Ann Rule

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Ann Rule
BornAnn Rae Stackhouse
October 22, 1931
Lowell, Michigan, U.S.
DiedJuly 26, 2015(2015-07-26) (aged 83)
Burien, Washington, U.S.
SubjectTrue crime
Notable worksThe Stranger Beside Me
Small Sacrifices
Children4, including Leslie Rule

Ann Rae Rule (née Stackhouse; October 22, 1931 – July 26, 2015) was an American author of true crime books and articles. She is best-known for The Stranger Beside Me (1980), about the serial killer Ted Bundy with whom Rule worked and whom she considered a friend, but was later revealed to be a murderer. Rule was also known for her book Small Sacrifices, about Oregon child murderer Diane Downs. Many of Rule's books center on murder cases that occurred in the Pacific Northwest and her adopted home state of Washington.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Ann Rae Stackhouse was born on October 22, 1931, in Lowell, Michigan.[2][3] One of two children of Chester R. Stackhouse and Sophie Marie Hansen, her mother was a teacher, specializing in developmentally disabled children, and her father was a sports coach.[4] As Rule did during young adulthood, her family members had careers in law enforcement. Rule's grandfather and uncle were sheriffs in Michigan, another uncle was a medical examiner, and one cousin was a prosecutor. Rule spent summers with her grandparents doing volunteer work in the local jail.[4]

Rule graduated from Coatesville High School in Chester County, Pennsylvania and later earned an associate degree from Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington. Rule also attended the University of Washington, studying creative writing, criminology, and psychology.[4][5][6]


Rule's career path included working as a law enforcement officer for the Seattle Police Department as well as writing for publications geared toward women. Beginning in 1969, she wrote for True Detective magazine under the pen name "Andy Stack".[4][7]

While volunteering at a suicide crisis hotline center in Seattle in 1971, Rule met Ted Bundy, a work-study student who was studying psychology at the University of Washington. After Bundy moved to Utah for law school, he was arrested in 1975 for kidnapping a young woman and later identified as a serial murderer with dozens of victims dating to at least 1974 if not earlier. During the time they worked together, Rule observed nothing disturbing in Bundy's personality, and saw him as "kind, solicitous, and empathetic".[8][9] Her first book, The Stranger Beside Me, is considered one of the most definitive biographies of Bundy. First published in 1980, the year Bundy was convicted of murder, the book was written under her own name rather than the pen name she had previously used.

Rule's next three books (The Lust Killer, Jerry Brudos; The Want-Ad Killer, Harvey Carignan; and The I-5 Killer about Randall Woodfield) were released with her pen name but, following her success of the Bundy book, were re-released with Rule as the author.

In April 2012, 48 Hours Mystery covered Rule's successful effort to help a mother prove her daughter's 1998 death was actually a murder. The resulting book was In the Still of the Night.[10]

One of her most recent books, Practice to Deceive, about a 2003 murder on Whidbey Island, Washington, was released in October 2013. On the island for the launch of a book tour, Rule fell in the hotel and broke her hip, forcing the cancellation of the event.[11]

Methods and themes[edit]

In its obituary for Ann Rule, the New York Times quoted her comments on how she approached true crime writing and her favorite themes. "To choose a book subject, I weed through about 3,000 suggestions from readers. I'm looking for an 'antihero' whose eventual arrest shocks those who knew him (or her): attractive, brilliant, charming, popular, wealthy, talented, and much admired in their communities — but really hiding behind masks."[2] A Guardian article about Rule developed this idea further: "It's tough, she says, but she doesn't want to hear about killers who are 'ugly, mean and have no charm. We’re not interested in the kind of person who looks like he would commit murder. We want to know about the kind who you could not imagine having this monstrous self behind the pleasant face.'"[12]

Rule's style of true crime writing did bring some criticism. An evaluation of her influence on the genre noted negative commentary on her approach to her most infamous subject. "Despite the commercial success of her books, the critical and public reception of The Stranger Beside Me was not always generous. After Rule's death in 2015, Victoria Beale wrote a piece for the New Yorker called 'Too Close to Ted Bundy' in which Beale accused Rule of making poor ethical choices in reporting the story and her involvement in Bundy's life after he was in jail. 'Rule's role shifts from being inadvertently involved with a serial killer to an author considering how lucrative her access could be,' Beale writes."[13]

Legal disputes[edit]

In 2003, Rule's publisher released Heart Full of Lies, a book about Liysa Northon, who maintains she was a battered spouse and shot her husband in 2000 to protect herself and her children. Rule's book suggested Liysa Northon premeditated the killing and faked evidence of abuse.[14]

A defamation lawsuit filed by Northon against Rule and her publishers was dismissed in January 2011 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.[15] in October 2012, Northon was released from prison, 12 years after killing her husband.[16]

Rule filed a libel lawsuit through lawyer Anne Bremner against the Seattle Weekly newspaper in July 2013, saying she was defamed in 2011 when Northon's fiancé Rick Swart wrote an article accusing Rule of "sloppy storytelling." The suit, filed in King County Superior Court July 2013, argued that damage was done because Rule, to sell her books, relies on her reputation for accuracy.[17]

On February 24 and 25, 2014, a judge made two rulings dismissing the claims, finding that Rule's suit violated a Washington state law barring lawsuits that target the legal exercise of free speech and public participation, and that Rule had not established that there were any false, defamatory statements about her in the article. The judge awarded the defendants who comprised Rick Swart, Caleb Hannan, and the newspaper an additional $10,000 each in damages, plus attorneys' fees and costs.[14][18] "Rule admitted that she never interviewed Liysa or members of her immediate family," said Swart.[19]

On June 22, 2015, a three-judge panel in Washington's Court of Appeals remanded the case to trial, with instructions to vacate the earlier judgment against Rule.[20] Ann Rule's death on July 26, 2015 "threw into limbo the Washington state court case over whether Swart had defamed her." There have been no further reports of developments in the case.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Rule lived in Normandy Park, Washington and had four children, including author Leslie Rule. Rule's family also included a foster son and five grandchildren.[5][22][23] She was married to Bill Rule, whom she divorced in 1972.[2]

Family troubles, theft[edit]

It was reported in April 2015 that two of Rule's sons, Michael Rule and Andrew Rule, had been charged with crimes related to the theft of money from the author. King County authorities stated that over time, both sons had taken "more than $100,000 from of whom demanded money while she 'cowered in her wheelchair'," authorities said. Michael Rule, 51, is charged with first-degree theft and forgery. According to court documents, he is accused of writing checks from Rule's bank account totaling $103,628. Andrew Rule, 54, also charged with first-degree theft, is accused of convincing his mother to give him $23,327. According to an April 2015 Huffington Post article, Rule had been in declining health since October 2013 as a result of her broken hip. The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office records noted at that time that she "is on oxygen at all times" and was suffering from "extreme confusion" as well as being "vulnerable to undue influence" and "is unable to perform many activities of daily living without assistance".

According to prosecutors, Rule's sons started taking advantage of her poor health and the authorities were made aware of the thefts by her son-in-law, Glenn Scott[24] (called Glen Scorr[25] in some sources). According to the Huffington Post article, Scott "suspected his mother-in-law was being financially exploited by her two sons". Following a joint investigation by the King County Sheriff's Office and Normandy Park Police Department, it was discovered that Rule's children receive around $25,000 per month in salary through her corporation, Rule Enterprises LLC. Michael Rule resides on a property next to his mother's Normandy Park home. The Huffington Post reported that law enforcement investigators discovered he "pressured her into providing him with funds above his monthly salary" and "forged her signature on checks from March 2014 to February 2015". Court documents further stated Michael Rule would verbally abuse Rule, and would "yell at his mother demanding money as she cowered in her wheelchair". During the investigation, Rule stated, "Mike often goes into rages, where he throws things across the room and sweeps a counter clean with his arm."

Authorities also stated Andrew Rule had been aggressive when trying to get money from Rule during 2014, including threatening suicide, and screaming obscenities at her. Rule was granted an order of protection against Andrew Rule in January 2015. He subsequently violated the order on March 27, 2015. While he was in police custody, Andrew Rule told law enforcement he "battled drug and gambling addictions for years and that he used the money provided to him by his mother on gambling and strip clubs". Andrew Rule has denied any culpability in regard to the first-degree theft charges.[25]

The charges against Michael and Andrew Rule were dropped on August 14, 2015 after their mother's death. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amanda Froh wrote: "Given the recent death of victim Ann Rule on July 26, 2015, the interests of justice are best served by dismissal of this case."[26]


Rule's family and publisher, Simon & Schuster, announced to the media on July 27, 2015 that she died on July 26, 2015, as a result of congestive heart failure. Her death followed a visit to the emergency room where she went for treatment due to a heart attack. Rule had been moved to hospice care one day before she died.[5][27][28][29]

Published works[edit]

True crime[edit]

  • The Stranger Beside Me (1980)
  • Lust Killer (1983)
  • The Want-Ad Killer (1983)
  • The I-5 Killer (1984)
  • Small Sacrifices (1987)
  • If You Really Loved Me (1991)
  • Everything She Ever Wanted (1992)
  • A Rose for Her Grave and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 1 (1993)
  • You Belong to Me and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 2 (1994)
  • Dead by Sunset (1995)
  • A Fever in the Heart and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 3 (1996)
  • Bitter Harvest (1997)
  • In the Name of Love and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 4 (1998)
  • The End of the Dream: The Golden Boy Who Never Grew Up: Crime Files Vol. 5 (1998)
  • A Rage to Kill and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 6 (1999)
  • And Never Let Her Go (1999)
  • Empty Promises: Crime Files Vol. 7 (2001)
  • Every Breath You Take (2001)
  • Heart Full of Lies (2001)
  • Last Dance, Last Chance and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 8 (2003)
  • Without Pity: Ann Rule's Most Dangerous Killers: Crime Files Updates (2003)
  • Green River, Running Red (2004)
  • Kiss Me, Kill Me and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 9 (2004)
  • Worth More Dead and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 10 (2005)
  • No Regrets and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 11 (2006)
  • Smoke, Mirrors, and Murder and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 12 (2007)
  • Too Late to Say Goodbye (2007)
  • Mortal Danger and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 13 (2008)
  • But I Trusted You and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 14 (2009)
  • In the Still of the Night (2010)
  • Don't Look Behind You and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 15 (2011)
  • Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors and Other True Cases: Crime Files Vol. 16 (2012)
  • Danger in the Dorm (re-released 2013)
  • Practice to Deceive (2013)
  • Lying in Wait (2014)

Crime fiction[edit]

  • Possession (1983)


In 2008, the Library of America selected Rule's story "Young Love" from the book Empty Promises for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American true crime writing, True Crime: An American Anthology.[30]

Rule's book Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors and Other True Cases was named one of the top three 2012 Best True Crime Books, along with books by authors Cathy Scott and Kathryn Casey, in a True Crime Zine readers poll.[31]


  1. ^ "Biography: Ann Rule, A Taste For Crime Investigation". CBS News. July 20, 2001. Archived from the original on January 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-05.
  2. ^ a b c Grimes, William (July 28, 2015). "Ann Rule, 83, Dies: Wrote About Ted Bundy (a Friend) and Other Killers". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  3. ^ "Ann Rule dies at 83; true-crime writer penned account of Ted Bundy," by Christine Mai-Duc, The Los Angeles Times
  4. ^ a b c d "Ann's Biography (Official Site)". Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  5. ^ a b c Emily Langer (July 28, 2015). "Ann Rule, doyenne of true-crime writers and profiler of Ted Bundy, dies at 83". Washington Post. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  6. ^ CNN - various contributors (January 12, 1999). "Ann Rule". Chat Books Interview Transcript. CNN. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  7. ^ TruTV Crime Library, "Ann Rule: Revealing the Strangers Beside Us"
  8. ^ Justin Wm. Moyer (28 July 2015). "The twisted friendship of crime writer Ann Rule and serial killer Ted Bundy". Washington Post.
  9. ^ Rule, Ann (2000). The Stranger Beside Me (Paperback; updated 20th anniversary ed.). New York: Signet. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0-451-20326-7.
  10. ^ "Suicide or homicide? Author Ann Rule helps mother search for justice in daughter's death". 22 December 2012.
  11. ^ Rule’s Freeland book signing canceled after fall - Whidbey News-Times
  12. ^ "Ann Rule, a high life of crime". The Guardian. December 19, 1994. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  13. ^ "We Owe Our Obsession with True Crime to Ann Rule". Broadly. July 21, 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Ann Rule Lawsuit Against Seattle Weekly Tossed". February 26, 2014.
  15. ^ "Courthouse News Service".
  16. ^ "Liysa Northon, featured in Ann Rule's 'Heart Full of Lies,' to get out of prison Tuesday". The Oregonian. October 8, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  17. ^ Levi Pulkkinen (February 26, 2014). "Judge tosses Ann Rule defamation lawsuit". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
  18. ^ "Court throws out Ann Rule's defamation court case". March 5, 2014.
  19. ^ "Ann Rule Loses To Rick Swart". February 26, 2014. Archived from the original on March 3, 2014.
  20. ^ "Court revives Ann Rule's suit against Rick Swart". Wallowa County Chieftain.
  21. ^ Emily Volpert (January 24, 2017). "Ann Rule's Last Case: The death of the true-crime author leaves a Washington defamation suit in limbo". Willamette Week.
  22. ^ "Leslie Rule".
  23. ^ Ann Rule (2006). No Regrets: Ann Rule's Crime Files:. Simon and Schuster. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-7434-4875-8.
  24. ^ Anderson, Rick (June 9, 2015). "Seattleland: Author Ann Rule's Newest Crime Tale: The Strangers Beside Her". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  25. ^ a b David Lohr (April 21, 2015). "Author Ann Rule Was Abused, Ripped Off By Her Sons, Cops Say". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  26. ^ Levi Pulkkinen (October 21, 2015). "Charges: Seattle crime writer Ann Rule ripped off by sons". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
  27. ^ KIRO 7 STAFF (July 27, 2015). "Beloved crime novels writer Ann Rule dies". KIRO. Retrieved July 27, 2015. Daughter, Leslie Rule, wrote on Facebook that her mother died peacefully on Sunday night.
  28. ^ "Seattle true crime writer Ann Rule dies". King 5 News. July 27, 2015. Archived from the original on July 27, 2015. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  29. ^ Q13 FOX NEWS STAFF (July 27, 2015). "Ann Rule, prolific author of true crime novels, dies". KCPQ. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  30. ^ "True Crime: An American Anthology: Table of Contents". Literary Classics of the United States. 2008. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  31. ^ "Best True Crime Books 2012 Winners List". True Crime Zine. January 12, 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-19.

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