I found The Donna Gentile Story to be an exceptional writing piece from a family member who left it all out on the table. The author’s first cousin who courageously has pushed aside her the hurt and anger of this senseless unsolved murder because she believes it is more important that the truth about Donna’s murder be told. As a retired police detective I believe this book is well written and really shows how some can tarnish the badge, and smear those that serve honorably through their criminal and immoral behavior. I highly recommend this book it’s a very good read.
The book opened my mind to a whole new subject of which was a learning experience for me. Donna Gentile was like so many of us an ordinary person who escaped a challenging family life and turned to sex work to survive. The author’s first cousin lovingly goes through the story article by article, moment by moment to bring Donna’s story to life for us. Donna worked as an informant for the SDPD to expose corrupt cops; but the department abandoned her, while she sought to transition away from the commercial sex trade. This book is also a critique of the institutionalized abuse of sex workers by police departments. The author chronicles Donna’s difficult childhood of having emotionally damaged parents, who tried to show her love but they did not know how. This emptiness led her on a search to seek love and respect that she deserved like anyone else.
The Donna Gentile Story is poignant in the era of disclosures around women and the rights to their bodies. Donna made the ultimate sacrifice in speaking up for those rights along with the corruption of law enforcement, judges and politicians which continues today.
In June 1985, the 22-year-old’s naked body was found dumped off Sunrise Highway in the East County.
“Personally, I feel law enforcement can be complicit in her murder,” said Defrancesco during an interview from her home in Philadelphia.The book also makes public – for or the first time – the medical examiner’s toxicology report, showing that cocaine was in Gentile’s system. Semen and saliva were found in three different areas of her body. If a person is a prostitute, DNA can be found on them that wouldn’t necessarily mean that the DNA belonged to the perpetrator of the murder,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Dennis Brugos in the 2007 interview.
After her death, detectives combed through Gentile’s apartment.
What is powerful is that because, not despite, the conversational language the message is forcefully presented: In a city such as San Diego, those who are supposed to “…serve and protect…” can be far more sinister, even murderous, than many of the criminal element whom we are told are the real danger. This can happen anywhere. Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, or in a rural small town.
In this case a grisly, brutal murder took place. Most likely committed by a person or persons who are given power to “protect”. This description isn’t merely exaggeration for the sake of sensationalism. It’s tragically factual.
The victim was certainly not an innocent bystander. She supported herself by prostitution and worked to become a police officer. This is not uncommon in some cities. Many women involved in prostitution become close to police officers and the law enforcement apparatus. I was acquainted with one such woman who lived and worked in Atlantic City, N.J. and did, indeed, become a police officer.
Ms. Gentile was struggling to stabilize and eventually better her life. She wound up caught between factions that left limited options and questionable choices.
Inevitably, that became a deadly combination.
I felt empathy with the characters, who are no more flawed than anyone might be. Ms. DeFrancesco’s presentation is straightforward, unpolished, even sensational. It is also moving, powerful, and truly unsettling in its narration of an operatic, tragic story.
A very informative true murder story of a young heroic girl who stood up against evil, pushed boundaries was fearless and resilient in a time when women didn’t have a voice. A fantastic crime thriller that kept me in suspense.
“Brilliant…Emotionally devastating. Anita DeFrancesco finds shocking answers to questions most of us do not dare to ask.”
The Donna Gentile Story made national headlines. She had agreed to work with Internal Affairs to take down corrupt police officer. She knew it was a high stakes game she was playing. When her body was found at the top of Laguna Mountain with gravel stuffed in her mouth, it was quite a statement. The City of San Diego sealed her autopsy – aberrant behavior for a city preaching transparency. It was seen as a love triangle but it was so much more. There was a patrolman she feared and a Lieutenant she felt drawn to but they were both being investigated by Internal Affairs. Donna’s testimony pushed these men out of the jobs that they loved.
Her life of prostitution put her at risk, her affiliation with police raised the stakes, but becoming an informant for Internal Affairs pushed the risk beyond the breaking point. Sitting in jail she foretold her own demise. “I reported the patrolman for sexually harassing me. My life is in danger when I get out, the cops are waiting for me.”
Donna Gentile’s story is written by her cousin that knew her well. She had access to diaries, letters, and personal effects as Anita DeFrancesco wrote the definitive book about this murder. She poured her soul into the work and the result is a page turner that will not disappoint. For many of you that are long time readers, DeFrancesco wrote a column in the Century City News for over a dozen years. This book is her crowning literary achievement.
“When I looked at this book, I could feel Donna’s spirit come alive knowing that her family is finally getting to tell the true story behind her murder and get the justice they deserve.”
What I love about this book is the author’s way of making all of the characters pop right out of the page. She makes you understand what makes them tick. The story is about the author’s young cousin who ran away from a long term detention center, went to San Diego, and became a prostitute. There she developed a complicated relationship with the police, and was manipulated into becoming a police informant. She was even called to testify at a Civil Service hearing involving a police offer, and was scheduled to appear at another hearing when she was found naked and dead in a remote part of San Diego County, with gravel stuffed down her throat – the traditional punishment for a “snitch.” Before she died she had left a tape recording with her attorney which began, “In case I disappear somewhere or am missing…” and suggesting that “someone in uniform with a badge” might be a criminal.
Her death is still unsolved, and the author has spent many years tracking down the many tangled leads. As I read “The Donna Gentile Story” I felt as if I were reading a first-rate mystery novel, with all the possible suspects and others involved presented as if they were standing right in front of me. But as the author writes on several occasions, “You decide!” She gives you all of the evidence, all of the twists and turns and blind alleys, and then challenges you to solve the mystery. I came to a conclusion, but the more I think about it, I may be wrong…
This book is a classic page-turner. No one will be able to put it down. It is also a highly insightful and perceptive look at prostitution and police corruption, and how they can be intertwined in tragic ways. A five star plus book, in my opinion
The Donna Gentile Story” is the story of two women: Donna Gentile, a runaway who went to San Diego, was manipulated into becoming a police informant, and ended up being murdered, quite possibly by a member or members of the San Diego Police Department; and of Donna’s cousin Anita DeFrancesco’s daring, passionate quest to learn the truth about Donna’s death. It’s a real page turner which explores the depths of police corruption, and of law enforcement agencies’ willingness to write off a young woman’s death as “NHI” –“no human involved.”
The Donna Gentile Story by Anita DeFrancesco.is an important read because it delves into the painful reality that a specific group of people – sex workers – cannot expect police protection, nor could they expect people to care.Today, we are reprimanded if we neglect to fully embrace same sex marriages and people with transgender issues. However, sex workers remain on the chopping block. Their predicaments are met with indifference and sometimes pure contempt.“You brought this on yourself,” is a standard response they hear when they ask for help. This is why you should read this disturbing book.Anita DeFrancesco paints a painful picture of how her loving cousin Donna Gentile had no choice but to run away from home. She had to sell her body in order to survive on her own. The teenaged Gentile had to fend for herself.You will learn how life at home in Philadelphia with her family was a living hell. She had to drop out of school, get as far away from The City of Brotherly Love as possible.She joined the ranks of the voiceless, the pariahs, who in reality were nothing more than the sex workers.You will read how specific San Diego police officers exploited Gentile’s predicament. They used her for sex; for snitching. They did it because they could. In their eyes, she was nobody – just a sex worker whose life did not matter.To prevent another Gentile tragedy, read this book and then organize. Make sure that what happened to this young lady does not happen again. Although December 17 is The International Day to End violence Against Sex Workers. This book stresses that we cannot just help them once a year on December 17. .
A must read book!
We are in a time of unveiling corruption on all levels. The recent investigations in the media are numerous to any longer turn a blind eye to what at risk runaway endure as sex workers! It time to empower their voices and put down the shame blaming to heal! A powerful read! A time when “Me Too” is on the forefront of woman’s Awakening, Awareness and pro-Active!