Review: We Thought We Knew You by M. William Phelps


Title: We Thought We Knew You: A Terrifying True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Deception, and Murder

Author: M. William Phelps

Published: 29th December 2020, Kensington Books

Status: Read December 2020 courtesy Kensington/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

*WARNING : contains mild spoilers*

I’m not sure what drew me to request We Thought We Knew You to read, other than it’s been a while since I’ve read a straight true crime focusing on a single case, and the author, M. William Phelps, has been recommended to me previously. Until I read the synopsis, I had never heard of this particular case and knew nothing of the details, or the outcome.

In July of 2015 Mary Yoder, a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and successful chiropractor in the state of New York, was rushed to hospital after experiencing the sudden onset of severe stomach pains, nausea and breathing difficulties. Despite all attempts to treat her symptoms, Mary’s condition continued to deteriorate, and less than twenty-four hours after falling ill, she was dead. Stunned, her family requested an autopsy be performed, and were shocked to soon learn not only was Mary poisoned by a deadly toxin, Colchicine, but there is suspicion it was deliberately administered.

Drawing on personal interviews, legal documents, and public records, award winning investigative journalist, author, and media presenter William M. Phelps presents a coherent and concise exploration of the life of Mary Yoder, the investigation into her death, and the subsequent trial that saw a young woman, the on-and-off-again girlfriend of Mary’s son and office manager of the family Chiropractor practice, convicted of manslaughter.

I found this to a very readable account of a tragic crime. I appreciate that Phelps does his best to ensure that Mary, by all accounts a warm, vivacious, intelligent and caring lady, is not merely a victim, but a person whose life was as important as her manner of death. He provides adequate context to the crime, exploring the backgrounds of, and relationships between, those intimately involved. The process of the police investigation is clearly laid out, giving insight into how the police gathered evidence and narrowed in on their suspect. The court cases are related in summary, so as not to get bogged down in jargon and detail.

I’m not sure at which point Phelps became convinced of the accused’s guilt, whether it was before or during his investigation into the case but there is a lack of objectivity here that bothered me somewhat. It’s not that I disagree with his conclusions, the evidence presented, presuming it’s accuracy, leaves me in no doubt that Kaitlyn Conley intended to cause the death of Mary Yoder, and frame Adam Yoder, Mary’s son and Katie’s ex-boyfriend, for her murder in what I conclude was a twisted plan of revenge for rejecting her, but that the bias is inescapably pervasive from the first. I would have preferred that Phelps had been able to gain an interview with someone from the defence, though he states all such requests were refused. While he does discuss the rebuttals given by Conley’s supporters, there is an uncomfortable imbalance in what he is able to present.

We Thought We Knew You is a sad tale of a toxic relationship, obsession, betrayal, and murder. Mary Yoder died horribly, a victim of intentional poisoning, yet simply a pawn in a quest for revenge by a remorseless killer. As of this month (December 2020), Conley has launched an appeal against her conviction.


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