John Munday weaves true crime story with murder victim’s experience in heaven

Avery Cropp
Stillwater Gazette

Isanti resident John Munday talks about forgiveness in his new novel, “Marlys in Heaven.”

Marlys Ann Wohlenhaus was murdered in 1979 in her Afton home by a serial killer. After 20 years — Munday, Wohlenhaus’s stepfather, and her mother, Fran Wohlenhaus-Munday — gained justice for Marlys Wohlenhaus after her killer was charged with first-degree murder. ob_book_bw

Munday has written five other novels, one of which speaks about their fight for justice for Marlys and others that help people learn how to deal with grief and the loss of a child. But his latest book is different. It’s about forgiveness.

“The idea behind the novel is that we’ve taken the true crime aspects of the story and interwoven it with what we imagine Marlys may have experienced in heaven,” Munday said. “She’s gone through the tunnel that everyone talks about and then she is told that she has to forgive her killer to be fully with God on the other side.”

Part true crime story and part fiction, the book recounts events that are true and throws in conversations Marlys is imagined to have with people she meets in heaven. Although Munday acknowledges that no one really knows what happens in heaven, the Isanti-based lawyer who also holds a Master’s degree in theology believes that the book is a way to keep the memory of Marlys alive.

“It’s a reflection on what forgiveness really means for both her mother and Marlys and what we imagine it (heaven) might have been like for Marlys,” Munday said.

The book was inspired from an exercise Munday did with a group of men on a church retreat.

“The first time I talked about it, I imagined that she (Marlys) had a conversation with Aristotle and used a scene where she meets Cain and Abel and asked them to explain what they thought it was like in heaven. Then I asked the men to explain what they thought heaven would be like as well.” Munday said. “It was pretty powerful and there were a lot of tears shed.”

He went on to add conversations with her killer’s other victims to help Marlys understand what forgiveness is about. Which is what Munday aims to do for other readers who might also be crime victims or have been impacted by crime in their lives.

“Everyone I know has dealt with some kind of crime in life. Whether it’s crime against themselves or a loved one, they need justice on earth, but they also need to find forgiveness in the after-life.” Munday said. “I want them to know that they can get both and that it doesn’t have to be an internal struggle between the two. They don’t have to choose forgiveness or justice. They can get both.”

He also hopes that people who haven’t dealt with crime in their lives pick up the book to help them understand what victims and their families deal with in the aftermath of a crime.

Persons can purchase the book at Munday expects a Kindle version of “Marlys in Heaven” soon.

John S. Munday is a lawyer and writer who lives with his wife, Fran, in Isanti, Minn. He has a master’s degree in theology from Princeton Seminary and is active in the ELCA. He is the author of six other books.