Survived By One – A Review

Survived by OneSurvived By One tells the devastatingly sad story of Thomas V. Odle, who was still a teenager in 1985 when he murdered all of his close family members – his parents, two brothers, and his sister. Dr. Hanlon, the author of the book and forensic neuropsychologist, traces young Tom’s life from his childhood to his teens, and then from his arrest through to his prison sentence. Odle had been on Death Row in Illinois, but this was eventually changed to life in prison after a series of landmark court cases. While in prison, Odle reached out to Dr. Hanlon to help put his life in perspective. With Odle’s assistance and permission, Hanlon has expertly put together this life story of a killer.

Apart from being very accessible, one of the best things about this book is how Odle’s story is told. Hanlon describes the life of Odle, which includes his expert psychological analysis of events in Tom’s life, as well as the historical and legal context of the story, and splices in Odle’s own personal narratives. This allows the reader to build up a rich idea of how Tom’s mind and life perspective developed throughout his childhood. For those seeking to understand how a person could commit familicide, Hanlon’s telling of the story is genius.

The story also reminds us that nothing is black and white when it comes to understanding human behavior. Even though Tom was physically and psychologically abused as a child, many abused children do not go on to murder anyone, let alone their entire family. Odle displayed Conduct Disorder as a teenager and developed the habit of taking numerous drugs on a relatively frequent basis. But Odle considered taking his own life before he even thought about taking the lives of his family, and when he did eventually take their lives, he explained it as an out of body experience that he just watched happen.

I highly recommend this book to anyone, not just students of psychology or criminology, who are interested in the question of what makes a killer.

5 thoughts on “Survived By One – A Review

  1. Pingback: Q&A With Dr. Edward Hanlon (Survived By One) | Blame the Amygdala

  2. Rhonda Gregory Wooden

    At 18 years of age if he did not “like”life at home he should have left rather than kill 3 innocent children. In fact, his parents had given him the ultimatum to move out the next day. Thats when he decided in his drug induced state to kill rather than have to move and support himself. Neighbors knew something wasn’t right that day as he had his own vehicle and was forbidden to drive his parents car….well that day, he was all over town in his parents car. Abused…I think NOT. How about the abuse he showed towards his siblings in the ways he tortured them?????


    1. Jack Pemment Post author

      There is often a cycle of violence in these cases. There is no denying that Tom Odle was horribly abused by his mother from childhood through his teen years, and there is no denying that Odle also had conduct problems and behaved badly towards others.



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