In 2001, Finkel was a prize-winning feature writer for the New York Times. He had a gorgeous home in Bozeman, Mont., and a beautiful, intelligent girlfriend who had moved all the way from Alabama to be with him. "We felt like there was something deeper here that had to be explored," says Jill Barker, Finkel's girlfriend. "It just seemed like we should give this a chance." But Finkel's ambition had a darker side. "He had built his self-esteem around being Michael Finkel of The New York Times, and he was starting to get really intoxicated with all the attention," says Barker. "Pretty soon, I realized that I had to walk away from this relationship." His drive to outdo his competition and himself resulted in Finkel fabricating a portion of a story on child slavery in West Africa. His bosses found out and he was fired. "It was something I wish I could take back," says Finkel. "Really badly." In an instant, Finkel lost the career he'd been building his entire life. Scorned by his colleagues, Finkel retreated to Montana, awaiting the merciless media inquiries that were sure to come. The first call came sooner than expected, but the reporter wasn't interested in Finkel's fall from grace. Instead, he was calling about a murder of a family in Oregon.
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