Interview with Liza Rodman: How she learned from her childhood was serial killer Tony Costa


the first time Liza Rodman’s caretaker Tony Costa took her to her “secret garden”, she was confused. At the age of nine, she saw herself as a garden connoisseur. Her farmer’s grandfather had taught her how to grow tomatoes and lettuce, among other “cool things”. So when Costa told her about his garden in the woods of Truro, Massachusetts, Rodman thought her knowledge would be useful. But when she arrived, she felt upset and sad.

“The first thing that really came back to me was, ‘What kind of garden is this? What are we looking at? ‘ Rodman reports on the phone decades later.

That question – who are we looking at? – would not get a proper answer until 2005, when Rodman discovered that her beloved childhood carer, the “cool”, “defenseless” young man who had gained trust and respect as a child, was a serial killing. And that “secret garden” he has? It was the graveyard of four victims.

That achievement is a theme The Babysitter: My Summers with Serial Killing, a new book co-written by Rodman and her longtime friend Jennifer Jordan. The book follows a tradition started by Ann Rule The Stranger next to me, her account of working with serial killer Ted Bundy before the world, including Rule, became aware of his crimes. Am Babysitter innovates by telling the stories of Rodman and Costa in alternate chapters, and is a strong, sensitive mix of memory and real crime.

Antone “Tony” Costa was born on August 2, 1944 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 18 when he married his 14-year-old bride, Avis, at a Catholic church in Provincial Town. Costa killed three children, got separated, worked construction jobs, established himself as a major drug supplier in the voluntary community of Provincetown (a seaside town in northern Cape Cod), and gathered a posse of boys teenagers (whom he referred to as his disciples) and girls (his “baby chicks”) who followed him around “like a guru”. He was also, as Rodman and Jordan report, responsible for the deaths of five women, four of whom were found buried in the woods of Truro.

Police join Antone ‘Tony’ Costa on May 13, 1970 at the scene in Truro, Massachusetts, where the bodies of the murdered women were found.

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Police join Antone ‘Tony’ Costa on May 13, 1970 at the scene in Truro, Massachusetts, where the bodies of the murdered women were found.

(Photo AP / Frank Curtin)

For most of her adult life, Rodman did not know about this. After the Costa murder lawsuit, she never learned what happened to him – and, she writes Am Babysitter, “By the time the summer of 1970 came around, I stopped asking”. Then, in the 2000s, she began a violent nightmare. For two years, they imported an “anonymous man with a knife or gun”. In 2005 came the nightmare that changed everything: the man was no longer anonymous. It was Tony Costa, and Rodman couldn’t figure out what he was doing in his dream.

She asked her mother. “I don’t get it,” Rodman said. “He was always so nice to me. What do you remember about it? ”

“Well,” replied Rodman’s mother. “I remember he was a serial killer.”

When Rodman expressed his contempt – “Our Tony? Serial killing? ”- her mother dismissed your worries. “Yes, what if?” she said, from Rodman ‘s own recollection. “He didn’t kill you, did he?”

As Rodman tells him, the most impressive element was not only that she was never afraid of Tony, but that he was a trusted trustworthy adult in her life. In Am Babysitter, she describes a difficult childhood. At the same time, Costa was like that cool cousin who “knew the cool music and had the right jeans at the bottom of the bell and the shoes that were really cool”.

“He was a little older and had children and a wife and was not as accessible as a cousin, but he was cool,” Rodman says. “Sometimes you meet people on guard, and I didn’t feel that way about Tony. He was not a protected man. I remember always courting around, always doing. He was a doer. ”

Liza Rodman

(Joel Benjamin)

Tony Costa on the fourth day of his trial in Barnstable, Massachusetts, on May 14, 1970

(Photo AP / Frank Curtin)

Through it Am Babysitter, Costa ferries Rodman and his younger sister around in his car – each time starting a fun adventure for the young Liza. He reaches into his pockets and pulls out a change so the girls can buy lollipops. He sings on the radio in the car. He looks “like Elvis Presley”, with his “hair pulled back by Vaseline and a slippery smile on his face”. Her presence comes in stark contrast to her unhappy home life.

After learning the truth about Costa in 2005, Rodman shared the story with Jordan. The two, now 62, met four decades ago, when they were both students at the University of Massachusetts. (Jordan was brewing coffee with his own brewing machine; Rodman, tired of drinking poor quality joe, was lured by the smell and knocked on Jordan’s dorm door, a mug of coffee in his hand.) years, Jordan, author, film- maker, and screenwriter, persuaded Rodman to turn her experiences with Costa into a book. Rodman held a tour around the issue, until finally, Jordan’s professional record cleared and she offered herself up as a co-author.

It is obviously open to Rodman’s account. But the statement she is painting is straightforward, unexpected in terms of clarity: she trusted and liked Costa as a child because she had no reason not to. She trusted him and liked him because she didn’t really know him.

The two women take the same mental intensity to their investigation today into Costa’s crimes. They take pains to represent his victims as human beings of full respect, dignity and humanity. The two women convicted of murder were Mary Mary Wysocki and Patricia Walsh, two friends who had gone to high school and university together. (Walsh was a teacher; Wysocki hoped to be one.) The remains of two others, Sydney Monzon and Susan Perry, were found in the woods in Truro. Prosecutors did not try him for their murder, choosing instead to focus on the Wysocki and Walsh cases, for which they had more evidence, according to Rodman. A few days after our first conversation, she notes in an email about Monzon and Perry: “They never got justice. ”

A fifth woman, Christine Gallant, was found on her knees facing down in a bathtub, after she died from what Rodman and Jordan describe as a “monstrous dose” of barbiturate. She had three cigarette butts on her chest and a brush on her shoulder. While Gallant’s death ruled “possible suicide” due to the presence of barbiturates in her system, the authors make a strong case against this theory, based on Gallant’s body position when found, the burns on her chest, his relationship with Costa’s divorce, and the fact that she intended to marry someone else. In the book, Rodman and Jordan write that Costa “unknowingly or deliberately” administered the juice, concluding: “Again, Tony Costa was the man finally saw a young woman alive. ”

The Babysitter, co-written by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan


In their investigation of Costa ‘s crimes, Jordan and Rodman examined the lives of three additional women whose names came up in conversations about potential serial killers. All three died, but it turned out that their death had nothing to do with Costa. These exposures have a profound effect on the book and the research work that underpins it. Real crime can be a deceptive genre, prone to speculation and speculation; The depth of Jordan and Rodman is a reminder that truth matters. “The families of these three women did not know that their mothers and sisters had been there [falsely] linked to serial killing, ”says Jordan. “They had no idea that this man Tony Costa lived and killed on the east coast and that their three family members were connected in this dark way. “

Understanding as an adult that a child was a serial killer to a child is likely to maintain a person’s belief in people, both strangers and lovers. When I raise the issue with Rodman, she says that she has no “real ability” to trust: “I wouldn’t know trust if he was sitting next to me, looking at my thigh and saying, ‘Is it is this; this is trust. ‘I don’t know what it is and I don’t know what it looks like. “

Her experiences with Costa may have played a part, she says, among other personal experiences. “I was a bit used to people disappearing. It wasn’t a very reliable environment … I’m amazed by people whose parents were warm, nurturing, because that wasn’t our experience. Trust is an issue. ”

The Babysitter: My Summers With a Serial Killer is published by Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)