Matt Birkbeck is an award winning investigative journalist who has written for the New York Times, Reader’s Digest, People, Boston Magazine, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Most recently, for the Morning Call, Birkbeck has reported extensively on corruption within Pennsylvania’s nascent gambling industry.
Birkbeck’s latest book is the critically acclaimed Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, Madness, and the Mob (Amistad), which tells the riveting story of Sammy Davis Jr. and the efforts to resolve his millions in debts and restore his legacy following his death in 1990. The New York Times Book Review called Deconstructing Sammy “gripping” and “sensational”.Birkbeck has embarked on speaking engagements for Deconstructing Sammy, explaining Sammy’s remarkable life and the shocking reasons why the legacy of the greatest entertainer of the 20th century remains, tragically, nothing more than a footnote to history.
Birkbeck also lectures on the tragic Sharon Marshall story and the issues surrounding how nearly one million children go missing in America each year. He has spoken to a variety of groups, large and small, from the Playwrights Horizons Theater in New York City to Meadville High School in western Pennsylvania, courtesy of the local city government.
While at People, Birkbeck reported on dozens of national stories, from crime, human interest and politics. Among the stories he covered were the tragic death of John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1999 and in 2000 the bizarre case of Robert Durst, the heir to a New York real estate fortune suspected of killing three people, including his wife in 1982 and a drifter in Texas in 2001. Birkbeck’s reporting on the Durst case led to his first book, A Deadly Secret, in 2002. An expert on the Durst case, and the only reporter with access to the New York City police files, Birkbeck made numerous television appearances before and after the Durst trial in Texas in 2003, including several on CNN’s American Morning and Anderson Cooper along with theGeraldo Rivera show, the CBS Early Show, and CNN’s Headline News Nancy Grace show. Birkbeck also served as a consultant for CBS News 48 Hours program on Durst in 2003, and his work was the subject of an MSNBC documentary in 2007.
Birkbeck’s second book, A Beautiful Child, told the remarkable, tragic story of Sharon Marshall, a brilliant young woman who was kidnapped as a toddler by Franklin Delano Floyd, a convicted felon, fugitive and pedophile who raised her as his daughter while traveling the country using stolen identities. Birkbeck spent six hours in a Florida prison in 2003 interviewing Floyd, who had just been sentenced to death for torturing and murdering a Tampa woman. Birkbeck is also the co-author of Till Death Do Us Part with Dr. Robi Ludwig, a noted psychologist who appears regularly on The Today Show and Larry King Live.
Birkbeck received a prestigious Investigative Reporters and Editors award in 2002 in San Francisco for his work uncovering the largest case of residential mortgage fraud in the nation. He revealed how thousands of homebuyers, mostly minorities from the New York area, were duped into buying homes in northeastern Pennsylvania at inflated prices. Birkbeck’s eight-month investigation resulted in numerous federal and state prosecutions, a whopping federal lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest banks, and in 2008 Pennsylvania legislators credited his reporting for their tightening of banking law and mortgage regulations. His reporting also served as a precursor to the current mortgage meltdown affecting the U.S. economy.
Birkbeck’s previous magazine work included a lengthy feature investigating the aftermath of the deadly Super Bowl riots in Boston in 2004 for Boston Magazine, and for the Philadelphia Inquirer he wrote the shocking story of Bonnie Jouhari, a civil rights advocate in Reading, PA, who was forced to flee the city and live without an identity after she was threatened with death by neo-Nazis. For Reader’s Digest, Birkbeck also wrote in 2003 the story of missing adults in America, focusing on the story of Kristen Modafferi, a college freshman from North Carolina who vanished in San Francisco in 1997. Most recently his reporting for the Morning Call has tied Gov. Ed Rendell to one casino owner with alleged mob ties, and is credited with forcing the state legislature to hold hearings to amend how the state conducts background investigations of casino owners.
Birkbeck lives in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.