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J. J. Maloney, an award-winning journalist and founder and editor of Crime Magazine, passed away December 31, 1999, at his mother's home in Webster Groves, Mo. He was 59.
Mr. Maloney, who lived in Kansas City, had been visiting his mother for the holidays. He suffered from acute bronchial congestion and had recently undergone a bout with pneumonia. He was an inveterate smoker.
Mr. Maloney launched Crime Magazine, an Internet publication, on October 26, 1998. He described the site (www.crimemagazine.com) as "an encyclopedia of crime: from prisons and parole to serial killers and assassinations, books and movies to unsolved murders and fugitives, from gangsters to cops." Crime Magazine is one of the Internet's most frequently visited sites about true crime. The site has garnered seven Internet awards, including the Medaille d'Or for Web Site Excellence and the Gold Star for Outstanding Quality from Juno Enterprises. In addition, Mr. Maloney was crime editor for ODP, an Internet clearinghouse.
Born in St. Louis in 1940, Mr. Maloney spent 3 1/2 years in reform schools and 13 years in prison, serving four life sentences for a murder and armed robbery he committed at age 19. As a convict, Mr. Maloney educated himself and became an artist, poet and eventually a book reviewer for the Kansas City Star. In 1972 he was paroled and began work the next day as a part-time reporter for the Kansas City Star.
By January of 1973, Mr. Maloney had been hired full-time as a reporter for The Star. The prison series he co-authored with Harry Jones, Jr., won the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel, and the Kansas Bar/Media Award.
By 1977, Mr. Maloney was one of the newspaper's top investigative reporters, and did most of the paper's coverage of the Mafia's infiltration of River Quay.
"When The Kansas City Star hired J. J. Maloney as a reporter in 1972, it hired more than a convicted murderer with literary talent. It hired a lightning rod," said Arthur Brisbane, then the editor of The Star and later the public editor of The New York Times, upon the publication in 1992 of Mr. Maloney's book The Pariah's Handbook, A Literary Guide to the Underworld.
"For six years, Maloney managed to be where the fire and thunder raged. Sometimes he sparked trouble himself. He was a controversial figure who battled crooks and editors, not necessarily in that order. He also inspired loyalty in some, who saw in him the stuff of greatness," Brisbane said.
In early 1980, Mr. Maloney, as a reporter for The Register in Orange County, Calif., broke the Freeway Killer Story and coined the phrase "Freeway Killer." At one point the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department publicly said the Freeway Killer was a figment of The Register's imagination. William Bonin was subsequently arrested, convicted of 14 murders, and executed in early 1996. After Bonin's arrest, Maloney went on television and revealed the existence of a second freeway killer and that man, Randy Craft, is presently awaiting execution in California.
Mr. Maloney had two stints as editor of the New Times, an alternative newspaper in Kansas City that ceased publishing at the end of October 1997. From September 1991 through December 1993, he was the paper's first editor. After working five years as a paralegal and investigator for Willard Bunch, a criminal defense attorney, Mr. Maloney returned to the New Times in May of 1997 to write a two-part investigative report based on his final case with Mr. Bunch.
In the understated, straight-forward, piston-driving prose that distinguished his writing from as far back as his prison days, he recounted in scrupulous detail how an ATF agent and an assistant U.S. attorney conspired to frame five innocent people in the deaths of six Kansas City firefighters tragically killed in 1988. The articles further revealed the charade of a trial a U.S. District judge presided over that culminated in the convictions of all five defendants, and their subsequent sentencing to life in prison without the possibility of parole. For these articles, the Missouri Bar Association awarded Mr. Maloney its "Excellence in Legal Journalism Award." The complete text of these articles, along with many other of Mr. Maloney's articles and essays, is available on this web site.
In the course of working for The Kansas City Star and The Register in Orange County, Mr. Maloney was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize five times. He won the American Bar Association's highest award, The Silver Gavel, and he was the winner of the American Society of Newspaper Publishers award for the Best Investigative Story.
Mr. Maloney is the author of two novels, I Speak for the Dead (1982) and The Chain (1986) and a volume of poetry, Beyond the Wall (1973). He is survived by his mother, Bernice Siebel of Webster Groves, Mo., who visited her son in prison every month without fail and who wrote him a letter every single day he was incarcerated. Mr. Maloney was buried in Sunset Cemetery in Afton, Mo.
Journalism and Writing Awards:
1970 Conover Prize for Poetry (St. Louis)
1974 American Bar Association Silver Gavel
1974 Kansas Bar/Media Award
1977 Distinguished Community Service (Optimists, Kansas City)
1977 Herbert Bayard Swope Awards, Honorable Mention
1978 American Bar Association, Certificate of Merit
1979 American Newspaper Publishers Association, Best Investigative Story
1979 Distinguished Service in Journalism, Penn Valley Community College (Local)
1980 Sigma Delta Chi Award, Society of Professional Journalists and Orange County Press Club
1980 Watchdog Award, Orange County Press Club
1980 2nd Place in Best Law/Administration of Justice Article, Orange County Press Club
1980 2nd Place in Entertainment Writing, Orange County Press Club
1993 2nd Place in Investigative Reporting, Kansas City Press Club
1993 Thorpe Menn Award (Book--AAUW—Kansas City Branch)
1997 Excellence in Legal Journalism, Missouri Bar Association
Pulitzer Prize Nominations:
1973 Kansas City Star: For Prison series that won ABA Silver Gavel
1975 Kansas City Star: For stories on seven men convicted of murder in 1954 during a prison riot
1976 Kansas City Star: For stories on Mafia infiltration of River Quay
1977 Kansas City Star: For stories on Mafia infiltration of River Quay
1980 Orange County Register: For stories on Freeway Killer case
1973 Beyond The Wall, Greenfield Review Press, Poetry
1982 I Speak For The Dead, Andrews & McMeel, Novel
1985 I Speak For The Dead, Berkley Publishing (Paperback version)
1986 The Chain, Berkley Publishing, Novel
1992 The Pariah's Handbook, Woods Colt Press, Essays