Judy Muller, of Norwood, has released her third book, “The Redheaded Cook of the Desert: Meth, Murder and Motherhood.” Muller, who’s already authored two other books and has retired from her journalism career, told The Norwood Post over the weekend she just couldn’t let the new book’s story go.
Muller said her brother, retired police officer and Norwood community leader John Mansfield, told her if she were looking for a good story she should speak to the waitress working at Kristi’s Kitchen (previously the restaurant in Hotel Norwood), since she’s on lifetime parole for murder.
As a result, Muller took Cheri Mathews out to lunch and started the conversation. When Muller asked Mathews to speak of the murder, Mathews asked back, “which one?”
Muller said she was instantly hooked. That began a year and a half collaboration of what Muller said was a story that she truly needed telling.
To do so required working through the COVID pandemic and contacting Mathew’s ex-cellmates, who all said the same thing: they knew they’d get a call someday to speak about Mathews. Muller also dug through old letters Mathews wrote to her children de ella, and even sifted through Mathew’s autobiography she wrote while in prison.
Mathews served 16 years, but was released on a lifetime parole to be with her children.
For Muller, it took a while to figure out how to put the book together. She said it focuses on Mathew’s life from him, but it includes the conversation that happened while interviewing for the story and writing it.
Also a former alcoholic who’s also battled addiction, Muller said the story invited her to reflect on her own life, her upbringing and the way things turned out for her — very different than the “short straws” Mathews drew in life.
Writing the book was a journey for both women — Muller has even given credit to Mathews on the cover.
Mathews, who now lives in Nucla, is receiving her credentials to work as a drug and alcohol counselor. Her life from her is vastly different on the other side of incarceration. In fact, the book’s cover states that prison actually saved Mathews’ life from her.
Muller said the book could save others’ lives too. She was recently in LA reading portions of it to patients in recovery centers and halfway houses. People have been reaching out to thank Muller for telling Mathews’ story about her. It’s impacting people, and inspiring them to want to live better.
“I think it will help people help people who are struggling,” Muller said.
Muller said it’s easy for some people to judge addicts. On the contrary, she thinks the book helps to humanize those struggling with addiction.
“I think we need to do that,” Muller said. “Get help for folks, don’t condemn them.”
Muller and Mathews are teaming up for a talk at Wilkinson Public Library in Telluride on May 31. They’ll read excerpts from the book and speak with those in attendance. They’ll also do a book talk at Mesa Rose in Norwood on June 16 at 7 pm Refreshments will be provided. Muller said other talks are in the works for Naturita and also Ouray.
Besides being an award-winning broadcast journalist and a college professor, Muller also wrote “Now This: Radio, Television and the Real World” and “Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns.” Her books by her are available on Amazon. For those that attend her local talks, she will probably sign them too.