Tomas Ray Crowel has been publishing his own business books and novels under his Success Press banner in Highland, Ind., and one of his most recent books led to the re-opening into the death of a local girl. The story began a few years ago when Crowel stumbled on the grave of an 11-year-old girl named Brandi Peltz. When Crowel started asking people in the town about Peltz, he was told she drowned while taking a bath. Crowel found out that, in 1986, police investigated the case as a murder, but later dropped it. Nonetheless, community members in the small Indiana town suspected foul play, and that a person known as “The Passerby” might be involved in the Peltz's death. (The mysterious character was the first to notice the girl’s house was on fire, and claimed to have tried to resuscitate her in the tub.)
Crowel decided to fictionalize the story in his novel The Passerby, using much of what he found investigating the real Peltz case for nearly three years. Even before Success Press published The Passerby, the Indiana State Police were interested in finding out what Crowel uncovered, much to the chagrin of the Sheriff, who wanted to keep the case closed.
When the book published last year and Success distributed the title to chain and independent bookstores in Indiana and nearby Chicagoland, the community responded immediately and the 5,000-copy first printing sold out. (Success is almost sold out of its second 5,000 copies.) Now, with more than 1,300 comments about the book on an Amazon reviewers web site, the Peltzer cold murder case was back in the news and The Passerby was the reason.
When a local television news featured the book and questioned why the case had not been solved, the community put more pressure on the Sheriff to re-open the case. In January, the Sheriff invited the State Police into a new investigation of the Peltz murder. For years the fight for jurisdiction prevented the police from opening the case again, but community pressure sparked by The Passerby made it happen.
The Indiana State Police Cold Case Division cannot comment on the status of the case, but Crowel, who has been in contact with the investigators for months said he thinks they are close to solving it.
Crowel is dedicating all of the proceeds from The Passerby to various charities. “I believe in angels and a divine intervention to write this book,” he said. The book is dedicated to “the angels who guide us."