a book like this before and, I’d wager, you’ll not engage with its like again. . .  Renner is a tantalizing and almost gleeful tour guide to and through the impulses of the armchair detective." —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“As the title suggests, [True Crime Addict] is an addictive read.” —Bustle

“The mystery of Murray’s whereabouts is baffling. . .  [Renner’s] chipping away at the facts of a ten-year-old case makes the reader hope that, in the end, the answers will be uncovered. An entrancing, brilliant next step for fans of the podcast Serial, Netflix’s Making a Murderer, and other true crime cases.” —Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Brutally honest, no-holds-barred storytelling . . . Renner brilliantly covers all the bases here.” —M. William Phelps, New York Times bestselling author
“Renner’s walk on the dark side makes for a highly compelling read.” —Kathryn Casey, bestselling author of Deliver Us

“Renner’s personal involvement in the case—and his self-destructive, relentless dedication to confronting the darkness at the heart of it [. . . is] noteworthy.” —Publishers Weekly
Product Details
ISBN: 9780806542553
ISBN-10: 0806542551
Publisher: Citadel
Publication Date: June 27th, 2023
Pages: 336
Language: English