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When Liza Rodman and her little sister spent their summers in Cape Cod in the 1960s, they adored their “fun and handsome” babysitter Tony, but a string of violent nightmares Rodman had decades later sparked an astonishing discovery: that beloved babysitter had been a serial killer.
Rodman's family spent summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, after her mother Betty, a single parent, got a seasonal job at an area hotel called the Royal Coachman in 1967. But Betty enjoyed the town's social scene and was often looking for babysitters to watch over her girls. Rodman told Oxygen.com that her mother, with whom she had a strained relationship, was even known for approaching strangers on the streets asking them to look after her daughters.
One of Rodman's babysitters, Tony Costa, wasn't a complete stranger, however. He worked as a handyman at the Royal Coachman, so Betty knew him, at least somewhat. Costa, as it turned out, was soon suspected of murdering at least four women between 1968 and 1969. Rodman and her sister were babysat by him from 1967 to 1969, the same years he was active. He was convicted of killing two: Patricia Walsh, and Mary Anne Wysocki, whose dismembered bodies were found in a garden Costa had used for growing marijuana. Rodman recalled Costa even taking her and her sister that same wooded area at around the time when the murders would've occurred, though she never noticed anything odd or dark about him.
“We had some horrible babysitters and Tony was not one of them,” Rodman reflected. “He was fun and he was handsome and he paid attention to us.”
In the early 2000s, however, Rodman began having a series of violent nightmares while living in the dorms of Vermont College (now known as the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier), where she was finishing up a bachelor's degree in writing.
She began journaling about the nightmares, which always involved her being hunted by a man, she told Oxygen.com. While she typically was unable to view the man's face in the dreams, one night his image was clear: it was her babysitter Tony from decades prior.
At that point, Rodman had no idea about his killing spree. When she reached out to her mother to recount the nightmare, Betty casually informed her that Tony “became a serial killer,” Rodman recalled to Oxygen.com.
Rodman details the complicated summers, both with her mother and her serial killer babysitter in “The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer” which was published on Tuesday. Investigative journalist Jennifer Jordan, who co-wrote the book, told Oxygen.com that the memoir is “all about survival.”
Jordan said that while it’s an account of a child’s friendship with a killer, it also grapples with childhood abuse.
“It’s not only about surviving a serial killer but surviving a mother that she was more afraid of than a serial killer and emerging into the world whole, balanced and loving,” she told Oxygen.com.
Costa left a grisly trail in his wake. The body of Susan Perry, a teen acquaintance of his, was discovered first out in by his marijuana garden. It had been cut into eight pieces. Investigators later recovered the bodies of Walsh and Wysocki and another suspected victim, Sydney Monzon.
Costa was convicted of murder for Walsh and Wysocki and sentenced to life in prison in 1970. He died four years later of a reported suicide.
Rodman told Oxygen.com that her link to Costa “expanded” her view on humanity and morality.
“We all have a dark side,” she said. “There’s not one of us who can claim that we don’t explore our dark side at some point in our lives.”
"The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer" is published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.
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