Serial Killers

More Article »

Crime News

More on this category »

Notorious murders

More on this category »

Historical Crimes

More on this category »

Crime and punishment

More on this category »

Crime History

More on this category »


More on this category »

Young killers

Richard Ramírez

Monday, December 14, 2009

Notable Quotable
“I love to kill people. I love watching them die. I would shoot them in the head and they would wiggle and squirm all over the place, and then just stop. Or cut them with a knife and watch their faces turn real white. I love all that blood. I told one lady to give me all her money. She said no, so I cut her and pulled her eyes out.”
—Richard Ramírez

In 1983, there were five serial murders at large in Los Angeles, but the most terrifying of all was the one the media dubbed the “Night Stalker.” He was terrifying—his MO was to invade homes in the middle of the night and leave dead bodies and blood all over the place when he left. He was responsible for the deaths of at least sixteen people.

As is so common with serial killers, the extent of the danger was not known in the beginning. The first victim was a seventy-nine-year-old woman in Glassell Park in June 1984. Eight months later, a six-year-old Montebello girl was abducted from a bus stop and her sexually abused body was found in Silver Lake on February 25. The next victim of the Night Stalker was a nine-year-old girl, and for some reason, his pattern differed with this crime. He abducted her from her
bedroom, raped her, and dropped her in Elysian Park.

On March 17, the Night Stalker began a horrifying murder spree, entering the condo of thirty-four-year-old Dayle Okazaki and Mara Hernandez, shooting Okazaki to death and wounding Hernandez. In Monterey Park he pulled thirty-year-old Tsa Lian Yu from her car and shot her multiple times. Yu died the next day, while the Night Stalker was in the middle of abducting and raping a girl from Eagle Rock.

But something good for the police came out of this spree of violence. Hernandez, who survived, was able to provide a description of the killer. She described him as having a long, gaunt face, black stringy hair, and wide-spaced teeth that were brown and rotted out, which ultimately would be traced to the killer’s subsisting on candy. The police were still playing their cards close to the vest, not saying whether the murders were related.

Things got weirder when the Night Stalker invaded the home of Vincent Zazzara and his wife, Maxine, on March 27. Zazzara was pummeled to death and his wife stabbed to death, but the killer also cut out the eyes of the woman and left with them.

Next, William Doi of Monterey Park was shot in the head, but his dying action of calling the police saved his wife. Over the summer, the Night Stalker killed eight more people of varying ages.

On August 6, Christopher Peterson and his wife, Virginia, were wounded in their Northridge home. And then there were two more killings, and the description of the killer matched the description the Petersons had given of their attacker. The police finally announced they were looking for a serial killer who was responsible for a lot of murders.

Then the Night Stalker traveled to San Francisco, and on August 17 broke into the home of Peter and Barbara Pan. Peter was shot and killed, but his wife survived the shooting and provided sketches to police of the Night Stalker.

Then, a big break came. In Mission Viejo on August 22, twenty-nine-year-old Bill Carns was shot in the head and his fiancée raped, and the Night Stalker drove away in their car. The car was abandoned and recovered by the police along with fingerprints. The prints lead police to twenty-five-year-old Richard Ramírez, who was from Texas and had compiled a lengthy rap sheet for drug offenses. Police questioned people who knew him and learned that he was an avowed satanist who was crazed about the music group AC/DC; and one of the bands songs, “Night Prowler,” had become a sort of anthem for Ramírez.

The police spread his picture everywhere, and now the citizenry had a face to go along with the nickname. Foolishly, Ramírez stayed in Los Angeles, where he had committed most of the murders. He wandered into East Los Angeles, where he was identified by Hispanic locals as he tried to steal a car and was run down and half beaten to death before police, who had been summoned, saved his life. He was held in jail and charged with fourteen counts of murder.

Monster Beginnings

A look at his background indicates that Ramírez certainly had the right childhood environment to produce a killer. He was the youngest of five children in a Mexican American family that had immigrated to the United States. His father was a volatile man with a terrible temper. Richard kept to himself but when he was very young—in just the eighth grade, he started using marijuana and snuffing glue, obviously as anesthetics for living in a household where his father was such an unpredictable and disruptive force.

He attended Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Boyle Height section of Los Angeles but quit in the ninth grade. His diet at that time, which was to lead to the horrendous condition of his teeth, was junk food. It was a diet so rich in sugar that it rotted his teeth and made his breath foul. He continued to smoke marijuana and chalked up his first arrest for drug possession. He was also was stealing and was arrested twice for stealing cars: first in Pasadena in 1981 and then in Los Angeles in 1984.

Richard’s association with his cousin Mike aided his development into a madman. Mike was a Vietnam vet and member of the Special Forces, who showed Richard pictures of the killing and torture of Vietnamese women. Ultimately, Mike murdered his wife while the twelve-year-old Ramírez watched, an event that had a profoundly negative effect on Ramírez.


Ramírez’s trial, which started on July 22, 1988, took a full year. Finally, on September 30, 1989, he was found guilty of thirteen counts of murder and thirty assorted felonies. On November 7, 1989, he was sentenced to death. Ramírez didn’t care. He said in court: “You maggots make me sick. You don’t understand me. I am beyond good and evil. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells in us all.”
Continue Reading | Comment (2)

Edmund Kemper

Monday, December 7, 2009

Notable Quotable
“I remember there was actually a sexual thrill . . . You hear that little pop and pull their heads off and hold their heads up by the hair, whipping their heads off, their body sitting there. That’d get me off.”
—Edmund Kemper, talking about playing with his sister’s dolls when he was a little boy

Everybody likes to experience new feelings, particularly teenagers, simply because they haven’t experienced much. They want to feel what it’s like to kiss someone they like, to fall in love, to drive a car. At the age of fifteen, Edmund Emil Kemper killed his grandparents because, he said, he wanted to know what it felt like.

During the 1970s, Edmund Kemper prowled Santa Cruz, California, and added some more folks to his kill list: specifically six coeds, his mother, and his mother’s best friend. And he did unholy and stomach-wrenching things to the bodies.

A Killer's Childhood
Kemper’s background was what one sees over and over again in serial and mass murderers’ childhoods: chaos and abuse. His parents were cruel in the extreme, physically and verbally. A day didn’t go by that one or both of them didn’t verbally flay Kemper for his inadequacies or punish him in some way. One example from his childhood serves as a horrific illustration: As a punishment, his mom made Edmund kill his pet chicken, and then his dad made him eat it. Later Edmund was to say that he cried bitterly about it.

As a young boy, Edmund gave hints that the treatment by his parents was creating a deranged personality in him. He had a habit, for example, of taking his sister’s dolls, decapitating them, and amputating their legs and arms. After a while, dolls weren’t enough: Dogs and cats that lived in Kemper’s neighborhood would suffer the same fate as his sister’s dolls.

Edmund Kemper’s size would have allowed him to play noseguard in the National Football League. He was 69 and weighed 280 pounds. Nor was this flab; at one point during his heyday, he hung around a bar in Santa Cruz called the Jury Room, across the street from the courthouse. This was a bar patronized by lots of police officers—some in search of the so-called Coed Killer—and Kemper used to delight patrons by grasping two-hundred-pound officers by the elbows and hoisting them aloft.

He did not appear harmful, either. He wore glasses and had a face that was quite ordinary. Indeed, he appeared professorial. The one physical trait that apparently bothered him was the small size of his penis. Says John Godwin in his book Murder U.S.A.: The Ways We Kill Each Other, “Kemper was driven by manic sex urges but saddled with a crippling sense of inferiority. He had a small penis, which on him looked minuscule, and was quite inept as a lover.”

As well as being physically imposing (except for his penis, apparently), Edmund was smart: It was perhaps this cunning that let him walk the streets despite having killed his grandparents.

After those murders, for five years he was in the Atascadero Hospital for mental treatment. When he turned twenty, no fewer than nineteen doctors there pronounced him sane and released him. Kemper was a good listener, and he likely listened to whomever he could to learn what responses and behavior evidenced a healthy personality. It’s easy to imagine a guy as smart as Kemper spouting such appropriate responses and aping healthy behavior to fool the experts.

The Coed Killer
Santa Cruz is a lazy California town known mostly for the University of Southern California, a campus loaded with pretty young girls. Coeds started disappearing in the fall of 1970, and when they reappeared, they weren’t all there. As John Godwin says in Murder U.S.A., “The bleached skull of Mary Ann Pesce lay in a wooded mountain ravine; the torso of Cynthia Schall, minus arms and legs, was washed up on a Monterey Beach; the bodies of Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu - their heads and both of Alice’s hands missing - were uncovered by road workers in Alameda county. Occasionally unidentifiable scraps turned up: a woman’s hand without fingers; a female pelvic bone, one breast.” Later authorities would learn that Kemper was a cannibal as well as a necrophiliac, which accounted for the missing body parts.

With the exception of one case, in which he raped a girl as she lay dying, he would have sex with his victims only after they were dead. However, Kemper was more prone to engage in sex with parts of the body. A favorite sexual activity of Kemper’s was to take a victim’s head into the shower with him and use it to masturbate.

Kemper made sure all the circumstances were right before he would select a victim - generally, he would pick up coeds in his car as they hitchhiked down Ashby Avenue. He used maps to plot places where he would take his victims, and he had a supply of plastic bags with him for the body parts that he would cut off and use for his bizarre pleasures. Kemper would describe later the intense sexual pleasure he derived from devouring large hunks of flesh from his victims (Albert Fish spoke of the same pleasures).

In snaring his prey, an official parking sticker from the college aided Kemper, allowing him to use the college parking lots. Any student hitchhiker would naturally assume that the person driving the car was not dangerous - after all, they went to school together, right? Indeed, even after a number of girls had been killed and coeds had been warned not to hitchhike, the parking sticker worked: Unsuspecting girls got into his car. Kemper said that at the height of the coed killings he even discussed the murders with girls he picked up - they would talk about who might be doing it and why. He reported that he gave these coeds a free ride - for some reason he never killed any of the girls with whom he discussed the case.

Kemper followed the classic pattern of the serial murderer: He worked from fantasy to fact. For a long time he would fantasize about capturing women, holding a gun on them, and then having his way with them. Ever so gradually, he began to act out parts of it. First he put the gun under his seat when he was driving alone; then he put it there when he picked up a hitchhiker and fantasized about what he was going to do to the girl; and finally he pulled out the gun - fantasy and fact became ghoulishly and murderously one.

A rather savage irony is that the officers in the Jury Room bar unwittingly helped him kill. They gave him a pair of handcuffs and a realistic-looking police training badge. John Godwin reports that Kemper used the handcuffs to shackle the girls who put up resistance. It was a vicious turn of events that must have given more than one cop a sleepless night.

Blood Brothers
In 1972, a couple of years after the mass murderer John Linley Frazier killed five members of a family in cold blood in Santa Cruz, California, two separate serial murderers, Edmund Kemper and Herbert Mullin, began stalking that town at the same time. The combined victims of the three would reach twenty-six. These statistics would prompt District Attorney Peter Chang to say of Santa Cruz, “We must be the murder capital of the world right now.”
Then Kemper did something that apparently had a profound effect on his unconscious mind: He killed his mother. Later he would state (in the documentary Murder: No Apparent Motive) that he realized his true rage was toward his mother. He felt that once he resolved this that he would be able to stop killing symbols of his mother. In fact, after his mother’s murder he picked up a couple of girls and, instead of taking them to some lonely area to kill them, simply dropped them off where they wanted to go.

When he described the killing of his mother in the documentary, he wept. He said he had actually loved her, difficult as that was to imagine. He stated that he did not “come out from under a rock,” nor was he “born to a mule”; he came out of his “mother’s vagina.”

Kemper said that the last night of her life, his mother, whom he lived with at 609 Ord Street, was doing her usual emasculation job, diminishing Kemper more and more. Her last words to him before she went to sleep were, “I guess you’ll want to stay up all night talking.”

When she fell asleep, Kemper snuck up, raised a ball-peen hammer high, and brought it down on her skull, breaking it like an eggshell. Then he beat her savagely to make sure she was dead. Kemper cut off her hands and her head with his pocketknife, then cut her larynx out and ground it up in the garbage disposal. Of this act he said, “Now she won’t be able to bitch at me anymore.”

He stuffed the headless, handless corpse in a clothes closet and then made a call to his mother’s best friend, a Mrs. Halleck. He explained to Halleck that he was going to have a surprise party for his mother and invited her over. That evening Halleck came over and Kemper promptly strangled her to death and cut her head off. Some party.

Kemper then left the area for Colorado, where he did something profoundly important: He called the police and told them that he was the serial murderer they were looking for, that he had killed his mother and her best friend. He told the police, “Pick me up and put me in jail now or I will kill more.” Kemper’s demand was taken seriously, and it wasn’t too long before they picked him up and brought him back to Santa Cruz. He was ultimately tried and sentenced to life imprisonment, serving the time in the prison hospital, a kind of mental ward within the prison.
Continue Reading | Comment (4)

Dennis Rader

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Notable Quotable
“He had a little shed out back of his house where he’d hidden his souvenirs, panties, jewelry, bras, etc. He’d sit in a chair by the shed, pull out his trinkets and relive the murder of his vics.”
—Television writer Tom Towler, who wrote a teleplay on the Rader case
Dennis Rader was born on March 9, 1945, in a quiet corner of Kansas, close to where Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri all meet. He was the first of four sons born to William and Dorothea Rader, and he was baptized at Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsburg, Kansas. His father was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and starting in 1948 worked for the KG&E electric utility company.

Dennis Rader

When Dennis was still a boy his family moved to a home on Wichita’s North Seneca Street. To paraphrase a poem by W. H. Auden, when a monster shows up for Thanksgiving dinner he looks like everyone else at the table. As a boy, Rader seemed like most other kids. He joined the Boy Scouts, participated in church youth-group activities, and attended Riverview Elementary School. He did not shine as a student, and he started to develop bondage fantasies even as a young boy. While other boys were thinking about kissing a girl or going “all the way,” he was thinking about tying them up so he could have his way with them. He says Mouseketeer Annette Funicello was his favorite target for bondage fantasies. To other people, Rader seemed like a very serious, focused person, a bit withdrawn, with no sense of humor. However, when people spoke to him he would give them his full attention, and everyone liked that about him.

He graduated from Wichita Heights High School in 1963, and in 1965 entered Kansas Wesleyan College in Salina, too far away from Wichita to live at home. He was still a poor student, and in the summer of 1966, at age twenty-one, Rader quit college and joined the U.S. Air Force, apparently to avoid being drafted as a foot soldier in the Vietnam War.

While in the air force Rader did not demonstrate any bizarre behavior and seemed perfectly normal—in fact, years later when he was arrested for the horrendous string of murders, his fellow soldiers, like everyone else, were stunned. Dennis Rader was not an Einstein, but he was always cunning enough to conceal his true persona. Rader put in four years with the air force and was stationed stateside as well as overseas. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant. While in the air force he was unremarkable in many ways. In the summer of 1970, he returned to Wichita and served two more years in the reserves.

On May 22, 1971, Dennis Rader and Paula Dietz were married. Dennis was twenty-six, and Paula, a practicing Lutheran as was Rader, was twenty-three. They settled in Park City, Kansas, not far from the Rader home in north Wichita. He worked as a butcher for Independent Grocers Alliance for a while, then started at Coleman Company, a manufacturer of camping supplies and Wichita’s largest employer at the time. He worked for thirteen months there until July 1973, when he got a job with airplane manufacturer Cessna. He was also attending Butler County Community College in El Dorado, and he earned a two-year associate’s degree in electronics in 1973.

A Creepy Connection
When Dennis Reader was a Boy Scout leader, he taught his scouts the knots he later used to strangle his victims.

The First Kill
In the fall of 1973, Rader enrolled at Wichita State University and spent six years there before earning a degree—he was a poor student, garnering only Cs and Ds. Then, in late 1973, he was fired by Cessna. This perhaps precipitated his murders the first on January 15, 1974, when he murdered an entire Wichita family, the Oteros. For a first killing, it was quite remarkable: a husband, wife, and two young children, and in a quite a gruesome fashion (see Part 4, “In Their Own Words”).

Ironically, he then found years of solid employment with ADT Security, a company that sold and installed alarm systems for commercial businesses. While he installed security systems, he became a full-fledged serial killer known to the police and, ultimately, the public as the BTK Killer (for his MO of binding, torturing, and killing his victims). He held several positions at ADT, including installation manager. It was believed that he learned how to carefully defeat home security systems while there, enabling him to break into the homes of his victims without being caught. He was fired in 1988.

Rader killed from 1974 to 1991—ten people in all—and then he unaccountably stopped, a strange action for a serial killer. Television writer Tom Towler, who wrote an arresting, hightension teleplay on the BTK Killer, told us “I spent time with several of the cops and others in Wichita who were involved.

The odd thing about Rader is that he stopped killing—unheard of with a serial killer. He’s never given a satisfactory answer as to why he was able to stop, but several people who’ve spoken with him think that when he got the job as dog catcher the new-found authority took the place of his urge to kill.”

Some psychologists do agree with that assessment: He stopped killing because of the job he took as supervisor of the Compliance Department at Park City, a two employee, multifunctional department that gave him power and a sense of importance. He and his coworker were in charge of animal control, housing problems, zoning, general permit enforcement, and a variety of nuisance cases. And it was said that Rader exulted in his power and was quite strict and arbitrary.

Rader was also a religious man. He was a congregant of Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita, which had about two hundred members. He had power there, too, having been elected president of the congregation’s council.

Disappearing Killer
By 2004, the trail of the BTK Killer had gone cold. Then, Rader sent an anonymous letter to the police, claiming responsibility for one of the old murders. What may have precipitated him corresponding with the police—which he had also done while he was killing—was a book about the BTK Killer. Author Robert Beattie was advised by a police officer friend to write the book as a potential way to smoke out Rader. When the book was published, Rader began once again to send notes to the police about his murders. He wanted to make sure he was the big cheese.

In one letter to the police, Rader asked whether the police could trace info from floppy disks. They said no, but of course they could. Rader then sent a message on a floppy to the police department, and they tracked it to Rader’s church and then Rader himself.

To confirm Rader was the BTK Killer they lied to his daughter, telling her that to clear her father they needed a sample of his hair. Fooled, she provided it willingly and when they tested it against DNA samples from crime scenes it was a match.

On February 25, 2005, Rader was arrested near his home at 6220 Sixty-first Street in Park City and accused of the BTK killings. At a press conference the next morning, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams flatly asserted, “The bottom line . . . BTK is arrested.” Rader pled guilty to the BTK murders on June 27, 2005 (for the graphic account of his crimes that he gave in court, see Chapter 37). On August 18, 2005, he was sentenced to serve ten consecutive life sentences, one life sentence per victim. This included nine life sentences, each with the possibility of parole in fifteen years, and one life sentence with the possibility of parole in forty years. This means that, in total, Rader will be eligible for parole in 175 years. Lots of people would have loved to see Rader killed, but at the time Kansas didn’t have the death penalty.
Continue Reading | Comment (7)

Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono Jr.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Notable Fact
Bianchi’s mother was a bona fide psychopath who used to scream at him constantly and discipline him by forcing his hand into stove burner flames.

Mass murderers usually operate alone. Rage and pain ferment in them until they explode in solitary savagery. But the same is not true of serial murderers - there are team killers in the world of serial murder, and they can be just as deadly as any killer who acts alone. Sometimes these team killers are lovers, sometimes they’re friends or relatives, and sometimes they’re husband and wife; usually there is a dominant partner, though left to their own devices, both are killers in their own right.

Kenneth Bianchi
Kenneth Bianchi

One of the deadliest of these dual death dealers operated in the Los Angeles area during the five months from October 1977 to February 1978. The media dubbed the killer the “Hillside Strangler” because the bodies were invariably found dumped on hillsides adjacent to freeways.

The first victim of the Hillside Strangler was the nineteenyear-old part-time prostitute Yolanda Washington. There was a collective ho hum from the Los Angeles citizens and police when her body was found near 6510 Forest Lawn Drive, next to a cemetery where many stars are buried. Who cared? She was a prostitute, part of society’s debris.

Then the body of a fifteen-year-old runaway named Judith Lynn Miller was discovered on October 31, 1977, on the side of a road near 2833 Alta Terrace, La Crescenta. Later, authorities would learn that Judy Miller was the first of ten victims of the Hillside Strangler to be killed in a similar manner. (Washington had been killed in a car, and her body dumped from it; clearly, the Strangler hadn’t perfected his process yet.) Miller had been tied to a chair, tortured, sodomized with animate and inanimate objects, then strangled. First, though, as with all the victims, she was forced to go to the bathroom so that, in death, when her bladder and sphincter muscles failed, she wouldn’t soil the floor.

Angelo Buono Jr.

 Angelo Buono Jr.

On November 20, 1977, two young girls, fourteen-year-old Sonja Johnson and twelve-year-old Dolores Cepeda disappeared, last seen strolling in the area of Dodger Stadium. Neither of these young girls was a prostitute or runaway—they were just normal young girls taking a walk. When their bodies were found that same day in the 1500 block of Landa Street, in Elysian Park, the alarm went out. Both girls bore the traces of the same savagery that had been perpetrated on Judy Miller.

If the police needed any confirmation that a serial murderer was on the loose, another body turned up: Kristina Wackler, age twenty, whose corpse was found in the 4100 block of Ramons Way, in Highland Park.

Terror in the City of Angels
Los Angeles, like any big city, has known its share of horror, but perhaps it was particularly sensitive to extraordinary murder in 1977 - just ten years earlier, Charles Manson and his followers had terrorized the community with their savage killings.

Los Angeles reacted to the Strangler with the same kind of terror that Manson had triggered, reminiscent of the terror incited by the Boston Strangler.

Overnight, self-defense courses became very popular, prostitutes started to work in pairs - with one writing down the license plate of any car her partner got into - and some people who committed traffic and other minor violations refused to stop when flagged by police because it had been reported that the killer was posing as an officer. A task force was formed, but the killing continued: just three days after the young girls were found, the body of Jane Evelyn King, age twenty-eight, was discovered in Los Feliz, her body tossed like so much garbage on the off-ramp from the southbound Golden Gate Freeway.

On November 29, the body of Lauren Rae Wagner, age eighteen, was found at 1217 Cliff Drive, in Glassell. A little more than two weeks later, on December 14, the body of Kimberly Diane Martin, age eighteen, was found at 2006 North Alvarado, in Echo Park. Then, almost as if the killer were respecting the holidays, the killings stopped, and the fears of the police abated a bit.

Those fears came roaring back with the discovery of Cindy Lee Hudspeth, age twenty, who was found in the trunk of a car off Angeles Crest Highway on February 17, 1978. The MO was different - the victim was in a car trunk - but her body bore the terrible signature of the killer: ligature marks around her ankles and wrists, and horrific damage to her organs caused by inanimate objects. Fear of the Hillside Strangler was at fever pitch, and the task force of some eighty-five detectives was working night and day and had no leads at all. The pressure to solve the case was excruciating, but they just weren’t getting anywhere.

Movin' on Up
Then the killings appeared to stop, which, as it turned out, they had - at least for Los Angeles. After February 1978, no more victims turned up. In total, there had been ten. Despite the fact that the killings seemed to have ended, the task force slogged on frustratingly without results. And then, in January 1979, almost a year after the Los Angeles killings had ceased, task force detective Phil Bullington got an electrifying call. As reported in Mass Murderers: America’s Growing Menace, by Jack Levin and James A. Fox, the call was from the Bellingham, Washington, police. The Bellingham detectives explained that there had been a dual homicide with the pedigree of the Hillside Strangler killings. Two Western Washington University coeds, Karen Mandic and Diane Wilder, had been found raped and strangled in the trunk of Mandic’s car.

Further investigation revealed that someone named Kenneth Bianchi, a security guard, had hired Mandic to house-sit - at a whopping $100 an hour - until his security system could be installed. Rather than spend the time alone at the house, Mandic convinced her friend Wilder to come with her.

The Bellingham police said that Bianchi was a suspect, under arrest, and that they were calling Los Angeles because he had a California driver’s license on him.

Bullington checked into Bianchi’s background, and he found some thrilling coincidences. First, Bianchi had lived in the same building in Glendale as one of the victims, Kristina Wackler. Second, another victim, Kim Martin, was last seen at that very building. Third, the final victim, Cindy Hudspeth, had lived directly across the street from Bianchi.

Bullington and other task force detectives headed north to speak with Bianchi.

A Man of Two Faces
Bianchi denied he was involved in any murders, but after a careful search of his house by a Washington forensics team, they matched pubic hairs that had been found on one of the girls to Bianchi. But there was something else, too. Bianchi seemed to be a man of two faces. He kept telling everyone that he had had a wonderful childhood in his native Rochester, New York, where he grew up in a clean residential neighborhood. But when they looked into it, the cops discovered that Bianchi had had a very troubled childhood, dotted with trips to the reformatory. Psychiatrists detailed deep disturbances not only in Bianchi but also in his mother, a bona fide psychopath who used to scream at him constantly and who disciplined him by forcing his hands into stove burner flames. His father seemed to be a nonentity.

Bianchi was subjected to the kind of parental abuse from his mother that prepares a person for a career as a serial murderer. And he did fill some criteria in his childhood that many psychiatrists look for to spot budding serial murderers. He was a bedwetter and cruel to animals - he once killed a cat as a prank.

Bianchi’s girlfriend Kelli stood by him, as did his boss at the security firm where he worked. Also, Bellingham’s police chief thought Bianchi would make a good policeman and questioned Bianchi’s guilt. It was a case, again, of the human “package” hiding the psychotic contents! But Bianchi’s inconsistencies in his alibis for the Bellingham murders, his pubic hairs found at a crime scene, and the stunning coincidences of the victims’

addresses in Los Angeles, prompted Bianchi’s attorney to have a psychiatrist examine him. Maybe, the attorney figured, the only way out for Bianchi was an insanity defense.

There followed three separate examinations, one by the defense psychiatrist, one by a court-appointed doctor, and a third by a doctor hired by the prosecution. During the first examination, a bizarre new element entered the picture: A new persona emerged from Bianchi while under hypnosis: Steve Walker. Steve Walker, Bianchi claimed, emerged when he was a child hiding from his mother. Steve Walker was tough and strong and cruel and unafraid. And Bianchi made it clear that while he was not capable of murder, Steve was. In fact, Steve admitted it. Said he, as reported in Mass Murderers, “I killed those broads \[referring to the Bellingham murders].”

The psychiatrist wanted to know why. “‘Cause I hate fuckin’ cunts.”

Steve also said he had killed the women in Los Angeles, and then he introduced a new, nonimaginary player: his cousin Angelo Buono.

It was later proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was no Steve Walker, just a clever insanity ruse the Hillside Strangler was two very real people, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono.

Red-Hot Suspect
According to Anthony Kiedis, lead singer and founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers rock band, the police arrested him during the Hillside Strangler murder spree because he fit one of the descriptions of the killers.
Partner in Crime
The older Angelo Buono (he was born in 1934 and Bianchi in 1951) was by far the tougher of the two cousins. Raised in Los Angeles as a macho tough guy by an abusive mother he referred to only as “the cunt,” Angelo Buono had a steel stomach - and a steel heart. He worked in a shop as a car upholsterer, but at one point he became a pimp, somehow having the ability to attract pretty young girls into his stable. He had sex with all of them but only by sodomizing them or having them fellate him. And once the women were in the stable he warned them that if they tried to leave him he would kill them. And they believed him.

Bianchi admired, even idolized, his cousin and moved to Los Angeles in 1976 primarily to be near him. He started to become a pimp himself, and the cruelty the two men displayed toward women in that profession almost naturally progressed to murder. The murders, of course, were marked by extreme cruelty. Indeed, Bianchi’s Steve persona matter-of-factly and chillingly described how the two of them had murdered their first, Yolanda Washington: “She was a hooker. Angelo went and picked her up. I was waiting on the street. He drove her around to where I was. I got in the car. We got on the freeway. I fucked her and killed her. We dumped her body off and that was it. Nothin’ to it.” “Steve Walker” also described how the other victims had been tied to a chair in the bedroom where Buono lived, at 703 Colorado Drive in Glendale, and tortured, sexually abused, and killed.

Bianchi rolled over, as the police say, on his cousin Angelo: In return for a life sentence, he testified against Buono. At first there didn’t seem to be any hard evidence against Buono, and the prosecution was wary about going to trial with just Bianchi’s testimony. However, the judge assigned to the case forced the trial - which took more than two years - and the jury found Buono guilty. He was sentenced to life, just as
Bianchi was.

If Bianchi had not rolled, the men might have gotten away with the murders - or at least Buono might have. Buono was “one hard dude,” a Los Angeles detective said, “a real throwback. We couldn’t break him.”

Bianchi has exhausted all his standard appeals and is still serving his hundred-plus-year sentence in Washington State Prison in Walla Walla, Washington. Bianchi has disavowed his confession to the crimes and supposedly has found Jesus. Buono died of heart disease in September 2002.
Continue Reading | Comment (6)

David Berkowitz

Friday, October 23, 2009

Notable Quotable
“The demons were howling for blood.”

On July 26, 1976, Donna Lauria, a pretty, petite eighteenyear-old, sat in an Oldsmobile chatting with her friend Judy Valenti. The car was parked in front of Donna’s apartment building at 2860 Buhre Avenue in the Bronx, New York, one of a number of apartment buildings that lined the quiet street in the middle-class neighborhood.
David Berkowitz

At about one in the morning, Donna’s father, who had been out, returned to the building and spotted Donna and Judy in the car. He suggested Donna come in soon, and she said she would be right up. Less than a minute later, the two women were distracted by the appearance of a dark-haired man wearing a denim jacket and jeans and carrying a paper bag. They watched as he calmly walked to the passenger side of the car where Donna was sitting. Donna turned to Judy, “What does he want?”

Suddenly, a pistol emerged from the bag and the man dropped into a squatting position, the gun held in both hands. He was in the classic combat shooter’s pose and fired five shots through the passenger window, shattering it—and shattering Donna Lauria. Upstairs, her father was startled by the rapid-fire crescendo and thought a car was backfiring. He went downstairs and was assaulted by the horrendous sight of his daughter covered with blood, her friend shrieking hysterically.

Soon Donna Lauria would be dead, the first victim of the Son of Sam, a name that would terrorize New York City.

David's Demons
Berkowitz believed that demons talked to him. The killing of Donna Lauria had a calming effect on those demons, but gradually the demands began again. The demons wanted more blood, more shooting, more death. Soon the demands were so strong that Berkowitz, who tried to fight them, could no longer refuse.

On October 23, 1976, he went to Queens, again on the hunt. In the Flushing area, he spotted a red Ford Galaxie and followed it in his white Ford. Berkowitz saw that there were two people in the car, but he couldn’t tell whether they were male or female. One had long, dark hair, a favorite of the demons. Soon the couple parked the car near the corner of 33rd Avenue and 159th Street. Berkowitz parked behind them.

Inside the car was Carl Denaro, a young man who was soon to enter the air force. Driving the car was Rosemary Keenan, eighteen years old, whose father was a New York City police officer. Berkowitz approached the car, concealing the heavy gun under a denim jacket. He went to the passenger side of the car and, without further ado, fired five times through the window.

Denaro was shot in the head, but miraculously Rosemary Keenan was not hit and bolted from the car screaming. Despite being shot five times, Denaro amazingly survived, but required a metal plate in his head to replace the bone fragments blown away in the shooting.

The demons were howling for blood again in less than a month, and on the chilly, windy night of November 26, 1976, Berkowitz was back in his predatory mode. Two girls, sixteen-year-old Donna DeMasi and eighteen-year-old Joanne Lomino, had returned to Queens after seeing a movie in Manhattan. They got off a bus at 262nd Street and Hillside Avenue and started walking home. Joanne had a twelve-thirty curfew, and it was almost midnight. As they walked, they noticed a man starting to follow them. They were worried and walked faster, but by the time they got to Joanne’s home, he was nowhere in sight. Then they saw him coming toward them, and Joanne searched her bag for her keys. The girls were nervous, but the man—dark haired, stocky, wearing a denim jacket—didn’t seem terribly threatening.

In the next instant he was firing at them, and he hit both. Then he was gone. The girls both lived, but Joanne Lomino paid a terrible price: one of the bullets had severed her spine and she was paralyzed from the waist down.

Unconnected Crimes
Unfortunately, the police did not assume that one shooter perpetrated all of these assaults, simply because they didn’t have any physical evidence that tied the crimes together. These assaults were in the days before computers were in common use, which help immensely in making connections between apparently unconnected cases. Without looking at all the evidence side by side, why would they assume someone was shooting complete strangers for no apparent reason?

The next shooting resulted in another death. A young engaged couple - Christine Freund, age twenty-six, and John Diel, age thirty - had gone out to see the movie Rocky. They returned to their car, which was parked at Station Plaza on Continental Avenue near the Long Island Railroad line in Queens. In fact, they had to walk under a railroad bridge to get to the car, a blue Pontiac Firebird.

It was a bitterly cold night, just five or six degrees above zero, and they had just gotten into the car when out of nowhere shots smashed through the passenger-side window. Christine Freund was shot twice in the head and once in the chest, but, miraculously, Diel was not hit at all. Someone called 911 after hearing the shots, and within four minutes the emergency service team was on the scene. But it was too late for Freund. She died at St. John’s Hospital at four in the morning, never regaining consciousness.

After Christine Freund’s murder, panic set in over New York. Police put out word across the city to find out whether there were any similar homicides, and the random shootings of six people were finally lumped together. The cops knew that a large-caliber revolver was involved in them all. A homicide task force was formed.

On March 8, 1977 - a little more than a month after Freund was killed - there was another shooting. Virginia Voskerichian, an honor student at Barnard College, was walking to her home in Queens along Dartmouth Avenue near Seventy-first Street when she spotted a man coming toward her. No one will know what she thought, but it might have been that he was overdressed for the day: It was unseasonably warm and he was wearing a ski coat.

The Son of Sam had been searching the area for a pretty girl to shoot and kill for the last hour, as his demons had ordered. Virginia fit the bill; she was slim and pretty. When he was within twenty-five feet of her, he pulled out the revolver. Instinctively, Virginia pulled the books she was carrying up to her face to shield herself. Berkowitz fired once, the bullet entering Virginia’s head above the lip. She fell into the bushes that flanked the road. Virginia was rushed to St. John’s Hospital, but she never regained consciousness and died at four the next morning.

If the police had any doubts as to whether there was a psycho loose in the city, the investigation into Virginia’s death erased those doubts. A .44 caliber bullet was recovered from the scene, and the New York Police Department’s ballistics unit matched it to one of the bullets used to kill Donna Lauria only six months earlier. They now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a serial killer on the loose.

Police Commissioner Michael Codd called a press conference on March 10 and announced to the world that a crazy man was on the loose, and that women - particularly pretty girls with dark hair - were at risk. Panic spread and then deepened. The .44 caliber killer was front-page news, and more shootings - and a frightening letter - whipped the city’s fear into a frenzy.

On April 17, a young couple, Alexander Esau, age twenty, and Valentina Suriana, age eighteen, were shot dead while parked just a block short of 1950 Hutchinson River Parkway in the Bronx - only three blocks from where Donna Lauria had been killed. The killer was getting better: fewer shots and more deaths. Only four shots had been fired this time, two into each victim. Along with the bodies that displayed the killer’s newfound marksmanship, there was another new development with these murders - police found this letter at the scene (shown as written):

Dear Captain Joseph Borrelli, I am deeply hurt by your calling me a wemon hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the ‘Son of Sam.’ I am a little brat.

When father Sam gets drunk he gets mean. He beats his family. Sometimes he ties me up to the back of the house. Other times he locks me in the garage. Sam loves to drink blood. ‘Go out and kill,’ commands father Sam. Behind our house some rest. Mostly young - raped and slaughtered - their blood drained-just bones now. Papa Sam keeps me locked in the attic too. I can’t get out but I look out the attic window and watch the world go by. I feel like an outsider. I am on a different wavelength then everybody else-programmed too kill. However, to stop me you must kill me. Attention all police: Shoot me first - shoot to kill or else keep out of my way or you will die! Papa Sam is old now. He needs some blood to preserve his youth. He has had too many heart attacks. ‘Ugh, me hoot, it hurts, sonny boy.’ I miss my pretty princess most of all. She’s resting in our ladies house. But I’ll see her soon. I am the ‘Monster’ - ‘Beelzebub’ - the chubby behemouth. I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game - tasty meat. The wemon of Queens are prettyist of all. It must be the water they drink. I live for the hunt - my life. Blood for papa. Mr. Borrelli, sir, I don’t want to kill anymore. No sur, no more but I must, ‘honour thy father.’ I want to make love to the world. I love people. I don’t belong on earth. Return me to yahoos. To the people of Queens, I love you. And I want to wish all of you a happy Easter. May God bless you in this life and in the next. I say goodbye and goodnight. Police, let me haunt you with these words: I’ll be back! I’ll be back!
To be interrupted as - bang, bang, bang, bang, bang- ugh! “Yours in murder Mr. Monster.”
Now the newspapers had an official name for the killer: the Son of Sam.

More Shootings
On June 26, two months after the killings of Esau and Suriana, the killer struck again, this time shooting Judy Placido, age seventeen, and Salvatore Lupo, age twenty. They had been at the Elephas dance club, and their car was parked across the street at 4539 211th Street in Queens. Ironically, the young couple was talking about the Son of Sam when suddenly there was a booming echo inside the car. Unbelievably they both survived the shooting, though Placido was shot in the temple, near the spine, and in the shoulder. Lupo was hit in the arm.

So the Son of Sam made his way into Brooklyn on the night of July 31, 1977, looking for people to shoot, and he found them: Stacy Moskowitz, a pretty twenty-year-old blonde, and her date, twenty-year-old Robert Violante. The couple had parked on Shore Parkway, next to a cyclone fence, after another very lucky couple had pulled out of the area just moments before. It was just after two-thirty in the morning, and the Son of Sam fired five shots into the car. The shots made Robert Violante blind. They killed Stacy Moskowitz.

A Break in the Case
As often happens in matters of great consequence, the thing that ultimately resulted in the capture of Son of Sam was something utterly pedestrian: a traffic ticket. It was fortunate timing, because as he would later report, the killer was getting bored with these types of homicidal forays and wanted to do something a little more dramatic and climactic—a mass murder. In fact, he almost did it.

On Saturday, August 6, he decided that he would slaughter a bunch of people at a campground in Southampton, Long Island, a place he knew because he had camped there the year before. The campground was at the peak of its season, loaded with young people. Berkowitz showered, dressed in fresh clothes, and loaded his revolver and a .45 caliber semiautomatic rifle.

It was a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Southampton, and the weather, which had started out fine, changed as he went. Great thunderheads dominated the gray sky, and before he knew it, raindrops spattered on his windshield and soon turned into a torrent. The sky shredded with lightning. It got so bad that Berkowitz pulled off to the side of the road to wait out the storm and await word from his demons. The demons decided that the storm had cleared away too many potential victims. They instructed Berkowitz to go home. A summer shower had prevented a bloodbath.

Then the demons turned on him. In his apartment in Yonkers, a community just north of the Bronx, they ripped at him for not being able to fulfill his mission. They didn’t accept rain as an excuse, even though they had ordered him to abort the plan. Berkowitz’s punishment was simple: He had to die. But while the Son of Sam wrestled with his demons, forces were combining that would result in his capture.

The night he killed Stacy Moskowitz and blinded Robert Violante, Berkowitz had parked at 290 Bay Seventeenth, only a block and a half from the scene of the crime. During the investigation into the deaths of the young couple, a woman who had been walking her dog said that she spotted a policeman writing a ticket for a cream-colored car parked in that spot. But none of the officers could remember it, and the ticket seemed to have vanished. Then, about two weeks later, someone found the ticket squirreled away with some others in the backroom of the precinct where it had been issued. The car belonged to David Berkowitz, of 35 Pine Street, Yonkers, New York. Some detectives went to Berkowitz’s address and found his car parked in the street—and spotted something inside that electrified them. Sticking out from under a gunnysack was the butt of a machine gun. They also saw two letters, in handwriting that resembled the handwriting that Son of Sam had used in the terrifying letters he had been writing to Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin.

Soon there were three hundred police officers surrounding Berkowitz’s building, and the district attorney had gone on a frantic foray for a search warrant. They waited and waited and waited, and finally Berkowitz appeared. The cops weren’t sure what to do. Should they grab him? Arrest him before the search warrant arrived? Then, perhaps with the idea that he was leaving to go kill again, they acted when Berkowitz got into his car: Guns drawn, they tapped on the car window and shouted at Berkowitz to freeze. Berkowitz looked at one of the detectives, Bill Gardella. “He had that stupid smile on his face,” the detective was to say later, “like it was all a kid’s game.” But that could hardly describe what Berkowitz had done. He was put under arrest and the killing finally stopped.
Fifty-six Stitches
On July 10, 1979, David Berkowitz was attacked and nearly killed in the segregation block of Attica Correctional Facility. A fellow inmate used a homemade knife to attack Berkowitz from behind and slash his throat. The wound required fifty-six stitches to close. Berkowitz felt that the attack may have been retribution for talking about the satanic cult that he claimed took part in the Son of Sam murders.
Rich Girl
David Berkowitz once claimed that the No. 1 song “Rich Girl,” by Hall and Oates, was the motivation behind the murders he had committed, but because the song came out after the killings had begun, it was in all likelihood just more disinformation Berkowitz enjoyed telling the investigators
Continue Reading | Comment

Jeffrey Dahmer

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Notable Quotable
“There’s a fucking head in the refrigerator!”
—Police officer during the initial investigation of Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment

Jeffery Dahmer was born in Milwaukee in 1960; when he was six years old, his family moved to Ohio. There is not a great body of detailed evidence on what happened to create Jeffrey Dahmer, but it is known that, as a child, he was subjected to his mother and father’s blistering arguments. There were also reports that a male neighbor had sexually molested him. Whatever the confluence of forces, by the age of ten, Jeffrey was clearly showing the signs of a future killer—he delighted in violating the bodies of dead animals, such as mounting the head of a dog on a stake, decapitating rats and mice, and bleaching chicken bones.

Jeffrey Dahmer

In June 1978, when he was eighteen years old, he killed his first human being. His mother and father, who had separated by this time, had gone off somewhere on separate journeys and had left him alone in the house. He had a car, and he picked up a hitchhiker named Steven Hicks and took him home in hopes of having sex with him. But when Hicks wanted to leave, Dahmer prevented it by smashing him in the skull with a barbell, and then cutting him up and burying the parts.

For a while after this there were apparently no more murders; it was a time when Dahmer enrolled in college, unsuccessfully, and then signed up for a six-year stint in the army. He was discharged after two years for alcoholism.

Notable Quotable
“I couldn’t find any meaning for my life when I was out there, I’m sure as hell not going to find it in here \[in Wisconsin’s Columbia Correctional Institution]. This is the grand finale of a life poorly spent and the end result is just overwhelmingly depressing . . . It’s just a sick, pathetic, wretched, miserable life story, that’s all it is. How it can help anyone I don’t know.”
—Jeffrey Dahmer

In 1982, Dahmer moved in with his grandmother in West Allis, Wisconsin. In August of that year, he was arrested for exposing himself at a state fair. In September 1986, he was charged again with public exposure after two boys accused him of masturbating in public. This time he was sentenced to a year in prison, and he served ten months. On September 25, 1988, he was arrested for fondling a thirteen-year-old Laotian boy in Milwaukee, for which he served ten months of a one-year sentence in a work-release camp. He was required to register as a sex offender. He convinced the judge that he needed therapy, and he was released on good behavior with five-year probation. Shortly thereafter, he began a string of murders that would end with his 1991 arrest.

Dahmer’s first kill in this string of murders occurred on September 15, 1987. Steven Tuomis disappeared, and people found out he had been murdered by Dahmer only when Dahmer confessed to his crimes in 1991. He killed three more men, and he was also experimenting with his victims, particularly with their body parts. The odor proved too much for his grandmother, who threw him out of her house on September 25, 1988. Dahmer took an apartment on Milwaukee’s North Twenty-fifth Street, and there at least eight killings took place. Dahmer’s MO was particularly horrible: He wanted to create “zombies” that would be at his beck and call, and to do this, he drilled holes in his victims’ skulls and poured caustic solutions into the holes to make them unconscious. The method didn’t work, though it did succeed in killing the victim every time.

In the early morning hours of May 30, 1991, fourteen-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone (the younger brother of the boy Dahmer had molested in 1988) was discovered on the street, wandering nude and under the heavy influence of drugs. Dahmer convinced police that they had an argument while drinking, and that Sinthasomphone was his nineteen-year-old boyfriend. Against the teenager’s protests—which the police likely didn’t understand, as Sinthasomphone didn’t speak English—police turned him over to Dahmer. Later that night, Dahmer killed and dismembered Sinthasomphone, keeping his skull as a souvenir.

By the summer of 1991, Dahmer was murdering approximately one person each week. He killed Matt Turner on June 30, Jeremiah Weinberger on July 5, Oliver Lacy on July 12, and finally Joseph Brandehoft on July 18. On July 22, 1991, Dahmer lured another man, Tracy Edwards, into his home.

According to the would-be victim, Dahmer struggled with Edwards to handcuff him. Edwards escaped and flagged down a police car, with the handcuffs still hanging from one hand. Edwards led police back to Dahmer’s apartment, where Dahmer at first acted friendly to the officers, only to turn on them when he realized that they suspected something was wrong. As one officer subdued Dahmer, the other searched the house and uncovered multiple photographs of murdered victims and human remains, including three severed heads and penises. All told, the police found the remains of eleven people, with parts divided between acid vats and the refrigerator. And it was not that Dahmer wasn’t religious: In his bedroom they found an altar festooned with candles and skulls of his victims, as well as photos of people he had killed.

The Trial
On January 30, 1992, Jeffrey Dahmer faced fifteen counts of murder in a Wisconsin court. The murder cases were already so notorious and Dahmer so clearly guilty that the authorities never bothered to charge him with the attempted murder of Edwards. His trial began in January 1992. With evidence over-whelmingly against him, Dahmer pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The court found Dahmer sane and guilty and sentenced him to fifteen consecutive life terms, totaling 957 years in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Dahmer expressed remorse for his actions, also saying that he wished for his own death.

Dahmer served his time at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin, where he ultimately declared himself a born-again Christian. This conversion occurred after viewing Evangelical material sent to him by his father. A local preacher, Roy Ratcliff, met with Dahmer and agreed to baptize him.

On November 28, 1994, Dahmer and another inmate named Jesse Anderson were beaten to death by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver with a bar from a weight machine while on work detail in the prison gym—ironically, just how Dahmer had killed his first victim. Dahmer died from severe head trauma in the ambulance en route to the hospital. Before his death, Dahmer had already survived one attempt on his life: After attending a church service in the prison chapel, an inmate tried to slash Dahmer’s throat with a razor blade. Dahmer escaped the incident with superficial wounds.
Continue Reading | Comment (1)

Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Notable Quotable
Toole enjoyed crucifying his victims, after which he would often barbecue and eat them. Lucas said he never joined Ottis in these unholy feasts. When asked why not, he replied, “I don’t like barbecue sauce.”

If serial murder has a poster child, Henry Lee Lucas is surely a candidate. It has been said that he killed more than three hundred people, and while this is undoubtedly false, one thing is for sure: He murdered a lot of people. There’s no question he was a very dangerous man. His compatriot and lover, Ottis Toole, was no slouch in the murder department, either. Lucas and Toole traveled across the country in the 1970s and 1980s, committing many of their murders along Interstate 35, which stretches from Laredo, Texas, to Gainesville, Florida.
Henrry Lee Lucas
Henrry Lee Lucas

The Clearance Factor

There has been some debate over whether Lucas was actually the perpetrator of all the murders he confessed to. The Texas Rangers, a law enforcement organization that assists local police departments in a kind of “have expertise, will travel” capacity, say that Lucas was a genuine serial murderer, and in the mid-1980s he cooperated with law enforcement departments all over the country. The Rangers let Lucas travel to various states and be interviewed by various departments, and he helped “clear,” as they say in police parlance, hundreds of murders by confessing to them.

But there are local law enforcement groups, such as the Texas state attorney general’s office, that say that Lucas the serial killer is more myth than fact. In 1986, Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox published the “Lucas Report,” a thick document that examines a number of murders Lucas confessed to and that allegedly proves how Lucas couldn’t be the killer.

There are also ordinary people who do not believe Lucas is the killer he confesses to be. One family, the Lemonses of Lubbock, Texas, went to great lengths, including selling their house, to finance an investigation of Lucas’s claims that he had killed their newly married daughter, nineteen-year-old Deborah Sue Williamson. Their conclusion, as reported by Ron Rosenbaum in a September 1990 article on the controversy in Vanity Fair magazine, was that Lucas was not the killer; they claimed that Lucas did not know details of the case, such as the layout of the house, and believed the killer of their daughter was still at large. The Texas reporter Hugh Aynesworth also analyzed Lucas’s confessions. The result was a report in the Dallas Times Herald that discredited dozens more of the murders Lucas claimed.

At the core of the controversy seems to be the “clearance” factor. Detectives like it when cases are cleared or solved - it makes life easier and makes them look good. In this case, it would also make the Rangers look good, because they “owned” the clearance weapon in so many cases from the 1970s and 1980s: Henry Lee Lucas and his confessions. So it could be possible that there are other murderers involved in these crimes and the police just don’t want to solve them.

It’s impossible to know for sure how many murders he actually committed, but Henry Lee Lucas was beyond a doubt a serial killer, and a most active one. It’s definitely possible that he lied about some confessions or was somehow cajoled or coerced or conned into giving them - or perhaps he was the con, confessing to more and more crimes to boost his notoriety or just mess with the authorities. But lies aside, there have to be other murders he confessed to - many murders - that he did commit.

A Horrific Childhood
There is no doubt that Lucas had a childhood that could incite a murderous rage. He was raised, as Ron Rosenbaum reports in Vanity Fair, “in a fairly primitive log-cabin-like dwelling in an isolated backwoods county in western Virginia, the kind of hillbilly milieu that produced the predators of Deliverance.” Appropriately, the name of the town was Blacksburg (the same town, in fact, where a gunman went wild at Virginia Tech and killed thirty-two people in April 2007).

But it wasn’t the town that did Henry Lucas in. It was mainly his mother. “I was brought up like a dog,” Lucas told Rosenbaum in a death-row interview. “No human being should have to be put through what I was.”

His stepfather, nicknamed “No Legs” by townsfolk, was an alcoholic who had lost his legs to a slow-moving freight train. For whatever reason, perhaps lack of money, he did not buy prostheses for his limbs - instead, he slid around the bare dirt floor of the shack the Lucases called home, propelling himself on his stumps. Said Lucas of his father, as stated in Joel Norris’s book Serial Killers, “He hopped around on his ass all his life.”

Lucas’s mother, Viola, was part Cherokee - and all monster. She was a part-time prostitute who used to service men in the cabin and liked to force “No Legs” to watch. The legless man would watch as long as he could and then get sick. On the final occasion he watched, a winter day in 1950, he was so overwhelmed by what he was seeing that he dragged himself out into the cold, snow-covered landscape and lay there all night. Within a week he was dead of pneumonia.

Viola Lucas also made Henry Lee watch her practice her profession, from the ripe old age of eight until he was fourteen. To add to the event, she liked to dress him as a little girl when he watched. She also dressed Henry Lee as a little girl when he went to school, taking pains to curl his then-long blond hair. When he wasn’t dressed as a girl, he went to school dirty and smelly and dressed in ragged clothes. One teacher there remembered that he was particularly pathetic among a group of students who came from poverty-stricken families and that the other children constantly taunted him, particularly for his glass eye (Henry Lee had lost an eye to an accident when he was seven).

One would have to search very hard to find a mother who was crueler to her son than Viola Lucas was. She relished her cruelty, even reveled in it. She was the antithesis of warm and nurturing, what we expect a mother to be. Verbally, she constantly tore him apart, detailing what a worthless person he was, what a burden. Physically, she was a savage. She beat him constantly with anything that was handy - including two-by-fours. Years later, the damage from her beatings would show up in CAT scans taken of Lucas’s brain.

Viola’s cruelty was not only constant but also inspired. For example, Henry Lee came to love a mule on the farm, and one day Viola asked if he liked it. He told her he did, very much. That was enough for Viola. She went into the shed, came out with a shotgun, and killed the mule as Henry Lee watched. Then she beat Henry Lee for burdening her with having to pay for the animal’s removal.

His diet was minimal. He suffered from malnutrition and later, as Joel Norris reports in Serial Killers, there were excessive amounts of lead and cadmium found in his body. Henry Lee would often try to supplement what he got at home by foraging through garbage cans.

The effects of his mother’s savagery started showing up fairly early. In Henry Lee’s case it was cruelty to animals, a typical symptom of a budding serial murderer. Henry Lee and his half brother got into the habit of killing farm animals and then having intercourse with them, a practice Henry Lee would continue years later with human beings.

Henry Lee would also pleasure himself by skinning small animals alive. By the age of ten, he was drinking like a fish and had become an accomplished thief.

By his own admission, Henry Lee started to kill people when he was fifteen. He attempted to rape a girl in the county and she resisted, so he strangled her and buried her body.

Later he would state that it was his “worst murder” - not because he felt remorse, but because he was afraid the police would track him down. They didn’t, and Lucas eventually left home and began his pattern of crime, which was usually to steal cars, money, whatever, get caught, and be incarcerated. He served time in Virginia State Penitentiary and a federal reformatory in Ohio.

Killing Mom
The year 1959 was a good one for Henry Lee; he murdered his mother. At the time, Viola was staying in Michigan with Lucas’s sister, and Lucas, freshly discharged from the penitentiary in Virginia, met her there. He introduced his mother to a woman he had met named Stella, whom Lucas said he was going to marry.

Viola didn’t approve of Stella - and she also accused Henry Lee of molesting his sister’s children. They argued. Both were drunk, the argument got physical, and Henry Lee stabbed her in the chest. She lay on the floor for half a day, bleeding, before her daughter found her; she subsequently died.

Henry Lee was sentenced to forty years for his mother’s murder and was to spend the time at the Michigan State Penitentiary. Prison changed him, but not in the way law enforcement would have liked. Before prison, he had killed out of fear or rage. After, he was bent on killing anything with a heartbeat.

In prison, Lucas heard his mother’s voice ordering him to kill himself. He pulled a razor across his abdomen and wrists to comply but failed. It was to be one of many suicide attempts. And he heard other voices that told him to do bad things. Prison doctors diagnosed him as schizophrenic, a sexual psychopath who felt potent - and became physically potent - only when he was having sex with dead bodies. (An FBI agent once asked Lucas why he only had sex with women after he killed them and his answer was, “I like peace and quiet.”).

Lucas knew he was dangerous, and when he was granted parole in 1970, he begged Michigan authorities to keep him caged up. He knew he would kill. But they let him out anyway, and he fulfilled his own prophecy by murdering a young woman the very same day in Jackson: She lived only a few blocks from the state prison.

A Match Made in Hell
After the murder in Jackson, Michigan, Lucas was on the move, and soon he met Ottis Toole - a man who always seemed to be smiling. Ron Rosenbaum, in his Vanity Fair article, described Toole as “a six foot tall occasional transvestite with a build like a linebacker’s and a voice like Truman Capote’s.” Born in Florida, Toole grew up with a skewed sexuality helped by the fact that his sister Drusilla had raped him. Years later he would enjoy watching Drusilla’s young daughter Betty have sex with men that Toole picked up. Among other claims to fame for Toole was the abduction, murder, and decapitation of Adam Walsh, the seven-year-old son of John Walsh, host of the television show America’s Most Wanted. This could be a Lucas-like faux confession - Toole was never charged with or convicted of killing Adam Walsh, though he confessed to it a number of times (and retracted his confession almost as often).

Ottis Toole
Ottis Toole

Precisely what Lucas and Toole did and didn’t do is debatable, but it’s a safe assumption that their life together was a spinetingling amalgamation of sodomy, strangling, stabbing, cutting, shooting, necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism. Lucas told Rosenbaum that Toole enjoyed crucifying his victims, after which Toole would often barbecue and eat them. Lucas said he never joined Ottis in these unholy feasts. When asked why not, he replied, “I don’t like barbecue sauce.”

The duo’s main murder scene was Interstate 35. During the 1970s and 1980s the highway was virtually littered with bodies, hundreds of them. As Joel Norris points out in Serial Killers, there was no consistent MO in the murders, so police could not be sure whether they were dealing with one perpetrator or many. The victims were sometimes sexually assaulted, sodomized, shot, strangled, beaten, and/or dismembered.

Although the number of murders may be debatable, everyone agrees that Lucas killed Kate Rich, an elderly woman who lived in Wichita Falls, Texas. Rich lived near the House of Prayer, a chicken farm that had been converted into a church that housed homeless people and others down on their luck in the former chicken coops. Two of these people were Ottis Toole and Henry Lee Lucas, and the House of Prayer is where they would carry out many of their crimes. Lucas stabbed Kate Rich to death, chopped her up, and destroyed her remains by burning them in a stove on church property. He also burned her house to the ground.

Another murder Lucas definitely committed, and the one that put him on death row, was the killing of “Orange Socks,” an unidentified young woman, found facedown on the side of Interstate 35, strangled, and nude except for some long, pumpkin-colored stockings that were pulled down around her ankles. She was an attractive young woman with reddish brown hair, perfect teeth, a nice body, and a venereal disease.

Lucas said she was hitchhiking; he picked her up in Oklahoma City and they drove toward Texas. At one point they stopped and Lucas made an exception for her: He had sex with her while she was still alive. Then they continued on, and Lucas wanted to make it an even rarer day: have sex with her again. She told him, “Not now.” Lucas did not take no for an answer. Joel Norris describes what happened in Lucas’s words in Serial Killers:

She tried to jump out of the car and I grabbed her and pulled her back. We drove for a little piece further than that, and I pulled off the road because she was fighting so hard that I almost lost control of the car. After that I pulled her over to me and I choked her until she died.

Then he had sex with the corpse and dumped the body in a culvert.

Lucas was tried for Orange Socks’s murder in San Angelo. He was quickly convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection. He did not seem chagrined by the idea. He had tried to take his own life many times, and now he would give the state a crack at it.

However many people Lucas and Toole killed, they were clearly capable of scores and perhaps hundreds of killings. Indeed, how many people would want to go for a ride with them along Interstate 35 on a moonless November night? Chances are that not many folks would be clamoring for seats.

Where are Lucas and Toole now?

Taking a dirt nap. Ottis Toole died of cirrhosis of the liver in September 1996 while in prison in Florida and Henry Lee Lucas died in prison in Texas on March 13, 2001.

Would You Believe?
Henry Lee Lucas had been sentenced to death for his murder spree, but Texas Governor George W. Bush commuted his sentence to life in prison. It was the only one of 153 death penalty cases in which Bush intervened, and it involved the killing of Orange Socks. Bush explained: “The first question I ask in each death penalty case is whether there is any doubt about whether the individual is guilty of the crime. While Henry Lee Lucas is guilty of committing a number of horrible crimes, serious concerns have been raised about his guilt in this case.”
Continue Reading | Comment (1)

Jerry Brudos

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Notable Fact
He cut off the young girl’s left foot, slipped her shoe on it, and stored it in the freezer.

Jerry Brudos, who stalked Salem, Oregon, and the surrounding area in the late 1960s, kept a gruesome photographic record of his victims. He carried out all of his murders while ostensibly carrying on a normal life (well, at home, he and his wife walked around in the nude). His wife, Darcie, would later say that she had no idea what was going on.

Jerry Brudos

Brudos is also one of the physically strongest serial killers on record. As a six-foot, freckle-faced man with eyes turned down at the corners and a moonish face, at 190 pounds, he may not have looked terribly imposing - but it was said that he could lift a three-hundred-pound freezer by himself.
Continue Reading | Comment (1)

Albert DeSalvo

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Notable Fact
He would usually rape the woman while she was dying or dead, and violently assault her with various objects, among them a wine bottle and a broom handle.

Of all the serial murderers in the history of the United States, none has ever evoked more widespread terror than the man who became known as the Boston Strangler. From 1962 to 1964, women of all ages and backgrounds who lived in Boston and the surrounding towns lived in fear. The police were in a state of anxiety and frustration. The only people who likely welcomed the presence of the Strangler were those who ran home security and personal defense businesses.
Continue Reading | Comment (1)

John Wayne Gacy

Notable Fact
The most dangerous situation for young boys to be in with John Wayne Gacy was at his home.

There are three images that jump to mind about John Wayne Gacy, who ranks as one of the worst serial killers in the United States during the twentieth century:

A photo of the portly Gacy, dressed and painted as a clown, with a big clown smile on his face - and a certain chilling light in his eyes.
A picture of Gacy standing next to Rosalynn Carter in 1978, which she autographed, “To John Gacy, Best Wishes, Rosalynn Carter.”
And finally, when the cops searched his house, they found a two - foot - long dildo, one of his torture implements, eighteen inches of it covered with dried excreta and blood.

Growing Up Gacy

Like most serial murderers, John Wayne Gacy was able to disguise the savagery inside him, the compulsion that made him kill. Part of his disguise included marrying - twice- and having children.

John Wayne (after the movie star) Gacy was born in 1942 in Edgewater Hospital in Chicago, the only boy in a family with a younger and older sister. In Gacy’s family there were not the obvious ruptures so common in the childhood of other serial killers, such as a father who abandons the family or a history of insanity. Gacy’s family, for all intents and purposes, was a lot like yours or mine. They lived a middle - class existence in middle - class Chicago.

Continue Reading | Comment (1)

Gary Heidnik

Friday, October 9, 2009

Notable Fact
Indeed, Heidnik was cooking something; it was not his dinner but the rib cage of a human being.

With a little luck, lives might have been saved. On November 26, 1986, Sandra Lindsley, a mildly mentally disabled young African American woman who lived in northern Philadelphia, went to the corner drugstore to pick up a package of Midol. Hours went by and she didn’t return, and her mother, Jeanette Perkins, went searching for her. She spent an anxious weekend trying to find her daughter.

On Monday, Perkins contacted a close friend of Sandra’s, Cyril “Tony” Brown. Brown didn’t know where Sandra was, but he asked Jeanette whether she had tried the home of Gary Heidnik, a white man in his early forties who was a friend of both Sandra and Tony. Sandra had been to Heidnik’s house on numerous occasions.

Continue Reading | Comment (3)

Dean Corll

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Notable Fact
In preparation for what was to happen to the boy, Corll would always place a sheet of plastic under the plywood to catch the excreta, blood, and vomit that would invariably be discharged from the victim while Corll had his fun.
 On August 8, 1973, the police received a call from a young man who requested that they come to a house in Pasadena, a suburb of Houston, Texas. As John Godwin reports in Murder U.S.A.: The Ways We Kill Each Other, the caller, in a voice that was young and slurred, said: “Listen, yah better come over. Ah killed a guy here.” He identified himself as Wayne Henley and said that the address was 2020 Lamar Drive.

A patrol car responded, and on the street outside the ordinary-looking, white, ranch-style house, they found two teenage boys and a teenage girl who were obviously high on drugs. Henley identified himself as the one who called, and then led them inside.

The few rooms were sparsely furnished and had a heavy, sickening smell. On the floor of the bedroom the cops found the corpse of a tall, pudgy man with sideburns that Henley said was Dean Corll. Henley said that he had shot him in selfdefense -  six times - because he had feared for his life and the lives of his friends.
Continue Reading | Comment

Ted Bundy

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Notable Quotable
“You feel the last bit of breath leaving
their body. You’re looking into their eyes.
A person in that situation is God!”
—Ted Bundy, on the joy of murder
Q: What’s the leading cause of death in Florida?
A: The electric chair.

The state of Florida has no problem at all letting bad guys ride the lightning. And it may well be that Ted Bundy, one of the most infamous serial murderers of this century, wanted to ride it - at least subconsciously. Consider this 1976 conversation Bundy had with his lawyer while in jail in Aspen, Colorado, on multiple murder charges, as reported in Bundy: The Deliberate Stranger, by Richard W. Larsen:

“What’s going on with executions now?” Ted asked.
“Where are most people likely to be executed now?”
“I suppose it might be Georgia. . . .  No,” Bundy’s lawyer corrected himself. “It’d probably be Florida now.”
“Florida?” repeated Bundy.
The lawyer said the constitutionality of Florida’s death penalty had recently been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Florida,” murmured Bundy, “Florida. Hmmm.”

It makes you wonder, then, why, knowing this, Ted Bundy would travel all the way across the country from Colorado to Florida to kill somebody. Why not one of the other fortynine states, where he was less likely to be executed?

Continue Reading | Comment (2)

Bobby Joe Long

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Notable Fact
Bobby Joe would have sex with his wife two or three times a day — and masturbate an additional five or six times a day.
The sexual drive of Bobby Joe Long can be described in one word: unbelievable. But for a number of women in Florida, it became all too believable—and deadly. Bobby Joe Long believes that his troubles began in 1974, when he was involved in a very nasty motorcycle accident. He was speeding down a street in Tampa, Florida, when a car suddenly appeared in front of him. He slammed on the brakes, but it didn’t help. He was thrown into the car hard enough to crack his helmet. From then on, Bobby Joe says, strange things happened to his sex drive. He started to think about sex all the time—and to do it all the time, becoming almost satyrlike.

Before the accident occurred, he would have sex with his slim, pretty wife, Cindy Jean, two or three times a week. After the accident they would have sex two or three times a day, and Bobby Joe masturbated an additional five or six times. (This kind of sex drive is reminiscent of that of another murderer, Albert DeSalvo—who claimed to be the Boston Strangler—who used to have sex with his wife more than thirty times a week.)

Soon enough, sex with his wife was not enough for Bobby Joe; he wanted other women as well. Starting in 1980, Bobby Joe started to look at the want ads in the Miami and Ocala areas in Florida. He would find ads for furniture or televisions for sale, and then, during the day—always during the day, when it was less likely that a man would be home—Bobby Joe would go to the home, ostensibly to look at the item for sale. Once he was inside and sure that no one else was there, he would tie and gag the woman, then rape her.

Long did this more than fifty times between 1980 and 1983, and he became known in the area as the Want-Ad Rapist. Local task forces and the FBI went after him, but he eluded capture. As the rapes continued, he felt a rising sense of anger. He started to feel anger as never before. The slightest thing triggered a towering rage, which he would act out in bizarre ways.

Once, for example, his mother Louella was visiting and said something that displeased Bobby Joe. He grabbed her and spanked her like a child, an absurd, painful, and humiliating event for her. Noise also started to bother Long. The slightest noise would set off an explosive reaction.

Whatever was cooking inside him, in 1983, Long converted from rapist to killer—and then to serial killer. His first victim was a Vietnamese woman named Ngeon Thi Long. He somehow lured her into his car, then tied her up, took her to an isolated spot, raped and killed her, and dumped her body on the side of the road.

Prosecutor Mike Bonito would later say that Long set up his car to particularly serve his murderous ends. The passenger seat could be pushed back flat. He would have the victim sit in the seat, tie her up, and then push her back so her head would be lower than the back window. With his free hand he would  molest her as they drove, then he would rape and strangle her at their destination.

Almost any woman was fair game for Long, but he particularly liked prowling the strip joints, bars, and assorted dives along Nebraska Avenue in North Tampa to look for victims. However, there was one thing that all of his victims shared: They had to come to him, pick him up, or otherwise approach him. This was the way he rationalized killing them—if they picked him up, he considered them as manipulative, detestable whores, people who should be killed.

Loss of Desire

With eight victims behind him, something strange happened to Long. Following his usual pattern, he picked up a big, sexy woman named Kim Sann in North Tampa. As soon as she was in the car, he started to assault her. But Sann was a fighter, and she fought back—and screamed. There followed a series of skirmishes inside the car during which he managed to choke her into unconsciousness, only for her to awaken and scream and fight.

Finally he strangled her to death, and it was then that he discovered the curious thing: He had no energy to violate her sexually. To some degree, his frantic sexual energy had dissipated.

But an encounter two days before the one with Kim Sann was even stranger. On the prowl, he picked up a seventeen-year-old girl—and didn’t kill her. The girl couldn’t know it, but the reason, in Long’s mind, was that she was not a whore, not a manipulator of men. Rather, she was homeless, rejected by her own family. Not that this kept him away from her sexually. He took her to his own apartment and raped her, but he did not kill her. Rather, he was with her for more than twenty-four hours and then simply dropped her off where he had picked her up.

The really strange thing about this abduction was that he gave the girl the opportunity, though he kept her blindfolded throughout the rape and for much of her ordeal, to see him at various points, to glimpse his apartment, to see him at an automated teller machine. He knew he was putting himself in jeopardy but did nothing to stop it.

In fact, because of leads that the girl provided, the police tracked down Bobby Joe Long and arrested him for murder. He said later that his capture did not surprise him, that he wanted to be caught and knew he would be. As time had gone by, he had gained more and more a sense of revulsion - though not remorse — at what he was doing.

Less than a year after he was arrested, Long was tried on multiple homicide charges. There was a mound of evidence against him, including the testimony of the girl he had raped and held at his apartment. His defense counsel tried mightily to establish  a medical reason for his actions: Medical experts presented evidence that the motorcycle accident had caused trauma to his brain and that his injuries were the precipitating factor in his assaults on women. Before the brain injuries, his counsel argued, there had been no offenses. After, there had been the fifty-plus rapes of the Want-Ad Rapist and nine homicides.

There was no question he had brain damage. Brain tests showed it, and he also had physical symptoms: His face felt dead on one side and he walked with a limp. But the defense counsel did not effectively establish a connection between his injuries and his actions, or maybe the jury just didn’t think it reason enough for his crimes. They found him guilty, and in early 1985, he was sentenced to death in the electric chair. He is still — after all these years — on death row in Florida.

Growing Breasts
On top of the various emotional burdens that Bobby Joe Long had to carry, he suffered, like some other members of his family, from a disorder of the endocrine system that had a devastating side effect. When he was about twelve, he began to develop breasts. He was terrified that he was becoming a woman. This certainly would have a traumatic effect on a twelve-year-old boy, particularly one who already must have had severe doubts about his sense of worth and self. Eventually he had to have an operation and doctors removed several pounds of tissue from his breasts.
An Only Child

Although the defense couldn’t prove that Long’s head injury had caused his crimes, there were some things in his childhood that likely contributed to how he turned out.

Bobby Joe Long was an only child raised by his mother, an attractive woman who was a waitress who lived on the edge of poverty after divorcing her husband. Until he was twelve, Long and his mother shared the same bed in a series of hotel rooms she rented. As reported in Serial Killers: The Growing Menace, by Joel Norris, she said, “We just didn’t have the money for two bedrooms.” However, she also said that she never undressed in front of him or in other ways acted improperly.

When she got finished with her waitressing jobs, she would go out on dates rather than stay home with her son, whom she had neighbors watch. Bobby Joe apparently went into rages over his mother’s lack of concern or caring for him. Her work  and dating schedule also angered him in terms of the times she would come home: five or six in the morning, when Bobby Joe would be getting ready for school. They spent almost no time together.

As mentioned earlier, when Long was twelve, he stopped sleeping with his mother. But whatever damage there was had already been done. Perhaps sleeping with a grown woman diminished the young boy. Indeed, in studies conducted with serial killers, psychiatrists have found that the most savage are those who feel sexually diminished by women. Feelings of shame also might have been a factor. Such feelings coupled with the terror and rage he felt over his mother neglecting him may have made for a murderous combination.
Continue Reading | Comment (2)
The World Of Serial Killers | Site map
Template Modify by Creating Website. Inpire by Darkmatter Rockettheme Proudly powered by Blogger