What if everything you believed about your family was a myth?

The Secrets They Kept – Book by Suzanne Handler

Praise for The Secrets They Kept


The Secrets They Kept provides valuable insight into the struggle all families of mentally ill people face. It is interesting to note that the stigma of mental illness is the reason early psychiatrists were called “alienists” and why our hospitals were placed at the edge of town (or outside it) in many cases. Isolated from society, without family involvement, patients often died, and continue to die, even today. Mercy killing is a subject yet to be dealt with in our society, but I believe we will come to hear a great deal more about this as our population ages and loses function. As a psychiatrist, I understand that such decisions can be the only way out for some people struggling against overwhelming odds. The truth is, none of us can really “feel the pain” a mentally ill person experiences.
You have provided a great public service in the writing of this book.

Howard Fisher, M.D., Psychiatrist
Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo

The questionable morality of mercy killing is at the center of this book: The Secrets They Kept. On August 16, 1937, a father—Sam Levin fatally shot his 16-year-old daughter—Sally, at her pleading. She had attempted suicide on at least two separate occasions, and was desperate for her father’s help. Sally had been diagnosed with incurable and progressive dementia praecox, now known as schizophrenia. Her doctors had no other option than to order her commitment in the Wyoming Insane Asylum in Evanston—a location 400 miles from the only home she had ever known. This commitment constituted a life sentence behind bars, and in all likelihood in restraints.
As succinctly stated by the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming: “The case now before the Court is of a strange paradoxical nature and therefore the more difficult to dispose of. It can probably be most aptly described as one which is sometimes called ‘Mercy [sic] homicide.’ ” It is here noted that one definition of the term “homicide” is “the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another.” If this unlawful killing had a moral component, the Court could exercise its discretion in providing for a lenient sentence, and that constitutes the mystery of this well written book. Today, two states—Oregon and Washington—have enacted Death with Dignity Acts, which legalize physician assisted death, thus providing support for the claim of morality for such actions. All things considered, it is the opinion of this reviewer that the actions of the father—Sam Levin—while being clearly illegal, were nevertheless of a moral nature.

I would highly recommend reading this book.


Stuart C. Goldberg, Esq.
Former Asst. U.S. Attorney, Author of Death with Dignity

Every murder has its secrets.
Suzanne Handler has stumbled upon a decades old family secret and reveals it to the world in her intriguing and compelling book. Her well-researched investigation into this family’s tragic circumstance takes us on a journey through the social, religious and legal quagmires that existed in Wyoming, circa 1930. As a criminal defense attorney, I was especially interested in the procedures and process the accused traversed, as well as the conflict between the federal and local authorities as to how and where the matter would be tried, if at all. The author’s inclusion of the federal judge’s sound and eloquently reasoned decision, in its entirety, is a must read for anyone who faces the task of representing a seemingly indefensible case.

Philip Thornton
Attorney at Law, Tacoma, Washington

Click below to play a 30-second video of Suzanne talking about why she wrote The Secrets They Kept.