"Are you looking for your Brian?" asked Mary Bell. Brians sister, Pat, was worried about the missing toddler, who should have been home by now. A small, three-year-old boy with fair hair, Brian Howe usually played close to home. Mary and her best friend, Norma, eagerly offered to help search for him. They led Pat through the neighborhood, looking here and there, all the while knowing exactly where Brian was.
Mary Bell Mary Bell They crossed the railroad tracks to the industrial area, where the kids of Scotswood often played among construction materials, old cars, and dangerous wreckage. Pat was worried -- only a few weeks ago little Martin Brown was found dead inside of a condemned house. Mary pointed to some large concrete blocks. "He might be playing behind the blocks, or between them," she said.
"Oh no, he never goes there," insisted Norma. In fact, Brian lay dead between the blocks. Mary wanted Pat to discover her dead brother, Norma later said, "because she wanted Pat Howe to have a shock." But Pat decided to leave. The Newcastle Police would find his body at 11:10 later that night.
Brian was found covered with grass and purple weeds. He had been strangled. Nearby, a pair of broken scissors lay in the grass. There were puncture marks on his thighs, and his genitals had been partially skinned. Clumps of his hair were cut away. The wounds were bizarre: "There was a terrible playfulness about it, a terrible gentleness if you like, and somehow the playfulness of it made it more, rather than less, terrifying," said Inspector James Dobson. Brians belly had been signed "M" with a razor blade. This cut would not be apparent until days later. It appeared that someone had imprinted an "N", and that a fourth mark was added (by a different hand?) to change the "N" into a "M".
In this summer of 1968, Scotswood, an economically depressed community 275 miles north of London, was in a state of panic. Police flooded the community, interviewing kids between the ages of three and fifteen. The adults wondered if Martin Browns "accident" was also murder. "We were real nervous," said Martins aunt, "but the kids themselves felt it too."
Among the children who stood out as suspicious to the investigators were eleven year old Mary Bell and thirteen year old Norma Bell (no relation). Mary was evasive and acted strange. Norma was excited by the murder, remembers one authority. "She was continually smiling as if it was a huge joke."
As the investigation narrowed on Mary, she suddenly "remembered" seeing an eight year old boy with Brian on the day he died. The boy hit Brian for no reason, she claimed. She had also seen the same boy playing with broken scissors. But that boy had been at the airport on the afternoon Brian died. By revealing that she knew about the scissors, which was confidential evidence, Mary implicated herself. She described them exactly: "like silver coloured and something wrong with the scissors, like one leg was either broken or bent." It was becoming clear that either Mary, Norma, or both, had seen Brian die. And one of them was probably the killer.
Brian Howe was buried on August 7th. Detective Dobson was there: "Mary Bell was standing in front of the Howes house when the coffin was brought out. I was, of course, watching her. And it was when I saw her there that I knew I did not dare risk another day. She stood there, laughing. Laughing and rubbing her hands. I thought, My God, Ive got to bring her in, shell do another one."
"All that mattered was to lie well."
-- Mary Bell (as an adult)
Before Brians funeral, Dobson questioned Norma again. She now claimed that Mary told her she killed Brian, and brought her to see his body at the blocks. Mary told Norma "I squeezed his neck and pushed up his lungs thats how you kill them. Keep your nose dry and dont tell anybody." When she saw Brian, Norma knew he was dead. "His lips were purple. Mary ran her fingers along his lips. She said she had enjoyed it." That night, Norma was taken to the police station to give an official statement.
Normas story shocked the police, who wasted no time in picking up Mary Bell at 12:15 that night. Her intense-blue eyes were bleary, but she kept her wits. "She appeared to see herself in a sort of cliché scenario of a cops-and-robbers film: nothing surprised her and she admitted nothing," Dobson told Gitta Sereny, who has written extensively on the case.
"I have reason to believe that when you were near the blocks with Norma," said Dobson. "A man shouted at some children who were nearby and you both ran away from where Brian was lying in the grass. This man will probably know you."
"He would have to have good eyesight," she responded.
"Why would he need good eyesight?" Dobson said, ready to catch her in a lie.
"Because he was... " Mary said, after a moment, "clever to see me when I wasnt there." She stood up. "I am going home... This is being brainwashed." But Dobson wasnt about to let her go. At one point Mary asked, "Is this place bugged?"
In the end she refused to budge. "I am making no statements. I have made lots of statements. Its always me you come for. Normas a liar, she always tries to get me into trouble." At 3:30am Mary was permitted to leave. Dobson second-guessing himself. But after seeing Marys behavior at Brians funeral, and gathering additional testimony from Norma, he brought Mary back into the station.
"She was very apprehensive," said Dobson. "She gave me the impression that she knew the time of reckoning had come." Mary now admitted to being present when Brian died, but her "confession" took a bizarre turn.
"I couldnt kill a bird by the neck or throat or anything, its horrible that.
-- Mary Bell
The following is Mary Bells official statement.
I, Mary Flora Bell wish to make a statement. I want someone to write down what I have to say. I have been told that I need not say anything unless I wish to do so, but that whatever I say may be given in evidence.
Signed, Mary F. Bell
Brian was in his front street and me and Norma were walking along towards him. We walked past him and Norma says, Are you coming to the shop Brian? and I says, Norma, youve got no money, how can you go to the shop? Where are you getting it from? She says, Nebby (Keep your nose clean). Little Brian followed and Norma says, Walk up in front. I wanted Brian to go home, but Norma kept coughing so Brian wouldnt hear us.
We went down Crosshill Road with Brian still in front of us. There was this coloured boy and Norma tried to start a fight with him. She said, Darkie, whitewash, its time you got washed. The big brother came out and hit her. She shouted, Howay, put your dukes up. The lad walked away and looked at her as though she was daft.
We went beside Dixons shop and climbed over the railings, I mean, through a hole and over the railway. Then I said, Norma, where are you going? and Norma said, Do you know that little pool where the tadpoles are? When we got there, there was a big, long tank with a big, round hole with little holes round it. Norma says to Brian, Are you coming in here because theres a lady coming on the Number 82 and shes got boxes of sweets and that.
We all got inside, then Brian started to cry and Norma asked him if he had a sore throat. She started to squeeze his throat and he started to cry. She said, This isnt where the lady comes, its over there, by them big blocks. We went over to the blocks and she says, Ar--youll have to lie down and he lay down beside the blocks where he was found. Norma says, Put your neck up and he did. Then she got hold of his neck and said Put it down. She started to feel up and down his neck. She squeezed it hard, you could tell it was hard because her finger tips were going white. Brian was struggling, and I was pulling her shoulders but she went mad. I was pulling her chin up but she screamed at me.
By this time she had banged Brians head on some wood or corner of wood and Brian was lying senseless. His face was all white and bluey, and his eyes were open. His lips were purplish and had all like slaver on, it turned into something like fluff. Norma covered him up and I said, Norma, Ive got nothing to do with this, I should tell on you, but Ill not. Little Lassie was there and it was crying and she said, Dont you start or Ill do the same to you. It still cried and she went to get hold of its throat but it growled at her. She said, Now now, dont be hasty.
We went home and I took little Lassie home an all. Norma was acting kind of funny and making twitchy faces and spreading her fingers out. She said, This is the first but itll not be the last. I was frightened then. I carried Lassie and put her down over the railway and we went up Crosswood Road way. Norma went into the house and she got a pair of scissors and she put them down her pants. She says, Go and get a pen. I said No, what for. She says, To write a note on his stomach, and I wouldnt get the pen. She had a Gillette razor blade. It had Gillette on. We went back to the blocks and Norma cut his hair. She tried to cut his leg and his ear with the blade. She tried to show me it was sharp, she took the top of her dress where it was raggie and cut it, it made a slit. A man came down the railway bank with a little girl with long blonde hair, he had a red checked shirt on and blue denim jeans. I walked away. She hid the razor blade under a big, square concrete block. She left the scissors beside him. She got out before me over the grass on to Scotswood Road. I couldnt run on the grass cos I just had my black slippers on. When we got along a bit she says, May, you shouldnt have done that cos youll get into trouble and I hadnt done nothing I havent got the guts. I couldnt kill a bird by the neck or throat or anything, its horrible that. We went up the steps and went home, I was nearly crying. I said, if Pat finds out shell kill you, never mind killing Brian cos Pats more like a tomboy. Shes always climbing in the old buildings and that.
Later on I was helping to look for Brian and I was trying to let on to Pat that I knew where he was on the blocks, but Norma said, Hell not be over there, he never goes there, and she convinced Pat he wasnt there. I got shouted in about half past seven and I stayed in. I got woke up about half past eleven and we stood at the door as Brian had been found: The other day Norma wanted to get put in a home. She says will you run away with us and I said no. She says if you get put in a home and you feed the little ones and murder them then run away again.
I have read the above statement and I have been told that I can correct, alter or add anything I wish, this statement is true. I have made it of my own free will.
Mary Flora Bell (signed at 6:55 pm)
Marys statement had some partial truths but for the most part was a transparent attempt to blame Norma. Dobson formally charged Mary Bell with the murder of Brian Howe. "Thats all right with me," she replied. He then arrested Norma Bell, who in anger to the charge, declared, "I never. Ill pay you back for this."
The girls were incarcerated at the Newcastle West End police station. Their upcoming trial would attract the attention of a fascinated, yet horrified nation.
"'What happens if you choke someone, do they die?"
-- Mary Bells notebook
Investigators now looked at the mysterious death of Martin Brown as a homicide. In fact, Mary Bells behavior after Martins death was so flagrant, it was a wonder she hadnt been apprehended sooner. Perhaps Brian Howes life would have been spared. But, as one local boy said, everyone knew Mary was a "show-off," and her screams "I am a murderer!" had simply been laughed at.
Even before Martins death, other children were being hurt by Mary.
On May 11, 1968, a three-year-old boy was found behind some empty sheds near a pub, bleeding from the head. He was found by Norma Bell and Mary Bell. The boy was a cousin of Marys. He had "fallen" off a ledge, landing several feet below. Mary would later admit to having pushed him over the edge.
The following day, three girls who were playing by the Nursery were attacked by Mary, with Norma nearby. One of the girls said that Mary "put her hands around my neck and squeezed hard... The girl [Mary] took her hands off my neck and she did the same to Susan." The police were soon called. Norma stated that "Mary went to the other girl and said, What happens if you choke someone, do they die? Then Mary put both hands round the girls throat and squeezed. The girl started to go purple... I then ran off and left Mary. Im not friends with her now."
According to the official report on May 15, "The girls Bell have been warned as to their future conduct." Ten days later Martin Brown was killed.
"There has been a boy who Just lay down and Died."
-- Mary Bells notebook
Martin was last seen at approximately 3:15 pm, and was discovered at 3:30, lying on the floor of a boarded-up house. Three boys foraging for some scrap wood had found the child on his back next to a window, with blood and saliva trickling down the side of his cheek and chin. Panicked, they called out to the construction workers outside, who remembered giving little Martin some biscuits earlier that day. They raced up the stairs and tried to revive him, but Martin was already dead.
One of the boys noticed Mary Bell and a friend coming toward the house, and stopping directly below the window. "Shall we go up?" said Mary. They squeezed through boards to get inside. Mary had brought Norma to show her that she had killed Martin. But they were told to go away.
The girls then went to find Martins aunt to tell her that there had been an accident, that they thought it was Martin, and that there was "blood all over." "Ill show you where it is," said Mary to the distraught woman.
Strangely, the police could not find any signs of violence. A bottle of aspirin was nearby -- perhaps he ate them all. There were no visible strangulation marks or any other marks on the child, and therefore the authorities believed his death was accidental. The Criminal Investigation Department was not called in.
The official report on Martin Brown declared the "cause of death open." But the Scotswood community couldnt simply let go of the tragic death, so they marched and protested against the dangerous conditions of the condemned buildings in the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the true menace of Scotswood, Mary and Norma, were giving Martins aunt the creeps with their prying questions. "They kept asking me, Do you miss Martin? and Do you cry for him? and Does June miss him? and they were always grinning. In the end I could stand it no more and told them to get out and not to come back."
June Richardson with a photograph of her son Martin Brown, who was murdered by Mary Bell June Richardson with a photograph of her son Martin Brown, who was murdered by Mary Bell
Martins mother, June Brown was also bothered by the girls. After hearing a knock, June opened the front door to find Mary standing there. "Mary smiled and asked to see Martin. I said, No, pet, Martin is dead. She turned round and said, Oh, I know hes dead. I wanted to see him in his coffin, and she was still grinning. I was just speechless that such a young child should want to see a dead baby and I just slammed the door on her."
Marys ominous behavior was by no means exclusive to Martins grieving family. On Sunday, the day following Martins death, Mary celebrated her eleventh birthday by trying to throttle Norma Bells younger sister. Fortunately, Normas father saw Marys stranglehold on the girl. "I chopped Marys hands away," he said, "and gave her a clip on the shoulder."
But the day wasnt over yet. The next morning the staff at the Day Nursery at Woodlands Crescent would make a chilling discovery.
"Look out THERE are Murders about"
-- note found in vandalized nursery
On Monday morning, May 27 the teachers at the Day Nursery, on Woodlands Crescent at the end of Whitehouse Road, arrived to find the school ransacked. School supplies were strewn about recklessly, and cleaning materials had been splattered on the floor. But the most disturbing discovery was the four scribbled notes left behind:
"I murder so THAT I may come back"
"fuch of we murder watch out Fanny and Faggot"
"we did murder Martain brown Fuck of you Bastard"
"You are micey Becurse we murdered Martain Go Brown you Bete Look out THERE are Murders about By FANNYAND and auld Faggot you Srcews"
Police took the notes back to the station and filed them away as a sick joke. Mary would later admit they wrote the notes "for a giggle." Because this wasnt the first break-in at the Nursery, the school installed an alarm system.
That same morning, Mary Bell drew a picture in her notebook of a child in the same pose as that in which Martin Brown had been found, with a bottle near him with the word "TABLET.." There was a man walking toward the child. It read, "On saturday I was in the house, and my mam sent Me to ask Norma if she Would come up the top with me? we went up and we came down at Magrets Road and there were crowds of people beside an old house. I asked what was the matter. there had been a boy who Just lay down and Died." Marys notebook entry did not strike the teacher as odd, although she was the only student who wrote on Martins death.
Notebook entry Notebook entry
On Friday of the same week, the newly-installed alarm sounded off at Nursery. Mary Bell and Norma Bell were caught red-handed, but denied breaking in before. Released to the custody of their parents, a date was set for them to appear at Juvenile Court.
A week later, Mary attacked Norma near the Nursery sandpit. A boy saw Mary scratch her friend and kick her in the eye, but only laughed when he heard Mary scream, "I am a murderer!" She pointed in the direction of house where Martin Brown was found. "That house over there, thats where I killed... " Since Mary was well known as a show-off, he didnt take her ominous bragging seriously.
Toward the end of July, before Brian Howes murder, Mary visited the Howe household, and declared "I know something about Norma that will get her put away straight away." She told them her secret: "Norma put her hands on a boys throat. It was Martin Brown -- she pressed and he just dropped." To make her point, she grabbed her own throat in a choking gesture, then left. It would be a few days later that Mary would strangle the Howes own child. This insatiable need to "show and tell" her deadly crimes would be acted out upon another innocent babe.
"Murder isnt that bad, we all die sometime anyway."
-- Mary Bell to one of her guards
The first night in their small jail cells in Newcastle West End police station, the girls were restless. "They kept shouting to each other through the doors," said one of the police women who watched the children. The police station was not accustomed to housing child offenders, and they had to make provisions as best as they could. "We finally told them to shut up. At one moment I heard Mary shout out angrily about her mother." Mary, who had been a chronic bedwetter, was terrified of going to sleep, for fear that she might mess her bed. "I usually do," she confided. At home, Marys mother severely humiliated her whenever she wet the bed, rubbing her daughters face in the pool of urine, said Mary, years later. She then hung the mattress outside for the entire neighborhood to see.
During the course of her incarceration, the women guards got to know Mary better, describing her as confident, intelligent and "cheeky." Some of Marys casual comments would shock the police women, but others saw her as a scared little girl who had no comprehension of the enormity of her actions. In the middle of the night Mary would "bolt upright." Marys hostility had an almost naive quality: while tightly grabbing a stray cat by the neck, a guard told her not to hurt the cat. Mary allegedly replied, "Oh, she doesnt feel that, and anyway, I like hurting little things that cant fight back." In another incident, a police woman said that Mary said shed like to be a nurse, "because then I can stick needles into people. I like hurting people."
If her parents were somehow responsible for young Marys behavior, she would not talk about it. She had been taught to keep quiet, especially around authority figures. Her father, Billy Bell, had lived with the family, but the children (Mary and her younger brother and sister) were instructed to always call him "uncle," so that their mother could collect government assistance. Billy Bell was a thief, and the mother, Betty Bell, was a prostitute who was often away in Glasgow on "business." Because of the familys shady vocations, Newcastle Welfare authorities knew very little about Marys family. One detective who visited Marys home described it as having "no feeling of a home, just a shell. Very peculiar... the only life one felt was that of a big dog barking."
Was it because Mary was unresponsive that the psychiatrists found her "psychopathic"? If she had broken her silence and told them of her abusive home life, would she have earned a more sympathetic analysis? "Ive seen a lot of psychopathic children," said Dr. Orton, the first to see her during her incarceration. "But Ive never met one like Mary: as intelligent, as manipulative, or as dangerous." During the murder trial, Marys behavior would do little to harvest sympathy.
The Trial Begins
"Well, that was a very naughty thing to do, wasnt it, to think of killing little boys and girls and talk about it?"
-- Prosecutions question to Norma Bell
Mary Bell and Norma Bell were brought to trial for the murder of Martin Brown and Brian Howe at the Newcastle Assizes Moothall on December 5th 1968. The trial would last nine days. The media attention, although mild by todays sensationalist standards, was generating increasing interest as the trial progressed -- by the final day the press was everywhere. Despite attempts to make the court proceedings less threatening to the children, both Norma and Mary were bewildered. Mary appeared to be attentive, but later admitted the whole thing was a "blur."
Prosecutor Rudolph Lyons opened the trial by suggesting that whoever murdered Brian Howe also killed Martin Brown. Lyons methodically recounted the suspicious behavior of both girls at the scene of Martins death, how they plagued the mourning family with their morbid questions, and how they vandalized the Nursery the next day, leaving notes that amounted to a confession. For Norma, these notes were the most damaging to her innocence. Handwriting analysis had verified that Norma had written the "I murder so that I may come back" note. If Norma was truly innocent, why would she participate in these dreadful scribblings?
How did Mary know that Martin had been asphyxiated? asked Lyons. This was not public knowledge, yet she demonstrated to the Howes how Martin was strangled. Forensic evidence also implicated Mary -- gray fibers from one of her wool dresses were discovered on the bodies of both victims. Fibers from Normas maroon skirt were found on Brians shoes. Although there were doubts about Normas guilt, Mary was considered guilty by most. According to Gitta Sereny, who was at the trial, the issue at stake was whether Mary was a sick little girl or a monster, a "bad seed."
Marys family presence at the trial certainly didnt help her case. Her mother Betty Bell disrupted the proceedings with all her wailing and sobbing, her long blond wig slipping off her head. Like a poorly-played character in a lurid soap opera, she stormed out during the trial, only to dramatically reappear moments later. Her father Billy Bell sat quietly, ignoring his wifes spectacles. Mary, who Sereny described as very pretty and intelligent, with dark hair and sharp blue eyes, which "in anger looked emotionally blank." Observers in the courtroom, wrote Sereny, were "watching her with a horrified kind of curiosity." For such a "manipulative" and "cunning" little girl, Mary knew nothing about attracting sympathy. At one point Mary told a police officer how a "woman up in the gallery smiles at me, but I dont smile back. It isnt a smiling matter. The jury wouldnt like it if I smiled, would they?"
Norma, on the other hand, was surrounded by a much more sympathetic family. She was the third of eleven children, and reacted to evidence and testimony with a more childlike combination of fear and nervous tears (Mary disdained crying as a sign of weakness.)
The Girls Testify
Norma was the first to take the stand. Her defense lawyer, R. P. Smith, asked her about the day Martin Brown was murdered, how Mary poked her head through the fence (the girls were next door neighbors) and said, "Theres been an accident," and took her to the abandoned house were Martins body had just been discovered. "Mary wanted to tell Rita there had been an accident... and something about blood all over something," said Norma, excitedly.
For the prosecution, Norma was an important witness to Marys violent disposition. "Did [Mary] ever show you how little boys or girls could be killed? Did she ever show you that?" When Norma answered "yes," Lyons responded, "Well, that was a very naughty thing to do, wasnt it, to think of killing little boys and girls and talk about it?" Norma agreed.
The night before her testimony, Mary asked a policewoman of the meaning of word "immature." "The lawyer said Norma was more immature, shed said. "Would that mean that if I was the more intelligent Id get all the blame?"
On the sixth day Mary was called to the stand. The room buzzed with anticipation, according to Sereny: "The public and press galleries were very full, the only day when the atmosphere in the court -- unlike all the other days -- was faintly tinged with that morbid fascination one associates with certain types of murder trials."
Mary was composed and brimming with rationale. Why did Mary ask to see Martin Brown in his coffin? "We were daring each other and one of us did not want to be a chicken or something... " she explained. On the drawing in her school notebook of Martins body with an incriminating knowledge of the crime scene: "Rumours," she said. "People were just saying there was a bottle of tablets and things spilled out of them. It was just to make it look better and that." She had told the Howes that Norma killed Martin "because I had an argument with Norma that day and I couldnt think of nothing else to say." Mary got the idea that Norma killed by strangulation from TV: "You see that on the television, on the Apache and all that."
Handwriting experts said that the notes were written with both girls handwriting. In fact, every single letter had to be examined separately, because Mary and Norma had alternated writing (they called it "joining writing."). Norma testified that the idea to write the notes came about in Marys bedroom, where they were drawing with a red biro pen. Norma said "Mary wanted some notes written ... to put in her shoes." Mary wanted them for the Nursery break-in.
While Mary conceded that the notes were a "joint idea" to write, she insisted it was Normas idea to take them to the Nursery. "We went--er--Norma says, Are you coming to the Nursery? I says, yes, howay then, because we had broken into it before." She admitted "we were being destructful," but it was all in fun. "We thought it would be a great big joke." Mary was supposed to be "Faggot," and Norma was "Fanny."
Furthermore, Mary insisted, Norma wanted "to get put away," and asked Mary to run away with her. They had run off together before. When asked why Norma wanted to run away, Mary weirdly answered, "Because she could kill the little ones, thats why," she said, her voice getting shriller, "and run away from the police."
Despite their accusations against each other, the girls had an unfathomable connection. During the trial, according to Sereny, "their heads turned toward each other, their eyes locked, their faces suddenly bare of expression and curiously alike, they always seemed by some sort of silent and exclusive communion to reaffirm and strengthen their bond." Yet they had their moments of betrayal: "They shook their heads incredulously or furiously at what one or the other said; they turned abruptly, glaring at each other when hearing themselves quoted as having accused the other of something outrageous; and they commented audibly -- in Normas case with tears and desperate cries of No, No; in Marys case with loud and furious remarks -- about and against each others evidence." Eventually the judge prohibited contact between the two girls during the trial.
Both denied any responsibility for Martin Brown, but both acknowledged they had been together with Brian on the day he died. According to Mary, a maniacal Norma strangled Brian. When asked if she was afraid that Norma might kill her, Mary boldly replied, "She would not dare -- Because I would turn around and punch her one."
Normas grim version of the events, however, were closer to the truth: "May [Marys nickname] told Brian to lie down," and then "started to hurt him." Norma demonstrated how Mary pinched Brians nose. He started turning purple and tried to push Marys hand away. "When she was really hurting him she said, Norma, take over, my hands are getting thick." But Norma left, she tearfully claimed, while Brian was still alive. She then went to her friends house, where they made pom-poms (an odd activity after witnessing murder.) If Norma was truly disturbed by Marys behavior, why did she return with Mary to make marks on Brians body? Mary brought scissors with her because she wanted "to make him baldy." She also had a razor blade to cut into Brians belly.
"What would be the worst that could happen to me? Would they hang me?"
-- Mary Bell
The conviction was obvious -- Mary would get either Murder or Manslaughter. Although there was more sympathy for Norma, it was still unclear how severe her punishment, if any, would be. The defense needed to show that Mary was disturbed, and couldnt help herself, nor understand the enormity of her actions. After the childrens testimony, the defense called the psychiatrists who had examined Mary. Dr. Robert Orton testified that "I think that this girl must be regarded as suffering from psychopathic personality," demonstrated by "a lack of feeling quality to other humans," and "a liability to act on impulse and without forethought."
Legally, this was a question of "Diminished Responsibility." Judge Cusack explained the concept to the jury: "In 1957 there was an Act of Parliament and it said that... where a person kills, or is a party to the killing of another, he shall not be convicted of Murder if he was suffering from such abnormality of mind (whether arising from a condition of arrested or retarded development of mind, or any inherent causes, or induced by disease or injury) as substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts."
Judge Cusack (left) & Prosecutor Rudolf Lyons (right) Judge Cusack (left) & Prosecutor Rudolf Lyons (right)
When the time came for the closing arguments, the prosecution characterized Mary as a fiend. Poor Norma was herself a victim of "an evil and compelling influence almost like that of the fictional Svengali," said Lyons. "In Norma you have a simple backward girl of subnormal intelligence. In Mary you have a most abnormal child, aggressive, vicious, cruel, incapable of remorse, a girl moreover possessed of a dominating personality, with a somewhat unusual intelligence and a degree of cunning that is almost terrifying." In attempting to rescue Mary from being cast off as a demonic "bad seed," the defense posed broader questions: Why did this happen? What made Mary do it? "It is... very easy to revile a little girl, to liken her to Svengali without pausing for a moment to ponder how the whole sorry situation has come about..."
The jury, which consisted of five women and seven men, took under four hours to return a verdict. Norma was thrilled when she was found "not guilty" of Manslaughter on both counts. Mary Bell was found "guilty of Manslaughter because of Diminished Responsibility" in both Martins and Brians death. Justice Cusack pronounced a sentence of "Detention for Life" while Mary cried, uncomforted by her family. Her detention would be for an indeterminate amount of time.
Norma Bell was later given three years probation for breaking and entering the Woodlands Crescent Nursery, and placed under psychiatric supervision.
"He called me a murderer and I grabbed his hair and smashed his face into his dinner."
-- Mary Bell
Because Britain was not used to incarcerating little girls who murdered, the question of where Mary should be placed sent everyone scrambling. Prison was out of the question for an eleven-year-old. Mental hospitals werent equipped to take her. She was too dangerous for institutions that housed troubled children. Eventually, the precocious murderess ended up in an "all boys" facility. There would be problems down the road when puberty hit.
Marys incarceration is fascinating because at some point she apparently "reformed." When she was released at age 23, she went on with her life and had a daughter of her own. She claims to be a completely different person than the "psychopathic" child killer she once was. Can a violent sociopath be cured? Was it possible that, at age eleven she was still psychologically pliable? Was there a "moral awakening," as author Gitta Sereny suggests? Or is she putting on a really good act? Sociopaths are experts at duplicity. In any case, her experience while incarcerated is worth reviewing.
Mary Bell was housed at the Red Bank Special Unit from February 1969 until November 1973. Red Bank was a reform school, a portion of which was high security. By most accounts the institution was a well-designed and reasonably comfortable facility, with a supportive staff, headed by James Dixon, a former Navy man who was known for his strong moral influence. Mr. Dixon provided structure and discipline for Mary, and she came to respect and love him. If Mary had been in the stranglehold of an evil, immoral mother, Mr. Dixon filled the role of the benevolent, strong father figure which was lacking in her life. She loved Billy Bell (who was not her biological father, but was in her life from the beginning) but as a thief, he was not an ideal role model. When he was convicted of armed robbery in 1969, his visits to Mary ended.
Marys mother was a disciplinarian, but not the kind generally advocated for family situations. As a prostitute with a specialty, she "disciplined" her clients with whips and bondage, claimed Mary. But Betty Bell did make some provisions: "I always hid the whips from the kids," she said. Betty visited her daughter often, and Mary eagerly awaited opportunities to see her mother, but she always appeared disturbed afterwards and acted out aggressively, according to the Red Bank staff. One doctor wanted Bettys visits to stop, but to suggest that a mother be kept from her daughter, was unthinkable in that era. The staff at Red Bank hated the overly dramatic and manipulative Betty. "She played at being a mother," said one teacher.
Betty Bell profited from her daughters notoriety, selling her story to the tabloids, and encouraged her daughter to write letters and poems that could be easily peddled to the press. Betty wanted her daughter to see how much she suffered as the mother of a famous juvenile murderer, said Mary: "Jesus was only nailed to the cross, Im being hammered," complained Betty.
Mary Bell, Age 16, while incarcerated Mary Bell, Age 16, while incarcerated The philosophy of Red Bank was to focus on the present. Dwelling on past experiences was detrimental, and therefore Mary Bells upbringing and eventual murders were not adequately acknowledged. One psychiatrist thought Mary was blocking out her troubled past, and was being discouraged from making any attempts to discover why she killed. "There is in her an extraordinary inner intensity... a neediness one can neither really understand nor handle," he said. She went through many counselors, very few of which got to know her well. She was manipulative and picked fights with the boys, and claimed to have had a twin sister named "Paula" ("I think I was inventing a twin who might have done what I really did," she said later.)
"There can be little doubt that this transfer was destructive for Mary," wrote Sereny in Cries Unheard. Mary had to adjust from a mostly male atmosphere at Red Bank to a full womens facility at Styal. She was a rebellious prisoner and was frequently punished, but soon adapted: "What I had to do was, yes, continue to fight the system, but I had to graduate from being a prisoner to being a con, and that meant that rather than being open and angry, I had to be closed and crafty." She also decided to go "butch." When her mother heard this she said, "Jesus Christ, what next? Youre a murderer and now youre a lesbian." A consultant child psychiatrist, who did weekly group therapy sessions at Styal, observed that "[Mary] went a long way toward persuading her world that she was masculine. She strutted... and making up as if she had stubble on her face," and "rolled up stockings in the shape of male genitals and pointed this out to me in class. I think she wore these all the time." She would later ask a doctor for a sex change, but was denied ("It was the idea of not being me," she said.)
After being transferred to a less secure facility in 1977, Mary escaped. She was picked up, along with a fellow escapee, by two young men. In her brief time out, Mary lost her virginity. The guy she slept with later sold his story to the tabloids, and claimed she escaped from jail so she could get pregnant. "As time went on, my nightmare was the press," said Mary. "I never could understand what they wanted from me." Mary was moved to a hostel a few months before her parole in 1980, and she met a married man who got her pregnant. "He said he was determined to show me I wasnt a lesbian," she said. "It was hard for me not to think of sex as dirty." When she found out she was with child, she had a moral crisis of sorts: "But if I think that almost the first thing I did after twelve years in prison for killing two babes was to kill the baby in me... " But Mary felt she had no choice.
Free at 23
"Mary has made herself into two people for her own sake."
-- Marys probation officer
Mary Bell was released May 14, 1980, and stayed in Suffolk. Her first job was in the local childrens nursery, but the probation officers deemed this inappropriate work for her. She took waitress jobs, and attended a university, but was too discouraged to stick with it. After moving back in with her mother, she met a young man and became pregnant. There was great concern over whether the woman who had murdered two children should be able to become a mother herself, yet she fought for the right to keep her child, which was born in 1984.
Mary claims to have a new awareness of her crimes from the birth of her child. She was allowed to keep the child, who was technically a ward of the court until 1992. "If there was something wrong with me when I was a child, there wasnt now. I felt that if they could X-ray me inside, they could see that anything broken had been fixed," she insisted.
Somehow, Mary Bell had made a transition, without appropriate psychiatric treatment, from a child killer to a loving mother. Her years in reform school and prison yielded sexual abuse and drug addiction, yet she claims to have a new moral consciousness and deep sorrow for her crimes. Could this be possible? Can we believe, as Gitta Sereny wrote, in the "possibility of metamorphosis"? Mary Bell had become, for the author, "two people -- the child and the adult."
She eventually met a man and fell in love, then settled in a small town. But the probation officer had to inform the local authorities of her presence, and soon the villagers were marching through the street with "Murderer Out!" signs. She lived in constant fear of being exposed.
When attempting to explain what was going through her mind as a child, particularly during violent outbursts, Mary only partially acknowledged her behavior, and has trouble confessing to the compulsion to choke other kids. Instead, she often describes her violence as hitting or pulling: "I put my hands around her ears or her hair or something like that."
As far as killing Martin Brown, Marys version of events keep changing, from being an accident to an unexplainable compulsion. She said she had a fight with her mother, and for the first time hit back. When she "pressed" on Martins neck, she recounts a vague blankness: "Im not angry. It isnt a feeling... it is a void that comes... its an abyss... its beyond rage, beyond pain, its a draining of feeling," she said. "I didnt intend to hurt Martin; why should I have? He was just a wee boy who belonged to a family around the corner..."
Yet Mary still implicates Norma in having some responsibility in Brian Howes death. "The weaker makes the other stronger by being weak," she said, in defense of being the "stronger" one.
Making Mary Bell
"Take that thing away from me!"
-- Betty Bell, responding to the birth of her daughter Mary
In the saga of Mary Bell, mother Betty has been portrayed as the primary villain and culprit to her psychopathology. Betty Bell was born in Glasgow in 1940, and was described as a deeply religious child. "We all thought she was going to be a nun," said her mother. She liked "religious things," remembered her sister. "She always drew nuns, and altars and graves and cemeteries." According to the family, there was no excessive punishments or abuse, but for some reason Betty began to drift away. When her father died, "Betty was demented," said Isa, Bettys sister. Betty threw tantrums, staged a drug overdose, and in 1957 she gave birth to Mary Flora Bell. Marys father would remain a mystery.
Marys brief childhood was a nightmare of abandonment and drug overdoses. Betty was anxious to get rid of her daughter -- she would drop her off with relatives, yet would always come back despite the familys pleas to let them keep her. In 1960 Betty brought Mary to an adoption agency, giving her to a distraught woman who wasnt allowed to adopt as she was moving to Australia. "I brought this one in to be adopted. You have her," Betty Bell said, leaving Mary with the stranger. Her sister Isa had followed Betty, and soon found the woman, who had already bought new dresses for Mary.
At two years old, Mary was refusing to bond with others -- she was already behaving in a cold and detached manner. Mary never cried when hurt, and began lashing out violently, smashing an uncles nose with a toy. Her mothers erratic rejections and reunions didnt help.
Mary witnessed her five-year-old friend get killed by a bus. This devastating event must have further retarded her ability to bond with others. In 1961, Mary started kindergarten. "She was almost always naughty," said her teacher, who once saw Mary putting her hands around the neck of another child. When told not to do that, Mary said, "Why? Can it kill him?" She was lonely, and other kids teased her. She kicked, hit and pinched the other kids, and told "tall stories all the time."
The most disturbing abuses came from Marys frequent drug overdoses, which were likely administered by her mother. When Mary was one year old, she nearly overdosed after taking some pills that were hidden in a narrow nook inside a gramophone. It seemed impossible that the baby could reach the pills, and strange that she would eat so many of the "acid-tasting" medication. When Mary was three she and her brother were found eating "little blue pills" along with the candy their aunt Cath had brought for them. (Betty said, "they must have taken the bottle out of my handbag.") Cath and husband offered to adopt Mary, but Betty refused to let the child go, and soon broke off contact with her family.
In the most serious overdose, Mary swallowed a bunch of "iron" pills belonging to her mother. She lost consciousness and her stomach had to be pumped. A young playmate, as well as little Mary herself, said Betty Bell, gave Mary the "Smarties" candy that made her sick. Overdoses, particularly for a developing child, can cause serious brain damage, a common trait among violent offenders.
Betty Bell was a drama queen and loved to play the martyr. She may have suffered from "Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome," thriving on the attention over her little daughters tragic "accidents." This syndrome, first described in 1977, is characterized by caregivers who intentionally injure, suffocate, or poison their child for the sympathy of others. The "MSBP" mother usually had an unwanted child, or is unmarried. This may explain why Betty, despite the harm she caused Mary, always wanted her back. Mary was later resentful of her mothers excessive complaints over her own sufferings, in fact she seemed more bothered by this tendency in her mother than the sexual abuse. This compulsive need for dramatic sympathy is illustrated by one incident: Betty tearfully told her sister that Mary had been run over by a truck, which generated an abundance of attention and sympathy. The next day Betty admitted that it was untrue; Mary was with friends who had temporarily adopted her.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy, if true, are Bettys use of Mary during her prostitution. In what she calls "one of the worst cases of child sexual abuse I have ever encountered," Sereny recounts the horrors that Mary had to endure as her mothers sexual prop. No other relatives, including Marys younger brother, were aware of this abuse, or would confirm it. Yet this would certainly help to explain Marys erratic behavior. If she had been violated herself, the need to violate others might incite her to the abuse of her own little victims.
"Manipulation of people is [her] primary aim"
-- Dr. Westbury after examining young Mary
At her trial, a psychiatrist who had examined Mary testified that she exhibited the classic symptoms of psychopathology (or sociopathology) by her lack of feeling toward others. "She showed no remorse whatsoever, no tears and no anxiety. She was completely unemotional about the whole affair and merely resentful at her detention," reported Dr. Orton. "I could see no real criminal motivation."
Marys abusive mother, her genetic wild-card of a father, and physical damage likely incurred by the repetitive drug overdoses all contributed to her sociopathology. Her inability to bond with others in a loving manner was twisted into a bonding process based on violent aggression. Mary responded to others based on how she herself had been treated. When a mother is a source of fear for a child, some cope by developing protective mechanisms against the outside world, which, for the developing sociopath, is a constant threat. Of course, not all children raised in abusive situations become sociopaths. Genetic factors and neurological damage also play a role. If a child is subjected to all of these conditions, the forecast can be deadly.
She certainly showed no signs of being satiated after murdering Brian. She was violent toward animals, a chronic bed wetter until her adult years, and while she hadnt set fires, she did destroy property in her brief career as a murderer. Those familiar with these "triad" of symptoms that characterize serial killers will also recognize that she probably wouldnt have stopped killing if unapprehended. Mary preyed on victims weaker than herself, and after the murders interjected herself into the crime investigation.
"Living in a fantasy world" is fine for children, but for psychologically disturbed violent offenders, the phrase rings ominous. Mary and Norma fantasized about being criminals and escaping to Scotland. "We built it up and up until -- it now seems -- We kept hoping wed be arrested and sent away," she said. "We never talked about anything except doing terrible things and being taken away."
Medical experts do not believe that sociopaths can be "cured." They are generally resistant to therapy, which Mary had proven to be throughout her incarceration. Some do speculate that aggressive tendencies quiet down with age. Perhaps Mary is better. We cannot know for sure.
As a child, Mary was described as very manipulative and intelligent. As an adult, being interviewed by Gitta Sereny, she overly performs her sorrow, even to the writers suspicions: "Her recovery from these terrible bouts of grief, however, was astoundingly quick, and at first these rapid emotional shifts raised doubts in me."
"Only one thing overrides them all," she writes of Marys tragic experiences, "the discipline she has created inside herself in order to give her daughter a normal life." Both Sereny and Mary are quick to demonize Betty Bell as a mother, and elevate Mary in the role of mother redeemed. But something doesnt sit right with this simple reversal. Mary displays too much of the "drama queen" flair she picked up from her mother, and we must wonder how successful she has been at purging Betty Bell from her psyche.
Mary allowed Betty to be part of her life, even living with her after she was released from prison, despite her continued abuses. She wanted her own daughter to meet Granny. Betty prostituted her daughter in every conceivable way. She first sold off Mary to her "johns," then sold her sad story to the tabloids. We cannot know the extent of Bettys damage to her daughter. Throughout Cried Unheard, Mary has demonstrated herself to be very unreliable. There is certainly reason to lie and exaggerate her mothers abuses, which many sociopaths do to gain sympathy and justification for their behavior. Betty is dead now, and no one else has corroborated the worst of the allegations. But perhaps the silence was the product of another, more repressed era, before child sexual abuse was openly discussed as it is today.
"But what I want most of all is a normal life."
-- Mary Bell
When Cries Unheard was published in 1998, it ignited a firestorm over criminals profiting from their deeds. Mary was paid for her efforts, which infuriated so many that Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly decried her pay. Laws were written to prevent others, including serial killer Dennis Nilsen, from doing the same. Marys hope for the book was to "set the record straight." She thought that if she told her story, the media would leave her alone.
Mary ignites controversy over book Mary ignites controversy over book
Sereny, however, says the book was written for the benefit of Marys child, yet she too was damaged by its publication. With the renewed media interest in Mary, reporters laid siege on her house. Her teenage daughter learned her mother was the infamous Mary Bell as the family evacuated their home, with blankets over their heads, dodging the flash bulbs and shouts from the media. But Mary says her daughter has accepted her mothers identity, and forgives her. "But Mum, why didnt you tell me? You were just a kid, younger than I am now," she said, according to Mary.
Perhaps the value of Cries Unheard is the attempt to unravel the "whys" of violent behavior in children, which is becoming an alarmingly common occurrence. In some ways, Mary Bell is an anomaly. She strangled her victims with her hands, instead of the now alarmingly typical shooting spree. Whether Marys story can prevent the abuse of other children remains to be seen. It is an extraordinary cautionary tale of a childs capacity for violence. If it is true that children are blessed with an intrinsic goodness, it can also be a very fragile blessing.
Child Killer Granted Lifelong Anonymity
On May 21, 2003, BBC Online reported that child killer Mary Bell had been granted lifelong anonymity.
Following a High Court decision, the identities of Bell and her daughter will now be kept secret to protect them from vigilantes. Under the terms of a temporary court order, the current identity and whereabouts of Bell and her daughter cannot be disclosed.
Interviewed outside the court following the decision, the sister of Martin Brown, one of Bells child victims, said the decision was a mockery. The victims are not the heart of the subject - no one was interested in our family, she said.
Martin's mother June Richardson, interviewed by the BBC in April said: The best that could happen would be for her to remain anonymous and just vanish and we can get on with our lives.
BBCs Andy Tighe reported that Judge, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, had stressed the case was exceptional and it did not mean that a blanket of anonymity would be granted in all cases of this kind.
The BBC report further stated that the main issue the court had to decide was whether Bell's right to privacy and family life outweighed the competing claims of open justice and press freedom.
Defending her decision, Judge Butler-Sloss said that she had granted the injunctions for different reasons from a similar decision she made in the case of child killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, the killers of James Bulger.
Danny Shaw, the BBCs home affairs correspondent wrote that the Judges decision had been expected and added, if the High Court had decided not to grant Bell anonymity, it would be one of the legal shocks of the year.
Edward Budd was an enterprising eighteen-year-old. He was determined to make something of himself and escape the desperate poverty of his parents. On May 25, 1928, he put a classified ad in the Sunday edition of the New York World: "Young man, 18, wishes position in country. Edward Budd, 406 West 15th Street." He was a strapping young fellow who was eager to work and contribute to the well-being of his family. Trapped in the dirty, stinking, crowded city in a miserable tenement with his father, mother and four younger siblings, he longed to work in the country where the air was fresh and clean.
On the following Monday, May 28, Edward's mother, Delia, a huge mountain of a woman, answered the door to an elderly man. He introduced himself as Frank Howard, a farmer from Farmingdale, Long Island, who wanted to interview Edward about a job.
Delia told her five-year-old Beatrice to get her brother at his friend's apartment. The old man beamed at her and gave her a nickel.
While they waited for Edward, Delia had a chance to get a better look at the old man. He had a very kindly face, framed by gray hair and accented by a large droopy gray moustache. He explained to Mrs. Budd that he had earned his living for decades as an interior decorator in the city and then retired to a farm he had bought with his savings. He had six children that he raised by himself since his wife had abandoned them all over a decade ago
With the help of his children, five farmhands and a Swedish cook, he had made the farm into a successful one with several hundred chickens and a half-dozen dairy cows. Now, one of his farmhands was moving on and he needed someone to replace him.
At that moment, Edward came in and met Mr. Howard, who remarked at the boy's size and strength. Edward assured the old man he was a hard worker. Mr. Howard offered him fifteen dollars a week, which Edward accepted joyfully. Howard even agreed to hire Willie, Edward's closest friend.
Mr. Howard had to leave for an appointment and promised to come back on Saturday to pick them up. The boys were thrilled and the Budds were happy that a good position with the kindly old gentleman had come so quickly from Edward's modest ad.
Saturday, June 2, was the supposed to be the big day, but Mr. Howard didn't show up. Instead they got a hand-written note from Mr. Howard saying that he had been delayed and would call in the morning.
The next morning around eleven, Frank Howard came to the Budds' apartment bringing gifts of strawberries and fresh creamy pot cheese. "These products come direct from my farm," he explained.
Delia persuaded the old man to stay for lunch. For the first time, Albert Budd, Sr. had an opportunity to talk with his son's new employer. It was the kind of talk that makes a father very happy. Here was this kindly, polite old gentleman rapturously describing his twenty acres of farmland, his friendly crew of farmhands and a simple, hearty country life. He knew it was what his son wanted.
Albert, Sr. was a porter for the Equitable Life Assurance Company and had the air of a man perpetually submissive. He was not very impressed with the way this Frank Howard looked in his rumpled blue suit, but the old man was credible and genteel.
Once they sat down to lunch, the door opened and a lovely ten-year-old girl appeared. Gracie was humming a song. Her huge brown eyes and dark brown hair contrasted with her very pale skin and pink lips. She would be a real heart breaker someday.
Coming right from church, she still wore her Sunday clothes: white silk confirmation dress, white silk stockings, and string of creamy pearls made her look older than her 10 years.
Frank Howard, like most men who came face to face with the radiant Gracie, couldn't take his eyes off the beautiful girl. "Let's see how good a counter you are," he said as he handed her a huge wad of bills to count. The impoverished Budds were flabbergasted by the money the old man was carrying around with him.
"Ninety-two dollars and fifty cents," Gracie told him in short order.
"What a bright little girl," Mr. Howard said, giving her fifty cents to buy candy for herself and her little sister Beatrice.
Howard said that he would come back later in the evening to pick up Edward and Willie, but first he had to go to a birthday party that his sister was throwing for one of her children. He gave the boys two dollars to go to the movies.
Just as he was about to leave, he invited Gracie to go with him to his niece's birthday party. He would take good care of her and make sure that Gracie was home before nine o'clock that evening.
Delia asked where Mr. Howard's sister lived and he replied that she lived in an apartment house at Columbus and 137th Street.
Delia wasn't sure that she should let her go, but Albert Sr. convinced her that it would be good for Gracie. "Let the poor kid go. She don't see much good times."
So Delia helped Gracie on with her good coat and her gray hat with the streamers. She followed Gracie and Mr. Howard outside and watched them disappear down the street.
That evening there was no word from Mr. Howard and no sign of Gracie. A terrible sleepless night with no message from their beautiful daughter. The next morning, young Edward was sent down to the police station to report his sister's disappearance.
Without A Trace
The worst thing that Police Lieutenant Samuel Dribben said to the Budds was that the address that "Frank Howard" had given them for his sister's apartment was fictitious. The kindly old man was a fraud. There was no Frank Howard, no farm in Farmingdale, Long Island. None of it was true.
Police began the normal investigative activities. They checked out everything "Frank Howard" had told the Budds. They also had the Budds go through their "rogue's gallery" of photos and checked on all the known child molesters, mental patients, etc. It came to nothing. No trace of Gracie.
On June 7, New York police mailed out 1,000 fliers to police stations throughout the country with a photo of Gracie and a description of Mr. "Howard." This activity, along with all the local publicity, guaranteed an epidemic of Gracie sightings and crank letters, each of which had to be thoroughly investigated by the 20 plus detectives who had been assigned to the case.
There were a couple of solid clues. Police found the Western Union office in Manhattan from which "Frank Howard" had sent his message to the Budds, plus the original handwritten message. From the writing and grammar, it was clear that "Howard" had some education and refinement. Police also located the pushcart where "Howard" had bought the pot cheese that he had given to the Budds. Both addresses were in East Harlem, which then became a focal point of intense search and investigation.
Where Have You Gone Billy Boy?
The New York police were not strangers to child kidnapping. In fact, there was an oddly similar case just the year before. On February 11, 1927, four-year-old Billy Gaffney played in the hallway outside his apartment with his three-year-old neighbor who was also named Billy. A twelve-year-old neighbor who was babysitting his sleeping baby sister went to join the boys, but went back to his apartment quickly after hearing his sister cry.
A few minutes later, the older boy noticed that the two Billys were gone and told the younger Billy's father. After a desperate search, the father found his three-year-old son alone on the top floor of the building. His son had been up on the roof.
"Where's Billy Gaffney?" the man asked his son.
"The boogey man took him," the little boy replied.
The next day when a platoon of detectives came to investigate the disappearance of the Gaffney boy, they ignored the three-year-old witness, who stuck to his simple explanation. At first the police thought the boy had wandered outside into some of the factory buildings in the neighborhood or, worse, had fallen into the Gowanus canal a few blocks away. People in the community organized a search and the canal was dredged, but there was no sign of little Billy.
The Boogey Man
Eventually, someone listened to the three-year-old witness who gave them a description of the "boogey man." He was a slender old man with gray hair and a gray moustache. The police paid no attention to the description and did not connect it to a crime that had been committed by the "Gray Man" a few years earlier.
Albert Fish, the Albert Fish, the "Grey Man"
In July of 1924, eight-year-old Francis McDonnell played on the front porch of his home in the pastoral Charlton Woods section of Staten Island. His mother sat nearby, nursing her infant daughter when she saw a gaunt elderly man with gray hair and moustache in the middle of the street. She stared at the strange shabby old man who constantly clenched and unclenched his fists and mumbled to himself. The man tipped his dusty hat to her and disappeared down the street.
Later that afternoon, the old man was seen again watching Francis and four other boys play ball. The old man called Francis over to him. The other boys continued to play ball. A few minutes later, both the old man and Francis had disappeared. A neighbor noticed a boy that looked like Francis walking that afternoon into a wooded area with an elderly gray-haired tramp behind him.
The disappearance of Francis was not noticed until he missed dinner. His father, a policeman, organized a search. They found the boy in the woods under some branches. He had been horribly assaulted. His clothes had been torn from his body and he had been strangled with his suspenders. Francis had been beaten so badly that police doubted that the "old" tramp could have really been as old and frail as he looked. The beating was so severe that perhaps the old tramp had an accomplice who had the strength to maul the child.
In a short period of time, Manhattan fingerprint experts and police photographers were enlisted in the case as well as some two hundred and fifty plainclothesman. The huge manhunt yielded several promising suspects, except that none of them looked like the gray-haired, moustached old tramp. His face was burned forever in the memory of Anna McDonnell: "He came shuffling down the street, mumbling to himself, making queer motions with his hands. I'll never forget those hands. I shuddered when I looked at them...how they opened and shut, opened and shut, opened and shut. I saw him look toward Francis and the others. I saw his thick gray hair, his drooping gray moustache. Everything about him seemed faded and gray."
Despite the massive efforts of the police and the community, the "Gray Man" had vanished into thin air.
In November of 1934, the Budd case was officially still open although nobody ever expected it to be solved. Only one man, William F. King, continued to pursue the case. Every once in awhile, King would plant a phony item about a break in the case with Walter Winchell. On November 2, 1934, Winchell took the bait once again:
"I checked on the Grace Budd mystery," Winchell wrote in his column. "She was eight when she was kidnapped about six years ago. And it is safe to tell you that the Dep't of Missing Persons will break the case, or they expect to, in four weeks."
Ten days later, Delia Budd received a letter that her lack of education fortunately prevented her from reading. Her son Edward read it instead and ran out the door to get Detective King. The letter was singularly barbarous:
A Letter From Hell
"My dear Mrs. Budd,
In 1894 a friend of mine shipped as a deck hand on the Steamer Tacoma, Capt. John Davis. They sailed from San Francisco for Hong Kong China. On arriving there he and two others went ashore and got drunk. When they returned the boat was gone.
At that time there was famine in China. Meat of any kind was from $1 to 3 Dollars a pound. So great was the suffering among the very poor that all children under 12 were sold for food in order to keep others from starving. A boy or girl under 14 was not safe in the street. You could go in any shop and ask for steak -- chops -- or stew meat. Part of the naked body of a boy or girl would be brought out and just what you wanted cut from it. A boy or girls behind which is the sweetest part of the body and sold as veal cutlet brought the highest price.
John staid there so long he acquired a taste for human flesh. On his return to N.Y. he stole two boys one 7 one 11. Took them to his home stripped them naked tied them in a closet. Then burned everything they had on. Several times every day and night he spanked them -- tortured them -- to make their meat good and tender.
First he killed the 11 year old boy, because he had the fattest ass and of course the most meat on it. Every part of his body was Cooked and eaten except the head -- bones and guts. He was Roasted in the oven (all of his ass), boiled, broiled, fried and stewed. The little boy was next, went the same way. At that time, I was living at 409 E 100 st., near -- right side. He told me so often how good Human flesh was I made up my mind to taste it.
On Sunday June the 3 --1928 I called on you at 406 W 15 St. Brought you pot cheese -- strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her.
On the pretense of taking her to a party. You said Yes she could go. I took her to an empty house in Westchester I had already picked out. When we got there, I told her to remain outside. She picked wildflowers. I went upstairs and stripped all my clothes off. I knew if I did not I would get her blood on them.
When all was ready I went to the window and called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room. When she saw me all naked she began to cry and tried to run down the stairs. I grabbed her and she said she would tell her mamma.
First I stripped her naked. How she did kick -- bite and scratch. I choked her to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms. Cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body. I did not fuck her tho I could of had I wished. She died a virgin."
Nobody wanted to believe that this letter was true. It had to be the ravings of some perverted, sadistic crank. But, Detective King realized that the details of his meeting with the Budds and Grace were accurate. Also, the handwriting on this horrible letter was identical to the letter the elderly kidnapper had written for the Western Union messenger six years earlier.
The envelope had an important clue: a small hexagonal emblem had the letters N.Y.P.C.B.A. which stood for the New York Private Chauffeur's Benevolent Association. With the cooperation of the president of the association, an emergency meeting of the members was held. In the meantime, police checked out the handwritten membership forms looking for handwriting similar to "Frank Howard's." Detective King then asked the members -- all of whom had passed the handwriting test -- to report anybody who had taken the association's stationery.
A young janitor came forward, admitting that he had taken a couple of sheets of paper and a few envelopes. He had left the stationery in his old rooming house at 200 East 52nd Street. The landlady was shocked when she was given "Frank Howard's" description. He sounded just like the old man who had lived there for two months.
The old man who had checked out of her rooming house just a couple of days earlier.
Albert H. Fish
The former tenant had called himself Albert H. Fish. The landlady mentioned that Fish had told her to hold a letter that he was expecting from his son who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina. The son regularly sent money to his old dad.
Finally, the post office told Detective King that it had intercepted a letter for Albert Fish. Detective King was becoming worried that Fish had not contacted his former landlady. The police worried that something had scared him away.
On December 13, 1934, the landlady called Detective King. Albert Fish was at the rooming house looking for his letter. The old man was sitting with a teacup when King opened the door. Fish stood up and nodded when King asked him if he was Albert Fish.
Suddenly, Fish reached into his pocket and produced a razor blade which he held in front of him. Infuriated, King grabbed the old man's hand and twisted it sharply. "I've got you now," he said triumphantly.
Fish with Attorney James Dempsey Fish with Attorney James Dempsey
The confession of Albert Fish would be heard by many law enforcement officials and psychiatrists. A severely edited version of it would appear in the newspapers. It was an odyssey of perversion and unspeakable depravity which seemed unbelievable until detail after detail was corroborated. It was all the more amazing considering how decrepit and harmless Fish appeared. He was a stooped, frail-looking old man about 130 pounds and 5 feet 5 inches tall.
Detective King took the initial confession. Fish told him that in the summer of 1928 he had been overcome by what he called his "blood thirst" -- his need to kill. When he answered Edward Budd's ad for employment, it was the young man, not his sister Gracie, that he intended to lure to a remote location, restrain him and cut off his penis, leaving him to bleed to death.
After he left the Budd house the first time, Fish had purchased the tools he would need to murder and mutilate the boys: a cleaver, saw and butcher knife. He wrapped up these implements of destruction into a bundle which he left at a newsstand before he went to the the Budd home for the second and last time.
When Fish saw the strapping young Edward, the size of a full-grown man, and his friend Willie, he convinced himself he could overpower the two of them. But then Fish had a lot of experience in that regard.
It was only after seeing Gracie that he changed his mind and his plans. It was she he desperately wanted to kill.
With the unsuspecting Gracie in tow, he stopped back at the newsstand to pick up his bundle before taking a train to the Bronx and then to the village of Worthington in Westchester. For Grace, he only bought a one-way ticket.
Grace was enthralled with the forty-minute ride into the countryside. Only twice in her life had she been out of the city. This was a wonderful treat for her.
At the station in Worthington, Fish was so absorbed in his monstrous plan that he left his bundle of tools on the train. Ironically, Grace noticed and reminded him to bring his package.
They walked along a remote road until they reached an abandoned two-story building called Wisteria Cottage in the midst of a wooded area. While Grace entertained herself outside with the various wildflowers, Fish went up to the second floor bedroom, opened up his bundle of tools, and took off his clothes.
Then he called to Gracie to come upstairs.
With the wildflowers she had gathered arranged in a bouquet, Gracie came into the house and up to the bedroom. When she saw the old man naked, she screamed for her mother and tried to escape. But Fish had grabbed her by her throat and choked her to death. He was sexually aroused by the act of strangling her.
He propped up her head on an old paint can and decapitated her, catching most of the blood in the paint can. Afterwards he threw the bucket of blood out into the yard. He undressed the headless child, then he went back to her body and cut it in two with the butcher knife and cleaver.
Parts of her body he took with him wrapped in newspaper. The rest he left there until he returned several days later when he threw the portions of her body over a stone wall in the back of the house. He disposed of his tools in the same fashion. After his confession, Detective King had a final question: What caused him to do this horrible thing?
"You know," Fish answered. "I never could account for it."
Police search for Gracie Police search for Gracie
Captain John Stein asked him why he had written the letter to the Budds and Fish responded that he didn't know why. "I just had a mania for writing."
That day, the police went to Wisteria Cottage and recovered the remains of Gracie. Albert Fish stood nearby, completely without emotion of any kind.
That night at 10 P.M. Fish was interrogated by Assistant District Attorney P. Francis Marro. When Marro asked Fish why he had murdered Gracie, he explained that "a sort of blood thirst" had overwhelmed him. Once it was done, he was overcome with sorrow. "I would have given my life within a half-hour after I done it to restore it to her."
Marro asked if he had raped Gracie and Fish was adamant: "It never entered my head."
Nothing was asked at that time nor was anything volunteered about the cannibalism mentioned in Fish's letter to the Budds. The police may have considered it too insane to be true. Or, perhaps, they were already thinking that including horrible details about cannibalism would bolster the inevitable defense case for insanity.
That night the capture of Albert Fish had leaked to the newspapers and reporters descended on the Budd apartment with the news. Shortly afterwards, Detective King drove Mr. Budd and his son Edward to the police station to identify Fish.
Edward did more than identify Fish. He threw himself at the old man. "You old bastard! Dirty son of a bitch!"
Mr. Budd was surprised at Fish's lack of emotion. "Don't you know me?" he asked the old man.
"Yes," Fish answered politely. "You're Mr. Budd."
"And you're the man who came to my home as a guest and took my little girl away," he said in tears.
A Criminal History
1903 Mugshot of Fish 1903 Mugshot of Fish
Albert Fish, not surprisingly, was no stranger to police. His record stretched back to 1903 when he had been jailed for grand larceny. Since then, he had been arrested six times for various petty crimes, such as sending obscene letters and petty theft. Half of those arrests occurred around the time of Gracie's abduction. Each time, the charges were dismissed. He had been in mental institutions more than once.
When asked about his background, Fish said: "I was born May 19, 1870, in Washington, D.C. We lived on B Street, N.E., between Second and Third. My father was Captain Randall Fish, 32nd-degree Mason, and he is buried in the Grand Lodge grounds of the Congressional cemetery. He was a Potomac River boat captain, running from D.C. to Marshall Hall, Virginia.
"My father dropped dead October 15, 1875, in the old Pennsylvania Station where President Garfield was shot, and I was placed in St. John's Orphanage in Washington. I was there till I was nearly nine, and that's where I got started wrong. We were unmercifully whipped. I saw boys doing many things they should not have done. I sang in the choir from 1880 to 1884 -- soprano, at St. John's. I came to New York. I was a good painter -- interiors or anything.
"I got an apartment and brought my mother up from Washington. We lived at 76 West 101st Street, and that's where I met my wife. After our six children were born, she left me. She took all the furniture and didn't even leave a mattress for the children to sleep on.
"I'm still worried about my children," he sniffled. His six children ranged from age 21 to 35. "You'd think they'd come to visit their old dad in jail, but they haven't."
Albert Fish was facing indictments in Manhattan and Westchester County. First Westchester County indicted him on a charge of first degree murder, while Manhattan was preparing an indictment for kidnapping.
Meanwhile police got a really major break. The motorman on the Brooklyn trolley line saw a picture of Fish in the newspaper and came forward to identify Fish as the nervous old man that he saw February 11, 1927, who was trying to quiet the little boy sitting with him on the trolley. Joseph Meehan, the retired motorman, watched the two carefully. The little boy, who didn't have a jacket or coat, was crying for his mother continuously and had to be dragged by the old man on and off the trolley. The little boy, as it turned out, was the kidnapped Billy Gaffney.
Ultimately, Fish did confess the unspeakable things he did to Billy Gaffney: "I brought him to the Riker Ave. dumps. There is a house that stands alone, not far from where I took himI took the boy there. Stripped him naked and tied his hands and feet and gagged him with a piece of dirty rag I picked out of the dump. Then I burned his clothes. Threw his shoes in the dump. Then I walked back and took the trolley to 59 St. at 2 A.M. and walked from there home.
"Next day about 2 P.M., I took tools, a good heavy cat-of-nine tails. Home made. Short handle. Cut one of my belts in half, slit these halves in six strips about 8 inches long. I whipped his bare behind till the blood ran from his legs. I cut off his ears -- nose --slit his mouth from ear to ear. Gouged out his eyes. He was dead then. I stuck the knife in his belly and held my mouth to his body and drank his blood.
"I picked up four old potato sacks and gathered a pile of stones. Then I cut him up. I had a grip with me. I put his nose, ears and a few slices of his belly in the grip. Then I cut him through the middle of his body. Just below the belly button. Then through his legs about 2 inches below his behind. I put this in my grip with a lot of paper. I cut off the head -- feet -- arms-- hands and the legs below the knee. This I put in sacks weighed with stones, tied the ends and threw them into the pools of slimy water you will see all along the road going to North Beach.
During his interviews with police Fish further confessed, "I came home with my meat. I had the front of his body I liked best. His monkey and pee wees and a nice little fat behind to roast in the oven and eat. I made a stew out of his ears -- nose -- pieces of his face and belly. I put onions, carrots, turnips, celery, salt and pepper. It was good.
"Then I split the cheeks of his behind open, cut off his monkey and pee wees and washed them first. I put strips of bacon on each cheek of his behind and put them in the oven. Then I picked 4 onions and when the meat had roasted about 1/4 hour, I poured about a pint of water over it for gravy and put in the onions. At frequent intervals I basted his behind with a wooden spoon. So the meat would be nice and juicy.
"In about 2 hours, it was nice and brown, cooked through. I never ate any roast turkey that tasted half as good as his sweet fat little behind did. I ate every bit of the meat in about four days. His little monkey was a sweet as a nut, but his pee-wees I could not chew. Threw them in the toilet."
Days later, a man from Staten Island came forward to identify Fish as the man who had tried to lure his then eight-year-old daughter into the woods not far from where Francis O'Donnell was murdered three days later in 1924. The girl, in her late teens, saw him in his cell and recognized him. The "Gray Man" was found.
Fish was also tied to the 1932 murder of a fifteen-year-old girl named Mary O'Connor in Far Rockaway. The girl's mauled body was found in some woods close to a house that Fish had been painting.
With all of those indictments in different counties. There was very little chance that Albert Fish was going to be acquitted. His only opportunity to beat the death penalty was to have the alienists or forensic psychiatrists declare him insane.
Dr. Fredric Wertham in his book The Show of Violence describes his first meeting with Albert Fish in his jail cell. He was shocked at how "meek, gentle, benevolent and polite" Fish was. "If you wanted someone to entrust your children to, he would be the one you would choose."
Fish's attitude towards his situation was one of complete detachment. "I have no particular desire to live. I have no particular desire to be killed. It is a matter of indifference to me. I do not think I am altogether right."
When Dr. Wertham asked if he meant that he was insane. Fish answered, "Not exactly...I never could understand myself."
Psychosis seemed to have galloped through Fish's family history from what Dr. Wertham could ascertain: "One paternal uncle suffered from a religious psychosis and died in a state hospital. A half brother also died in a state hospital. A younger brother was feeble-minded and died of hydrocephalus. His mother was held to be 'very queer' and was said to hear and see things. A paternal aunt was considered 'completely crazy.' A brother suffered from chronic alcoholism. A sister had some sort of 'mental affliction.'
He claimed that his real name was Hamilton Fish, named after a distant relative who was President Grant's Secretary of State. Tired of being teased about that name, he took the name of Albert instead.
When he was twenty-six, he married a young woman of nineteen and had six children. When the youngest was three, she ran off with another man, leaving Fish to raise the children. Subsequently, he "married" three other times, although they were not legal since he had never been divorced from his first wife.
A True Sadist
Dr. Wertham considered Fish's unparalleled perversity unique in the annals of psychiatric and criminal literature. "Sado-masochism directed against children, particularly boys, took the lead in his sexually regressive development."
Fish told him: "I always had a desire to inflict pain on others and to have others inflict pain on me. I always seemed to enjoy everything that hurt."
Wertham told "experiences with excreta of every imaginable kind were practiced by him, actively and passively. He took bits of cotton, saturated them with alcohol, inserted them into his rectum, and set fire to them. He also did that with his child victims."
Fish confided in Dr. Wertham a long history of preying on children -- "at least a hundred." Fish would bribe them with money or candy. He usually chose African-American children because he believed that the police did not pay much attention when they were hurt or missing.
He never went back to the same neighborhood. He said that he had lived in at least 23 states and in each one he had killed at least one child. Sometimes, he lost his job as a painter because he was suspiciously connected to these dead or mutilated children.
He had a compulsion to write obscene letters and did so frequently. According to Dr. Wertham," they were not the typical obscene letters based on fantasies and daydreams to supply a vicarious thrill. They were offers to practice his inclinations with the people he wrote his graphic suggestions to."
"Pins and Needles"
X-ray of Fish's pelvis with needles X-ray of Fish's pelvis with needles
Initially, Dr. Wertham had some concerns about whether Fish was lying to him, especially when he told the psychiatrist that he had been sticking needles into his body for years in the area between the rectum and the scrotum: "He told of doing it to other people too, especially children. At first, he said, he had only stuck these needles in and pulled them out again. Then he had stuck others in so far that he was unable to get them out, and they stayed there." The doctor had him X-rayed and sure enough, there were at least twenty-nine needles in his pelvic region.
About the age of fifty-five, Fish started to experience hallucinations and delusions. "He had visions of Christ and His angels....he began to be engrossed in religious speculations about purging himself of iniquities and sins, atonement by physical suffering and self-torture, human sacrifices....He would go on endlessly with quotations from the Bible all mixed up with his own sentences, such as 'Happy is he that taketh Thy little ones and dasheth their heads against the stones."
Fish believed that God had ordered him to torment and castrate little boys. He had actually done so a number of times.
Wertham was amazed as Fish described the horrible cannibalism of Billy Gaffney's body. "His state of mind while he described these things in minute detail was a peculiar mixture. He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, like a housewife describing her favorite methods of cooking....But at times his voice and facial expression indicated a kind of satisfaction and ecstatic thrill. I said to myself: However you define the medical and legal borders of sanity, this certainly is beyond that border."
That Fish was suffering from some religious psychosis was a given as far as Dr. Wertham was concerned. Fish's children had seen him "hitting himself on his nude body with a nail-studded paddle until he was covered with blood. They also saw him stand alone on a hill with his hands raised, shouting: 'I am Christ.'"
Fish told him: "What I did must have been right or an angel would have stopped me, just as an angel stopped Abraham in the Bible [from sacrificing his son]."
Dr. Wertham, the defense alienist, believed that Fish was legally insane: "I characterized his personality as introverted and extremely infantilistic...I outlined his abnormal mental make-up, and his mental disease, which I diagnosed as paranoid psychosis....Because Fish suffered from delusions and particularly was so mixed up about the questions of punishment, sin, atonement, religion, torture, self-punishment, he had a perverted, a distorted -- if you want, an insane -- knowledge of right and wrong. His test was that if it had been wrong he would have been stopped, as Abraham was stopped, by an angel."
Wertham believed that Fish had actually killed fifteen children and mutilated about a hundred others. "That figure was verified many times to me by police officials in later years."
Albert Fish, age 64 Albert Fish, age 64
Two other defense alienists testified that Fish was insane. The four alienists who were called by the prosecution testified that Fish was sane. One of those prosecution alienists was the head of the psychiatric hospital where Fish had been detailed for observation a couple of years after the Budd and other murders and where he had been judged "both harmless and sane."
The trial of Albert Fish for the premeditated murder of Grace Budd began on Monday, March 11, 1935, in White Plains, N.Y. in Justice Frederick P. Close's court. Chief Assistant District Attorney Elbert F. Gallagher was in charge of the prosecution and James Dempsey was the defense attorney.
Dempsey planned to attack the competence of the Bellevue Hospital alienists who had observed Fish in 1930 and declared him sane. He also planned to establish that Fish was suffering from "lead colic," a dementia often suffered by house painters.
Gallagher's key strategy was summarized early in the trial: "Now in this case, there is a presumption of sanity. The proof, briefly, will be that this defendant is legally sane and that he knows the difference between right and wrong and the nature and quality of his acts, that he is not defective mentally, that he had a wonderful memory for a man of his age, that he has complete orientation as to his immediate surroundings, that there is no mental deterioration, but that he is sexually abnormal, that he is known medically as a sex pervert or a sex psychopath, that his acts were abnormal, but that when he took this girl from her home on the third day of June, 1928, and in doing that act and in procuring the tools with which he killed her, bringing her up here to Westchester County, and taking her into this empty house surrounded by woods in the back of it, he knew it was wrong to do that, and that he is legally sane and should answer for his acts."
Defense attorney Dempsey focused on Fish's strange life and the self-flagellation with nail-studded paddles and needles. Then he brought up Fish's competence as a father and his love for his children: "In spite of all these brutal, criminal and vicious proclivities, there is another side to this defendant. He has been a very fine father. He never once in his life laid a hand on one of his children. He says grace at every meal in his house. In 1917, when the youngest one of his six children was three, his wife left him. And from that time down until shortly before the Grace Budd murder in 1928 he was a mother and father to those children." He closed his remarks by reminding the jury that it was up to the prosecution to prove that a man who killed and ate children was sane.
Delia & Albert Budd Delia & Albert Budd
Grace's parents and brother Albert, Jr., testified. Dempsey seemed determined to make the point that both Delia and Albert, Sr., gave their consent to Grace going to a birthday party with Fish. When it came time for Grace's father to testify, he was overcome with emotion and began to weep loudly.
On the third day of the trial, over the strenuous objections of the defense attorney, a box of Grace Budd's remains was brought into the courtroom as evidence, while Detective King recreated from Fish's confession how the girl was killed. Then Gallagher reached into the box and held out the small skull of the dead girl. It was a very dramatic moment. Dempsey sought a mistrial.
Dempsey focused on the cannibalism issue as a central part of the insanity defense. It was clear that he was trying to establish that Fish had eaten parts of the girl's body -- something that no sane person would do. But he was unsuccessful in establishing and proving that Fish actually did what he said he did with her body.
Fish appeared to be completely indifferent throughout the trial. Although, at one point, he expressed to his attorney that he had a desire to life because "God still has work for me to do."
Dempsey put several of Fish's children on the stand to testify to his bizarre behavior -- self-flagellation and sticking needles in his body, as well as his religious delusions. They also testified that he was a good father who always provided for them and never physically abused them.
Signs of Psychosis
Eventually, Dempsey had a chance to attack the prosecution alienists. Dr. Charles Lambert, after a three-hour interview with Fish," pronounced him a "psychopathic personality without a psychosis."
Dempsey asked Lambert, "Assume that this man not only killed this girl but took her flesh to eat it. Will you state that that man could for nine days eat that flesh and still not have a psychosis?"
Lambert answered, "Well, there is no accounting for taste, Mr. Dempsey."
Dempsey persisted: "Tell me how many cases in your experience you have seen people who actually ate human feces."
"Oh, I know individuals prominent in society...one in particular that we all know who used it as a side dish in his salad," Lambert remarked casually.
Dempsey had better luck with one of the other defense alienists, who could see signs of psychosis in Fish's behavior.
From the Frying Pan into the Fire
Fish at his trial Fish at his trial
The trial lasted ten days and the jury took less than an hour to reach its verdict.
"We find the defendant guilty as charged," the foreman said.
Fish was not happy with the verdict, but the prospect of being electrocuted had its appeal to him. A Daily News reporter wrote, "his watery eyes gleamed at the thought of being burned by a heat more intense than the flames with which he often seared his flesh to gratify his lust."
Fish thanked the judge for his sentence of death by electrocution. On January 16, 1936, Albert Fish was executed.
The Night Stalker: "Satanists Don't Wear Gold" (The marriage of Richard Ramirez and Doreen Lioy)
The bride wore a calf-length, white wedding dress with long lace sleeves. The groom wore a starched set of prison blues, the pants a little too long, the shirt tails hanging out. She was glowing; he was nervous. The ceremony took place on October 3, 1996, in the large, gray-walled main visiting room of California's San Quentin Prison. According to Jim Doyle writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, the bride, Doreen Lioy, age 41, was a freelance magazine editor with a bachelor's degree in English and an I.Q. of 152. The groom, serial killer and rapist Richard Ramirez, was on Death Row, awaiting execution.
Richard Ramirez and new wife Doreen Lioy Richard Ramirez and new wife Doreen Lioy
Seven years earlier in 1989, Ramirez had been convicted on 43 counts, including 13 murders, and the authorities have good reason to believe that he had committed several others. For over a year starting in the spring of 1985, the residents of Los Angeles County lived in fear of the anonymous "Night Stalker" as he was called, forcing many to alter their nighttime habits, install better locks on their doors and windows, and invest in electronic security systems. The newspapers dubbed him the Night Stalker because he always attacked at night like a vampire.
Richard Ramirez at his first arraignment Richard Ramirez at his first arraignment
The visiting room at San Quentin with its rows of orange plastic seats bolted to the floor and assorted vending machines lined up against one wall, was crowded that day with other prisoners and family members who had come on their appointed visiting day. Many of them stared at the infamous inmate and kept their distance even though the Night Stalker seemed considerably less ferocious than he had been when he had spooked the courtroom at his lengthy trial back in 1989. Instead of his signature dark glasses, Ramirez, now age 36, wore round prescription glasses. He moved a bit hesitantly and seemed ill-at-ease.
The long-haired brunette who longed to be the Night Stalker's bride had first contacted Ramirez after his arrest in 1985 and had written him nearly 75 letters during his incarceration. He finally proposed to her in 1988, but prison rules delayed their wedding. Other women tried to steal him away from her, visiting him in prison and lavished him with all kinds of attention. Doreen often ran into them when she came to for her visits, and at least one woman threatened physical violence if Doreen didn't abandon her claim on the Night Stalker. But Doreen persevered, and in the end she got her man.
She claimed to be a virgin at the time of their wedding, and marrying Ramirez wouldn't change that because conjugal visits are not permitted for death-row inmates. According to Philip Carlo, author of The Night Stalker, Ramirez was drawn to her precisely because she was a virgin. Doreen had been raised a Roman Catholic, but she considered herself an agnostic and could accommodate Ramirez's professed Satanism. When she had purchased their wedding rings, she'd bought a gold band for herself but a platinum band for her husband-to-be. "Satanists don't wear gold," he'd explained to her.
The civil ceremony started at 11:10 a.m. and was performed by Mr. L. Weister, who joined two other inmates to their brides that morning. Ramirez's sister Ruth, his brother Joseph, and Joseph's teenage daughter attended. Ramirez cautioned his niece to pull down her skirt; he knew other inmates were ogling her. As the couple said their vows, Doreen was bursting with joy and happiness. Her long-awaited dream was finally coming true. She was becoming Mrs. Richard Ramirez.
Obviously Doreen chose not to believe the mountain of evidence that had been presented at her husband's trial, especially the testimony that described his gruesome methods. Richard Ramirez typically came in the night, sneaking into his victims' bedrooms. Males were dispatched quickly, usually with a bullet to the head. Females were kept alive to be savored after he ransacked the homes, looking for valuables. After raping and degrading the women, sometimes repeatedly, he would most often kill them, or at least try to. Amazingly, some of his victims managed to survive his vicious attacks.
Of all the serial killers who have plagued the modern world, the Night Stalker was perhaps the most sensational in the way he committed his crimes. He was a living nightmare, a boogey man who invaded bedrooms and tore innocent people from their dreams. His method was worthy of a grade-B Hollywood horror movie. He was a killer tailor-made for his prime hunting ground, Los Angeles.
"A Good Boy" (How Ramirez became the Night Salker)
In 1978, eighteen-year-old Ricardo Leyva a.k.a. "Richard" Ramirez moved to southern California from El Paso, Texas, his hometown. He'd dropped out of the ninth grade and had been living the life of a slacker, smoking marijuana and living on convenience store junk food, according to UPI reporters Aurelio Rojas and K. Mack Sisk. His diet was so rich in sugar, his teeth eventually started to rot, which made his breath foul and offensive, buthis halitosis fit in with the demonic personality he was intentionally cultivating. His habitual pot-smoking led to several arrests for possession as well as a misdemeanor theft charge. In California he was twice arrested for auto theft, in Pasadena in 1981 and Los Angeles in 1984.
Cover of AC/DC's Highway to Hell Cover of AC/DC's Highway to Hell
Michael D. Harris, reporting for UPI, wrote that years later his father would maintain that Richard was a "good boy" whose marijuana consumption "put him out of control," but it would be hard to pinpoint exactly what influences sent Richard Ramirez in the direction of devil worship. He often drew the five-point pentagram, the symbol of the devil, on his own body, and at his trial he would shout "Hail Satan!" in open court. He was a big fan of rock bands who sang about Satanism, particularly the Australian heavy-metal band AC/DC whose album, Highway to Hell, was Ramirez's absolute favorite. One song on that album, "Night Prowler," contains the lyrics, "Was that a noise outside your window?/ What's that shadow on the blind?/ As you lie there naked like a body in a tomb/ suspended animation as I slip into your room..." But it's hard to believe that rock songs and marijuana alone would turn a misdirected youth into one of the most heinous serial rapists and murderers in modern history.
Richard Ramirez displaying the pentagram on his hand Richard Ramirez displaying the pentagram on his hand
The turning point in Ramirez's life might well have been the night he witnessed his cousin Mike murder his wife. Mike had fought as a Green Beret in Vietnam, but the war had changed him. After he'd returned home, he boasted of torturing and mutilating the enemy, and had brought back Polaroids to prove it. He and his thirteen-year-old cousin Richard would hang out all day, getting high, which is just what they were doing when Mike's wife started to nag him about getting his life together and finding a job. To shut her up, Mike pulled out a gun and shot her in the face, killing her. Author Philip Carlo, speaking on CNBC's Rivera Live, revealed that Ramirez was spattered with the woman's blood. Mike's lawyer pointed to the incredible stress of his horrible war experiences as a mitigating factor. He was ultimately convicted, but the judge was lenient in his sentencing. Mike had been a big influence on Richard, who became fascinated with the horrible photographs of Mike's war victims. It was after the murder of Mike's wife that Richard, the epileptic youngest child in a family of three boys and two sisters, started skipping school and smoking pot as much as he could every day. He soon took to stealing to support his drug use .
The police have no evidence that Richard Ramirez killed at anytime before he reached Los Angeles, and little is known about his activities in the first few years he lived there. . No doubt his crimes were escalating during this period. Simple theft led him to breaking and entering, and eventually he must have become adept at it. Initially he probably stole whatever valuables he could find, then quickly left before he was caught. But as he grew more proficient, he also grew bolder, staying longer in the houses that he burglarized. Perhaps he stayed to watch the inhabitants sleeping in their beds. Perhaps he took souvenirs, particularly items that belonged to the female residents. Like his cousin Mike, he might have even taken photographs that he could relish later. This no doubt excited him and helped him develop the depraved fantasies that took over his thinking.
But eventually he felt compelled to do more. The horrible scenes that ran through his mind like a horror movie on a continuous loop weren't satisfying him anymore. They had to emerge from his mind and become reality. When Richard Ramirez finally crossed that line and started to play out his fantasies, the Night Stalker was born. Whether by conscious decision or inevitable evolution, Ramirez began to insert himself into his depraved fantasies and actively participate in their reenactment for his own gratification.
His first known victim was a seventy-nine-year old Glassel Park resident named Jennie Vincow. On June 28, 1984, she had apparently left a window open because it had been hot that evening. Ramirez simply removed the screen and climbed in. Vincow's son, who lived in the apartment over her ground floor apartment, discovered her body sprawled out on the bed. She had been stabbed repeatedly, and her throat was slashed so savagely she was nearly decapitated. The intruder also ransacked her apartment and helped himself to her valuables. Fingerprints were recovered from the window sill, and the autopsy revealed signs of sexual assault. The Night Stalker's fantasy had finally become reality.
It would be eight months before he struck again.
No doubt Richard Ramirez, like most budding serial killers, fed off the memory of his first victim, reliving the experience of rape and murder over and over again in his mind. If he had taken what criminal profilers call a souvenir—a hair brush, a piece of underwear, eyeglasses, any object intimately connect with the victim—he might have used that to stoke his recollections and help him elaborate on his fantasy. But eventually the mental reenactment of that initial crime wouldn't be as satisfying as it had once been. The killer would need a new experience to replenish the fantasy. He might have tried to control himself for a period, but the pressure within him was mounting. Eventually he would give in to his compulsion and do it again.
On March 17, 1985, at 11:30 p.m., twenty-year-old Angela Barrios was just returning home from a long day at work. She lived in a condominium that she shared with a roommate in Rosemead, a middle-class town north-east of Los Angeles. She pulled her car into the driveway and opened the garage door with a remote control. She was tired and hadn't had dinner yet. All she wanted to do was get inside and unwind. But as she got out of her car, she heard something behind her. A dark figure suddenly rushed up to her. He was tall and dressed entirely in black. A navy blue baseball cap was pulled down low over his brow. He was holding a gun.
He pointed the gun in her face, holding it just inches from her nose. She pleaded with him not to kill her. She tried not to look at his face, hoping that he might spare her, but she couldn't help but look. His eyes were cold and hard.
She continued to beg for mercy, but he ignored her—perhaps he was angered by her pleading—and he pulled the trigger. The sound of the gunshot was like an explosion in the enclosed garage. Angela collapsed on the concrete floor. She was alive but too afraid to move. The gunman stepped over her and went to the door that led to her condo, kicking her body out of the way so he could open it.
Angela lay perfectly still, playing dead. After a while—she didn't know how long—she realized that her hand was bleeding. Her keys were still in that hand. She'd raised her hands instinctively when the man had menaced her with the gun, and the bullet had miraculously hit the keys and ricocheted away. Angela collected herself and got to her feet. She had started to run out of the garage when she heard another gunshot behind her. She kept running, just hoping to escape, but she ran into the man in black as he was coming out the front door of her condo.
She tried to get away from him, but her legs were shaky. She stumbled back toward her car in the garage, convinced that he was going to finish her off. But instead of pursuing her, the man shoved the gun into his belt and fled. Angela Barrios was saved from this madman.
Her roommate, Dayle Okazaki, age 34, wasn't so lucky. Angela found her face down on the kitchen floor in a pool of her own blood. There was blood everywhere, on the walls, furniture and appliances. Angela ran to her side to check for signs of life, but Okazaki had been shot through the forehead. Angela grabbed the phone and called 911. Later, when the police searched the crime scene, they found the killer's baseball cap in the garage.
What exactly happened inside the condominium is unknown, but for some reason killing Dayle Okazaki was apparently not the experience Richard Ramirez had hoped for. Incredibly, that same night he struck again in nearby Monterey Park.
According to author Clifford L. Linedecker, a policeman was dispatched to investigate an empty yellow Chevrolet parked with its motor running. The transmission was in reverse; the car parked behind it was keeping it from moving any farther. When the officer got out of his patrol car to check inside the car, he found an unconscious woman lying on the ground nearby. The officer ran to her and immediately checked her vital signs. He noticed that her stockings were ripped, and there was an ugly bruise on her leg. She was alive, but just barely. He ran back to his car and radioed for an ambulance. When he returned to the woman, he discovered a metal medallion and a torn section of a twenty-dollar bill on the pavement. He tried to revive her, hoping she could tell him what had happened, but her breathing was labored. He could tell she was in trouble and needed immediate medical attention, but in the dim light he hadn't noticed that she had been shot several times. The woman, a thirty-year-old Taiwanese native named Tsia-Lian Yu, who was known to her friends as Victoria, died before the ambulance arrived.
The killer was in a frenzy. Killing Dayle Okazaki had not satisfied his need, so on the spur of the moment, he had attacked Tsia-Lian Yu. But murdering and assaulting her might not have done it for him because three days later he murdered an eight-year-old girl in Eagle Rock, California.
A week later, on March 27, 1984, he emerged again, and this time he found an MO that worked for him
"If You Look At Me Again, I'll Shoot You!"
On the morning of March 27, 1984, Peter Zazzara arrived at his parents' home in Whittier, California. His sixty-four-year old father Vincent had retired from investment counseling and now operated his own pizzeria. His mother Maxine, 44, was an attorney. Peter rang the bell several times, but no one answered, so he let himself in. What he found was horrifying.
His father's body was on the sofa in the den. He'd been shot through the left temple. He appeared to have died instantly.
Mrs. Zazzara was found stretched out in bed, face up and naked. Her eyes had been gouged out, the bloody sockets empty. She'd been stabbed repeatedly around the face, neck, abdomen, and groin. There was a large T-shaped knife wound in her left breast. An autopsy later revealed that like her husband, she'd first been shot in the head and had probably died instantly. The stabbing and mutilation were done post-mortem. The house had been ransacked, valuables taken.
With these killings, Richard Ramirez had discovered a method that accomplished his goals and satisfied his fantasy, for he repeated it many times: Dispatch the male quickly to get him out of the way so that he could have his perverse way with the woman in the house. The man was just an impediment and not part of the fantasy; the woman was the real object of desire.
Six weeks later Richard Ramirez returned to Monterey Park and broke into the home of Harold and Jean Wu, waking them from a sound sleep. Ramirez took care of Mr. Wu first, shooting the sixty-six-year-old man through the head. He pummeled Mrs. Wu, 63, viciously with his fists, demanding to know where she kept her money. She was too worried about her husband to be coherent, so he bound her hands together behind her back with thumb cuffs to keep her still as he searched the house. After he found what he wanted, he returned to the bedroom, dragged the tiny woman to the side of the bed, and raped her. When he was finished, he left.
Mr. Wu, however, was not dead. Despite his terrible head wound, he managed to crawl to the den where he dialed 911. He was unable to tell the dispatcher what the problem was, but the call was traced, and an ambulance and patrol car were dispatched to the Wu's address . Harold Wu was rushed to the hospital but died later that night. Jean Wu was treated for her injuries. She was able to give the police a physical description of her attacker.
Two weeks later on May 30, Ruth Wilson, 41, was awakened in the middle of the night by a flashlight shining in her face. Ramirez had silently broken into her Burbank home and was holding a gun to her head. He ordered her to get out of bed and go to her twelve-year-old son's room. Ramirez jumped on the boy's bed and put the gun to the child's head, warning Ruth Wilson not to make a sound. He handcuffed the boy and locked him in a closet.
"Don't look at me," he snarled at Ruth. "If you look at me again, I'll shoot you."
Assuming that he was a burglar, she offered to give him her most valuable possession, a gold-and-diamond necklace. She led him to the dresser in her bedroom where she kept it, hoping that this would placate him. But it didn't. After rummaging through the house, he ordered her to turn around and put her hands together. He tied her up behind her back with a pair of pantyhose. He then shoved her onto the bed as she pleaded with him. After tearing off her pink nightgown, he raped and sodomized her. His breath was so hot and foul as he lay on her she nearly gagged.
According to Clifford L. Linedecker in his book Nightstalker, Ruth Wilson told Ramirez he must have had a "very unhappy life" to have done this to her. He told her she looked pretty good for her age and said he was going to let her live even though he had killed many others. When she complained that the pantyhose around her wrists were cutting off her circulation, he loosened them for her and brought her a robe before taking her son out of the closet and handcuffing them side by side. Ramirez left them there. Later the boy was able to get to a phone and call 911. When the police asked Ruth describe her attacker, she told them that he was a tall Hispanic with long dark hair.
Police composite sketch Police composite sketch
The attacks continued, throwing the city of Los Angeles into a state of panic. One police official referred to the killer-rapist as the "Valley Intruder." The newspapers dubbed him the "Midnight Stalker," conjuring up images of a modern-day Dracula or Jack the Ripper. But Ramirez was just getting started. In the spring of 1985 he was going through a period of escalation. By the summer he was on a full-blown rampage.
On May 29, Malvia Keller, 83, and her invalid sister Blanche Wolfe, 80, were found in Keller's Monrovia home. Both women had been beaten so severely with a hammer that when the police found it, the handle was split. Blanche had a puncture wound above one ear. An inverted pentagram with the tip pointing down had been drawn in lipstick on Malvia's inner thigh. A second pentagram was found on the bedroom wall over Blanche's comatose body. Ramirez had apparently tried to rape Malvia, the older sister. Police experts estimated that the sisters had been there about two days after the attack before being discovered. Doctors were able to revive Blanche, but Malvia soon died of her injuries.
One month later, on June 27 the Night Stalker raped a six-year-old girl in Arcadia.
A day later the body of thirty-two-year-old Patty Elaine Higgins was found in her Arcadia home, her throat slit.
Five days later on July 2, the body of seventy-five-year old Mary Louise Cannon was found in her Arcadia home. Like Patty Higgins, she had been beaten, her throat slit. The house had been ransacked.
On July 5 Ramirez returned to Arcadia beat sixteen-year-old Deidre Palmer savagely with a tire iron. She survived her injuries.
Two days later on July 7, the body of Joyce Lucille Nelson was found in her home in Monterey Park. The sixty-one-year-old had been beaten to death with a blunt object.
Later that same night in Monterey Park, Linda Fortuna, a sixty-three-year-old registered nurse, was awakened at around 3:30 a.m. by a "tall, bony man dressed in black." The man, who fit the description of Night Stalker, was pointing a gun at her. He ordered her out of bed and into the bathroom, warning her to be quiet. After ransacking the house, he returned to her, forcing her back onto her bed. He attempted to rape and sodomize her but could not maintain an erection. He was frustrated and humiliated, and she was sure he would kill her. He screamed at her furiously, but then gathered up the valuables he wanted and left. She was astounded that he had spared her life.
Less than two weeks later, on July 20, the Night Stalker chose a new location in the Los Angeles area, Glendale. Maxson Kneiling and his wife Lela, both 66, were found in their bed, both shot in the head and horribly slashed with a knife. Maxson had been butchered so brutally his head was barely attached to his body. Police experts had difficulty recreating the attack based on the evidence. It's possible that the Stalker killed them both quickly with his gun, then mutilated them post-mortem. But given his developing MO, it's also possible that he kept Mrs. Kneiling alive to play out his perverse fantasy.
But he also might have failed to perform sexually with Mrs. Kneiling, just as he had with Linda Fortuna, and so he turned July 20 into a double header, striking again, this time in Sun Valley. Chitat Assawahem, 32, was shot in his sleep. His wife Sakima, 29, was raped, forced to perform oral sex on the intruder, then beaten mercilessly. He then sodomized the couple's eight-year-old son. Ramirez tied Mrs. Assawahem in her bedroom and left, but not before taking $30,000 in cash and jewelry.
On August 6, Ramirez targeted another couple, Christopher and Virginia Petersen, ages 38 and 27. Following his pattern, Ramirez broke into the Petersen's Northridge bedroom and shot them both in the head. But they didn't die. In fact, Mr. Petersen, a powerfully built truck driver, got out of bed and chased the intruder away despite having a bullet lodged in his brain. Miraculously, the Petersens survived their wounds.
Two nights after the attack on the Petersens, Ramirez lashed out again, this time in Diamond Bar, California, and this time he had it his way. Ahmed Zia, 35, was shot in the head and killed while he slept. With the husband out of the way, Ramirez was free to play out his fantasy with Zia's wife, Suu Kyi Zia, 28. The Night Stalker raped her, sodomized her, and forced her to perform fellatio on him. This was Ramirez's MO played out the way he liked it, and the experts who profiled him believed that this was the way he would attack again and again, probably adding a little something more each time, a new perversion, a twist on an old predilection, and most likely increasing the physical brutality.
Los Angeles County was terrified. The Night Stalker's crimes were becoming more frequent. The cooling-off periods were shortening, and his rage was escalating. There was little doubt that he would strike again. The only question was where and when. But as it turned out, Ramirez decided to abandon his familiar territory. After the attack on the Zias, he headed north.
"I Love Satan"
On August 18, 1985, Peter and Barbara Pan were found in their blood-soaked bed in Lake Merced, a suburb of San Francisco. Both had been shot in the head. Mr. Pan, a sixty-six-year-old accountant, was pronounced dead at the scene. Mrs. Pan, 64, survived but would be an invalid for the rest of her life. Scrawled on the wall in lipstick were an inverted pentagram and the words "Jack the Knife," which is from a song called "The Ripper" by the heavy-metal band, Judas Priest. Local police determined that the killer had come in through an open window. Fearing that L.A.'s Night Stalker had moved to their precinct, homicide investigators sent a bullet removed from Mr. Pan to a forensic team in Los Angeles. The bullet matched others recovered from two of the Night Stalker's Los Angeles County crime scenes.
Police in San Francisco searched their unsolved homicide files and came up with two incidents that fit the Stalker's MO. On February 20, 1985, sisters Mary and Christina Caldwell, ages 70 and 50, had been stabbed to death in their Telegraph Hill apartment. If this was indeed the work of the Night Stalker, he had committed this crime about a month before the night he killed Dale Okazaki and Tsai-Lian Yu and wounded Angela Barrios.
The police also discovered that on June 2, the day after the murders of the elderly sisters Blanche Wolfe and Malvia Keller, Theodore Wildings, 25, was shot in the head while he slept in his apartment in the Cow Hollow section of San Francisco. His girlfriend, Nancy Brien, 25, was then brutally raped by the killer.
Could the Night Stalker have been active in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles throughout 1985 and the police in San Francisco didn't realize it?
Panic spread through the city by the Bay. To quell fears, Mayor Diane Feinstein talked publicly about the hunt for the Night Stalker, but in so doing angered detectives by giving away too many details of his crimes, thus impeding their investigation. They did not want a repeat of the situation Los Angeles had just gone through. Fifteen unanswered attacks, including fourteen murders and five rapes, had been committed by a maddeningly elusive perpetrator.
But the San Francisco police caught a break when the manager of a flophouse in the Tenderloin district came forward and claimed that a young man who fit the Stalker's description had stayed at his establishment from time to time over the past year and a half. The manager remembered that the man had rotten teeth and smelled badly. The police check the room he had last stayed in. On the bathroom door they found a drawn pentagram. The man had checked out during the day on August 17. Mr. and Mrs. Pan had been attacked that night.
Investigators then located a man from the El Sobrante district who said he had purchased some jewelry—a diamond ring and a pair of cufflinks—from a young man who fit the Stalker's description. Further investigation revealed that these items had belonged to Mr. Pan.
On August 24, while the police in San Francisco were scrambling to find the mysterious young man with rotten teeth, the Night Stalker had found another couple whom he could use to play out his violent fantasy—except this couple was not in the Bay Area. They were asleep in bed in Mission Viejo, fifty miles south of Los Angeles.
A computer engineer and his 29-year-old fiancée had just drifted off to sleep when they were suddenly awakened by loud gunshots in the room. Instinctively she reached out to her fiance, but he had been seriously wounded. Before she realized what was happening, the intruder grabbed her by the hair and hauled her into another bedroom where he tied her ankles and wrists with neckties. The man then asked her if she knew who he was, admitting that he was the killer who was getting all the coverage in the press and on television. He rummaged through the house, looking for valuables, but there was nothing small enough to steal easily. Angry that the couple had so little, he returned to her and raped her, not once but twice. The horrible stink of his breath made her gag.
The man was still angry that there was nothing worth stealing. Afraid of what he might do next, she told him to look in a drawer where she knew her fiance kept some money.
"Swear to Satan," he bellowed at her.
Out of fright, she did what he wanted and swore to Satan that she was telling the truth. The Stalker found the money, and as he counted it, he mocked her, telling her that this was what she was worth. It was what saved her, he said.
She prayed that this was the end of it, that he would just leave now that he had the cash. But he wasn't through with her yet.
"Swear your love for Satan," he demanded.
Afraid of what he might do next, she did as he asked. "I love Satan," she mumbled.
He ordered her to say it again and again. He yanked her by the hair and made her kneel, then forced her to perform oral sex on him. When he was finished, he stepped back and stared at her. Still bound by the neckties, she was certain that he was going to shoot her just as he had shot her fiancé. But he didn't. He laughed at her, then suddenly he was gone.
She quickly worked herself free of the neckties and went to the window in time to see him getting into an old orange-colored Toyota station wagon. She immediately called 911.
Earlier that night a teenager who had been working on his motorcycle in his parents' garage had noticed the orange Toyota driving into the neighborhood, and he noticed it again as it was leaving. It struck him as suspicious, so he jotted down the license plate number. The next morning he called the police about the car.
Los Angeles skyline Los Angeles skyline
With the plate number, the police were able to determine that the 1976 orange Toyota had been stolen in L.A.'s Chinatown while the owner was dining at a restaurant. An alert was put out for the car, and two days later it was located in the Rampart section of Los Angeles. The police kept the car under surveillance for nearly 24 hours in the hope that the Night Stalker would return for it, but he didn't.
Mugshot of Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker Mugshot of Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker
A forensics team scoured the car for evidence and came up with one good fingerprint which they sent to Sacramento for analysis. Hours later the computer had found a match. The print belonged to Ricardo "Richard" Leyva Ramirez. Further analysis revealed that this print matched a print taken from a window sill at the Pans' house near San Francisco. At long last the police knew who their suspect was. Now they had to find him before he struck again.
"I Love to Kill People"
Seven days after the attack on the computer engineer and his fiancee in Mission Viejo, Ramirez was on the prowl for another vehicle he could steal. Unfortunately for him, he chose the wrong neighborhood to go "shopping" for cars. The 3700 block of East Hubbard Street in Los Angeles is in a largely Hispanic area. Perhaps Ramirez felt that he would blend in there. But he had no idea how fiercely these residents would protect their property.
Ramirez's first mistake was trying to steal Faustino Pinon's prized red Mustang. Ramirez, who was wearing a black Jack Daniels tee shirt, had been hopping fences between yards, searching for a car he could steal easily. He'd been chased off the property next door to Pinon's home and wound up in Pinon's yard. Ramirez must have thought luck was with him because the Mustang parked in the driveway was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition. He jumped in and started the engine. But he hadn't noticed that the car's owner was underneath the car on his back working on the transmission.
As soon as Pinon, 56, heard the engine starting, he rolled out from under the car. Incensed that anyone would dare touch his prized possession, Pinon reached through the window and grabbed Ramirez around the neck.
"I've got a gun," Ramirez warned, but Pinon didn't care. No one was going to take his car.
Ramirez put the car into gear and tried to drive away, but Pinon wouldn't let go of him. The car crashed into a fence, then into the garage. Pinon got the door open, hauled Ramirez out, and threw him to the ground.
Ramirez scrambled to his feet and ran across the street just as twenty-eight-year-old Angelina de la Torres was getting into her Ford Granada. He ran up to her car and stuck his head through the driver's window, demanding that she give him the keys, threatening in Spanish to kill her if she didn't. She screamed for help, and her husband Manuel, 32, came running from the backyard. According to Nancy Skelton in the Los Angeles Times, he grabbed a length of metal fence post as he passed through the gate along the side of the house.
Jamie & Julio Burgoin Jamie & Julio Burgoin
In the meantime Jose Burgoin, who had heard the ruckus in Faustino Pinon's driveway, had called the police. He ran outside to help Pinon, and when he heard Angelina scream, he called to his sons— Jaime, 21, and Julio, 17—to come quick. As the brothers ran to help Mrs. De la Torres, they saw the skinny stranger scrambling across the front seat of her car. Jaime recognized him from photographs that had been published in the newspapers and broadcast on television. He yelled that this was the killer, the Night Stalker!
Richard Ramirez headshot Richard Ramirez headshot
The men made a mad dash to catch him. Ramirez ran for his life, but Manuel de la Torres caught up with him and hit him across the neck with the three-and-a- half-foot metal post. Ramirez kept running, but de la Torres stayed on him, whacking him repeatedly from behind. Jaime Burgoin caught up with Ramirez and punched him. Ramirez stumbled and fell but quickly got up and continued running with de la Torres and the Burgoin brothers on his heels.
D.A. Ira Reiner D.A. Ira Reiner
Then unexpectedly Ramirez stopped and faced them. His eyes flashed as he laughed and stuck out his tongue at them. He was playing the part of the madman, but his pursuers were taken aback for only a moment. They lunged at him, and the chase continued. Finally, a block away from where it all began, de la Torres swung hard and hit Ramirez on the head. The Night Stalker collapsed to the ground. Jaime and Jose Burgoin closed in on him to keep him down until the police arrived. One day after Richard Ramirez's face was made public, the Night Stalker was in custody and behind bars.
Legal Delays By Katherine Ramsland, PhD
Upon his arrest, Ramirez, 26, was charged with fourteen murders and thirty-one other felonies related to his 1985 murder, rape and robbery spree. A fifteenth murder in San Francisco also hung over his head, with the potential for a trial in Orange County for rape and attempted murder.
Richard Ramirez flashing the devil sign Richard Ramirez flashing the "devil sign"
Early in the case, two public defenders were appointed to Richard Ramirez, but he disliked them. Another defense attorney came and went before the Ramirez family retained Daniel and Arturo Hernandez (not related). They had never before tried a death penalty case, but had worked together on homicide cases. Their presentation wasn't helped much when at the arraignment in October 1985, Ramirez flashed a pentagram drawn on his palm and shouted, "Hail Satan!"
Apparently this kind of behavior raised anxiety levels, because on another occasion when the courtroom lights suddenly went out, the deputy marshals drew their pistols and told everyone to hit the floor. They then dragged Ramirez out of the courtroom.
The Hernandezes began their long list of pre-trial motions by filing for a change of venue, insisting that the adverse publicity in Los Angeles County had infected the entire community, and hence, the jury pool. Ramirez could not receive a fair trial, they claimed, because many middleclass people in the area had an image embedded in their consciousness of the Night Stalker breaking into their homes. In fact, a survey they had done indicated that 93% of 300 people polled had heard about Ramirez, and the majority believed that he was guilty.
On January 10, 1987, the Los Angeles Times* reported the decision in this thirteen-day hearing—a taste of things to come. Judge Dion Morrow said that given the substantial pool of potential jurors in the county, he did not believe that argument was sound. "This is the largest community, I think," he stated, "of any court system in the country." As Ramirez was led in chains from the courtroom, he grinned at his growing coterie of female supporters. Some believed in his innocence. Others just thought he was cute.
In another hearing, Judge Elva Soper granted a request for a gag order on both sides.
By May, a trial date was set for the end of September. That proved to be highly optimistic. This case was going to spread into other states and even Mexico, seeking witnesses and evidence. The defense team would also introduce an exhausting round of delays, from appeals to out-of-town interviews to outright disappearances.
Ramirez actually testified in pre-trial proceedings, clad in a three-piece gray suit and red tie. He denied that he had spontaneously told Sergeant Ed Esqueda upon his August 31 arrest, "I did it, you know. You guys got me, the Stalker." His lawyers said that the officer had not recorded the statements and they wanted them stricken. Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan, who would sit for the trial, denied the motion. (Sergeant George Thomas would later testify at the trial that he wrote down that Ramirez had said, "Of course I did it. So what? Shoot me. I deserve to die." Then he had hummed a tune called "Night Prowler.")
Other than that appearance, Ramirez sat through most of his numerous hearings, slouching in his chair, drumming his fingers on the table, and bobbing his head as if listening to rock music. He seemed oblivious to the seriousness of the charges.
When the Hernandezes insisted throughout the final months of 1987 that they needed more time to prepare, the trial date was moved to February. They considered buying more time by pursuing the Orange County trial first.
In November, to avoid an extra trial, one murder and one felony count were dismissed. All the prosecution had for the murder was the delayed statement of a witness who had spotted Ramirez a block from the crime scene. Then Judge Tynan also said that he would not allow Ramirez to leave the county, which meant he could not be arraigned in Orange County. The defense attorneys, seeking another ploy, prepared to ask for at least six separate trials to avoid having cases with little good evidence become stronger by association with those that had it.
By January, it appeared that the trial for case # A 7771272 would be postponed another six months, because an appellate court required that the prosecution team supply defense attorneys with records of all crimes over a period of six months in Los Angeles County of a "similar nature" to those of Ramirez. This was a move by the Hernandezes to link some of those that Ramirez was charged with to other cases and possibly other offenders. Prosecutor Phil Halpin called this an "onerous burden" for the cops and asked the court to reconsider. Both sides took it to the state Supreme Court, which would not hear it.
In March, San Francisco authorities had tentatively linked Ramirez to four homicides, a rape, and ten burglaries, but since they had no physical evidence in most of those crimes, they had narrowed their focus to one killing (Peter Pan), one attempted murder (Pan's wife), and a burglary that had yielded evidence that led to discovering Ramirez's last name. They were awaiting the conclusion of the LA trial to decide on a date.
In July, as the case neared three years since the arrest, the Times reported that Ramirez had decided against entering a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. The judge ordered jury selection to begin. The paper quoted the judge as estimating (correctly) that this alone could take six to eight months. The Hernandezes had sought to have Tynan disqualified based on prejudice against their client. They did not succeed, but once again they claimed they needed more time to prepare.
Impatient with the defense motions (mostly to suppress evidence) that numbered to nearly one hundred, LA County prosecutor Phil Halpin finalized his case and filed the charges, taking the defense by surprise. He claimed he had nearly 1,000 potential witnesses and hundreds of thousands of pages of statements, reports, and photographs. Admitting that it was one of the "most complicated criminal cases" he had seen, he projected a two-year-period for the trial. Thus far, the case had cost over one million dollars and one witness had already died.
The defense asked for yet another extension, but it was time to begin.
*The account of the trial was taken from reports from 1987-1989 in the Los Angeles Times, with special thanks to John Timpane.
The Los Angeles Trial By Katherine Ramsland, PhD
Judge Michael Tynan Judge Michael Tynan
On July 21, 1988, jury selection began. (At the same time in Orange County, the jury was being selected for the trial of Randy Kraft, accused of killing sixteen young men.) Judge Tynan decided that they would need twelve jurors and twelve alternates, all of whom had to be impartial and also willing and able to serve for up to two years—a rather tall order even for that county. Carpenters were hired to enlarge the jury box. Tynan figured that to get what they needed, they might have to interview as many as 2,000 people (it turned out to be just short of 1,600).
Alan Yochelson joined Halpin for the prosecution team, and throughout the voir dire, Halpin and Daniel Hernandez traded so many insults that the judge told them to take their macho posturing into a boxing ring. He called them both unprofessional. He also assigned a public defender, Ray Clark, to assist Daniel Hernandez, since Arturo seemed inclined not to be there at times.
Richard Ramirez in defiance of the judge Richard Ramirez in defiance of the judge
The team had not yet disclosed their strategy and they still had numerous appeals pending, particularly one asking to overturn the decision made by a judge who had refused to remove Tynan from the case. Ramirez, often choosing all-black garb, began to don sunglasses as part of his mysterious persona. Although he remained shaggy-haired throughout, reinforcing his rebellious reputation, he got more involved in the proceedings.
On August 3, the LA Times reported that jail employees had overheard a plan by Ramirez to shoot and kill the prosecutor with a gun that someone was going to slip him in the courtroom. A metal detector was installed outside the courtroom and even the lawyers were searched. Ramirez seemed surprised, and no gun was ever found.
Finally after several months, a jury of twelve, with alternates, was seated. Then one juror was dismissed for making racially biased statements about the death penalty.
In January 1989, a state appeals court found Daniel Hernandez "deficient" in presenting another client in an earlier murder trial. Reportedly, he was "not surprised" by the decision. He also had a record of seeking delays for medical conditions caused by stress. No one knew why the family had hired such an inexperienced attorney. He continued to seek delays.
By the end of the month, January 30, the trial began with Halpin's two-hour opening statement about the thirteen murders and thirty felony charges. He intended to introduce at least four hundred exhibits as evidence, including fingerprints, ballistics evidence, and shoe impressions—one of which had been on the face of one victim. On that same day, the Times reported that in jail in 1985 Ramirez had referred to himself as a "super criminal," claiming he loved to kill and had murdered twenty people. "I love all that blood," a sheriff's deputy quoted him as saying. Halpin hoped to enter these statements as evidence.
Hernandez declined to make an opening statement at this stage. His strategy remained veiled.
Then the case really began. While some witnesses had a difficult time with memory recall four years after the crimes, others were quite certain of their identification of Richard Ramirez. A few offered lengthy descriptions of their ordeal at the hands of Ramirez, sometimes while he leafed through a notebook of bloody crime scene photos. The defendant, when asked, refused to remove his sunglasses.
Halpin used circumstantial evidence to link Ramirez with the Avia shoes that left prints at crime scenes, with his appearance in the vicinity of the crimes, with his shifting MO, and with possession of items removed from the victims or their homes. He also had fingerprints and "signature" evidence. On April 14, after using 137 witnesses and 521 exhibits, the prosecution rested its case. But then, it had become clear that the defense strategy would be that the eight eyewitnesses—some of whom were survivors--had all mistakenly identified Ramirez. Some other guy had done it all. They were granted two weeks to prepare.
One hurdle the defense team had to jump was the numerous pentagrams left at crime scenes, in a car that bore Ramirez's fingerprint, on the thigh of a victim, on Ramirez, and in his cell. This was a means of linking the crimes, especially since Ramirez was a self-proclaimed Satanist. He had allegedly forced one surviving victim to swear allegiance to Satan as he assaulted her and shot her husband. Besides fingerprint and impression evidence from Avia shoes (allegedly worn by Ramirez, though they could not be found), ballistics evidence showed the use of four different guns, one of which was traced to a man who said he had gotten it from Ramirez.
The defense actually began three weeks later, on May 9, in part because on May 2 one of the prosecution's witnesses was ordered to re-testify. He had admitted to withholding information while under oath as he had described jewelry and consumer items linked to the victims and received from Ramirez. Halpin himself had uncovered the deception and said it was not damaging to the case. Hernandez withheld judgment but looked for an appeal opportunity.
On May 4, the Times ran a piece about Ramirez's state of mind, saying he was gloomy and distraught, and that he did not want to put on a defense. The lawyers told the judge that this was a possibility, although they had advised him otherwise. Tynan granted a recess so they could talk further with their client. Ultimately, it was decided to go on with the trial, and they brought in thirty-eight witnesses.
The defense team essentially claimed that the prosecution's evidence was inconclusive or defective. They took note of the fact that there were many fingerprints at the crime scenes that remained unidentified and that hairs and blood samples were found that did not belong to the victims or Ramirez. In a surprise move, they had Ramirez's father, Julian Ramirez-Tapia, take the stand to say that Richard had been in El Paso, Texas, for eight days starting around May 24, 1985. A rape victim had placed him in her home on Memorial Day, and another attack, which had ended in murder, had also occurred between May 29 and June 1. The defense attorneys also found testimony to the effect that police officers had covertly alerted witnesses to Ramirez's position in the line-up after his arrest.
Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, an expert in eyewitness testimony from the University of Washington, testified that the stress of assault may have affected the witnesses' ability to accurately recall details. She also pointed out that errors are more likely when the attacker and victim are of different races. Yet she conceded under cross-examination that those victims who had more than a fleeting exposure to Ramirez were likely to be more accurate.
On May 25, defense witness Sandra Hotchkiss claimed to have been Ramirez's accomplice in numerous daytime burglaries in 1985, some of which had occurred during his alleged murder spree, and she said that none of these incidents was violent. She added that he was jumpy and amateurish. She broke off with him but was eventually arrested and convicted of other burglaries.
Throughout this phase of the trial, several disturbances occurred, such as charts falling from easels, Daniel Hernandez perspiring profusely, and evidence being erroneously represented. The newspapers pointed out that not once had the defense attorneys claimed their client was innocent. Hernandez commented in the paper that they merely wanted to prove that the prosecution's case was faulty.
Rebuttal witnesses for the prosecution contradicted the testimony of Ramirez's father by showing that Ramirez was in fact in Los Angeles having dental work done at the time that his father said he was in El Paso. A comparison of Ramirez's teeth to the charts left no doubt, though Ramirez had used an alias. A newspaper reporter, David Hancock, also contradicted the alibi by indicating that he had interviewed Ramirez-Tapia in August 1985, at which time the man had claimed he had not seen his son in at least two years.
Daniel Hernandez was allowed to fly to Texas to seek out more witnesses who might have seen Ramirez. The jury was allowed to go on vacation until July 10. Hernandez found two witnesses, but Halpin made the point that if he'd gone by plane, Ramirez could still have made it back in time to commit both attacks. One survivor had identified a piece of jewelry as hers that had admittedly been found in the El Paso home of Ramirez's sister, yet relatives of the woman murdered in May 1985 had photos of appliances from her home that had been in Ramirez's possession.
In closing arguments that lasted from July 12-25, each side emphasized the weakness in the other side's case and the strengths in it's own. Halpin pointed out that Hernandez had raised issues that he never substantiated, throwing them at the jury as mere diversions. When he was finished, Ramirez turned to the courtroom and smirked.
The judge took two days to instruct the jury, letting them know that a handgun was missing from the evidence inventory, but they had a photograph of it. After nearly a year, the jury finally started deliberations on July 26, with 8,000 pages of trial transcripts and 655 exhibits to consider.
Within a week, one juror who kept falling asleep was replaced. Then on August 14, Phyllis Singletary did not arrive. The judge summoned the jury and told them they could not continue without her, and the court was recessed for the day.
Yet the papers reported that Ms. Singletary had been shot to death in her apartment, and this news passed through the jury and eight remaining alternates like wildfire. They could not help but wonder if Ramirez had managed this from his prison cell and if he might do something similar to another of them. He certainly had plenty of black-clad groupies who came to court each day to show their support. They recalled the Charles Manson cult from 1969.
Judge Tynan called them into court the next day and told them that Ms. Singletary had been shot by an abusive boyfriend. He assured them the incident was unrelated to the case. An alternate was chosen to replace her, although the woman was so overcome with fear she could not walk to her place. Yet more news was forthcoming. Ms. Singletary's boyfriend used the same weapon with which he'd killed her to commit suicide in a hotel. He left behind his written confession. They had been arguing over the Ramirez case and he had become enraged by her disapproval of Ramirez's lawyers.
The defense team tried hard to get a mistrial declared, which Halpin opposed. "The case must not go down the drain," he insisted. Debates emerged in the newspapers over the issue, with one psychologist believing the shooting would unconsciously influence the jury against the defendant. However, the jury foreman assured the judge that they could continue. When Ramirez heard this in court, he shouted that it was all "fucked up" and had to be restrained. He continued to act out during the rest of the deliberations, saying that the trial had not been fair, and he was allowed to waive his right to be present in court. Whenever brief hearings were needed, the proceedings were piped into his holding cell.
On September 20, almost two months after they had begun, the jury announced that they had reached a unanimous decision. Ramirez elected not to attend the reading. Neither did his coterie of girlfriends. On each of the forty-three counts, the jury had voted guilty and had affirmed nineteen "special circumstances" that made him eligible for the death penalty. Upon leaving his cell, Ramirez flashed a devil sign—two finger for horns--at photographers and made a single comment: "Evil."
The defense team asked Ramirez to assist with the penalty phase, because without mitigating factors, he surely would be condemned to death.
"Dying doesn't scare me," he responded. "I'll be in hell. With Satan." He told his lawyers that he would not beg. So to everyone's surprise, they offered no witnesses and did not call him to plead for his life. Halpin said later that this decision had caught him "flat-footed." Clark simply argued before the jury that something was obviously wrong with Ramirez and they should be compassionate—sympathy even for the devil. Halpin reviewed his arguments from the trial and urged them to give him his "just desserts."
On October 3, 1989, after four days of deliberations, the jury said they had voted for death for Richard Ramirez. The female members were crying. Ramirez, who was present for this, was led from the courtroom smiling. "Big Deal," he said. "Death always went with the territory." Later as he was led in shackles back to the county jail, he added for reporters, "I'll see you in Disneyland."
Richard Ramirez prison ID Richard Ramirez prison ID
On November 9, he was officially sentenced to death nineteen times. Ramirez chatted with his attorneys throughout. Afterward he added to his dark image with his rather incomprehensible speech to the court: "You do not understand me. I do not expect you to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil. Legions of the night, night breed, repeat not the errors of night prowler and show no mercy. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within us all."
He denounced the court officials as liars, haters, and parasitic worms. He said that he'd been misunderstood. As he was led away to eventually join the 262 inmates already on death row in San Quentin—including Freeway Killer Randy Kraft, sentenced a month before--he asked, "Where are the women?" He then flashed his two-fingered devil symbol at a busload of female prisoners, who called out, "Killer!" That made him smile.
Ramirez and Satan: Perfect Together? By Katherine Ramsland, PhD
To understand Richard Ramirez and his passion for the devil, we need to examine more than just his life; we must also look at the times.
Ramirez committed his murder spree in 1985, in the midst of the "satanic panics" that swept the country throughout the decade. Anxiety over Satanists and evil conspiracies mounted on a cultural scale, and narratives told by people in therapy about ritual abuse by secret Satanic rings showed many common elements—and no evidence. Whole masses of people developed similar physical symptoms that were primarily emotional in origin, and the idea of ritual abuse was heavily promoted by journalists, therapists, physicians, drug companies, and whoever else might find some stake in them.
Serial killers, too, adopted satanic robes. During that decade, Robert Berdella killed six men in Missouri for satanic purposes, Antone Costa killed four women in Cape Cod in rituals, Thomas Creech admitted to 47 satanic sacrifices, and Larry Eyler buried four of his 23 victims under a barn marked with an inverted pentagram. Nurse Donald Harvey, suspected in the deaths of 47 patients, admitted to a fascination with black magic, and Leonard Lake, who had teamed up with Charles Ng for a series of torture-murders, was affiliated with a coven of witches. One killer targeted homeless men, ringing his victims with a circle of salt. A teenager who wanted to follow the devil murdered his parents in their beds.
Also during the 1980s, a former associate of John Wayne Gacy named Robin Gecht inspired a group of three other men known as the Ripper Crew in killing an estimated eighteen women. They would murder a victim, sever her left breast with a thin wire, clean it out to use for sexual gratification, and then cut it into pieces to consume. Ostensibly, they were worshipping Satan, and eating the flesh was a form of demonic communion.
The Night Stalker had the same devilish persuasion. He'd creep up in the night, dressed in black, and enter homes surreptitiously. Sometimes he removed the eyes of his victims, as if for a ritual. He bludgeoned two elderly sisters and left Satanic symbols on the thigh of the one who died in the form of a pentagram. He also drew pentagrams on the walls in lipstick. When he was arrested, Ramirez reportedly said he was a minion of Satan sent to commit the Dark One's dirty work.
Was this admission some kind of preparation for an insanity defense or something he truly believed? If he believed it, did it inspire more savagery? Did it cause him to kill? Let's review some of the influential factors of his life that have been commonly linked to the development of a violent temperament.
He was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1960, the youngest of five children. He was a quiet boy, according to neighbors, with hard-working parents. However, Richard's father had a temper and sometimes beat the kids. The model of abuse in the form of a parent can often be a bad start for a child, especially a boy watching his father. Add to that, possible abuse from a male teacher, and Richard had two role models who demonstrated how to use others for their own frustrated ends. Richard was afraid of his father, and he would leave home to hang out in a nearby cemetery, even spending the night. He found peace among the dead, and this may have been where he first developed an attraction to the macabre.
Forensic psychologist Dr. N. G. Berrill, from John College of Criminal Justice, pointed out on Court TV's Mugshots that a means for getting over one's fears is "to identify with what's frightening you. One way to do that is to become a frightening person yourself."
More than one criminal has become the very thing that scared him, turning from victim into victimizer. Yet Ramirez would take this transformation another step. It would become more than just frightening people. He would want to mutilate them, degrade them, and radiate their fear in larger ripples at others.
Ramirez also suffered from epileptic seizures—possibly viewed as a weakness in that south-Texas culture, since it forced him to give up football--and he became something of a loner in school. He was thin and girlish in appearance, so he may have been ridiculed. Yet he had ambitions to become famous. He wanted people to know him. He wanted to make a difference.
He looked up to an older cousin named Mike, who may have become something of a father substitute. Mike loved to prove how tough he was, especially by fighting. As Richard hung out with him day after day, absorbing Mike's life philosophies, he learned a new outlook. Mike had survived the rigors of Vietnam, and when he returned, even more hardened and covered in tattoos, he became larger-than-life in Richard's eyes. He'd come through an ordeal and he had secrets from an exotic place. That was pretty exciting, but even better were the photographs that Mike liked to show Richard of the butchered dead—including women. He said that killing made him feel like a god, and there was nothing more powerful. Mike bragged that he had raped and murdered a number of women, and he had the photos to prove it. While Richard may have been shocked at first, eventually he got used to such sights, especially since it was important to show Mike that he could handle it. Mike might have been testing young Richard, not yet even an adolescent, but Richard was up to the test. He took it in and wanted more.
The key insight here is that Richard's exposure to Mike's atrocities occurred at a time in his life when he was also becoming a young man, and often when things get associated with physical excitement and intrigue during early sexual development, they also become eroticized. Thus they become a part of the mental landscape as well. Sexual fantasies can develop from the associated images, and those fantasies become repetitive and more detailed throughout one's life and may lay the groundwork for later acts. Richard supposedly had viewed Polaroids of Mike in sexual activity in which the woman was a helpless victim and of Mike murdering these same women. He saw how his idol could do these things without a qualm, no doubt got excited by the naked women in sexual positions, and probably learned that women could be easily used as objects for degradation. It was all part of being a real man, yet it was also forbidden, which gave Mike's macho realm an added allure.
In addition to that, Mike also taught Richard the art of hunting as a predator. They would go into the desert at night to observe and sneak up on animals. Mike then would show Richard how to kill an animal with a knife or gun, and it's likely they indulged in some bloody aspects of this sport.
As Richard developed, Mike became his role model and whatever Mike did without fear, Richard wanted to do. That set him up for one more incident that would prove everything that Mike had demonstrated thus far.
One day, Mike got into a fight with his wife, who wanted him to get a job, and decided to end her harassment. He drew a revolver and shot her. Then he told Richard to leave. For this crime, Mike went to a mental institution, judged to have been temporarily insane. Yet right after the incident, Richard went into the home with his father and saw and smelled the blood. He felt a connection with the dead, he confessed later to author Philip Carlo (The Night Stalker), which bordered on the mystical.
Some psychologists pinpoint this killing as the turning point for him, but it's more likely that he had already become inured to death, especially with women, via the photographs Mike had shown him, and by killing animals up close. This incident was probably not as traumatic for him as it might have been, given what he'd already been exposed to. The numbness had already developed in him. Otherwise, we might expect that he'd have run from the apartment and gone to the police, or gone into a depression and avoided his cousin thereafter. In fact, he told no one that he had witnessed the crime.
What may have been just as instrumental in his development is that he did attend church, so to be able to worship and also accept his cousin's violent attitudes indicated that he'd already begun to compartmentalize—to act and think differently in different contexts. That's the most dangerous kind of person, because it becomes difficult for others to recognize the violent side, and difficult for the person to stop his own violent acts. He may not even view them as bad.
Eventually, Richard discovered the Church of Satan, and that seemed to draw all the threads of his temperament together in the right way. The themes of dominance, control, and power called to him, as did the idea of something sacred, even if it was evil. All of this might have made him able to erase his feelings of weakness.
Then when he was 18, he moved to California. He had nothing much to do there, so he stole cars, listened to music, and looked for opportunities, whatever they may be. He would steal without compunction and buy drugs. He still sought something that might make him significant.
Richard Ramirez had perceived in the culture around him---he was not far from where teachers had been arrested in 1983 at the McMartin pre-school and accused as a ring of Satanists corrupting children---that people were afraid of Satan, and to him that probably meant that aligning himself with the Prince of Darkness would empower him in a unique way. People would actually fear him. So he cultivated the trappings of Satanism that were popular during the 1970s and 80s—pentagrams, black clothing, demonic eyes, stealthy ways, and a penchant for the night. He took his cue from the song, "Night Prowler," noting how the person who made others afraid was the person in control.
So he went on his murder spree, was caught, and went through a trial. He was certainly making a name for himself, but it wasn't enough just to be another serial killer. There were plenty of those by the 1980s—even a trial in Orange County at the same time. He perceived that he had set himself apart with his satanic incarnation, and he played that up for the press.
At a preliminary hearing, Ramirez flashed a pentagram that he'd had tattooed onto the palm of his hand. When he was convicted and his lawyers warned him that he could get the death sentence. "I'll be in hell, then," he said, "with Satan." He saw the newspaper articles talking about him as the devil and understood that he was a celebrity now. The more he flashed the pentagram or talked about serving Satan, the more he was quoted in the papers. He adopted sunglasses to enhance his mystique. He apparently embraced the idea that he was a "monster." Even during his trial, when one juror was murdered, the incident made other jurors wonder if Ramirez had called forth demons to attack that person. They were fearful that he might pick them off. He'd often tried to intimidate them individually with his stares.
He was sentenced to death and sent to Death Row in San Quentin. When talking to police officers, he was quite curious as to whether there would now be books about him as there were about Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper. He loved the idea that someone had made a movie.
During the 1990s, Jason Moss wrote to Ramirez as part of his project to write to serial killers, and Ramirez reportedly wanted him to become a Satanist.
Since Ramirez's beliefs seem fundamental to his desire to be notorious and unique, it's difficult to know to what degree he was sincerely devoted to Satan. Yet it's likely that his desire to kill and the manner in which he committed his crimes had more to do with his cousin Mike's psychological influence, coupled with his notion that killing makes one a god.
Ed Gein: The Inspiration for Buffalo Bill and Psycho
On November 17, 1957, police in Plainfield, Wisconsin arrived at the dilapidated farmhouse of Eddie Gein, who was a suspect in the robbery of a local hardware store and disappearance of the owner, Bernice Worden. Gein had been the last customer at the hardware store and had been seen loitering around the premises.
Removal of evidence at Gein's house Removal of evidence at Gein's house
Gein's desolate farmhouse was a study in chaos. Inside, junk and rotting garbage covered the floor and counters. It was almost impossible to walk through the rooms. The smell of filth and decomposition was overwhelming. While the local sheriff, Arthur Schley, inspected the kitchen with his flashlight, he felt something brush against his jacket.
When he looked up to see what it was he ran into, he faced a large, dangling carcass hanging upside down from the beams. The carcass had been decapitated, slit open and gutted. An ugly sight to be sure, but a familiar one in that deer-hunting part of the country, especially during deer season.
It took a few moments to sink in, but soon Schley realized that it wasn't a deer at all, it was the headless butchered body of a woman. Bernice Worden, the fifty-year-old mother of his deputy Frank Worden, had been found.
Policeman in Ed Gein's kitchen Policeman in Ed Gein's kitchen
While the shocked deputies searched through the rubble of Eddie Gein's existence, they realized that the horrible discoveries didn't end at Mrs. Worden's body. They had stumbled into a death farm.
The funny-looking bowl was a top of a human skull. The lampshades and wastebasket were made from human skin.
A ghoulish inventory began to take shape: an armchair made of human skin, female genitalia kept preserved in a shoebox, a belt made of nipples, a human head, four noses and a heart.
The more they looked through the house, the more ghastly trophies they found. Finally a suit made entirely of human skin. Their heads spun as they tried to tally the number of women that may have died at Eddie's hands.
All of this bizarre handicraft made Eddie into a celebrity. Author Robert Bloch was inspired to write a story about Norman Bates, a character based on Eddie, which became the central theme of the Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller Psycho.
Tony Perkins as Norman Bates in the movie Tony Perkins as Norman Bates in the movie "Psycho"
In 1974, the classic thriller by Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, has many Geinian touches, although there is no character that is an exact Eddie Gein model. This movie helped put "Ghastly Gein" back in the spotlight in the mid-1970's.
Years later, Eddie provided inspiration for the character of another serial killer, Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Like Eddie, Buffalo Bill treasured women's skin and wore it like clothing in some insane transvestite ritual.
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Smaller | Larger By Rachael Bell and Marilyn Bardsley The Beginning
How does a child evolve into an Eddy Gein? A close look at his childhood and home life provides a number of clues.
Eddie Gein Eddie Gein
Edward Theodore was born on August 27, 1906, to Augusta and George Gein in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Eddie was the second of two boys born to the couple. The first born was Henry, who was seven years older than Eddie.
Augusta, a fanatically religious woman, was determined to raise the boys according to her strict moral code. Sinners inhabited Augusta's world and she instilled in her boys the teachings of the Bible on a daily basis. She repeatedly warned her sons of the immorality and looseness of women, hoping to discourage any sexual desires the boys might have had, for fear of them being cast down into hell.
Augusta was a domineering and hard woman who believed her views of the world were absolute and true. She had no difficulty forcefully imposing her beliefs on her sons and husband.
George, a weak man and an alcoholic, had no say in the raising of the boys. In fact, Augusta despised him and saw him as a worthless creature not fit to hold down a job, let alone care for their children. She took it upon herself to not only raise the children according to her beliefs but also to provide for the family financially.
She began a grocery business in La Crosse the year Eddie was born, and it brought in a fair amount of money to support the family in a comfortable fashion. She worked hard and saved money so that the family could move to a more rural area away from the immorality of the city and the sinners that inhabited it. In 1914 they moved to Plainfield, Wisconsin to a one-hundred-ninety-five-acre farm, isolated from any evil influences that could disrupt her family. The closest neighbors were almost a quarter of a mile away.
Although Augusta tried diligently to keep her sons away from the outside world, she was not entirely successful because it was necessary for the boys to attend school. Eddie's performance in school was average, although he excelled in reading. It was the reading of adventure books and magazines that stimulated Eddie's imagination and allowed him to momentarily escape into his own world.
His schoolmates shunned Eddie because he was effeminate and shy. He had no friends and when he attempted to make them his mother scolded him. Although his mother's opposition to making friends saddened Eddie, he saw her as the epitome of goodness and followed her rigid orders the best he could.
However, Augusta was rarely pleased with her boys and she often verbally abused them, believing that they were destined to become failures like their father. During their teens and throughout their early adulthood the boys remained detached from people outside of their farmstead and had only the company of each other.
Eddie looked up to his brother Henry and saw him as a hard worker and a man of strong character. After the death of their father in 1940, they took on a series of odd jobs to help financially support the farm and their mother. Eddie tried to emulate his brother's work habits and they both were considered by townspeople to be reliable and trustworthy. They worked as handymen mostly, yet Eddie frequently babysat for neighbors. It was babysitting that Eddie really enjoyed because children were easier for him to relate to than his peers. He was in many ways socially and emotionally retarded.
Henry was worried about Eddie's unhealthy attachment to their mother. On several occasions Henry openly criticized their mother, something that shocked Eddie. Eddie saw his mother as pure goodness and was mortified that his brother did not see her in the same way. It was possibly these incidents that led to the untimely and mysterious death of Henry in 1944.
On May 16th Eddie and Henry were fighting a brush fire that was burning dangerously close to their farm. According to police, the two separated in different directions attempting to put out the blaze. During their struggle, night quickly approached and soon Eddie lost sight of Henry. After the blaze was extinguished, Eddie supposedly became worried about his missing brother and contacted the police.
The police then organized a search party and were surprised upon reaching the farm to have Eddie lead them directly to the "missing" Henry, who was lying dead on the ground. The police were concerned about some of the things surrounding Henry's death. For example, Henry was lying on a piece of earth that was untouched by fire and he had bruises on his head.
Although Henry was found under strange circumstances, police were quick to dismiss foul play. No one could believe shy Eddie was capable of killing anyone, especially his brother. Later the county coroner would list asphyxiation as the cause of death.
The only living person Eddie had left was his mother and that was the only person he needed. However, he would have his mother all to himself for a very brief period.
On December 29th, 1945, Augusta died after a series of strokes. Eddie's foundations were shaken upon her death. Harold Schechter in his book Deviant, explained that Eddie had "lost his only friend and one true love. And he was absolutely alone in the world."
The downstairs living room The downstairs living room
He remained at the farm after his mothers death and lived off the meager earnings from odd jobs that he performed. Eddie boarded off the rooms his mother used the most, mainly the upstairs floor, the downstairs parlor and living room. He preserved them as a shrine to her and left them untouched for the years to follow. He resided in the lower level of the house making use of the kitchen area and a small room located just off of the kitchen, which he used as a bedroom.
It was in these areas that Eddie would spend his spare time reading death-cult magazines and adventure stories. At other times, Eddie would immerse himself in his bizarre hobbies that included nightly visits to the graveyard.
After the death of his mother, Eddie became increasingly lonely. He spent much of his spare time reading pulp magazines and anatomy books. The rooms he inhabited were full of periodicals about Nazis, South Sea headhunters and shipwrecks. From his readings Eddie learned about the process of shrinking heads, exhuming corpses from graves and the anatomy of the human body. He became obsessed with these weird stories and he would often recount some of them to the children he babysat. Eddie also enjoyed reading the local newspapers. His favorite section was the obituaries.
It was from the obituaries that Eddie would learn of the recent deaths of local women. Having never enjoyed the company of the opposite sex, he would quench his lust by visiting graves at night. Although he later swore to police that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the dead women he had exhumed ("they smelled too bad"), he did take a particular pleasure in peeling their skin from their bodies and wearing it. He was curious to know what it was like to have breasts and a vagina and he often dreamed of being a woman. He was fascinated with women because of the power and hold they had over men.
He acquired quite a collection of body parts, some of which included preserved heads. On one occasion a young boy that he sometimes looked after visited Eddie's farm. He later said that Eddie had showed him human heads that he kept in his bedroom. Eddie claimed the shriveled heads were from the South Seas, relics from headhunters.
When the young boy told people of his experience, his story was quickly dismissed as a figment of the young boy's imagination. Then somewhat later, the boy was vindicated when two other young men paid a visit to Eddie Gein's farm. They too had seen the preserved heads of women but thought them to be just strange Halloween costumes. Rumors began to circulate and soon most of the townspeople were gossiping about the strange objects Eddie supposedly possessed.
Bernice Worden's Funeral Bernice Worden's Funeral
However, no one took the stories seriously until Bernice Worden disappeared years later. In fact, people would often joke with Eddie about having shrunken heads and Eddie would just smile or make reference to having them in his room. No one thought he was telling the truth or maybe they just didnt want to believe it was true.
During the late 1940s and 1950s, Wisconsin police began to notice an increase in missing persons cases. There were four cases that particularly baffled police. The first was that of an eight-year-old girl named Georgia Weckler, who had disappeared coming home from school on May 1, 1947. Hundreds of residents and police searched an area of ten square miles of Jefferson, Wisconsin, hoping to find the young girl. Unfortunately, Georgia would never be seen or heard of again. There were no good suspects and the only evidence police had to go on were tire marks found near the place where Georgia was last seen. The tire marks were that of a Ford. The case remained unsolved and wouldnt be opened again until years later when Eddie Gein was convicted of murder.
Another girl disappeared six years later in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Fifteen-year-old Evelyn Hartley had been babysitting at the time she had vanished. Evelyn's father repeatedly tried to phone the girl at the house where she was babysitting and there was no answer.
Worried, the girls father immediately drove to where she was babysitting. Nobody answered the door. When he peered through a window, he could see one of his daughter's shoes and a pair of her eyeglasses on the floor. He tried to enter the house, but all the doors and windows were locked. Except for one -- the back basement window. It was at that window where he discovered bloodstains. Petrified, he entered the house and discovered signs of a struggle.
Immediately he contacted police. When police arrived at the house they found more evidence of a struggle including blood stains on the grass leading away from the house, a bloody hand print on a neighboring house, footprints and the girl's other shoe on the basement floor.
A regional search was conducted but Evelyn was nowhere to be found. A few days later police discovered some bloodied articles of clothing that belonged to Evelyn, near a highway outside of La Crosse. The worst was suspected.
In November of 1952, two men stopped for a drink at a bar in Plainfield, Wisconsin before heading out to hunt deer. Victor Travis and Ray Burgess spent several hours at the bar before leaving. The two men and their car were never to be seen again. A massive search was conducted but there was no trace of them. They had simply vanished.
In the winter of 1954, a Plainfield tavern keeper by the name of Mary Hogan mysteriously disappeared from her place of business. Police suspected foul play when they discovered blood on the tavern floor that trailed into the parking lot.
Police also discovered an empty bullet cartridge on the floor. Police could only speculate about what might have happened to Mary because like the other four missing people, they had no bodies and little useful evidence. The only other common tie among these cases was that all of the disappearances happened around or in Plainfield, Wisconsin.
Skeletons in the Closet
On November 17, 1957, after the discovery of Bernice Worden's headless corpse and other gruesome artifacts in Eddie's house, police began an exhaustive search of the remaining parts of the farm and surrounding land. They believed Eddie may have been involved in more murders and that the bodies might be buried on his land, possibly those of Georgia Weckler, Victor Travis and Ray Burgess, Evelyn Hartley and Mary Hogan.
Clean-shaven Eddie Clean-shaven Eddie
While excavations began at the farmstead, Eddie was being interviewed at Wautoma County Jailhouse by investigators. Gein at first did not admit to any of the killings. However, after more then a day of silence he began to tell the horrible story of how he killed Mrs. Worden and where he acquired the body parts that were found in his house. Gein had difficulty remembering every detail, because he claimed he had been in a dazed state at the time leading up to and during the murder. Yet, he recalled dragging Worden's body to his Ford truck, taking the cash register from the store and taking them back to his house. He did not remember shooting her in the head with a .22 caliber gun, which autopsy reports later listed as the cause of death.
When asked where the other body parts came from that were discovered in his house, he said that he had stolen them from local graves. Eddie insisted that he had not killed any of the people whose remains were found in his house, with the exception of Mrs. Worden.
However, after days of intense interrogation he finally admitted to the killing of Mary Hogan. Again, he claimed he was in a dazed state at the time of the murder and he could not remember exact details of what actually happened. The only memory he had was that he had accidentally shot her.
Eddie showed no signs of remorse or emotion during the many hours of interrogation. When he talked about the murders and of his grave robbing escapades he spoke very matter-of-factly, even cheerfully at times. He had no concept of the enormity of his crimes.
A Sexual Psychopath
Gein's sanity was in question and it was suggested that during trial he plead not guilty, by reason of insanity. Gein underwent a battery of psychological tests, which later concluded that he was indeed emotionally impaired. Psychologists and psychiatrists who interviewed him asserted that he was schizophrenic and a "sexual psychopath."
His condition was attributed to the unhealthy relationship he had with his mother and his upbringing. Gein apparently suffered from conflicting feelings about women, his natural sexual attraction to them and the unnatural attitudes that his mother had instilled in him. This love-hate feeling towards women became exaggerated and eventually developed in to a full-blown psychosis.
Crimelab Chief Charles Wilson and District Attorney Earl Kileen Crimelab Chief Charles Wilson and District Attorney Earl Kileen
While Eddie was undergoing further interrogation and psychological tests, investigators continued to search the land around his farm. Police discovered within Eddie's farmhouse the remains of ten women. Although Eddie swore that the remaining body parts of eight women were those taken from local graveyards, police were skeptical.
They believed that it was highly possible for the remains to have come from women Eddie may have murdered. The only way police could ascertain whether the remains came from women's corpses was to examine the graves that Eddie claimed he had robbed.
After much controversy about the morality of exhuming the bodies, police were finally permitted to dig up the graves of the women Eddie claimed to have desecrated. All of the coffins showed clear signs of tampering. In most cases, the bodies or parts of the bodies were missing.
There would be another discovery on Eddie's land that would again raise the issue of whether Eddie did in fact murder a third person. On November 29th, police unearthed human skeletal remains on the Gein farm. It was suspected that the body was that of Victor Travis, who had disappeared years earlier. The remains were immediately taken to a crime lab and examined. Tests showed that the body was not that of a male but of a large, middle-aged woman, another graveyard souvenir.
Worden's hardware store, where evidence was collected Worden's hardware store, where evidence was collected
Try as the police did, they could not implicate Eddie in the disappearance of Victor Travis or the three other people who had vanished years earlier in the Plainfield area. The only murders Eddie could be held responsible for were Bernice Worden and Mary Hogan.
When investigators revealed the facts about what was found on Eddie Gein's farm, the news quickly spread. Reporters from all over the world flocked to the small town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. The town became known worldwide and Eddy Gein reached celebrity-like status. People were repulsed, yet at the same time drawn to the atrocities that took place on Eddie Gein's farm.
Psychologists from all over the world attempted to find out what made Eddie tick. During the 1950s, he gained notoriety as being one of the most famous of documented cases involving a combination of necrophilia, transvestism and fetishism. Even children who knew of the exploits of Eddie began to sing songs about him and make jokes in an effort to, as Harold Schechter suggests in his book Deviant, "exorcise the nightmare with laughter." These distasteful jokes became known as "Geiners" and were quick to become popular around the world.
Back in Plainfield, residents endured the onslaught of reporters who disrupted their daily life by bombarding them with questions about Eddie. However, many of them eventually became involved in the mania surrounding Eddie and contributed what information they had. Plainfield was now known to the world as the home of infamous Eddie Gein.
Most residents who knew Eddie had only good things to say about him, other than that he was a little peculiar, had a quirky grin and a strange sense of humor. They never suspected him of being capable of committing such ghastly crimes. But the truth was hard to escape. The little shy, quiet man the town thought they knew, was in fact, a murderer who also violated the graves of friends and relatives.
Eddie in Court Eddie in Court
After Gein spent a period of thirty days in a mental institution and was evaluated as mentally incompetent, he could no longer be tried for first degree murder. The people of Plainfield immediately voiced their anger that Eddie would not be tried for the death of Bernice Worden. Yet, there was little the community could do to influence the court's decision. Eddie was committed to the Central State Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin. Soon after Eddie was sentenced to the mental institution, his farm went up for auction along with some of his other belongings.
Thousands of curiosity seekers diverged on the small town to see what possessions of Eddie's would be auctioned. Some of the things to be auctioned off were his car, furniture and musical instruments. The company that handled the business of selling Eddie's goods planned to charge a fee of fifty cents to look at Eddie's property. The citizens of Plainfield were outraged. They believed Eddie's home was quickly becoming a "museum for the morbid" and the town demanded something be done to put it to an end. Although the company was later forbidden to charge an entrance fee to the auction, residents were still not satisfied.
Eddie Gein's Farmhouse Eddie Gein's Farmhouse
In the early morning of March 20, 1958 the Plainfield volunteer fire department was called to Eddie's farm. Gein's house was on fire. The house quickly burned to the ground, as onlookers watched in silent relief. Police believed that an arsonist was responsible for the blaze because there was no electrical wiring problems with the house. Although police carried out a thorough investigation, no suspect was ever found.
When Eddie learned of the destruction to his house he simply said, "Just as well."
Although the fire destroyed most of Eddie's belongings, there were still many things that were salvaged. What was left of Eddie's possessions would still be auctioned off, including farm equipment and his car. Eddie's 1949 Ford sedan, which was used to haul dead bodies, caused a bidding war and was eventually sold for seven hundred and sixty dollars. The man who purchased the car later put it on display at a county fair, where thousands paid a quarter to get a peek at the Gein "ghoul car." It seemed to the people of Plainfield that the publics fascination with Eddie would never end.
After spending ten years in the mental institution where he was recovering, the courts finally decided he was competent to stand trial. The proceedings began on January 22, 1968, to determine whether Eddie was guilty or not by reason of insanity, for the murder of Bernice Worden. The actual trial began on November 7, 1968.
Eddie (R) at Age 61 Eddie (R) at Age 61
Eddie looked on as seven witnesses took to the stand. Several of those who testified were lab technicians who performed the autopsy on Mrs. Worden, a former deputy sheriff and sheriff. Evidence was heavily stacked against Eddie and after only one week the judge reached his verdict. Eddie was found guilty of first-degree murder. However, because Eddie was found to have been insane at the time of the killing, he was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and acquitted. Soon after the trial he was escorted back to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
The families of Bernice Worden, Mary Hogan and the families of those whose graves were robbed would never feel justice was served. They believed Eddie escaped the punishment that was due to him, but there was nothing more they could do to reverse the court's decision.
Eddie would remain at the mental institution for the rest of his life where he spent his days happily and comfortably. Schechter describes him as the model patient:
Eddie was happy at the hospital -- happier, perhaps, than he'd ever been in his life. He got along well enough with the other patients, though for the most part he kept to himself. He was eating three square meals a day (the newsmen were struck by how much heavier Eddie looked since his arrest five years before). He continued to be an avid reader. He like his regular chats with the staff psychologists and enjoyed the handicraft work he was assigned -- stone polishing, rug making, and other forms of occupational therapy. He had even developed an interest in ham radios and had been permitted to use the money he had earned to order an inexpensive receiver.
All in all, he was a perfectly amiable, even docile patient, one of the few in the hospital who never required tranquilizing medications to keep his craziness under control. Indeed, apart from certain peculiarities -- the disconcerting way he would stare fixedly at nurses or any other female staff members who wandered into his line of vision -- it was hard to tell that he was particularly crazy at all
Superintendent Schubert told reporters that Gein was a model patient. 'If all our patients were like him, we'd have no trouble at all.'
On July 26, 1984, he died after a long bout with cancer. He was buried in Plainfield cemetery next to his mother, not far from the graves that he had robbed years earlier.
The first body found was mostly bones. A man looking for firewood in the lesopolosa, a rectangular "shelterbelt" or forested strip of land planted to prevent erosion, found the remains. While the area was only about 50 yards wide, with a path running through it, no one had seen this body until it was pretty well decomposed. There were small patches of leathered skin on some of the bones and some black hair hanging from the skull. The man who found the remains reported them to the militsia, the local authorities in this southern region of Russia
The body had no identifying clothing and had been left on its back, the head turned to one side. The ears were still sufficiently intact to see tiny holes for earrings, and those, along with the length of the hair, suggested that this victim had been female. It also appeared from her postmortem posture that she had tried to fight her attacker. It appeared that two ribs had been broken, perhaps by a knife, and closer inspection indicated numerous stab wounds into the bone. A knife had apparently cut into the eye sockets, too, as if to remove the eyes, and similar gouges were viewed in the pelvic region.
Whoever had done this, the police thought, had been a frenzied beast.
They did have a report on a missing 13-year-old girl, Lyubov Biryuk from Novocherkassk, a village not far away. Investigators called the uncle of the missing girl who had done an extensive search for her after she'd disappeared earlier in the month. He came to where the body lay to look at the remains.
Lyubov's uncle, perhaps clutching to some small glimpse of hope, said his niece's hair was not as dark and that the bones looked to him as if they had been there longer than she had been missing.
Major Mikhail Fetisov Major Mikhail Fetisov (police file photo)
A few hours later, Major Mikhail Fetisov arrived from militsia headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, the closest large city. He was the leading detective, or syshchik, for the entire region. He asked for records of other missing persons in the area and ordered military cadets in training to search the surrounding woods. He also ordered the remaining skin on the hands be fingerprinted.
The next day, the searchers found a white sandal and yellow bag containing the brand of cigarettes that the young girl had set out to purchase. Then fingerprints of the corpse and the schoolgirl's book covers confirmed that this body was Lyubov's. DNA analysis for body identification was several years away, but from what evidence they had, they could be sure it was the missing girl. The medical examiner hypothesized that warm temperatures and heavy rain had afforded the accelerated state of decomposition.
Despite a thorough search around the remains, no evidence was produced that could help to identify the person who had killed her, and the dress that Lyubov had worn was missing. That meant that no trace evidence could be collected from it. It was thought to be a random attack, nearly impossible to solve.
According to Robert Cullen, author of a well-known book on the case, most murders in that area of Russia fell into one of two categories: intimate killings, in which a person got into a rage or a drunken state and murdered someone he knew, usually a family member; and instrumental murders done to take something from the victim. But no one in the girl's family was a clear suspect and she'd had nothing of any value on her person.
There was a path near the body that people traveled often, and a road only 75 yards away. This had been a crime of some risk, with evidence of overkill. Although sexual crimes were considered manifestations of self-indulgent Western societies, there were plenty of signs that this incident had been just such a killing.
It became clear later from the autopsy report that she had been attacked from behind and hit hard in the head with both the handle and the blade of a knife. Perhaps she'd been knocked out right away. At any rate, she had been stabbed at least 22 separate times and mutilated in other ways. (In Hunting the Devil, told by Richard Lourie partly from the killer's perspective, the number of wounds was 41.)
The police came up with ideas and began looking for possible suspects: those who were mentally ill, juvenile delinquents, or someone with a history of sex crimes. They tried to find out whom Lyubov had known and how she might have encountered this killer.
One man, convicted in another rape, learned that he was a suspect and promptly hanged himself. That seemed to put an end to the investigation. There were no other viable suspects, and for all they knew, the killer had found his own form of redemption.
But then another victim was discovered.
The Division of Especially Serious Crimes
Less than two months after the discovery of Lyubov's remains, a railroad worker who was walking near the train station for Shakhty, a small industrial town 20 miles away, came across a set of skeletal remains. It appeared to have been there for approximately six weeks and was soon identified as an adult woman. The body had been stripped, left facedown, with the legs open. What made investigators take note was a key similarity with the murder of Lyubov: multiple stab wounds and lacerated eye sockets. That was a rare manifestation of murder.
Since no one of this approximate size and gender had been reported missing, no identification was made.
Only a month later, a soldier gathering wood about 10 miles south of that spot came across more remains, also of a woman lying face down. She had been covered with branches, but close inspection showed the pattern of knife wounds and damage to the eye sockets. She, too, remained unknown.
The linkage was obvious. A serial killer had claimed at least three victims. But no one was admitting that, especially not to the press. Officially what they had were three separate unsolved murders. (They actually had seven that year, Richard Lourie says, but they would not know that for some time to come.)
Major Fetisov organized a task force of 10 men to start an aggressive full-time investigation. He intended to get to the heart of this and stop this maniac from preying on any more female citizens. Among those he recruited was a second lieutenant from the criminology laboratory named Viktor Burakov, 37, and his perspective is presented in Cullen's book. He was the best man they had for the analysis of physical evidence like fingerprints, footprints, and other manifestations at a crime scene, and he was an expert in both police science and the martial arts. Known for his diligence, he was invited aboard the Division of Especially Serious crimes in January 1983. Little did anyone realize then just how diligent he would prove to be and would have to be.
Viktor Burakov Viktor Burakov (police file photo)
That same month, a fourth victim was found. She appeared to have been killed about six months earlier and was near the area where the second set of remains was discovered. She, too, had the familiar knife wounds, but some female clothing was found nearby and assumed to be hers. She was possibly a teenager.
All they knew at this point was that the killer—whom they now called the Maniac—did not smoke (or he'd have taken the cigarettes found near Lyubov), and that he was a man. He had some issue with eyes, but whether it was based on superstition or a fetish or some other consideration authorities had no idea. At any rate, as Cullen points out, gouging out the eyes indicated that the killer spent some time with the victims after they were dead.
With no definite leads, the unit decided to look back in time and see if there might be other victims. Burakov's first real task was to head an investigation in Novoshakhtinsk, a farming and mining town in the general area, where a 10-year-old girl had just been reported missing.
Olga Stalmachenok had gone to a piano lesson on December 10, 1982. No one had seen her since. Burakov questioned her parents and learned that she got along with them and had no apparent cause to just run away. However, the parents had received a strange postcard from "Sadist-Black Cat" telling them their daughter was in the woods and warning that there would be 10 more victims that coming year. Burakov dismissed this as a sick prank, but still feared that the girl was dead.
Then on April 14, four months after her disappearance, Olga's body was found in a field about three miles from the music conservatory where she had gone for her lesson. Her nude body was lying in a frozen tractor rut on a collective farm. The police left her in place until Burakov could arrive to see the crime scene for himself. Because she had been killed during the winter, the snow had preserved the corpse, so the pattern of knife wounds was clearly visible on her bluish-white skin. The skull was punctured, as were the chest and stomach. The knife had been inserted dozens of times, as if in a frenzy, moving the organs around in the body cavity. The killer had especially targeted the heart, lungs, and sexual organs. And as with the others, this offender had attacked the eyes with his single-bladed knife.
Without a doubt, Burakov knew that he was looking for a vicious, sexually-motivated serial killer who was attacking victims at a quickening rate, drawing no attention to what he was doing, and leaving no evidence. There were no resources that Burakov was aware of to utilize. Men who killed in this manner were supposedly few and only top-ranking officials knew the details of those investigations.
Burakov, who followed the long route from the conservancy to the place where the body was left, believed the killer had a car. He also felt sure the man did not frighten people when he approached. There was nothing overt in his appearance that would alarm women or children. That would make him harder to find, though he surely had some sort of covert mental disorder that hopefully some people noticed.
They decided to focus fully on investigating known sex offenders in the area, specifically where they were on December 11. Then on released mental patients, and then men who lived or worked around the conservancy who owned or used a car. Also, handwriting experts came in to compare the Black Cat card against samples from the entire population of that town. It was tedious work, with no promise of yielding a single clue. Yet doing nothing was guaranteed to provide no clue, so at least they had a start.
What they did not know, according to Lourie, was that a 15-year-old boy had also been killed in a similar manner near Shakhty, then left to be covered by snow. He would not be found for some time.
For the next four months, nothing turned up of any value, although they realized that snow could easily cover what might have occurred, and then it was discovered that the killer had struck again. In another wooded lesopolosa near Rostov-on-Don, a group of boys found some bones in a gully. Again, they could find no missing-persons report, and an examination of the bones not only linked this crime with the others but revealed that the girl (it seemed) had had Down's syndrome. That made things a little easier, despite the horror of realizing the killer had lured a mentally retarded child with no possibility of defending herself. They could check the special schools in the area to make an identification.
A 45-year-old woman was also murdered in the woods over the winter, but no one linked her to the lesopolosa series. That would come later.
The girl turned out to have been 13, attending a school for children with her condition. No one had missed her, since she often left, so no one had reported her. But her case took a back seat to the next body, discovered in September in a wooded area near Rostov's airport, two miles from victim No. 6. However it was an 8-year-old boy. He had been stabbed, like the others, including his eyes, and it turned out that he had been missing since August 9. Like the little girl going to piano lessons, he had ridden on public transportation.
This new development puzzled everyone. With what little was known about killers, the basic analysis was that they always went after the same type of victim. This man had killed grown women and young children, girls and boys. The investigators wondered if they might have more than one killer doing the same kind of perverse ritual. It seemed impossible, but so did the idea that so many victim types could trigger the same type of sexual violence in one person.
Then Burakov learned that the killer had finally been apprehended. It was over. He went to the jail to learn what he could about this man.
The suspect was Yuri Kalenik, 19. He had lived for years in a home for retarded children and had then been trained to lay floors in construction. He remained friends with older boys in his former residence and one day when they were riding on a trolley, the conductor caught them. Grabbing one boy, she wanted to know what he knew about the recent murders and he told her that Yuri had done them. So based on the squirming accusation of a mentally slow boy who was trying to free himself from punishment, the officials believed they had broken the case.
Yuri was arrested and interrogated. He had no right to a lawyer or to remain silent. He barely knew what was happening to him. Nevertheless, he denied everything. He had not killed anyone. Yet the interrogators kept him there for several days, believing (according to Cullen) that a guilty man will inevitably confess. It soon became clear to Yuri that to stop being beaten he would have to tell them what they wanted to hear, so he did. And then some. He confessed to all seven murders, and added four unsolved murders in the area to his list. Now all the police needed was supporting evidence. This young man was quite a catch.
Viktor Burakov accepted the task of further investigation. Yuri seemed a viable suspect, because he had a mental disorder and he rode on public transportation. And why would he confess to such brutal crimes if he did not do them? At the time—and even today—there was little understanding of the psychology of false confessions. Less intelligent people tend to be more susceptible to suggestion, especially when fatigued, and they will tell interrogators whatever pleases them—usually supplying whatever clues they hear from the questions. Sociologist Richard Ofshe recounts case after case of suspects who admitted to things they did not do, despite the harsh consequences, and Wrightsman lists several studies of people exonerated by DNA evidence who had confessed to the crime for which they were imprisoned. Most juries do not believe people will confess falsely and they accept a confession as the best type of evidence against someone.
Even better, when a suspect can lead police to the site of where someone was murdered, that's considered good confirmation, and Kalenik did just that with several of the incidents. Nevertheless, Burakov was not convinced. He saw that Kalenik did not go straight to a site, even when he was close, but appeared to wander around until he picked up clues from the police about where they expected him to go. Burakov did not consider that to be a good test. Upon examining the written confession, he was even less convinced. It was clear to him that Kalenik had been given most of the information that he was expected to say, and had then felt intimidated.
It was difficult to know just how to proceed, but then another body was found.
In another wooded area, the mutilated remains of a young woman were found. Her nipples had been removed—possibly with teeth, her abdomen was slashed open, and one eye socket was damaged. She had been there for several months and her clothing was missing. Kalenik could have been responsible for this one, whose identity remained unknown, since he was free at the time, but not the next one, found on October 20.
She had been murdered approximately three days earlier, while Kalenik was in custody. He definitely did not kill her, but her wounds were similar to those of the other victims. Whoever had killed her was growing bolder and more frenzied in his surgical removal of parts. This victim was entirely disemboweled, and the missing organs were nowhere to be found. However, her eyes remained intact. She might not be part of the series, although she did ride the trains. Perhaps the killer had changed his method or had been interrupted.
Four weeks later and not far away from that site, a set of skeletal remains was found in the woods. Her death was estimated to have occurred some time during the summer, and her eyes had been gouged out.
It wasn't long before the 10th unsolved murder turned up, just after the turn of the year into 1984. This one was a boy, found near the railroad tracks. He was identified as Sergei Markov, a 14-year-old boy missing since December 27. For the first time, thanks to winter's preservative effects, the detectives, led by Mikhail Fetisov, were able to see just what the killer did to these young people.
He had stabbed the boy in the neck dozens of times—the final count would be 70—and he had then cut into the boy's genitals and removed everything from the pubic area. In addition, he had violated his victim anally. Then it appeared that he had gone to a spot nearby to have a bowel movement.
Clearly the jailed Kalenik was not responsible and the maniac who was perpetrating these crimes was still very much at large. In their rush to close these cases, the police had made a mistake.
Fetisov decided to retrace the boy's steps on the day he had disappeared. Beginning in a town called Gukovo, where the boy had lived and from where he had gone that day, he boarded the elechtrichka, or local train. In the same town was a home for the mentally retarded and the teachers there reported that a former student, Mikhail Tyapin, 23, had left around the same time as the boy and had taken the train. He was a very large young man and barely knew how to talk. Once again, the police got a confession.
Tyapin and his friend, Aleksandr Ponomaryev, said they had met Markov, had lured him to the woods, and killed him. They had also left their excrement. Tyapin, in particular, had numerous violent fantasies, and he claimed credit for several other unsolved murders in the area. But he never mentioned the damage done to the eyes. And he and Ponomaryev confessed to two murders that were proven to have been done by someone else.
The police were now thoroughly confused, and Fetisov had some doubts, while Burakov felt certain they had not apprehended the killer they were after. All of the so-called confessions were flawed. He believed that only one person was involved, that this person was a loner and not part of a gang, and that he was clearly demented in some subtly perceivable way.
Then they had their first piece of good evidence. The medical examiner found semen in Markov's anus. He had been raped and the perpetrator had ejaculated. When they apprehended the killer, they could compare the blood antigens. This would not afford a precise match, but could at least eliminate suspects. In fact, it eliminated all of the young men who had confessed thus far. They all had the wrong type of blood.
But then the lab issued another report, claiming it had mixed up the sample. The type did indeed match that of Mikhail Tyapin. That meant that the odds were good that they had Markov's killer.
Yet bodies still turned up.
Some Possible Leads
In 1984, numerous victims were discovered in wooded areas, some of them quite close to where previous bodies had lain before being discovered and removed. The first one found after Typapin's arrest was a woman who had been slashed up in the same frenzy as previous victims. Yet her eyes were intact and one new item was added: a finger had been removed.
They also had one more piece of evidence: a shoeprint left in the mud, size 13. On the victim's clothing were traces of semen and blood.
She was soon identified as an 18-year-old girl who had been seen at the bus station with a boy who worked nearby. When questioned, he had an alibi.
The medical examiner's report returned three significant facts: she'd had pubic lice, her stomach contained undigested food, and there was no semen inside her. The killer apparently had masturbated over her. It was also possible that, given her state of poverty, she had been lured away with the promise of a meal.
The police checked pharmacies for anyone purchasing lice treatments, but they came up empty-handed.
One thing they did discover was that this woman had a friend who had been missing since 1982. Matching dental records to skulls from various remains, they managed to identify their second victim in the series. That linked two of the victims together, one of whom had her eye sockets slashed and the other who did not.
Another suspect was caught and he confessed, but Burakov was looking for a certain personality type, and no one thus far seemed to come close. He spoke out to officials and was rebuked. His opinion also divided the task force into factions, helped along by the fact that the crime lab could not give them a definitive answer as to whether semen samples found on two victims were from the same person. They brought in a forensic scientist from the Moscow lab, who did better. They were type AB, she said, and with that, she eliminated their entire list of suspects. None of the confessions gathered thus far were any good and the killer was still at large.
He struck that March in Novoshakhtinsk, grabbing 10-year-old Dmitri Ptashnikov, who was found three days later, mutilated and stabbed. The tip of his tongue and his penis were missing. The semen on his shirt linked him to the previous two crimes where semen was found. Near this body was a large footprint.
This time, however, there were witnesses. The boy was seen following a tall, hollow-cheeked man with stiff knees and large feet, wearing glasses. Yet no one had recognized him. Someone else had seen a white car.
Lyudmila Alekseyeva Lyudmila Alekseyeva (Victim)
Then a 17-year-old, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, was found slashed 39 times with a kitchen knife, and leads went nowhere, wasting time and resources. Soon there was another victim, and then another close by. One was a girl, killed with a hammer, the other a woman stabbed many times with a knife. Mother and daughter, they had died at the same time. By the end of that summer in 1984, authorities counted 24 victims that were probably murdered by the same man. Whenever semen was left behind, it proved to have the same AB antigen. There was also a single gray hair on one victim, which seemed to be from a man, and some scraps of clothing near a boy that failed to match his clothes.
Lourie writes that the killer had shifted his pattern somewhat that year. He now removed the upper lip, and sometimes the nose, and left them in the victim's mouth or ripped-open stomach.
With no witnesses, little physical evidence, and no way to know how this man was leading his victims off alone, the police felt the investigation was out of control. This killer had stepped up his pace from five victims the first year (they believed) to something like one every two weeks. Surely he would eventually make a mistake. They had no way of knowing as yet that they had not found the earliest murders and it would be some time before the killing spree was stopped. This man did not make many mistakes.
With all the surveillance, it was inevitable that certain suspicious men would be followed and detained, and this procedure produced two suspects, each of which was interesting for different reasons. One appeared to be the man they were after and the other became an informant.
The Minister of the Interior appointed a dozen new detectives to the case, and a task force of some 200 men and women became involved in the investigation. Burakov was appointed to head this team. That got him closer to leads as they came in. It also shouldered him with the heavy responsibility of forming a good plan to stop this killer. People were assigned to work undercover at bus and train stations, and to wander the parks.
According to Cullen, they decided that they were looking for a man between 25 and 30, tall, well built, with type AB blood. He was careful and had at least average intelligence, and was probably verbally persuasive. He traveled and lived with either his mother or a wife. He might be a former psychiatric patient, or a substance abuser, and he might have some knowledge of anatomy and skill with a knife. Anyone who generally matched these characteristics would have to submit to a blood test.
The press was not allowed to carry stories about the links among these crimes, only to ask for witnesses concerning one or another of the murders. No warnings were given to parents to protect their children or to young women out alone.
The Rostov bus station The Rostov bus station (police file photo)
One undercover officer spotted an older man in the Rostov bus station. He spoke to a female adolescent and when she got on her bus, he circled around and sat next to another young woman. This was suspicious behavior, so Major Zanasovsky thought it was time to question him. The man's name was Andrei Chikatilo and he was the manager of a machinery supply company. He was there on a business trip, but lived in Shakhty. As to why he was approaching young women, he admitted that he'd once been a teacher and he missed talking to young people. The officer let him go.
However, he spotted Chikatilo again and followed him, boarding the same bus he got on in order to watch him. "He seemed very ill at ease," Zanasovsky's report states, "and was always twisting his head from one side to another."
He followed Chikatilo into another bus and saw him accost various women. When Chikatilo solicited a prostitute and received oral sex under his coat, they arrested him for indecent behavior in public and went through his briefcase. Inside were a jar of Vaseline, a long kitchen knife, a piece of rope and a dirty towel—nothing suggestive of business dealings.
Andrei Chikatilo, teacher Andrei Chikatilo, teacher (school photo)
Zanasovsky believed he had the lesopolosa killer. He urged the procurator to come and interrogate the man. Chikatilo's blood was drawn and it was type A, not AB. He was also a member of the Communist Party, with good character references. There was nothing in his background to raise suspicion. Nevertheless, they kept him in jail for a couple of days to see if sitting in a cell might pressure him into a confession.
He denied everything, although he admitted to "sexual weakness," and was finally released. He was later arrested again for petty thefts at work and he served three months in prison. Still, he did not have the right blood type, so he was not their killer.
Burakov decided to breach protocol and consult with psychiatric experts in Moscow. He wanted to know what they thought of the idea of a single person killing women and children of both genders. Most were either uninterested or refused to say much, due to insufficient detail. However, one psychiatrist, Alexandr Bukhanovsky, agreed to study the few known details, as well as the crime scene patterns, to come up with a profile. He read everything he could find, specialized in sexual pathologies and schizophrenia, and was willing to take risks. This case, unusual as it was, interested him. He came up with a seven-page report.
Alexandr Bukhanovsky, psychiatric expert Alexandr Bukhanovsky, psychiatric expert (police file photo)
The killer, he said, was a sexual deviate, between 25 and 50 years old, around 5'10" tall. He thought the man suffered from some form of sexual inadequacy and he blinded his victims to prevent them from looking at him. He also brutalized their corpses, partly out of frustration and partly to enhance his arousal. He was a sadist and had difficulty getting relief without cruelty. Often sadists like to inflict superficial wounds, as was evident on many of these victims. He was also compulsive, following the goading of his need, and would be depressed until he could kill. He might even have headaches. He was not retarded or schizophrenic. He could work out a plan and follow it. He was a loner and he was the only offender involved.
Burakov got two other opinions, one of which insisted there were two killers, and he felt that no one had given him anything that brought him closer to closing the case. He was still frustrated.
Working with the idea that the killer had a sexual dysfunction, the dogged investigator looked up records of men convicted of homosexual crimes and came across Valery Ivanenko, who had committed several acts of "perversion" and who had claimed he was psychotic. He also had a charismatic personality and once had been a teacher. At age 46, he was tall and wore glasses. He'd been brought to the psychiatric institute in Rostov but had escaped. In short, he sounded too good to be true. He was the perfect suspect.
Staking out the apartment of the man's invalid mother, Burakov caught and arrested him. But his blood was type A which eliminated him as the killer. In a deal, Burakov enlisted his assistance investigating the gay population in return for his release. Ivanenko proved to be quite good at getting secret information, which in turn led to others providing even more information under pressure. Burakov soon knew quite a bit about Rostov's underworld, from perversion to violence.
Yet Burakov still felt as if he was just going toward more dead ends. The gay men that he investigated just did not strike him as having the right personality disorder for these crimes. He began to come around to Bukhanovsky's view that this killer was heterosexual but probably impotent when it came to normal sexual relations. He needed more details.
Pressure was on to solve the crimes that had happened already, but over the next 10 months only one more body turned up—a young woman—but she was killed near Moscow. The killer may have moved or traveled there, but they just couldn't tell. They wondered if the killer had left the area or been arrested. Perhaps he had died. Then a body was found in August of 1985. She bore similarities to the others and she lay near an airport.
Burakov went to Moscow to look at the photos of the dead girl. It was so similar to his recent victim in Rostov that he knew the killer had gone to Moscow for some reason. He checked the flight rosters between Moscow and the airport where their victim had been found, and had officers go painstakingly through all the handwritten tickets. But they failed to discover a significant clue right under their noses.
Then detectives in Moscow put together a series of murders of young boys that had begun when the Rostov killings had stopped. All three had been raped and one was decapitated.
But the Rostov crew was quickly drawn back to Shakhty. In a tree grove near the bus depot, a homeless, 18-year-old girl lay dead, her mouth stuffed with leaves. This was the same signature as the girl in Moscow earlier that month. She had a red and a blue thread under her fingernails, and sweat near her wounds that typed AB—different from her own type O blood. Between her fingers was a single strand of gray hair—similar to one of the earlier murders. This was the most evidence left at a crime scene thus far. The detectives believed they would break this case soon.
In fact they did find a good suspect who had also been implicated with a previous victim, and he did confess (after 10 days of intense interrogation), but to Burakov, it did not sound right. Nor could the suspect take them to the correct murder site. Once again, frustratingly so, he was not their man.
Chief Investigator Issa Kostoyev Chief Investigator Issa Kostoyev (police file photo)
A special procurator with one serial killer investigation behind him, Chief Investigator Issa Kostoyev, was appointed to look into the lesopolosa murders. By this time, they had 15 procurators and 29 detectives involved. Many of them were watching train and bus stations for suspicious activity. The female officials worked undercover to try to lure men to talk to them. Kostoyev looked over the work done thus far and felt it had not proceeded well. In fact, he believed they'd already come across the man they were after and just hadn't known it. This did nothing to improve the already-low morale of the investigating team.
To try to learn more about the type of killer who would be so raw and brutal, Kostoyev had the classic nineteenth-century work on sexual predators by Richard von Krafft-Ebing translated into Russian. He also discovered a rare edition of Crimes and Criminals in Western Culture, by B. Utevsky, which included a chapter detailing cases of dismemberment and disfiguring of victims. He saw that some killers were driven merely by arrogance and the idea that their victims were objects that belonged to them to do with as they pleased. Kostoyev stored this information away to use when they found more suspects.
In the meantime, Yuri Kalenik was still in prison awaiting the completion of the investigation on him, which was now delayed by investigators looking into other areas. One of these leads produced yet a fifth false confession. Something was clearly wrong with the process, and Kostoyev was furious. He did not believe that Yuri was guilty of anything.
Burakov turned again to Dr. Bukhanovsky, finally allowing him to see all of the crime scene reports so he could write a more detailed profile. This, he thought, might help them to narrow the leads. Bukhanovsky took all of the materials and spent months of his own time writing 65 pages devoted to what made sense to him from his work with gay men, sexual dysfunction, necrophiles and necrosadists. He labeled the unknown suspect "Killer X."
The details, in brief, were the following: X was not psychotic, because he was in control of what he did and he was clearly self-interested. He was narcissistic and arrogant, considering himself gifted, although he was not unduly intelligent. He had a plan but he was not creative. He was heterosexual, with boys being a "vicarious surrogate." He was a necrosadist, needing to watch people die in order to achieve sexual gratification.
To render them helpless, he would hit them in the head. Afterward, the multiple stabbing was a way to "enter" them sexually. He either sat astride them or squatted next to them, getting as close as possible. The deepest cuts represented the height of his pleasure, and he might masturbate, either spontaneously or with his hand.
There were many reasons why he might cut out the eyes, and nothing in the crime scenes suggested what actually motivated X. He might be excited by eyes or fear them. He might believe his image was left on them, a superstition held by some. Cutting into the sexual organs was a manifestation of power over women. He might keep the missing organs or he might eat them. Removing the sexual organs from the boys might be a way to neutralize them and make them appear more female.
An interesting twist was the hypothesis that X responded to changes in weather patterns. Before most of the murders, the barometer had dropped. That might be his trigger, especially if it coincided with other stressors at home or work. Most of the killings were also done mid-week, from Tuesday to Thursday.
While he was vague about height and occupation, he now thought X's age was between 45 and 50, the age at which sexual perversions often are most developed. It was likely that he'd had a difficult childhood. He was conflicted and probably kept to himself. He had a rich fantasy life, but an abnormal response to sexuality. Bukhanovsky could not say whether or not the man was married or had fathered children, but if he was married, his wife let him keep his own hours and did not ask much of him.
His killing was compulsive and might stop temporarily if he sensed he was in danger of discovery, but would not stop altogether until he died or was caught.
Despite the length and detail of this psychological report, Burakov found nothing practical in it to help him find the man.
Police sketch of suspected killer Police sketch of suspected killer
Then he consulted with someone who was much closer to these types of crimes: Anatoly Slivko, a man convicted of the sexual murder of seven boys, who faced execution. The police wanted this man to explain to them the workings of the mind of a serial killer. Slivko attributed his actions to his inability to engage in normal sexual arousal and satisfaction. Sexual murderers have endless fantasies through which they set up the rules of behavior and feel a demand for action, and the act of planning their crimes has its own satisfaction. He offered nothing practical for the investigation in what he said, but his manner under questioning showed them a compartmentalized mind that could kill boys and still feel morally indignant about using alcohol in front of children. That meant he could live in a way that hid his true propensities. Only hours after the interview, Slivko was executed.
The investigators believed that X was very much like Slivko, and that meant he would be next to impossible to catch.
But then, oddly, the killing seemed to stop.
Only one dead woman turned up in 1985 in Rostov, and nothing happened that winter or the next spring. Then on July 23, the body of a 33-year-old female turned up, but it bore none of the markings of the serial killer, except that she had been repeatedly stabbed. Burakov had doubts about her being in the series, but not so with the young woman found on August 18. All of the disturbing wounds were present, but she had been mostly buried, save for a hand sticking out of the dirt—a new twist. Now they had to wonder whether there were others not yet found who were also under the earth.
The handwriting experts finally gave up on the Black Cat postcard, and the police could go no farther with the 14 suspects on the list so far, all of whom Burakov believed could be eliminated. He created a comprehensive booklet to give out to other police departments, and a card file was created to keep track of new leads. He and his team were dogged by the fear that this case might never be solved.
At the end of 1986 Viktor Burakov finally had a nervous breakdown. He was weak and exhausted, and could not sleep, so he went to a hospital, where he remained for a month. Then he was sent to rest for another month. Four years of intense work had come to this. But he would not give up.
He had no idea then that he was only halfway there. This devil was not yet finished.
Burakov's period of rest, however, had given him some perspective. He'd been able to think over their strategies thus far and felt that none was taking them down the correct route. Not only that, all were time- and resource-consuming. He might only catch this killer if he surfaced again—in other words, murdered someone. It was a grim thought, but it could be their only hope
Yet nothing occurred for the rest of that year or throughout all of 1987.
The winter melted into spring before a railroad worker found a woman's nude body in a weedy area near the tracks on April 6, 1988. Her hands were bound behind her, she had been stabbed multiple times, the tip of her nose was gone, and her skull had been bashed in. Only a large footprint was found nearby. People recalled seeing her but she had been alone. There was no sign of sexual assault and her eyes had not been touched. Nor had she been killed in the woods.
The investigators pondered whether they should include this murder in the series. Perhaps the lesopolosa killer was no longer in business. Yet only a month later, on May 17, the body of a 9-year-old boy was discovered in the woods not far from a train station. He'd been sodomized and then his orifices were stuffed with dirt. He also bore numerous knife wounds and a blow to the skull, and his penis had been removed.
Unlike the murdered female, the boy was quickly identified as Aleksei Voronko, missing for two days. A classmate had seen him with a middle-aged man with gold teeth, a mustache and a sports bag. They had gone together to the woods and Aleksei had said he would soon return but did not.
This was a strong lead, one that could be followed up among area dentists. Few adults in the region could afford gold crowns for their teeth.
Yet by the end of that year, they had turned up nothing. Not only that, they learned from the Ministry of Health that it had been a mistake to assume that typing blood in secretions was an accurate match to blood types (or, alternatively, to assume that the labs were providing accurate results). There were rare "paradoxical" cases in which they did not match. In other words, any of the suspects eliminated based on blood type could have been their killer. While this was frustrating news and made the investigation more difficult in many ways, it also opened a few doors from the past. However, it meant taking semen samples (which had to be voluntary), not blood types, and it also meant redoing four years worth of work to that point. The idea was overwhelming.
The only method of investigation that seemed viable now was to post more men to watch the public transportation stations.
Still, the killer did not strike. It was April 1989 before they came across another victim who could be added to the lesopolosa series.
The Count Rises
This discovery, in the woods near a train station, was that of a 16-year-old boy reported missing since the summer before. His killer had stabbed him repeatedly and had removed his testicles and penis. He was badly decomposed and had lain under the snow for months. A watch, inscribed from his aunt and uncle, was missing. It would help immensely if it was found in someone's possession.
None of the investigators assigned to ride the trains and watch people in the stations in that area had reported anything suspicious. No older men with boys or women. However, a ticket clerk reported that she had seen a man that summer on the platform. He had tried to convince her son to go into the words with him. The police did locate him, but quickly eliminated him as the killer they were seeking.
However, Yuri Kalenik had been released from prison after serving five years and he now lived near the area where the body was found. Perhaps they had been hasty in releasing him. When questioned, he insisted he knew nothing, so they let him go.
Then on May 11, an 8-year-old boy disappeared. He was found two months later by the side of a road, stabbed and genitally mutilated. This change in the killer's habits, from the woods to out in the open, alerted the officials to the possibility that he might have noticed all the surveillance at the train stations and changed his manner of procuring victims.
Elena Varga, victim Elena Varga, victim
That was disturbing. Yet killing someone so near a road was also careless. That could be a hopeful sign. Even the most organized killer can disintegrate as need replaces caution.
Then he killed a Hungarian student, Elena Varga, in August, in a wooded area that was far from any train or bus station. Her body had been violated like all the other female victims in the lesopolosa series.
Aleksei Khobotov, victim Aleksei Khobotov, victim
In just over a week, the fourth victim, a 10-year-old boy, Aleksei Khobotov, went missing, and four months later, early in 1990, the sexually mutilated body of an 11-year-old boy turned up in a lesopolosa. Then another 10-year-old boy was killed, his sexual organs cut off, and his tongue missing. It appeared to have been bitten off.
Victor Petrov, victim Victor Petrov, victim
Once more, the killer shifted his pattern and went for a female victim, and at the end of July in 1990, workmen found a 13-year-old boy, Victor Petrov, killed and mutilated in the Botanical Gardens.
They now had what they believed were 32 victims over the past eight years and the newspapers, now free to report this news after the loosening of government control, were putting pressure on the investigators. Those in the top positions threatened those on lower rungs with being fired. This killer had to be stopped. People were getting desperate.
Then on August 17 Ivan Fomin, 11, went swimming not far from his grandmother's cottage. In the tall reeds not far from numerous potential witnesses who should have heard if not seen him, the serial killer had stabbed him 42 times and castrated him. This was outrageous and the public was getting angry.
Burakov decided on a new plan. He would select the most likely stations and then make surveillance obvious in the others, so that only those with plainclothes officers would seem safe to the killer. In other words, they would try to force him into action in a particular place, and in those places, they would record the names of every man who came and went. They would also place people in the forests nearby, dressed as farmers. It was a major task, with over 350 people who had to be in place and do their jobs for who-knows-how-long, but it seemed viable.
It seemed that the train station in Donleskhoz station might be a good place to set up a post, for example, since two of the victims had been found near there. Mushroom pickers generally used it during the summer, but not many other people. Two other stations were selected as well.
But even before the plan was enacted, the killer chose a victim from the Donleskhoz station. He killed a 16-year-old retarded boy, stabbing him 27 times and mutilating him before discarding his clothes. Part of his tongue was missing, as were his testicles, and one eye had been stabbed. When his identity was established, officers learned that he spent most of his time on the electrichka, the slow-moving train, but no one had seen him exit with anyone.
Burokov was in despair. They had a good plan and had it been in place, they might have caught the guy.
Victor Tishcenko, victim Victor Tishcenko, victim
Then another 16-year-old boy, Victor Tishchenko, was reported missing who had gone to the Shakhty railroad station to pick up tickets. Cullen writes that the handsome, athletic Tishcenko was larger than any other male victim thus far, weighing around 130 pounds. They found his body two miles south, in the woods and in the usual condition. It was where the mother and daughter had been found six years earlier. In the grove, there was evidence of a prolonged struggle.
Burakov got moving. The snare was set, with everyone in place, but the killer killed again, undetected. This time, his victim was a young woman. She was number 36, and she had been beaten and sliced open, and part of her tongue cut off. But no one had seen a thing.
Yet there were reports of men who had been at the train station nearby. One name stood out. In fact, they were chilled by it. They had seen this one before. To that point, according to Moira Martingale in Cannibal Killers, over half a million people had been investigated, but this one had been interrogated before and only released because his blood type had not matched the semen samples.
And they knew the lab work had been faulty. This was the killer. They were sure of it.
Andrei Chikatilo mugshot Andrei Chikatilo mugshot
Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo, 54, had been at the Donleskhoz train station on November 6. He had been questioned and cleared in 1984. He had now been placed at the scene of a victim's disappearance. He was seen coming out of the woods and had washed his hands at a pump. He also had a red smear on his cheek and ear, a cut finger, and twigs on the back of his coat. The officer at the station had taken down his name.
Burakov had the man placed under surveillance. They soon learned that he had resigned from his post as a teacher due to reports that he had molested students. He had then worked for another enterprise, but was fired when he failed to return from business trips with the supplies he was sent to get. So what had he been doing with his time? During the time he had spent in jail in 1984, there had been no murders, and his travel records coincided with other murders—including the one in Moscow. He once had been a member in good standing with the Communist Party, but had been expelled due to his incarceration.
But all the evidence was circumstantial. Investigators would need to catch him in the act or get him to confess. Keeping him under surveillance, they saw an ordinary man doing nothing unusual. It was frustrating. Kostoyev, who had finally read the earlier report on this man, ordered his arrest.
On November 20, 1990, three officers dressed in street clothes brought Chikatilo in for interrogation, and they noticed that he did not have a mouth full of gold teeth as one witness had indicated. They learned that he was married and had two children, and that he was something of an intellectual with a university degree. In his satchel they found a folding pocketknife.
Knives found in Chikatilo's possession, trial evidence Knives found in Chikatilo's possession, trial evidence
They placed Chikatilo in a cell with a gifted informant, who was expected to get him to admit to what he had done, but failed. A search of Chikatilo's home, which shamed his family, produced no evidence from victims, but did yield 23 knives. Two writers have claimed these weapons were used for the murders, but that was not proven.
The next day, Kostoyev decided to handle the interrogation, and he did so in the presence of Chikatilo's court-appointed lawyer. Richard Lourie based much of his book, Hunting the Devil, on the time that Kostoyev spent with Chikatilo. Contrary to other versions of this narrative that show him to be an angry and impatient interrogator, Lourie says that Kostoyev had decided to use compassion to get the suspect to talk.
He wanted the room to be spare, with only a safe inside that would hint to the prisoner of evidence against him. There was also a desk, a table, and two chairs. When Chikatilo was brought in, Kostoyev could see that he was a tall, older man with a long neck, sloping shoulders, oversized glasses, and gray hair. He used a shuffling gait, like a weary elderly person, but Kostoyev was not fooled. He believed Chikatilo was a calculating killer with plenty of energy when he needed it. Chikatilo looked easy to break, and Kostoyev had only failed to obtain a confession in three out of hundreds of interrogations. He would get inside the suspect's head, figure out his logic, and get him to talk. All guilty men eventually confessed. They had to. Besides, he had 10 days in which to succeed, and he had bait.
Chikatilo began with a statement that the police had made a mistake, just as they had in 1984 when he'd first been investigated. He denied that he had been at a train station on November 6 and did not know why it had been reported. Kostoyev knew he was lying, and he let Chikatilo know that. The next day, Chikatilo waived his right to legal counsel.
Then Chikatilo wrote a three-page document to which he confessed to "sexual weakness"—the words he had used before—and to years of humiliation. He hinted at "perverse sexual activity" but did not name it, and said that he was out of control. He admitted to nothing specific. But he wrote another, longer essay in which he said that he did move around in the train stations and saw how young people there were the victims of homeless beggars. He also admitted that he was impotent. It appeared to be an indirect confession, feeling guilt but fending it off by fingering other suspects and also hinting at how it was best that some of these beggars had died rather than reproduce. Nevertheless, he mentioned that he had thought of suicide.
Andrei Chikatilo (police file photo) Andrei Chikatilo (police file photo)
Kostoyev told him that his only hope would be to confess everything in a way that would show he had mental problems, so that an examination could affirm that he was legally insane and he could be treated. Otherwise the evidence they had would surely convict him without a confession and he would have no hope to save himself. That was Kostoyev's bait, and he felt sure it would be effective.
Chikatilo asked for a few days to collect himself and said he would then submit to an interrogation. Everyone expected that he would confess, but when the day arrived, he insisted he was guilty of no crimes. For each crucial time period involving a murder, he claimed that he had been at home with his wife. Clearly he had used the extra two days alone in his cell to become more resolved.
The next day, he revised his statements somewhat. In fact, he had been involved in some criminal activity—but not the murders. In 1977, he had fondled some female students who had aroused him. He had difficulty controlling himself around children, but there were only two instances in which he had lost control.
He wrote again, but again revealed nothing, and nine days elapsed with Kostoyev getting no closer to his goal. He did not know what approach to take to pressure this man to finally open up.
A medical examination indicated that Chikatilo's blood type was A, but his semen supposedly had a weak B antibody, making it appear that his blood type was AB, though it wasn't. He was the "paradoxical" rare case—if such an analysis could be believed.
The informant in Chikatilo's cell, writes Cullen, eventually told Burakov that the interrogation techniques were not according to protocol and that they were rough and made Chikatilo defensive. It was unlikely they were going to work. Kostoyev brought in photographers to humiliate Chikatilo and pressure him to believe that they had witnesses to whom they were going to show these photographs. Still, he did not give any ground.
Nine days had elapsed. They were allowed only 10 before having to charge him with a specific crime, and thus far, they did not have enough proof of even one. It was looking very much like they might have to let him go. And that could be disastrous. Burakov, says Cullen, thought they should try another interrogator, and his candidate was Dr. Bukhanovsky. Cullen also says that Kostoyev initially resisted this idea, but finally had to admit he was getting nowhere. He agreed to let the psychiatrist see what he could do. Lourie, presenting things from Kostoyev's side, says that using the psychiatrist was one of Kostoyev's clever ploys. Lourie does not mention Burakov's role in the decision.
Whoever thought of it, this was clearly a wise move.
The Psychiatrist and the Murderer
Bukhanovsky agreed to question Chikatilo, but out of professional interest, not for the court. Burakov agreed to these conditions. Bukhanovsky was soon in a closed room alone with the best suspect in the lesopolosa murders.
Andrei Chikatilo mugshot Andrei Chikatilo mugshot
The psychiatrist saw right away, writes Cullen, that this was the type of man that he had described in his 1987 profile. So many of the indicators were there—ordinary, solitary, non-threatening. He introduced himself with a show of humility and then showed Chikatilo the profile. He sensed that this man wanted to talk about his rage and his humiliation, so it was best to show sympathy and listen. He spent two hours doing that, and then began to discuss the crimes.
In the film, Citizen X, Bukhanovsky is shown asking Chikatilo to help him on some aspects of the profile that he was not quite certain about. He reads the relevant pages to him, and one sees Chikatilo listening intently, as if alert to the only person who seems ever to have understood him. Bukhanovsky's description goes into the nature of Chikatilo's mental illness and some reasons for it. As Chikatilo hears his secret life described so clearly, he begins to tremble. Finally he affirms what the psychiatrist is saying, breaks down and admits that it's all true. He has done those horrible things.
Bukhanovsky talked with him for hours and then went out and told police interrogators that the suspect was now ready to confess.
Kostoyev prepared a formal statement accusing Chikatilo of 36 murders. He was off by a long shot, but no one yet knew that.
Yelena Zakotnova, victim Yelena Zakotnova, victim
Chikatilo read the statement of charges and admitted that he was guilty of the crimes listed. He wanted now to tell the truth about his life and what had led him into these crimes. Among his admissions was his first murder, which had occurred not when the police had first begun to keep track with Lyubov Biryuk but years early in 1978. He had killed a little girl, Yelena Zakotnova, age 9.
The Secret House crime scene The Secret House crime scene
This was alarming, since a man had already been arrested, tried and executed for that murder. But Chikatilo said that he had moved to Shakhty that year to teach. Before his family arrived, his free time was spent watching children and feeling a strong desire to see them without their clothes on. To maintain his privacy, he purchased a hut on a dark, dirty street. When he went to it one day, he came upon the girl, was seized with urgent sexual desire, and took her to the hut to attack her.
When he could not achieve an erection, he had moved in imitation of the sexual act and used his knife as a substitute. During his frenzy of strangulation and stabbing, he blindfolded her. Once she was dead, he tossed her body into a nearby river. Lourie devotes a chapter to the fact that he was a suspect, seen by a witness, and that blood was found on his doorstep, but the other man had confessed under torture, so Chikatilo was free. Chikatilo was shocked to nearly have been caught.
Kostoyev asked him to explain the blindfold, and just as they had suspected, Chikatilo admitted that he had heard that the image of a killer remains in the eyes of a victim. It was a superstition, but he had believed it. That was why he had wounded so many others in the eyes. Then he had decided it was not true, so he stopped doing that (explaining the change in pattern). Later he admitted that he just had not liked his victims looking at him as he attacked them.
Lourie describes how Chikatilo hated to see how vagrants at train stations went off into the woods for sexual encounters that he could never emulate. His fantasies became more violent. In 1981, he repeated his manner of attack on a vagrant girl looking for money, but he also used his teeth on her to bite off a nipple and swallow it. "At the moment of cutting her and seeing the body cut open," he said, "I involuntarily ejaculated." He covered her with newspaper and took her sexual organs away with him, only to cast them aside in the woods.
He remembered the details of each of the 36 lesopolosa murders and went through them, one by one. Sometimes he acted as a predator, learning someone's routes and habits and finding a way to get that person alone. Others were victims of opportunity who happened along at the wrong time. The stabbing almost always was a substitute for sexual intercourse that could not be performed. He had learned how to squat beside them in such a way as to avoid getting their blood on his clothing (which he demonstrated with a mannequin). At any rate, he worked in a shipping firm, so there was always an excuse for a scrape or cut. It seemed that his impotence generally triggered the rage, especially if the women made demands or ridiculed him. He soon understood that he could not get aroused without violence. "I had to see blood and wound the victims."
With the boys, it was different, although they bled just as easily as women and that's what he needed most. Chikatilo would fantasize that these boys were his captives and that he was a hero for torturing and doing them in. He could not give a reason for cutting off their tongues and penises, although at one point he said he was taking revenge against life on the genitals of his victims. Lourie says, based on the psychiatric reports, that Chikatilo would place his semen inside a uterus that he had just removed and as he walked along, he would chew on it—"the truffle of sexual murder." He never admitted to actually consuming these organs, but searches never turned up any discarded remains.
"But the whole thing," Chikatilo said, "—the cries, the blood, the agony—gave me relaxation and a certain pleasure." He liked the taste of their blood and would even tear at their mouths with his teeth. He said it gave him an "animal satisfaction" to chew or swallow nipples or testicles.
To corroborate what he was saying, he drew sketches of the crime scenes, and what he said fit the known facts. Then he confirmed what everyone had feared—he added more victims to the list. Many more.
One boy he had killed in a cemetery and placed in a shallow grave—a hole, he said, that he had dug for himself when he had contemplated suicide. He took the interrogators there and they recovered the body. Another was killed in a field, and she was located. On and on it went, murders here and there, and the bodies were always left right where they were killed, except for one. Chikatilo described a murder in an empty apartment and to get the body out, he had to dismember it and dump the parts down a sewer. The police had wondered whether this one was part of the series and had decided that there were too many dissimilarities to include it.
Andrei Chikatilo mugshot, profile Andrei Chikatilo mugshot, profile
In the end, he confessed to 56 murders (Lourie counts it as 55), although there was corroboration for only 53: 31 females and 22 males. Burakov, says Cullen, believed that there might actually be more.
They now had sufficient evidence to take this man to court. In the meantime, they discovered more about him.
The Roots of Perversity
He was born in 1936 into a small Ukrainian village and his head was misshapen from water on the brain. He had a sister seven years younger. His father was a POW in WWII and then was sent to a prison camp in Russia, so his mother raised him mostly on her own.
In the HBO documentary, "Cannibal" and in Moira Martingale's book Cannibal Killers, some of Chikatilo's background is described in a chilling context as a way to try to understand what drove him into such a bestial frenzy. In fact, Martingale sees a direct connection between those times and Chikatilo's sexual fantasies. He was like a werewolf, changing into a ravaging animal when triggered in just the right way. Much of this information came from the confession, the assessments done later, and from investigative research.
During the early part of the twentieth century, the former Soviet Union was often subjected to famines, especially in the Ukraine after Stalin crushed out private agriculture and sent many citizens to the Siberian Gulag. Some six million people died of starvation, according to Cullen, and desperate people might remove meat from corpses to survive. Sometimes they went to a cemetery, where corpses were stacked, and sometimes (legend has it) they grabbed someone on the street. Human flesh was bought and sold, or just hoarded.
Children saw disfigured corpses and heard terrible tales of hardship. Chikatilo had grown up during several of these famines and one story that his mother told was how he once had had an older brother, Stepan, who had been killed. In a prison interview, he said, "Many people went crazy, attacked people, ate people. So they caught my brother, who was 10, and ate him." He might simply have died and been consumed, if he even existed (which could not be corroborated in any records), but Chikatilo's mother would warn him to stay in the yard or he might get eaten as well. It was a scary idea, but titillating.
He also saw the results of Nazi occupation and of German bombing, with bodies blown up in the streets. He said that they frightened and excited him.
Most of his childhood was spent alone, living in his fantasies. Other children mocked him for his awkwardness and sensitivity. He began to develop anger at this age, even rage. To entertain and empower himself, he devised images of torture, and these remained a fixed part of his killings later in life.
He had his first sexual experience as an adolescent when he struggled with a 10-year-old friend of his sister's and ejaculated. That impressed itself on him, especially as he went along in life unable to get an erection but able to ejaculate. The struggle became as fixed in his mind as the images of torture.
He went into the army but when he came home and tried to have a girlfriend, he found he was still unable to perform the sexual act. The girl spread this around, humiliating him, and he dreamed about catching her and tearing her to pieces. His life, as far as he could see, was now a disaster.
He became a schoolteacher and did get married (which was arranged by his sister), but could only conceive children, according to the HBO documentary, by ejaculating outside his wife and pushing his semen inside by hand. Much like his mother, his wife was critical, which only made Chikatilo withdraw even further into his fantasy world. His mother died in 1973 when he was 37, and it wasn't long before he found himself attracted to young girls and began to molest them. It made him feel powerful, and when incidents were reported, they were met with cover-up and denial instead of prosecution, allowing a pervert to become a killer.
For true satisfaction, he needed to get violent, and by 1978, he killed his first victim. Since he was on the road quite often as a parts supply liaison, it became easy to find vulnerable strangers, dominate them and murder them. He didn't have to go looking for them, he said. They were always right there and they were usually willing to follow him. He had read the newspaper reports about the murders when the press was allowed to print them and had known it was only a matter of time before it would all end. Being arrested, he admitted, was a relief.
Chikatilo believed he suffered from an illness that provoked his uncontrollable transgressions. He wanted to see some specialists in sexual deviance, and said that he would answer all questions. (Lourie says this was part of Kostoyev's plan.) He was sent to Moscow's Serbsky Institute for two months for psychiatric and neurological assessment, and it was determined that he had brain damage from birth. It had affected his ability to control his bladder and his seminal emissions. His mother criticized him for it repeatedly, and was often cruel. He had deviant fantasies. However, after all the reports, he was found to be sane. He knew what he was doing and he could have controlled it. That was good enough for the prosecutor.
The Beast in the Cage
They brought him into the Rostov courtroom on April 14, 1992, and put him into a large iron cage painted off-white, where he could either stand or sit. The judge sat on a dais and two citizens on either side acted as jurors. There were 225 volumes of information collected about him and against him.
Chikatilo in court, caged Chikatilo in court, caged, police file
The press wrote about "the Maniac" and spread the word about his upcoming trial, so the courtroom, which seated 250, was filled with the family of many of his alleged victims. When he entered, they began to scream at him. Bald and without his glasses, he looked slightly crazy, especially when he drooled and rolled his eyes later in the trial.
Throughout, Chikatilo appeared to be bored, except when he'd show a flash of anger and yell back at the crowd. On two separate occasions, he opened his trousers and pulled them down to expose his penis, insisting he was not a homosexual. They removed him from the courtroom.
That he would be found guilty of murder was a foregone conclusion, but there was a chance that his psychological problems could save him from execution. However, his lawyer, Marat Khabibulin, did not have the right to call psychiatric experts, only to cross-examine those that the prosecution brought in, and since he had not been appointed until after Chikatilo had fully confessed, he was at a real disadvantage.
Although the prosecutors were Anatoly Zadorozhny and N. F. Gerasimenko, Judge Leonid Akubzhanov became Chikatilo's chief enemy, asking sharp questions of the witnesses and throwing demeaning comments at the prisoner, who often did not respond. After several months, however, Chikatilo challenged the judge, claiming that he was the one in charge. "This is my funeral," the defendant said.
At one time, he spontaneously denied doing six of the murders and at another, he added four new ones. He claimed to be a victim of the former Soviet system and called himself a "mad beast." According to Krivich and Ol'gin, he also claimed that there should be 70 "incidents" attributed to him, not 53. At one point, they write, when he was asked whether he had kept track as he killed his victims, Chikatilo said, "I considered them to be enemy aircraft I had shot down."
No one adequately addressed the fact that there was a discrepancy between the blood type in the semen samples and Chikatilo's blood type. The forensic analyst explained her discovery of the rare phenomenon of a man having one blood type but secreting another, but this hypothesis was later ridiculed around the world. Yet with no forensic experts hired for the defense, there was little the defense attorney could do. The judge, with his clear bias against the defendant, accepted the unusual analysis.
The court accepted the psychiatric diagnosis of sanity. One psychiatrist examined him yet again and said that he was still of the same opinion. It was Chikatilo's predatory behavior and ability to shift to safer locales that showed his degree of control, as well as the fact that he had stopped for over a year at one point (a year in which he said he had celebrated his 50th birthday and was in a good mood).
The trial went into August. The defense summed up its side by saying that the evidence and psychiatric analyses were flawed and the confessions had been coerced. He asked for a verdict of not guilty.
The next day, Chikatilo broke into song from his cage and then talked a string of nonsense, with accusations that he was being "radiated." He was taken out before the prosecutor began his final argument. He reiterated what sadism meant, repeated each of the crimes, and asked for the death penalty.
Chikatilo was brought in and given a final opportunity to speak for himself. He remained mute.
The judge took two months to reach a verdict, and on October 14, six months after the trial begun, he pronounced Andrei Chikatilo guilty of five counts of molestation and 52 counts of murder. Then Chikatilo cried out incoherently, shouting "Swindlers," spitting, throwing his bench, and demanding to see the corpses. The judge sentenced him to be executed. The people shouted for Chikatilo to be turned over to them to be torn to pieces as he had done to their loved ones. But instead he was taken back to his cell to await the results of an appeal. His lawyer claimed through official channels that the psychiatric assessment had not been objective and he wanted further analysis.
A rumor circulated that the Japanese wanted to pay $1 million for the Maniac's brain, Lourie writes, but there was no substance to it. Yet many professionals did believe that his behavior was so aberrant that he should be studied alive.
This man with a university degree in Russian literature, a wife and children, and no apparent background of child abuse, clearly had a savage heart. As he said of himself, he was apparently "a mistake of nature." It's unfortunate that a better biopsychological analysis was never performed.
On February 15, 1994, when his appeal was turned down, he was taken to a special soundproof room and shot behind the right ear, ending his life.
Chikatilo has become one of the world's most renowned serial killers, cited in books and articles such as Dr. Louis Schlesinger's Serial Offenders, as a man with truly perverse tastes and killing habits. Thanks to him, Russian specialists can now engage in better study of serial killers and consult with professionals like the FBI in other countries. The same can be said for Bukhanovsky.
Newsweek published a story in 1999 about the area around Rostov-on-Don to the effect that it was now a hotbed of serial crimes. "Twenty-nine multiple murderers and rapists have been caught in the area over the past ten years," writes Owen Matthews. He claims that such a statistic makes Rostov the serial killer capital of the world. Not only that, but Dr. Bukhanovsky has become such an expert via his private clinic for sexual disorders that he claims he can now cure violent psychopaths. To prove it, he worked with an active killer still at large—a controversial decision. He feels that he cannot break a confidence and that his study will help science determine the roots of aggression. A child rapist who was caught said that Bukhanovsky had a way of getting people to tell him things they would ordinarily keep secret. That appears to have been his talent with Chikatilo