I find that a lot of people make jokes about my true crime book Wages of Sin being featured on the Investigation Discovery TV show Deadly Sins. There are just too many “sins” there not to crack a joke or a smile. And I must admit that I smirk a bit when I say that the book is the case of the Southern Baptist killer stripper — a woman who was reared a devout Southern Baptist, became a stripper, then a killer. But believe me, the case is not a joke. It’s a murder that still haunts people today.

"Wages of Sin"

For those who haven’t read the book or seen the Deadly Sins episode, let me summarize that it’s about Stephanie Martin, a beautiful young woman who danced in the Austin, Texas, strip club, the Yellow Rose. One night Stephanie was working the Rose when a young man named Will Busenburg walked in. Will was a polisher of orthopedic parts, but he told Stephanie he was a hitman for the CIA. Stephanie claimed to buy his story. In fact, she metaphorically lusted over his career as a hitman for our country and told Will — as well as many others — that she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. Months later, she and Will decided to fulfill her fantasy by killing Will’s roommate, a handsome young man named Chris Hatton. Not surprisingly, Stephanie says the murder was all Will’s doing and Will says it was all Stephanie’s doing.

I’m not going to tell you much more about the book, because I want you to buy and read it, of course. Only in Wages of Sin can you read Stephanie’s verbatim account of what happened. By verbatim, I mean the book ends with an edited transcript of my prison interviews with her, complete with my observations about her physical reactions while telling her story. And only in the book will you be able to glimpse Will’s medical and psychological records from his high school years and read bits of his love letters to Stephanie.

But let me give you an example of how/why the crime still haunts people today beyond the very obvious fact that a handsome young man who was loved by many was murdered over the ridiculously narcissistic motive of the thrill of the kill.

Will Busenburg mugshot

Recently, a relative of Will’s emailed me and asked if I was the person who wrote Wages of Sin. When I said yes, she said I made him sound mean and cold-hearted and that he was a really good man. Then she added, “Btw wills (sic) behavior started as a child (sic) he and the other children including mu (sic) mother were abused (sic) his father took him to a (sic) adoption center and left him there until my grandmother picked him up (sic) that adoption center is where he met the ‘victim’. My uncle protected my mom from as much abuse as he could (sic) when there (sic) father was about to hit my mom he would jump in front and take the beating for her . . . My uncle was a good man.”

She still hurts from the crime. 

I also received an email from a man who said he was Stephanie Martin’s grade school boyfriend for 10 minutes: “She was always a nice girl, friendly, playfully snobish (sic) at times, but from a good Baptist home.” Later he added, “I wrote Steph once and she just wanted money, it was a real bummer, she is still scamming.” Twice he stated that Stephanie’s father isn’t doing well. If you read the book, you’ll understand why.

Stephanie Martin in prison

And then I received communication from a former inmate: “i just wanted to say that I was in prison with Stephine (sic) Martin and all the rest for 15 yrs. Stephine (sic) is a really sweet gil (sic) and a really good friend of mines (sic). Shes (sic) now on Mt. View unit speaking to the families of victims. She has truly matured since I met her when she first got to Hobby in 97. I was there when you were coming up there to write the book.”

But as I write all of that about Will and Stephanie, I don’t want you to forget the most important person in this case — their murder victim, Christopher Michael Hatton. His friends and family still grieve deeply for him. Deeply. 

Chris Hatton


Chris Hatton funeral

* * *

For an update on the story, read my blog post “The Taint of True Crime.” In fact, I encourage you to read the post.

You can find more photos from Wages of Sin on my Facebook page.

And you can purchase Wages of Sin through Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com.

* * *

Please check out my newest book, Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American SexualityIt’s a memoir about my journalistic research into Americans’ alternative sex lives.

Suzy Spencer is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist.
  1. Don Clark Reply
    Cant wait to read it! Thanks Suzy
  2. kerry donovan Reply
    Hi. What an insane girl!! Sometimes it is just too much freakish religion-happens a lot.... Isn't the ID version based on your book (Suzy)? Anyway, I feel NO empathy for SM at all but it does seem that Will was a little unstable? Of course, I feel great sadness for Chris Hatton to have lost his life for nothing; and for his family-what a grief-filled existence. PS-how did the only other commenter do so on January 13, 2013 at 9:53am? Hmmmm. Unless this site documented the time in another (time) zone/country for Mr. Clark.
  3. kerry donovan Reply
    posted time: I see the discrepancy. This website time is off by twelve hours. It is now 1:40am here but my comment supposedly posted at 1:40pm. That is cheesy.
  4. Jennifer Reply
    This is so bizarre for me... I've been pen-pals with Stephanie for nearly ten years. I never asked her for details of her crime, and she's never asked me for anything (money, gifts - nothing) - we've just written back and forth about daily life, family, etc. I only stumbled upon the 'true crime' story today. We put people in prison for rehabilitation, and then we scoff at that idea because we don't see that happen in many cases. I have to agree with the woman who spent time with Stephanie in prison - I correspond with a mature, empathetic, positive-minded woman. Is it not conceivable that she's overcome the defects of character that let to her imprisonment?
  5. Sherri Reply
    Jennifer - You have corresponded for 10 years with a woman who killed a man in cold blood. That is WHY Stephanie Martin is where she is. I can't say it is all well and fine if you don't know - or care - why she is in prison. You should know and care. Frankly, it is utterly bizarre to me that people seek out prisoners and then form a relationship that EXCLUDES the very reason why they are incarcerated. My gosh - talk about hiding your head in the sand! I'm sure you are an empathetic person, Jennifer. That seems to be the general demeanor of those drawn to prisoners. You want to do good, I acknowledge that - but your judgement on how and where to "do good" is off. There are people much worthier of your support and compassion, beginning with the family of Stephanie Martin's victim. You speak of Stephanie's admirable qualities. You think what counts is this carefully controlled and self-edited image she has crafted via her letters to you. What's not to love? It apparently matters naught to you that she killed a human being, maimed his family for all time, and violated civilized society's most basic tenet. You have determinedly shielded yourself from the ugly reality of Stephanie Martin's crime, and have allowed her to convince you that she's a decent human being. As far as I'm concerned, that makes you a sort of ethical and moral . . . COWARD. Sorry, I have to call this for what it is. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Jennifer - but I'm sure you are incapable of truly understanding why. Full disclosure: I started looking into this crime because the only photo I could find of Christopher Hatton is the one of him taken (most likely) in Navy basic training. I am a Marine Corps veteran, as is my husband. Our grown son (only a few years younger than Christopher) is currently an active-duty Marine. The Marine Corps is a department of the Navy, thus we are brothers- and sisters-in-arms. I went to a Navy school and my first serious BF was Navy. So when I saw Christopher in that oh-so-familiar uniform and realized that this shiny, handsome young man was dead and buried after being MURDERED - well, I had to find out what happened. I understand that Christopher was UA ("unauthorized absence" - the USN/USMC version of "AWOL") from the Navy when he died. Something went wrong and he ended up throwing his lot in with Stephanie's boyfriend and partner-in-crime. As the mother of a grown son and military veteran, my heart is broken for Christopher and his family. I have nothing but contempt for Stephanie Martin, and I hope that she is released from prison only when she is an elderly and decrepit woman - unlikely to harm anyone else and too old to have children.
    • Jennifer Reply
      You have a very narrow view of the world - and you weigh your judgements on a scale of morality in which you assign the value. I choose not to judge, and understand that but for the grace of God, it could have been me living out my life in prison. Carry on with your righteous indignation and condemnation of me over a single paragraph - that alone reveals your character. I didn't feel it necessary to product a resume of good deeds in order to substantiate mine, nor do I need to justify my relationship with Stephanie. Have an excellent life!
  6. Linda Reply
    I'm about in the middle of the book. Love it! Don't want to read to much here because I've already read through a twist I didn't expect, so there may be more! I do always like to see pictures of the victim, and even the killer(s) so I have faces with the story. I will definitely look for more of your books when I'm done with this one!
    • Suzy Reply
      Thank you, Linda. I appreciate your support.
  7. Chris Reply
    Just finished this book on kindle. You tell a very good story. I like the way you research all the majority characters background. It always strikes me as sad when two people meet and create the perfect storm for murder. Is it bad chemistry? Murder probably would not have happened if they had not met. Wasted is the other book I have read. My only criticism of the work is that at times the story becomes somewhat repetitive when going over verbatim court transcripts and interviews. I tend to gloss over some sections. Still, having said that, I look forward to more of your work on kindle.
    • Suzy Reply
      Thank you, Chris.
  8. Lesa Jaramillo Reply
    Well where do I start Christopher is my cousin. I am still so sad about this his life was takin to soon. I thank the Lord that vengeance is his. I keep my family coverd in prayer especially my Grandma & Grandpa Hatton.
  9. Sasha Reply
    I'm struggling to understand how anyone could view Stephanie Martin as a sympathetic creature. Does it matter who pulled the trigger? This woman had conspired to kill Christopher Hatton through sleeping pills with her lover who told the most ridiculous lies ever. Her lover, Will Busenberg whom she protects and writes love letters to, could only keep her enthralled through tales of murder. She goes along with not only mutilating a dead man's body but lying about a rape. This woman wasn't drugged or forced to be complicit in a murder. She enjoyed it and then further desecrated a corpse. It was a thrill kill that she was 100% a party too. Shame on anyone who feels one ounce of sympathy towards her.
  10. Christina Reply
    Reading this book now, Suzy thanks for telling the story. I also only think of Chris and his family, as their loss matters most in all of this. I've been reading true crime for years and never forget the victims. I find the perpetrators forgettable however, always cookie cutters of each other, they never change. Their characters and paths always similar. Only the time and places change. Stephanie Martin is where she belongs. She forfeited her life as well that day in 1995 and deserves to die in prison. She should never be allowed the opportunity of free will ever again and surely is the definition of evil. Although I cant stand people like her, keep writing stories such as these Suzy. There are so many to be told so that we never forget.
  11. Sarah Reply
    I'm all for forgiveness but Jennifer, you should not be bashing someone in defense of that vile woman. We here in Lake Charles know the true character of S.Martin. She is where she deserves to be, we can only thank the Lord she chose to bring her evil elsewhere. You ask ten people who knew her growing up and you'll get ten different answers to what her character is really like. She is a manipulator and gets into peoples good graces that way. Maybe it could be you in jail for a thrill kill and human mutilation, but not me. I value human life. She didn't.
  12. andreah Reply
    I was in jail with Stephanie Martin when she was first arrested we scammed how to get extra commissary and I cheated her out of her part. I knew it was about to get out of jail so when her parents came and put money on my book I said I never got it they put more on my book and then I got out of jail with money. you do what you gotta do to survive. first thing Stephanie did when she got there was to get her a girlfriend. you do what you gotta do to survive. so when a person is locked, up we all get "religion", we all of a sudden realize our priorities and what we've been doing is wrong, how our lives have been spent doing wrong and we swear when we get out how going to change. that lasts about maybe a couple of weeks, days. when you set foot out the prison or jail door? you go back to being the same.you say what you need to say you do what you need to do when you're behind those doors in order to survive. Don't become a victim.
  13. Brandy Cisneros Reply
    I was in jail when Stephanie came. I thought she was a sweet woman who was obsessed with her boyfriend enough to tell the police she was the one who killed Chris. I really thought that he manipulated her in to saying that. She never really looked like she wasn't worried about anything. I mean the whole time we were in there together tell you the truth now that I looked back at it she had no remorse. All these years had past and I was thinking about her so decided to look her up. I didn't even know there was a book out until I looked her up. I read the sample of the book and wrote to Stephanie. In her letters the first letter she was bragging about the book and told me they also replayed her on true crime. She even sent me a picture on with her first letter like she is proud to be famous. I wrote to her one more time and was going to keep in touch with her until I finished reading the whole book. After I read the book I was in shock like wow I mean I was in shock. This woman that I thought was manipulated in to helping get rid of the body had actually killed a man. I don't she deserves to get out because she still is proud of what she had done and I think she would think twice to do it again. She is and likes how it makes her feel to be a cold blooded murder. My condolences to Chris and his family. They stole from him and was constantly trying to kill him several times before she actually pulled the trigger . She should have recieved the death penalty or life without parole. I have not and will not ever write her agan
  14. Tammy Durall Reply
    To Jennifer she still killed an innocent person. Even a kindergartener would have known the right and wrong thing. Hope she never gets out. She needs to take her last breath for killing him years ago. Shame on you.
  15. Charlotte Cruz Reply
    I worked with Stephanie at the Yellow Rose when she murdered her boyfriends room mate. I actually thought she had killed her boyfriend until I saw this. I remember when I had heard she killed her boyfriend I was completely shocked. I can't remember her dance name at the time but it was not Stephanie. She was very quiet and nice. I remember how shocked I was because she was so sweet. Because of this murder it filled the club with sick people wanting to see where she worked and get a calendar she was in. I also remember her boyfriend and he seemed just as shy and quiet as her. So when I thought she had killed him I thought what could he possibly have done. He looked like a nerdy business guy. I had no idea these two quiet people murdered someone together, just to kill. I have often wondered what happened to Stephanie. I pray for the family of the victim. And also pray everyone finds Christ. If Stephanie had given her life to Christ before and just lost her way I pray she finds that relationship again. So sad.

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