Ugly Prey by Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi

Ugly Prey Book Cover

Ugly Prey
Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi
True Crime, Non Fiction
Chicago Review Press
01 May 2017
I am the author of "Ugly Prey: An Innocent Woman and the Death Sentence that Scandalized Jazz Age Chicago." I write narrative nonfiction about women who lived before us. My goal is to add more women's stories to the history shelves.


An Italian immigrant who spoke little English and struggled to scrape together a living on her primitive family farm outside Chicago, Sabella Nitti was arrested in 1923 for the murder of her missing husband. Within two months, she was found guilty and became the first woman ever sentenced to hang in Chicago. Journalist Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi leads readers through Sabella’s sensational case, showing how, with no evidence and no witnesses, she was the target of an obsessed deputy sheriff and the victim of a faulty legal system. She was also—to the men who convicted her and the reporters fixated on her—ugly. For that unforgiveable crime, the media painted her as a hideous, dirty, and unpredictable immigrant, almost an animal.

Lucchesi brings to life the sights and sounds of 1920s Chicago—its then-rural outskirts, downtown halls of power, and headline-making crimes and trials, including those of two other women (who would inspire the musical and film Chicago) also accused of killing the men in their lives. But Sabella’s fellow inmates Beulah and Belva were beautiful, charmed the all-male juries, and were quickly acquitted, raising doubts among many Chicagoans about the fairness of the “poor ugly immigrant’s” conviction.

Featuring an ambitious and ruthless journalist who helped demonize Sabella through her reports, and the brilliant, beautiful, twenty-three-year-old lawyer who helped humanize her with a jailhouse makeover, Ugly Prey is not just a page-turning courtroom drama but also a thought-provoking look at the intersection of gender, ethnicity, class, and the American justice system.

‘Ugly Prey‘ tells the story of Sabella Nitti who was wrongfully convicted in the Chicago 1920’s.

This book is a true crime, courthouse page turner which sometimes looses itself in the many details and urge of the writer to tell everything. Nevertheless it is absolutely worth reading, the storytelling is great. It keeps a pace and holds your interest.
Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi knows how to recreate and tell a story and paint a picture of how Nitti lived in a by men ruled society. Nitti’s living conditions and relationships with her family come to life thanks to Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi.

I really enjoyed ‘Ugly Prey‘ and would recommend it to everyone.
I subtracted 1 star because of the many amount of details which sometimes holds the story back.


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