Monthly Archives: June 2010

Ivan Milat: The Last Ride

It was a glorious spring day, perfect for a day out in the forest. Ken Seily stood in a clearing looking slowly about him, breathing the clear, fresh country air. It was a far cry from the pollution and stress of Sydney, two hours to the north, where he lived and worked. This was the time of the week that he looked forward to the most, when his orienteering club met for their weekly run.

Normally, Ken bushwalked or ran the orienteering courses alone but on Saturday, 19th September 1992, the club had organized a training day along some of the many trails that criss-crossed the forty thousand acres of the beautiful Belangalo State Forest. Ken thought the forest had never looked so good. Everywhere around him was the lush green vegetation of towering Eucalypt trees and native shrubs, bordered by commercial pine plantations. A stark contrast to the blackened desolation normally left after the many bushfires that had swept through the area in recent times.

After a short navigational briefing, Ken and his running partner, Keith Caldwell, set off on the first leg of the run. The sport is not unlike rally driving, where the object is to run a pre-determined course within a specified time, reaching and recording various check points on the way. By early afternoon, they were deep in the forest close to one of the most spectacular land marks of the area, “Executioners Drop.” So called because of its sheer fall into a deep, wooded gorge.

After recording their previous control points, staggered roughly half a mile apart, they took bearings on the next, Control Number Four, designated by a large boulder. Approaching the boulder, Ken smelled something bad. As he got closer the smell became more intense. He thought it was probably a rotting animal carcass. The forest provided a home to many wild animals. Kangaroos, wallabies and even the elusive dingo, roamed free, virtually unhindered my human intervention.

Dismissing it from his mind, Ken concentrated on his navigational bearings and was about to move on when Keith called to him from the far side of the boulder, “Can you smell that?” he asked. The smell got stronger as they approached the western side of the boulder.

Beneath a small overhang they found a mound of debris, approximately 7 feet long and 2 feet high. Stepping closer to the pile of branches and decaying leaves, the two men, braving the smell, saw what appeared to be a bone and a patch of hair. They werent sure it was human until they saw part of a black T-shirt. They both walked slowly around the mound until they got to the northern end of it, where they stopped, staring down at the ground, trying to comprehend what they had found. Protruding from the pile of brush was the heel of a shoe.

By this time it was 3.45 p.m. Soon the forest floor would be in darkness as the sun dipped lower in the sky. They carefully marked the location on their map, 800 feet south west of Long Acre Fire Trail, one of the many access trails in the area. A decision had to be made, back track the way they had come in or complete the course, which would take them out of the forest and bring them closer to their cars. They decided the latter choice would be quickest. Half an hour later, they rejoined their friends and quickly related the experience. They all agreed that the authorities should be informed as soon as possible. Contacting Emergency Services by mobile telephone, Seily, a gentle, softly spoken man, was asked by the operator, Is this an emergency? When he replied, Not really, he was disconnected.

Several phone calls later, he was finally connected with the duty officer at the local police station in Bowral, a pretty little town, nestled in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Seily identified himself and told the officer, “Ive found a body in the Belangalo Forest.” He wasnt sure if they had taken him seriously. It wasnt long before he saw that they had.

Uniform police arrived just as the light was beginning to fade. They were shown the way to the sighting by torch light, marking the way with reflective tape. Local detectives arrived soon after and requested a crime scene unit from Goulburn, the next major town to the south. Lighting was organized for the scene and not long after, regional detectives from the homicide squad arrived. A call was made to the office of detectives in Sydneys Kings Cross, as well as the Missing Persons Bureau, as they were known to be investigating the disappearance of several backpackers who were last seen heading south.

No one at the scene that day realized that the body that had been found would lead to the biggest murder investigation in Australias history. Nor would they know the extent of pain and suffering, that was shared by a small group of people from different parts of the world.


The Execution of my Friend

The Execution of my Friend
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by
Erika Trueman
Ignacio Ortiz – executed on October 27th, 1999. An estimated 100 innocent people have been put to death in Texas in recent years/
Do not be fooled into believing that lethal injection is humane. It is nothing of the sort. Today is Wednesday, 10 November 1999. As I write this I look at the clock. It is 2.04 pm, and I think back to the exact time 2 weeks ago when I sat in the waiting room of Arizona State Prison, and thought of my friend who had just 56 minutes left to live. For 8 years we had been penfriends and during that time we have laughed together, cried together, shared thoughts, views, memories, dreams of the future, and generally did what friends do – we talked and we listened to each other. 2 weeks ago at this time I sat with his mother, who was desperately trying to do anything but think of her son being prepared to be killed. I learned a few words of Spanish that afternoon of her…
In May this year Ignacio Ortiz’ death sentence was reaffirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court subsequently denied to look at his case again.
For 20 years and 10 months Ignacio and his various attorneys have tried to get his sentence overturned, and now it looked as though their patience had run out. Arizona was determined to execute 10 prisoners this year, saying that more prisoners are coming onto death row than are executed.
It is time to do something about it to redress the balance! I phoned the attorney in May and asked him what hope there was, his answer was short: None. But as he had protested the resentencing and the Supreme Court was now on Summer vacation, Ignacio would have at least until September before a warrant would be signed. 4 months of waiting to come, 12 weeks of respite, hope and fear and hope again, recurring in nightmares and tears. We both acknowledged the reality of what might happen, yet neither of us talked much about it in letters. Ignacio’s letters were still full of hope and I had not the heart to repeat what his attorney had told me. As it got to August the need to delay the inevitable became more urgent. I was going to get married on 9 September, and it was a date my fiance and I had planned for some years now as it was my 50th birthday also. Ignacio looked forward to the date almost as much as I did.
The wedding day came and went and still there was no news of the Supreme Court. I checked the internet every day, looked at the web page of Arizona Department of Corrections, checked my e-mail, no news. Ivor and I decided not to go on honeymoon so that we can be home to check on a daily basis for news. I did not want to be away when Ignacio’s warrant was signed.
We went on day trips instead. Just two days after our honeymoon ended, came the news: The Supreme Court have returned the protest of his attorney without comment and an execution date for 27 October was set. I read the words, but it didn’t seem to register. If you live with the possibility or even certainty of an event for long it is easy to just accept it when it happens. I something think the waiting was even harder than the knowledge of the warrant being finally signed. As I read it I felt numb at first, aware of the pain Ignacio might be going through now, followed by an outcry of ‘Why’, and the inner silence that follows the empty feeling of inevitability. To kill is wrong.
Period. To kill to show that killing is wrong, however, makes no logical sense. It is nothing but society’s attempt to ignore their failings in helping those who commit crimes. I read the warrant and immediately phoned the Arizona Department of Correction. After being put through several departments spoke with a female officer in the visitation centre. ‘Can I visit my friend before the execution?’ and she said, ‘Yes’. But this time Ignacio had to apply for a special permit visit, I could not arrange it from here. If he applied for this special visit my visit with him would be guaranteed. I was relieved. I remember the days I visited him in 1993; I remember the soft voice, the tranquillity and serenity that seemed to surround him. He had found his faith on death row and it gave him strength to cope with his life. More so, it lifted him out from his surroundings and gave him a freedom he did not have even outside prison. He had read the Bible, and put his trust in every word, never questioning, never moving away from this trust and his belief. Others can question why a loving God allows people to suffer and children to die of hunger and preventable disease, others can ask why.
‘If He has the power, why does He not prevent the cruelty, the hunger, the dying children and the innocence lost to the brutality of life?’ Ignacio never questioned this, for him the answers were simple.
‘God’s Will be done’. I cannot share that faith. I question ‘Why’ too often. I booked my flight and decided to allow 2 weeks for my letter to reach Ignacio with my flight dates and for him to arrange the visit. It was 5 October, and I would fly out on 20 October, just one week before the execution; and I would stay for 8 days, and fly home the day after everything was over, one way or another. I wrote my letter to him, e-mailed his attorney to confirm my arrival date, and I planned, feared, and hoped against all hope.
Then I realised that I had not mentioned to Ignacio in my letter that I have not yet changed my passport to my new married name – he must not ask for the visit permit for Erika Trueman, but under my old name, Erika Reinhold. I hastily wrote more letters, e-mailed his attorney and just hoped that the message got through. I feared to stand in front of the gates and not being permitted entry because the names did not coincide. A week before my flight I finally received an e-mail from Ignacio’s attorney in which he told me that I would not be allowed to visit Ignacio as the dates I had booked the flight for were too close to the execution. After checking with the prison this was confirmed.
I spend the next few days on the telephone, speaking (or trying to) for hours with various officials in Arizona. But the decision was final. I was not going to see my friend, though two days before my flight was due I was told that Ignacio had requested me to witness his execution. So I flew out. I travelled overnight to Gatwick airport for my flight at noon the following day. It took me a total of 32 hours to get to Phoenix. I arrived exhausted, hot and anxious.
Reverend Rye and his wife Gloria, friends of Ignacio, picked me up from the airport. We went to their house where they gave me two letters of Ignacio addressed to me, in which he said, that the managed to arrange a visit the following morning. All my tiredness flew away, and I was exited and relieved. But then I thought of the prison rules: no visitors during the 2 weeks before execution date, except the immediate family, attorney and spiritual advisor. Well, I knew that his attorney had not planned to see him for the last 3 weeks of his life, he had only his mother to visit him and so people were not exactly queuing up to visit. Maybe the warden took this into account and showed some humanity? To be sure, I asked the Reverend to phone the prison. The officer I spoke with didn’t know about the visit, but he said he would check it out and phone back. We sat and waited, hoped for good news and talked quietly about the man we knew and valued and who was now sitting in the death watch cell, without his personal possessions and with nothing but writing paper and pen. I have known Ignacio for 8 years, the Reverend for 5. Whatever he may or may not have done prior to being convicted (and he has maintained his innocence throughout his 21 years on death row), the man I got to know was no danger to anyone. Finally the officer phoned back. No visit allowed. The Reverend kindly provided me with a bed for the night, but I could not sleep. I felt such disappointment that our visit was denied, and thought of how much greater Ignacio must feel this disappointment. Is it not enough to kill him, do they have to deny him even such a small comfort as to say good-bye to a friend? The enormity of the death penalty with all its inhumane implications haunted me that night. Stripped from all rights of personhood, he was treated as nothing more than a ‘object’ of their whims. They expect him to be grateful for anything they would allow him, and silently accept anything they don’t. If he cries out, ‘This is wrong’, they punish him by taking away more of his ‘privileges’ to show that they are in control and that he is nothing, he is no longer a human, and has no right to see himself as such, he is not allowed to be anything but a ‘object-soul’ in the shell of a man. The next morning the Reverend helped me to find a hotel in Phoenix. Maybe I could have stayed with them, but I was allergic to their cats and had become quite ill overnight with asthma. The hotel was far more than I could afford but it was still the cheapest we found. I settled and wrote to Ignacio. The following day I received my ‘invitation’ (as the prison called it) to witness Ignacio’s death. I had given the Reverend’s address as my contact address as I didn’t know where I would stay when I left England. As I read the invitation I noticed a few do’s and don’t’s. One of them was that ‘Contact with family members of the condemned is not permitted on prison property’… Ignacio has an 80 year old mother and she would be the only member of his family to be there. I felt outraged at the insensitivity of it. Sure, I understand the reason behind the fact that the witnesses are not permitted to bring weapons to the prison, I can even try to understand why witnesses may not wear blue jeans or orange clothing, but why none of his own witnesses and friends was allowed to speak to his mother or to comfort her as she watched her son being killed, I will never understand. I received another letter in Phoenix from him, and he indicated that I might get a visit on the morning of the execution. Ignacio wanted me and the Reverend, who was also going to be a witness, to be at the prison for 7.30 am. He said, if we go to the prison chaplain, he will then call the office, someone in there would ask Ignacio if we wanted to see us and he would then say, ‘Yes’. We would be driven to his cell and could say good-bye. The Reverend and I were outside the prison gates at 6.30 am. I didn’t mind waiting. The execution was scheduled for 3.00 pm and I just wanted to be there, I had no peace in the hotel and had not slept for two nights. How can I sleep if I look at the clock and think of Ignacio, having just 27 hours left to live, then 26, 25, 20. The time raced with a slowness and speed, that horrified me. I watched the seconds move, and every second took an eternity, yet the hours flew by, indicating an and that I so wanted to escape. With every moment I thought of what might be his ‘last’. His last evening meal, his last shower, his last breakfast, his last shave, his last … what? What was he doing at this moment? How I wished I could help him cope with facing his death at the hands of those who have known him, known him change and find a purpose in life, and still failed to see his humanity. I needed to be close to the prison, not scooped up in some hotel, with an irrational fear that the car would break down on the journey to the little town of Florence, or that the clocks would be slow or that I might oversleep, or any of the other fears that haunt us when we blur the line between reality and illusion. I wanted to say good-bye and I also thought of Ignacio’s mother who was going to be at the prison for her last visit. I had tried to call her and see her, but did not manage to get hold of her. I did not know what support, if any, she had. Besides, Arizona does not have contact visits, not even his mother would be allowed to give him a final hug. How would she cope? And how would Ignacio cope? For nearly 21 years he had not felt a loving touch, nothing but hands that hurt and hate. I felt the pain of condemnation and I felt something of the incredible loneliness and wrongness Ignacio felt. How much pain can a man endure and how much strength does it take not to break? We arrived at the prison and spoke to a prison officer. It was now 6.45 am.
He took our details, but told me that I was not allowed to take my bag inside. Fine, it did not matter to me.
I took out my passport, the letter of invitation, a handkerchief and my inhaler. I didn’t need anything else. We entered the prison and were taken to the office of the prison chaplain. It was still locked, he had not yet arrived. We were taken somewhere else to wait. I watched some inmates clean the yard. They watched us while continuing with their work. Certainly they would not be death row prisoners, but I wondered what they thought of capital punishment.
Did they have the same feeling that it is wrong? Maybe they just felt relief that they were not on death row. Did they even care? Finally, we were taken back to the prison chaplain’s office. He was in, eating his breakfast.
We introduced ourselves and mentioned Ignacio’s assurance that we can visit, if he, the prison chaplain arranges it with the death watch office. His reaction was dismissive, it had nothing whatsoever to do with him. ‘Why are you coming to me?’ We were at the wrong place, and we would not get a visit. I appealed to his humanity for help (was he not after all a man of the God who compassionately loves all his children?) and told him that I had been promised a visit by this very prison. ‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘that has nothing to do with me’. The telephone rang and for the next 10 minutes or so he spoke to someone who enquired about the body of the deceased… We did not hear the questions, but we heard the answers of the chaplain. ‘There will be a post-mortem… just a routine thing… no, it takes about 30 days before his personal belongings are released… yeah, she can pick it up or we can send it out… about $30… I heard she wanted cremation… or if she wants she can sort out something else, but that’s really up to her… no, we wouldn’t pay for that… he can always be buried here, if she can’t afford it…’ The conversation went on and on. The Reverend and I looked at each other, we didn’t speak but our thoughts must have been the same. They are talking of Ignacio, as if he is already dead. And it wasn’t just the words I heard, I also heard the tone in his voice, it was very cold, very impassive and very hard. He, the man of God, did not care. He simply did not care. When he had finished the conversation I asked him to take us to the warden, I wanted to have a word with him personally, ask him, beg him, to allow us to say good-bye.
The chaplain took us to the main building, probably glad to get rid of us. He took us to a waiting area and told us to wait. We sat and waited, quietly talking of the telephone conversation we had listened to and in the silences of our conversation thought of our friend and what he might feel now.
We waited for over an hour, it was nearly 9 o’clock when a female officer asked us who we were and why we sat there. We told him that the prison chaplain had gone to get the warden and asked us to wait. Taking our letters of invitation and checking our identifications she left us, and returned some minutes later. ‘The warden will see you shortly’, she said and left. The warden did come a few minutes later but his face was cold and his eyes hard. ‘You can’t visit’.
I explained that I had been promised a visit, but he was not to be moved.
‘You have been given the wrong information, and I will not make an exception’. He told us to go away and come back later. Then he left us, empty and disappointed. I had asked for just 10 minutes to say good-bye, yet even that was more than he was willing to give. We left the prison and drove around for an hour to look at the scenery.
Anything to pass the time. Our thoughts were not at the beauty of the desert, but at the inevitability of time passing.
Could we stop time, or should we even wish to? Is not any time that is prolonged before the execution time that is spend in fear and horror? We got back to the prison at 10.30 am, the Reverend wanted to wait in the car, I persuaded him to go into the prison grounds. Surely we can sit somewhere… I am glad that we went in. We were checked and taken to the waiting room for witnesses. I was afraid that we sat in the same room as the official witnesses and even family members of the victim, but we were kept separate and for that I was grateful. The room we entered had a large table in the middle, with a dozen or so chairs around it. Some people were already present and we were introduced. I shook hands but didn’t hear or understand the words said. I felt totally empty inside. There were two other witnesses of Ignacio, both reverends and penfriends. I know that he corresponded with many people, and many of them were what he called his ‘Christian brethren’. A female guard in uniform checked for contraband and/or weapons with a metal detector before we sat down. Two other guards in civilian clothes sat at the table, with quick eyes that did not miss a thing, silently watching us. One of them had a list of names, and ticked off that we had arrived.
Ignacio’s mother was not there, neither was his attorney who had told me that he planned to come on the day of the execution. At the side of the room was a table with sandwiches that would feed 30 peopole, and coffee. More than 100 chocolate biscuits were on the table in front of us and I thought that the food provided would easily feed many more people than were present here and none of us was hungry. Absentmindedly I wondered whether the guards and officers, the secretaries and other prison staff would look forward to executions, so they could eat all the left over food that was provided for the witnesses. Eating was not on our minds. Ignacio’s other witnesses were all Christian ministers that he had befriended over the years.
As born again Christians their views were very different from mine. I heard someone say, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter what happens today… We will see him again in Heaven’. And I thought, ‘Yes, it does matter. They are murdering him.’ Anger replaced my fear and my thoughts became four letter words. I did not join in their conversation for fear of saying what I really thought. Ignacio had believed me to be a Christian too. At the beginning of our friendship I told him that I did not believe in God, but how important it became to him that I do, became clear when during my visit to him 5 years earlier, he had requested two Bibles, one for him and one for me. Half of our visiting time was spent reading the Bible together. He asked me to read a passage and then told me the meaning. He was so eager to teach me and felt so much joy when he thought that I had found Christ, that I did not have the heart to tell him otherwise. I hoped that Ignacio was at peace, but I had no way to find out. The feelings of emptiness had left me and all I felt was anger. Anger at the system that takes a man and decides he does not deserve to live, and anger at our failings to see that he is human, just like us. Even dogs get treated better. If a dog is mistreated by his owner, abused, beaten and starved of love and affection, he bites. But people are forgiving, they think him innocent and blame his keeper.
They take him in and help him, heal his mental wounds, they care for him and embrace him.
If a man is treated like this as a child, and ‘bites’ he is condemned to death. But what are we, society, but the keepers of the innocence of our children?
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I began to feel very, very angry.
About half an hour after we got into the waiting room Ignacio’s mother returned from her last visit to see her son. I had not seen her before, but when the door opened and an old woman stood there, looked at me and opened her arms, and said, ‘Erika’, I decided to ignore point 2 of the invitation of what I was and was not allowed to do, and stood up to embrace her. If any guard had stopped me then I would have answered with words that would have made others blush. But nobody interfered. Isabel (Ignacio’s mother) and I sat together and the waiting was the hardest thing of all. The three ministers talked about their faith and about their belief of the everlasting afterlife Ignacio was going to have, something I just could not share.
Isabel and I sat together and talked of Ignacio, of the son she loved and of the friend I loved. Shortly afterwards Ignacio’s spiritual advisor, a minister also called Ignacio, arrived. He was a most incredible man with a mohican hair style and a sense of humour, even on a day like this, that did not offend, but eased the situation. He also recognised me as Ignacio had shown my photo and shown my letters. Knowing his needs, I had chosen religious cards and words that talked of hope and trust in the Lord’s will. I am not religious but it caused me no sleepless nights to comfort in words I did not believe myself. The minister told me of Ignacio’s last visit with his mother. They spoke to each other through a glass window, but in the room where Isabel sat the guards had the radio turned on and being hard of hearing, Ignacio had to shout for his mother to understand him. He was very upset about this and at first refused to shout, it was only when the minister told him that this is the only way for his mother to understand, that he felt able to do so. I remember Ignacio from our visit 5 years ago and he was a soft-spoken man. How hard it must have been for him to see his mother under such circumstances! And what a small act of compassion it would have been for the guards to turn off the radio. But compassion does not rate very highly on death row. Ignacio, the spiritual advisor of my friend, told me that my friend Ignacio was very upset at not seeing me. And so we both used his minister as a messenger to relay last words to each other. He left to see my friend again. The time of waiting was hard and it were the longest hours of my life.
There was a clock on the wall and I kept looking at it, yet the minutes seemed to go so slow that what seemed like an hour only moved the hands of the clock a few minutes further to the inevitable. Ignacio’s christian friends were still taking of their faith, the guards silently watched us, only Isabel and I were sitting close together. I felt like being stranded on an island, with no boat to leave. The others had their purpose, their belief or their conviction that what was going to happen was right, yet Ignacio’s mother and I had nothing like this. Could we swim or would we drown? All we had was the knowledge that the man we cared for was going to be killed.
It was only 11 o’clock, a full four hours before the execution took place, but what does one talk about in those hours? Isabel was desperate to talk, but she did not seem to understand me well. She is Mexican and started to teach me Spanish. Anything to do to pass the time. She must have felt it much stronger than I. At some point we found ourselves in a different room for the briefing. I cannot remember now how we got there or when we were told to go there, but after getting into the waiting room and going to the witness room we were taken to another room, where we stood for a couple of minutes or so before a guard entered, read out a brief statement of what was going to happen and left again. My thoughts were whirling around and I felt disembodied throughout the morning of waiting and as I try to recollect details now, some of my memory has gaps. Back in the waiting room with the untouched buffet the time went slowly, I kept looking at the clock and thought of what Ignacio must be doing and thinking now. Would he now have his last meal? Were they already taking him, strapping him onto the gurney? What did he think? Was he at peace? Minister Ignacio came back and told me that Ignacio knew I was there.
‘How is he?’, ‘He is excited as if he is going on a trip, thinking of whether he has done everything, has he forgotten something’, he replied. ‘He is ok, he is at peace. He will be united with our Lord soon, he knows that’. Minister Ignacio stayed with Isabel and me and the three talked quietly, my eyes straying towards the clock on the wall, it’s hands moving ever so slowly. It was now 2.50 pm, just 10 minutes before the execution. I looked at the clock and hope rose in me that maybe he got a stay after all. Rationally, I knew it could not be so, as his legal team had no further appeals going, and his attorney was now sitting with us, talking to the three ministers. But it was time to go, would they forget us? I watched the female guard. She had only briefly spoken when spoken to, otherwise she sat in total silence, just like the other two civilian officials, watching every move, listening to every word. I noticed that she also looked at her watch. I looked at her, trying to catch her eyes with my silent question, ‘What is happening now?’ Before she looked at me the door opened and we were told it was time to go. As we left the cool building the desert heat hit me. The call it ‘the valley of the sun’ and it was 95 degrees. I looked up and saw the blue sky, the blazing sun and as I watched a bird flying above me, the scene seemed surreal. There was life all around me, yet I was to watch a man being killed. How can life and death be so close? In a few minutes the sun would still shine, the bird would still fly, yet the man now lying on the gurney would no longer breathe, his body slowly decomposing, he would continue to live only in our memories, traces fading over time. I do not know how far we walked. Reverend Rye later talked of a quarter of a mile to walk and felt outraged that the other witnesses were driven to the witness room, whereas we had to walk. I did not notice. The only thing I was aware of was the life-giving heat of the sun, the bird flying above, Isabel’s hand in mine, occasionally squeezng it and me putting one foot in front of the other. I took one step at a time, not knowing, nor caring where we walked. Fear rose in me and replaced the anger. It gnawed at my stomach, burned into my soul like acid.
This could not be real, this was not happening. Yet every step took me closer. Panic welled in me and the feeling I had earlier of being stranded on an island with no boat to leave increased. Yet now I was not only stranded, the water was lapping at my feet, rising and rising ever more. I needed to run away and escape. Panic overwhelmed me that I would drown. And yet my feet moved slowly forward, one step at a time. I was holding Isabel’s hand, Minister Ignacio holding her other hand. Ignacio’s spiritual advisor prayed quietly, speaking words of comfort to Isabel, I heard myself saying things like, ‘It will be over soon, his suffering will be over. He will not hurt anymore’, fully aware that the platitudes I spoke to Isabel were wholly inadequate. Yet I had nothing else to offer her. I walked on automatic pilot, spoke words that seemed empty and without meaning while my soul was drowning in a sea of fear, wondering what is reality, what is illusion. There were to be 42 witnesses (29 had arrived), most of them official, but also two children of the victim. The witness room was separated in steps so that those in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th rows stood higher than others and could see equally well. We were the first to arrive and stood in the front row. Ignacio’s attorney who had arrived shortly before decided to stay as witness too. As we walked towards the open door Minister Ignacio whispered to us, ‘Don’t go in first, his head is near the door’. I nodded and held Isabel back. She didn’t understand and wanted to go in. I repeated the words, ‘His head is near the door’. I don’t know whether she understood, but she slowed and let Reverend Rye and the other ministers go in first, we followed. I was determined to hold on to Isabel, and equally determined to allow her to be as close to her son as she could. The room was only dimly lit. There was a large dark blue curtain in front of us, which covered the whole wall. I had both my arms around Isabel and minister Ignacio had his arm around the both of us, quietly speaking to Isabel, praying with urgency in his voice. Slowly the other witnesses arrived. There was total silence. Nobody spoke. We did not look round to see who was behind us, we heard footsteps, but they did not exist for us. All that existed in our thoughts was the dark blue curtain and the man who was behind it. Once everybody was inside, a guard who stood by the door locked it and spoke something into the phone he held.
Arizona execution chamber
‘Everybody is inside’, I heard. It seemed a long time, but was probably only a minute or so when the curtain opened and we saw Ignacio already strapped onto the gurney, with a white sheet covering him up to his neck.
We could not see the straps, nor could we see the needles they had inserted ready for the poison to flow. I kept thinking ‘Do they really believe the image of someone covered as it he is going to sleep will fool us into believing that what happens here is not murder?’ Ignacio lay still, his eyes shut and head towards the ceiling. He was determined to die with as much dignity as he could and I believe if he had looked at us he may have fallen apart. He did not want that and so his eyes did not open. After a short while someone came in, stood by Ignacio’s feet and we heard the microphone being switched on. The man announced that there was no stay. The microphone was switched off. The man walked out again, without looking at the man about to die.
Then, after a short while, someone else came in to read the warrant, looking only at the witnesses. I noticed that Ignacio started to shake. His face was set, but his hands and particularly his feet were shaking violently. I knew then that all this talk about going to Heaven and having everlasting life and joy, did not stop his fear. It was wrong to kill him. I knew that and he knew that too. The man who read the warrant asked if Ignacio had any last words, without looking at him.
In a loud and clear voice he said, ‘Yes’. ‘Jesus Christ is the Lord’ (repeating the words in spanish), ‘Heavenly Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (and again repeating his words in spanish). As he was saying ‘into your hands’ his voice broke and he had difficulty in speaking the last words. He said, ‘Thank you’ and was silent after that.
His eyes shut, his face set. The loud speakers were switched off and I saw a tear run down the side of his face. At the wall behind him was an opening which had been covered with some curtain material.
There was movement of the curtain, as if there was a draft. I knew that the first injection took place. I watched Ignacio’s face. I so much wanted to instill some kind of comfort or friendship or love in him to ease these final moments. I had planned so many things that I hoped would help him, show him he was cared for. I had rehearsed this moment in hours of fear and anger and disbelief. I had wanted to reach out to him, smile, put all my expressions of friendship and love and respect for him into my face, anything at all that would make it just a little easier for him. But he did not open his eyes, he could not if he wanted to keep his composure. That had become the most important thing for him. To keep strong, to keep composed, not to give a spectacle for others to gloat over, to die in the knowledge that the Lord loves him and will welcome him. I watched for anything in his face to change, any reaction and saw his head and chest heave up once as if he was choking. He breathed twice more and then lay still, his eyes and mouth now slightly open. We stood and waited. I knew he was dead, but I expected him to turn around and look at me, I willed him to live, to get up and walk away. A man came in and announced ‘Death at 3.05 pm. Please take note. Death at 3.05 pm.
Please take note’, and he never looked at the man in whose death he had just taken part. It was as if for all those who spoke to the witnesses, this man on the gurney did not exist, as if he had already gone, left his humanity behind like an old coat that one can just take off or put on as one pleases. For them, he already ceased to exist. There was no need to look at him. He was not a person anymore, he did not need to be regarded anymore. He was a nothing. We were just five feet apart, joined in friendship, and yet separated for ever like a river without a bridge. Without understanding I watched my friend die. Without words I watched the last flicker of his life which had a special value for me which hatred can never perceive. As deaf and dumb and blind servants of ‘the people’ with eyes that should have seen his humanity, ears that should have heard his integrity and tongues that should have said, ‘stop, no more killing’ society killed a man that was my friend, was Isabel’s son and was no danger to society.
The man I knew was deeply religious, and he was friendly, kind, caring and compassionate to others. He never had a bad word against anyone nor against the harsh treatment he received. The man lying there dead now had been the smile I always saw in letters as they were written, he was the friend who offered advise, and welcomed me into his life. He was the warm feeling of familiarity, of knowing I have been accepted with all my faults and shortcomings, and the knowledge that this friendship was mutual. He was the joy I know was there as my letters were received. Yet now everything was too late. It was too late for letters and too late for words. The doors opened and we (Ignacio’s witnesses) were taken out and taken immediately in a van to the car park. I felt numb and empty. Isabel was picked up by friends who had to leave immediately, his attorney left with a short good-bye, Minister Ignacio hastily wrote his address down for me and left to see some other prisoners, and only Reverend Rye and I stood at the empty car park. I saw nobody else. There was no media, no protestors, nobody but us. The road had been blocked off earlier, but still I thought someone must have been there. Did nobody knew what went on? Did nobody care? Was it real? And what happened to life now.
Would it go on as normal, TV news reporting traffic accidents and scandals, the citizens of Arizona reading about the execution with their morning coffee, grateful that they can now sleep safer as another ‘animal’ has been killed? Was society really safer now? I spent a sleepless night in the garden of Reverend Rye, not being able to go into the house because of his cats, yet not resting in the garden either. I left the following day. Like a double exposure on a film where we see two images, I see Ignacio lying on the gurney whatever I do now. Today is Wednesday, 10 November 1999. It is 2 weeks now since my friend was killed and his image is with me constantly. What I saw was murder, as cold and heartless as any the men on death row are believed to be capable of by society. The ritualised slaughter of a scapegoat for society’s failings to take into account that a person is more than the worst act they ever commit. He may have been a murderer, but he was also a son, a friend and a person who was valued and respected by whoever came in contact with him. A few days after the execution someone asked me ‘would you do it again?’ and I replied without hesitation, ‘Yes’. It was the last act of friendship I could do and traumatic as it was, I have no regrets of being there for him. I will never forget my experience, and I never should forget what I witnessed. It was the most brutal form of extermination I had seen. And yet bearing witness to it meant that it was not done without providing the reasons to ask ‘Why’.
Why can we not find a way to punish murderers that will build on reconciliation? Punish them, yes. Protect society, yes. But also understand, forgive and build, rather than destroy. And by witnessing Ignacio’s execution, I carry the question ‘Why’ to all those who will listen, until I get an answer or until society will look deep within these men to find the human inside him.

The Execution of my Friend
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byErika Trueman

Ignacio Ortiz – executed on October 27th, 1999. An estimated 100 innocent people have been put to death in Texas in recent years/

Do not be fooled into believing that lethal injection is humane. It is nothing of the sort. Today is Wednesday, 10 November 1999. As I write this I look at the clock. It is 2.04 pm, and I think back to the exact time 2 weeks ago when I sat in the waiting room of Arizona State Prison, and thought of my friend who had just 56 minutes left to live. For 8 years we had been penfriends and during that time we have laughed together, cried together, shared thoughts, views, memories, dreams of the future, and generally did what friends do – we talked and we listened to each other. 2 weeks ago at this time I sat with his mother, who was desperately trying to do anything but think of her son being prepared to be killed. I learned a few words of Spanish that afternoon of her…
In May this year Ignacio Ortiz’ death sentence was reaffirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court subsequently denied to look at his case again.
For 20 years and 10 months Ignacio and his various attorneys have tried to get his sentence overturned, and now it looked as though their patience had run out. Arizona was determined to execute 10 prisoners this year, saying that more prisoners are coming onto death row than are executed.
It is time to do something about it to redress the balance! I phoned the attorney in May and asked him what hope there was, his answer was short: None. But as he had protested the resentencing and the Supreme Court was now on Summer vacation, Ignacio would have at least until September before a warrant would be signed. 4 months of waiting to come, 12 weeks of respite, hope and fear and hope again, recurring in nightmares and tears. We both acknowledged the reality of what might happen, yet neither of us talked much about it in letters. Ignacio’s letters were still full of hope and I had not the heart to repeat what his attorney had told me. As it got to August the need to delay the inevitable became more urgent. I was going to get married on 9 September, and it was a date my fiance and I had planned for some years now as it was my 50th birthday also. Ignacio looked forward to the date almost as much as I did.
The wedding day came and went and still there was no news of the Supreme Court. I checked the internet every day, looked at the web page of Arizona Department of Corrections, checked my e-mail, no news. Ivor and I decided not to go on honeymoon so that we can be home to check on a daily basis for news. I did not want to be away when Ignacio’s warrant was signed.
We went on day trips instead. Just two days after our honeymoon ended, came the news: The Supreme Court have returned the protest of his attorney without comment and an execution date for 27 October was set. I read the words, but it didn’t seem to register. If you live with the possibility or even certainty of an event for long it is easy to just accept it when it happens. I something think the waiting was even harder than the knowledge of the warrant being finally signed. As I read it I felt numb at first, aware of the pain Ignacio might be going through now, followed by an outcry of ‘Why’, and the inner silence that follows the empty feeling of inevitability. To kill is wrong.
Period. To kill to show that killing is wrong, however, makes no logical sense. It is nothing but society’s attempt to ignore their failings in helping those who commit crimes. I read the warrant and immediately phoned the Arizona Department of Correction. After being put through several departments spoke with a female officer in the visitation centre. ‘Can I visit my friend before the execution?’ and she said, ‘Yes’. But this time Ignacio had to apply for a special permit visit, I could not arrange it from here. If he applied for this special visit my visit with him would be guaranteed. I was relieved. I remember the days I visited him in 1993; I remember the soft voice, the tranquillity and serenity that seemed to surround him. He had found his faith on death row and it gave him strength to cope with his life. More so, it lifted him out from his surroundings and gave him a freedom he did not have even outside prison. He had read the Bible, and put his trust in every word, never questioning, never moving away from this trust and his belief. Others can question why a loving God allows people to suffer and children to die of hunger and preventable disease, others can ask why.
‘If He has the power, why does He not prevent the cruelty, the hunger, the dying children and the innocence lost to the brutality of life?’ Ignacio never questioned this, for him the answers were simple.
‘God’s Will be done’. I cannot share that faith. I question ‘Why’ too often. I booked my flight and decided to allow 2 weeks for my letter to reach Ignacio with my flight dates and for him to arrange the visit. It was 5 October, and I would fly out on 20 October, just one week before the execution; and I would stay for 8 days, and fly home the day after everything was over, one way or another. I wrote my letter to him, e-mailed his attorney to confirm my arrival date, and I planned, feared, and hoped against all hope.
Then I realised that I had not mentioned to Ignacio in my letter that I have not yet changed my passport to my new married name – he must not ask for the visit permit for Erika Trueman, but under my old name, Erika Reinhold. I hastily wrote more letters, e-mailed his attorney and just hoped that the message got through. I feared to stand in front of the gates and not being permitted entry because the names did not coincide. A week before my flight I finally received an e-mail from Ignacio’s attorney in which he told me that I would not be allowed to visit Ignacio as the dates I had booked the flight for were too close to the execution. After checking with the prison this was confirmed.
I spend the next few days on the telephone, speaking (or trying to) for hours with various officials in Arizona. But the decision was final. I was not going to see my friend, though two days before my flight was due I was told that Ignacio had requested me to witness his execution. So I flew out. I travelled overnight to Gatwick airport for my flight at noon the following day. It took me a total of 32 hours to get to Phoenix. I arrived exhausted, hot and anxious.
Reverend Rye and his wife Gloria, friends of Ignacio, picked me up from the airport. We went to their house where they gave me two letters of Ignacio addressed to me, in which he said, that the managed to arrange a visit the following morning. All my tiredness flew away, and I was exited and relieved. But then I thought of the prison rules: no visitors during the 2 weeks before execution date, except the immediate family, attorney and spiritual advisor. Well, I knew that his attorney had not planned to see him for the last 3 weeks of his life, he had only his mother to visit him and so people were not exactly queuing up to visit. Maybe the warden took this into account and showed some humanity? To be sure, I asked the Reverend to phone the prison. The officer I spoke with didn’t know about the visit, but he said he would check it out and phone back. We sat and waited, hoped for good news and talked quietly about the man we knew and valued and who was now sitting in the death watch cell, without his personal possessions and with nothing but writing paper and pen. I have known Ignacio for 8 years, the Reverend for 5. Whatever he may or may not have done prior to being convicted (and he has maintained his innocence throughout his 21 years on death row), the man I got to know was no danger to anyone. Finally the officer phoned back. No visit allowed. The Reverend kindly provided me with a bed for the night, but I could not sleep. I felt such disappointment that our visit was denied, and thought of how much greater Ignacio must feel this disappointment. Is it not enough to kill him, do they have to deny him even such a small comfort as to say good-bye to a friend? The enormity of the death penalty with all its inhumane implications haunted me that night. Stripped from all rights of personhood, he was treated as nothing more than a ‘object’ of their whims. They expect him to be grateful for anything they would allow him, and silently accept anything they don’t. If he cries out, ‘This is wrong’, they punish him by taking away more of his ‘privileges’ to show that they are in control and that he is nothing, he is no longer a human, and has no right to see himself as such, he is not allowed to be anything but a ‘object-soul’ in the shell of a man. The next morning the Reverend helped me to find a hotel in Phoenix. Maybe I could have stayed with them, but I was allergic to their cats and had become quite ill overnight with asthma. The hotel was far more than I could afford but it was still the cheapest we found. I settled and wrote to Ignacio. The following day I received my ‘invitation’ (as the prison called it) to witness Ignacio’s death. I had given the Reverend’s address as my contact address as I didn’t know where I would stay when I left England. As I read the invitation I noticed a few do’s and don’t’s. One of them was that ‘Contact with family members of the condemned is not permitted on prison property’… Ignacio has an 80 year old mother and she would be the only member of his family to be there. I felt outraged at the insensitivity of it. Sure, I understand the reason behind the fact that the witnesses are not permitted to bring weapons to the prison, I can even try to understand why witnesses may not wear blue jeans or orange clothing, but why none of his own witnesses and friends was allowed to speak to his mother or to comfort her as she watched her son being killed, I will never understand. I received another letter in Phoenix from him, and he indicated that I might get a visit on the morning of the execution. Ignacio wanted me and the Reverend, who was also going to be a witness, to be at the prison for 7.30 am. He said, if we go to the prison chaplain, he will then call the office, someone in there would ask Ignacio if we wanted to see us and he would then say, ‘Yes’. We would be driven to his cell and could say good-bye. The Reverend and I were outside the prison gates at 6.30 am. I didn’t mind waiting. The execution was scheduled for 3.00 pm and I just wanted to be there, I had no peace in the hotel and had not slept for two nights. How can I sleep if I look at the clock and think of Ignacio, having just 27 hours left to live, then 26, 25, 20. The time raced with a slowness and speed, that horrified me. I watched the seconds move, and every second took an eternity, yet the hours flew by, indicating an and that I so wanted to escape. With every moment I thought of what might be his ‘last’. His last evening meal, his last shower, his last breakfast, his last shave, his last … what? What was he doing at this moment? How I wished I could help him cope with facing his death at the hands of those who have known him, known him change and find a purpose in life, and still failed to see his humanity. I needed to be close to the prison, not scooped up in some hotel, with an irrational fear that the car would break down on the journey to the little town of Florence, or that the clocks would be slow or that I might oversleep, or any of the other fears that haunt us when we blur the line between reality and illusion. I wanted to say good-bye and I also thought of Ignacio’s mother who was going to be at the prison for her last visit. I had tried to call her and see her, but did not manage to get hold of her. I did not know what support, if any, she had. Besides, Arizona does not have contact visits, not even his mother would be allowed to give him a final hug. How would she cope? And how would Ignacio cope? For nearly 21 years he had not felt a loving touch, nothing but hands that hurt and hate. I felt the pain of condemnation and I felt something of the incredible loneliness and wrongness Ignacio felt. How much pain can a man endure and how much strength does it take not to break? We arrived at the prison and spoke to a prison officer. It was now 6.45 am.
He took our details, but told me that I was not allowed to take my bag inside. Fine, it did not matter to me.
I took out my passport, the letter of invitation, a handkerchief and my inhaler. I didn’t need anything else. We entered the prison and were taken to the office of the prison chaplain. It was still locked, he had not yet arrived. We were taken somewhere else to wait. I watched some inmates clean the yard. They watched us while continuing with their work. Certainly they would not be death row prisoners, but I wondered what they thought of capital punishment.
Did they have the same feeling that it is wrong? Maybe they just felt relief that they were not on death row. Did they even care? Finally, we were taken back to the prison chaplain’s office. He was in, eating his breakfast.
We introduced ourselves and mentioned Ignacio’s assurance that we can visit, if he, the prison chaplain arranges it with the death watch office. His reaction was dismissive, it had nothing whatsoever to do with him. ‘Why are you coming to me?’ We were at the wrong place, and we would not get a visit. I appealed to his humanity for help (was he not after all a man of the God who compassionately loves all his children?) and told him that I had been promised a visit by this very prison. ‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘that has nothing to do with me’. The telephone rang and for the next 10 minutes or so he spoke to someone who enquired about the body of the deceased… We did not hear the questions, but we heard the answers of the chaplain. ‘There will be a post-mortem… just a routine thing… no, it takes about 30 days before his personal belongings are released… yeah, she can pick it up or we can send it out… about $30… I heard she wanted cremation… or if she wants she can sort out something else, but that’s really up to her… no, we wouldn’t pay for that… he can always be buried here, if she can’t afford it…’ The conversation went on and on. The Reverend and I looked at each other, we didn’t speak but our thoughts must have been the same. They are talking of Ignacio, as if he is already dead. And it wasn’t just the words I heard, I also heard the tone in his voice, it was very cold, very impassive and very hard. He, the man of God, did not care. He simply did not care. When he had finished the conversation I asked him to take us to the warden, I wanted to have a word with him personally, ask him, beg him, to allow us to say good-bye.
The chaplain took us to the main building, probably glad to get rid of us. He took us to a waiting area and told us to wait. We sat and waited, quietly talking of the telephone conversation we had listened to and in the silences of our conversation thought of our friend and what he might feel now.
We waited for over an hour, it was nearly 9 o’clock when a female officer asked us who we were and why we sat there. We told him that the prison chaplain had gone to get the warden and asked us to wait. Taking our letters of invitation and checking our identifications she left us, and returned some minutes later. ‘The warden will see you shortly’, she said and left. The warden did come a few minutes later but his face was cold and his eyes hard. ‘You can’t visit’.
I explained that I had been promised a visit, but he was not to be moved.
‘You have been given the wrong information, and I will not make an exception’. He told us to go away and come back later. Then he left us, empty and disappointed. I had asked for just 10 minutes to say good-bye, yet even that was more than he was willing to give. We left the prison and drove around for an hour to look at the scenery.
Anything to pass the time. Our thoughts were not at the beauty of the desert, but at the inevitability of time passing.
Could we stop time, or should we even wish to? Is not any time that is prolonged before the execution time that is spend in fear and horror? We got back to the prison at 10.30 am, the Reverend wanted to wait in the car, I persuaded him to go into the prison grounds. Surely we can sit somewhere… I am glad that we went in. We were checked and taken to the waiting room for witnesses. I was afraid that we sat in the same room as the official witnesses and even family members of the victim, but we were kept separate and for that I was grateful. The room we entered had a large table in the middle, with a dozen or so chairs around it. Some people were already present and we were introduced. I shook hands but didn’t hear or understand the words said. I felt totally empty inside. There were two other witnesses of Ignacio, both reverends and penfriends. I know that he corresponded with many people, and many of them were what he called his ‘Christian brethren’. A female guard in uniform checked for contraband and/or weapons with a metal detector before we sat down. Two other guards in civilian clothes sat at the table, with quick eyes that did not miss a thing, silently watching us. One of them had a list of names, and ticked off that we had arrived.
Ignacio’s mother was not there, neither was his attorney who had told me that he planned to come on the day of the execution. At the side of the room was a table with sandwiches that would feed 30 peopole, and coffee. More than 100 chocolate biscuits were on the table in front of us and I thought that the food provided would easily feed many more people than were present here and none of us was hungry. Absentmindedly I wondered whether the guards and officers, the secretaries and other prison staff would look forward to executions, so they could eat all the left over food that was provided for the witnesses. Eating was not on our minds. Ignacio’s other witnesses were all Christian ministers that he had befriended over the years.
As born again Christians their views were very different from mine. I heard someone say, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter what happens today… We will see him again in Heaven’. And I thought, ‘Yes, it does matter. They are murdering him.’ Anger replaced my fear and my thoughts became four letter words. I did not join in their conversation for fear of saying what I really thought. Ignacio had believed me to be a Christian too. At the beginning of our friendship I told him that I did not believe in God, but how important it became to him that I do, became clear when during my visit to him 5 years earlier, he had requested two Bibles, one for him and one for me. Half of our visiting time was spent reading the Bible together. He asked me to read a passage and then told me the meaning. He was so eager to teach me and felt so much joy when he thought that I had found Christ, that I did not have the heart to tell him otherwise. I hoped that Ignacio was at peace, but I had no way to find out. The feelings of emptiness had left me and all I felt was anger. Anger at the system that takes a man and decides he does not deserve to live, and anger at our failings to see that he is human, just like us. Even dogs get treated better. If a dog is mistreated by his owner, abused, beaten and starved of love and affection, he bites. But people are forgiving, they think him innocent and blame his keeper.
They take him in and help him, heal his mental wounds, they care for him and embrace him.
If a man is treated like this as a child, and ‘bites’ he is condemned to death. But what are we, society, but the keepers of the innocence of our children?

——————————————————————————–
——————————————————————————–I began to feel very, very angry.
About half an hour after we got into the waiting room Ignacio’s mother returned from her last visit to see her son. I had not seen her before, but when the door opened and an old woman stood there, looked at me and opened her arms, and said, ‘Erika’, I decided to ignore point 2 of the invitation of what I was and was not allowed to do, and stood up to embrace her. If any guard had stopped me then I would have answered with words that would have made others blush. But nobody interfered. Isabel (Ignacio’s mother) and I sat together and the waiting was the hardest thing of all. The three ministers talked about their faith and about their belief of the everlasting afterlife Ignacio was going to have, something I just could not share.
Isabel and I sat together and talked of Ignacio, of the son she loved and of the friend I loved. Shortly afterwards Ignacio’s spiritual advisor, a minister also called Ignacio, arrived. He was a most incredible man with a mohican hair style and a sense of humour, even on a day like this, that did not offend, but eased the situation. He also recognised me as Ignacio had shown my photo and shown my letters. Knowing his needs, I had chosen religious cards and words that talked of hope and trust in the Lord’s will. I am not religious but it caused me no sleepless nights to comfort in words I did not believe myself. The minister told me of Ignacio’s last visit with his mother. They spoke to each other through a glass window, but in the room where Isabel sat the guards had the radio turned on and being hard of hearing, Ignacio had to shout for his mother to understand him. He was very upset about this and at first refused to shout, it was only when the minister told him that this is the only way for his mother to understand, that he felt able to do so. I remember Ignacio from our visit 5 years ago and he was a soft-spoken man. How hard it must have been for him to see his mother under such circumstances! And what a small act of compassion it would have been for the guards to turn off the radio. But compassion does not rate very highly on death row. Ignacio, the spiritual advisor of my friend, told me that my friend Ignacio was very upset at not seeing me. And so we both used his minister as a messenger to relay last words to each other. He left to see my friend again. The time of waiting was hard and it were the longest hours of my life.
There was a clock on the wall and I kept looking at it, yet the minutes seemed to go so slow that what seemed like an hour only moved the hands of the clock a few minutes further to the inevitable. Ignacio’s christian friends were still taking of their faith, the guards silently watched us, only Isabel and I were sitting close together. I felt like being stranded on an island, with no boat to leave. The others had their purpose, their belief or their conviction that what was going to happen was right, yet Ignacio’s mother and I had nothing like this. Could we swim or would we drown? All we had was the knowledge that the man we cared for was going to be killed.
It was only 11 o’clock, a full four hours before the execution took place, but what does one talk about in those hours? Isabel was desperate to talk, but she did not seem to understand me well. She is Mexican and started to teach me Spanish. Anything to do to pass the time. She must have felt it much stronger than I. At some point we found ourselves in a different room for the briefing. I cannot remember now how we got there or when we were told to go there, but after getting into the waiting room and going to the witness room we were taken to another room, where we stood for a couple of minutes or so before a guard entered, read out a brief statement of what was going to happen and left again. My thoughts were whirling around and I felt disembodied throughout the morning of waiting and as I try to recollect details now, some of my memory has gaps. Back in the waiting room with the untouched buffet the time went slowly, I kept looking at the clock and thought of what Ignacio must be doing and thinking now. Would he now have his last meal? Were they already taking him, strapping him onto the gurney? What did he think? Was he at peace? Minister Ignacio came back and told me that Ignacio knew I was there.
‘How is he?’, ‘He is excited as if he is going on a trip, thinking of whether he has done everything, has he forgotten something’, he replied. ‘He is ok, he is at peace. He will be united with our Lord soon, he knows that’. Minister Ignacio stayed with Isabel and me and the three talked quietly, my eyes straying towards the clock on the wall, it’s hands moving ever so slowly. It was now 2.50 pm, just 10 minutes before the execution. I looked at the clock and hope rose in me that maybe he got a stay after all. Rationally, I knew it could not be so, as his legal team had no further appeals going, and his attorney was now sitting with us, talking to the three ministers. But it was time to go, would they forget us? I watched the female guard. She had only briefly spoken when spoken to, otherwise she sat in total silence, just like the other two civilian officials, watching every move, listening to every word. I noticed that she also looked at her watch. I looked at her, trying to catch her eyes with my silent question, ‘What is happening now?’ Before she looked at me the door opened and we were told it was time to go. As we left the cool building the desert heat hit me. The call it ‘the valley of the sun’ and it was 95 degrees. I looked up and saw the blue sky, the blazing sun and as I watched a bird flying above me, the scene seemed surreal. There was life all around me, yet I was to watch a man being killed. How can life and death be so close? In a few minutes the sun would still shine, the bird would still fly, yet the man now lying on the gurney would no longer breathe, his body slowly decomposing, he would continue to live only in our memories, traces fading over time. I do not know how far we walked. Reverend Rye later talked of a quarter of a mile to walk and felt outraged that the other witnesses were driven to the witness room, whereas we had to walk. I did not notice. The only thing I was aware of was the life-giving heat of the sun, the bird flying above, Isabel’s hand in mine, occasionally squeezng it and me putting one foot in front of the other. I took one step at a time, not knowing, nor caring where we walked. Fear rose in me and replaced the anger. It gnawed at my stomach, burned into my soul like acid.
This could not be real, this was not happening. Yet every step took me closer. Panic welled in me and the feeling I had earlier of being stranded on an island with no boat to leave increased. Yet now I was not only stranded, the water was lapping at my feet, rising and rising ever more. I needed to run away and escape. Panic overwhelmed me that I would drown. And yet my feet moved slowly forward, one step at a time. I was holding Isabel’s hand, Minister Ignacio holding her other hand. Ignacio’s spiritual advisor prayed quietly, speaking words of comfort to Isabel, I heard myself saying things like, ‘It will be over soon, his suffering will be over. He will not hurt anymore’, fully aware that the platitudes I spoke to Isabel were wholly inadequate. Yet I had nothing else to offer her. I walked on automatic pilot, spoke words that seemed empty and without meaning while my soul was drowning in a sea of fear, wondering what is reality, what is illusion. There were to be 42 witnesses (29 had arrived), most of them official, but also two children of the victim. The witness room was separated in steps so that those in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th rows stood higher than others and could see equally well. We were the first to arrive and stood in the front row. Ignacio’s attorney who had arrived shortly before decided to stay as witness too. As we walked towards the open door Minister Ignacio whispered to us, ‘Don’t go in first, his head is near the door’. I nodded and held Isabel back. She didn’t understand and wanted to go in. I repeated the words, ‘His head is near the door’. I don’t know whether she understood, but she slowed and let Reverend Rye and the other ministers go in first, we followed. I was determined to hold on to Isabel, and equally determined to allow her to be as close to her son as she could. The room was only dimly lit. There was a large dark blue curtain in front of us, which covered the whole wall. I had both my arms around Isabel and minister Ignacio had his arm around the both of us, quietly speaking to Isabel, praying with urgency in his voice. Slowly the other witnesses arrived. There was total silence. Nobody spoke. We did not look round to see who was behind us, we heard footsteps, but they did not exist for us. All that existed in our thoughts was the dark blue curtain and the man who was behind it. Once everybody was inside, a guard who stood by the door locked it and spoke something into the phone he held.

Arizona execution chamber
‘Everybody is inside’, I heard. It seemed a long time, but was probably only a minute or so when the curtain opened and we saw Ignacio already strapped onto the gurney, with a white sheet covering him up to his neck.
We could not see the straps, nor could we see the needles they had inserted ready for the poison to flow. I kept thinking ‘Do they really believe the image of someone covered as it he is going to sleep will fool us into believing that what happens here is not murder?’ Ignacio lay still, his eyes shut and head towards the ceiling. He was determined to die with as much dignity as he could and I believe if he had looked at us he may have fallen apart. He did not want that and so his eyes did not open. After a short while someone came in, stood by Ignacio’s feet and we heard the microphone being switched on. The man announced that there was no stay. The microphone was switched off. The man walked out again, without looking at the man about to die.
Then, after a short while, someone else came in to read the warrant, looking only at the witnesses. I noticed that Ignacio started to shake. His face was set, but his hands and particularly his feet were shaking violently. I knew then that all this talk about going to Heaven and having everlasting life and joy, did not stop his fear. It was wrong to kill him. I knew that and he knew that too. The man who read the warrant asked if Ignacio had any last words, without looking at him.
In a loud and clear voice he said, ‘Yes’. ‘Jesus Christ is the Lord’ (repeating the words in spanish), ‘Heavenly Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (and again repeating his words in spanish). As he was saying ‘into your hands’ his voice broke and he had difficulty in speaking the last words. He said, ‘Thank you’ and was silent after that.
His eyes shut, his face set. The loud speakers were switched off and I saw a tear run down the side of his face. At the wall behind him was an opening which had been covered with some curtain material.
There was movement of the curtain, as if there was a draft. I knew that the first injection took place. I watched Ignacio’s face. I so much wanted to instill some kind of comfort or friendship or love in him to ease these final moments. I had planned so many things that I hoped would help him, show him he was cared for. I had rehearsed this moment in hours of fear and anger and disbelief. I had wanted to reach out to him, smile, put all my expressions of friendship and love and respect for him into my face, anything at all that would make it just a little easier for him. But he did not open his eyes, he could not if he wanted to keep his composure. That had become the most important thing for him. To keep strong, to keep composed, not to give a spectacle for others to gloat over, to die in the knowledge that the Lord loves him and will welcome him. I watched for anything in his face to change, any reaction and saw his head and chest heave up once as if he was choking. He breathed twice more and then lay still, his eyes and mouth now slightly open. We stood and waited. I knew he was dead, but I expected him to turn around and look at me, I willed him to live, to get up and walk away. A man came in and announced ‘Death at 3.05 pm. Please take note. Death at 3.05 pm.
Please take note’, and he never looked at the man in whose death he had just taken part. It was as if for all those who spoke to the witnesses, this man on the gurney did not exist, as if he had already gone, left his humanity behind like an old coat that one can just take off or put on as one pleases. For them, he already ceased to exist. There was no need to look at him. He was not a person anymore, he did not need to be regarded anymore. He was a nothing. We were just five feet apart, joined in friendship, and yet separated for ever like a river without a bridge. Without understanding I watched my friend die. Without words I watched the last flicker of his life which had a special value for me which hatred can never perceive. As deaf and dumb and blind servants of ‘the people’ with eyes that should have seen his humanity, ears that should have heard his integrity and tongues that should have said, ‘stop, no more killing’ society killed a man that was my friend, was Isabel’s son and was no danger to society.
The man I knew was deeply religious, and he was friendly, kind, caring and compassionate to others. He never had a bad word against anyone nor against the harsh treatment he received. The man lying there dead now had been the smile I always saw in letters as they were written, he was the friend who offered advise, and welcomed me into his life. He was the warm feeling of familiarity, of knowing I have been accepted with all my faults and shortcomings, and the knowledge that this friendship was mutual. He was the joy I know was there as my letters were received. Yet now everything was too late. It was too late for letters and too late for words. The doors opened and we (Ignacio’s witnesses) were taken out and taken immediately in a van to the car park. I felt numb and empty. Isabel was picked up by friends who had to leave immediately, his attorney left with a short good-bye, Minister Ignacio hastily wrote his address down for me and left to see some other prisoners, and only Reverend Rye and I stood at the empty car park. I saw nobody else. There was no media, no protestors, nobody but us. The road had been blocked off earlier, but still I thought someone must have been there. Did nobody knew what went on? Did nobody care? Was it real? And what happened to life now.
Would it go on as normal, TV news reporting traffic accidents and scandals, the citizens of Arizona reading about the execution with their morning coffee, grateful that they can now sleep safer as another ‘animal’ has been killed? Was society really safer now? I spent a sleepless night in the garden of Reverend Rye, not being able to go into the house because of his cats, yet not resting in the garden either. I left the following day. Like a double exposure on a film where we see two images, I see Ignacio lying on the gurney whatever I do now. Today is Wednesday, 10 November 1999. It is 2 weeks now since my friend was killed and his image is with me constantly. What I saw was murder, as cold and heartless as any the men on death row are believed to be capable of by society. The ritualised slaughter of a scapegoat for society’s failings to take into account that a person is more than the worst act they ever commit. He may have been a murderer, but he was also a son, a friend and a person who was valued and respected by whoever came in contact with him. A few days after the execution someone asked me ‘would you do it again?’ and I replied without hesitation, ‘Yes’. It was the last act of friendship I could do and traumatic as it was, I have no regrets of being there for him. I will never forget my experience, and I never should forget what I witnessed. It was the most brutal form of extermination I had seen. And yet bearing witness to it meant that it was not done without providing the reasons to ask ‘Why’.
Why can we not find a way to punish murderers that will build on reconciliation? Punish them, yes. Protect society, yes. But also understand, forgive and build, rather than destroy. And by witnessing Ignacio’s execution, I carry the question ‘Why’ to all those who will listen, until I get an answer or until society will look deep within these men to find the human inside him.


execution

The electrical burns are evident of Bundy’s forehead in this photo of his cleaned corpse, after he was killed.

Mask in place;blood flowing from nose Mask partially removed Mask removed
A Florida hanging, with hangings replaced by electric chairs as cheaper and “less inhumane”. Hangings often tore the head off of inmates.

“I support capital punishment, because if it wasn’t for the death penalty, we’d have no Easter. That’s a four-day holiday where I come from.”- Bill Hicks, Texas comic



morgue

January 31, 2006 – Unnamed Ex-Postal Worker – A female ex-postal worker opened fire at a huge mail processing plant in Southern California, killing five people and critically wounding another before committing suicide in what’s believed to be the deadliest workplace shooting ever carried out by a woman. The woman reloaded her 9 mm handgun at least once during the rampage and managed to get inside the fenced and guarded center of the sprawling Santa Barbara Processing and Distribution Center.

Authorities found two people dead outside the plant, blocks from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Another body was just outside the door, and a fourth was just inside. Two more bodies — including that of the killer — were found farther inside. A sixth person was in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head. All of the woman’s victims were believed to be postal center employees. About 300 people are employed at the Goleta plant where the rampage ocurred. The woman had not worked at the plant for more than two years.

January 17, 2006 – Mataviejas – There’s a serial killer stalking elderly women in Mexico City. To date the killer has strangled at least seven elderly women with stockings or telephone cables. The latest murder ocurred in October of 2005. Police are investigating whether 22 other slayings of older Mexico City women since 2003 are also related.

November 16, 2005 – Alfred Gaynor – An online auction of artwork by a serial sex killer, Alfred Gaynor, has triggered an outrage in Massachusetts where lawmakers have proposed to block criminals from profiting on what they called “murderabilia.” The artwork – a colored pencil sketch of Jesus Christ kneeling in a desert entitled, “A Righteous Man’s Reward,” – will be auctioned starting at $15 at The Fortune Society’s Web site.

November 14, 2005 – David Ludwig – Chalk one up to the Christian Right. David Ludwig (with or without the help of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Kara Beth Borden) killed her parents and then hit the road with the his teen lover in tow. Both home-schooled youngsters were, by all accounts, deeply religious.

The Pennsylvania teenager allegedly killed the girlfriend’s parents in an argument over her curfew and was captured in Indiana, some 600 miles from where the killings took place, after a police chase that ended when he crashed his parents’ car head-on into a tree. It is unclear if Kara was abducted or went along willingly, but police said they were dealing with the situation as a kidnaping.

Authorities said Ludwig shot Kara’s parents, Michael F. and Cathryn Lee Borden, on December 13 after they and their daughter argued about her curfew. The shootings happened at the family’s home near Lititz, Pa., about 60 miles west of Philadelphia. Kara’s 13-year-old sister, Katelyn, told investigators she saw Ludwig shoot her father, and then ran into the bathroom, where she heard a second shot, presumably the one that killed her mother. Ludwig then ran through the house calling for Kara. Then Kara’s 9-year-old brother ran to the neighbors, who called 911.

November 9, 2005 – Andrea Yates – Texas’ highest criminal court today let stand a lower court ruling that threw out Andrea Yates’ murder convictions for drowning her children in a bathtub in June 2001. Harris County Assistant District Attorney Alan Curry says the case will be retried or a plea bargain considered. The First Court of Appeals in Houston overturned Yates’ 2002 convictions because of false testimony from a forensic psychiatrist.

November 8, 2005 – High School Shooting in Jacksboro – A 15-year-old boy went to his school in Jacksboro, Tennesseee, carrying a .22-caliber handgun and fired at three adults, killing an assistant principal and wounding two other school officials.

August 11, 2005 – Mitchell Johnson – Middle school rampager, Mitchell Johnson, walked free from prison seven years after he and fellow student Andrew Golden opened fire outside the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, killing four students and a teacher.

January 11, 2003 – The Monster of Atwater – The LA Times reported that a Los Angeles gang leader was wanted in connection with 12 homicides. According to police, 29-year-old Timothy Joseph McGhee, the Monster of Atwater, has either overseen or pulled the trigger in the executions of gang rivals, witnesses and others simply unlucky enough to have crossed his path. “He likes killing people; it’s his high and he does it for kicks,” said Los Angeles Police Department Detective Andy Teague.

January 9, 2003 – John Lee Malvo – Defense attorneys for sniper suspect John Lee Malvo asked a judge to bar the public and the media from a preliminary hearing that will outline some of the evidence against him. Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Horan Jr. said that he would oppose the motion. “The Virginia Supreme Court decided long ago that the Virginia Constitution requires an open hearing unless there’s some truly remarkable reason,” Horan said. The purpose of the above-mentioned preliminary hearing is for prosecutors to demonstrate probable cause and present enough evidence against Malvo to convince a judge to send the case to a grand jury so Malvo can be prosecuted as an adult.

January 9, 2003 – Robert Pickton – DNA traces of another missing woman have been found on the pig farm of accused serial killer Robert William Pickton. The victim, 43-year-old Cindy Feliks, Feliks, disappeared in the fall of 1997. Four years after her disappearance, and after pressure from her family in Calgary, police added her name to the list of woman missing from downtown Vancouver. Pickton, whose preliminary hearing is scheduled to starts January 13, is charged with murdering 15 Vancouver women.

January 9, 2003 – Falun Gong – Police in southwestern China said they raided a secret meeting place of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement, arresting five people and confiscating stacks of books, pamphlets and videotapes. The five were arrested on charges of smuggling Falun Gong materials from abroad and downloading them from the Internet. They also face charges of organizing secret gatherings of Falun Gong, which was banned — for allegedly being a suicide cult — four years ago after it staged a massive protest in central Beijing.

January 8, 2003 – Cannibalism in Congo – A U.N. team is investigating reports that rebel troops from the Congolese Liberation Movement and its allied Congolese Rally for Democracy-National have been killing and eating Pygmies in northeastern Congo. “The U.N. is taking these accusations very seriously,” said Manodje Mounoubai of the U.N. mission in Congo. The six-person team has been sent to the mineral-rich areas of Ituri province to investigate the accusations. The two rebel factions often hire Pygmies to hunt food in the jungles as they fight the rival rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation. If the hunters return empty-handed, rebel troops kill and eat them, the U.N. official said.

January 6, 2003 – Suspected Lousiana Serial Killer Investigators in Baton Rouge have collected saliva samples from nearly 1,000 men in their effort to find a DNA match to that of a serial killer linked to the killings of four women. Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union, said that the DNA dragnet raises questions about people’s constitutional rights.

“In this case, all these people are assumed guilty until they’re proven innocent,” Cook said. The probable cause to determine if someone should be approached to offer a DNA sample seems flimsy, often based on anonymous tips or the type of pickup truck a man drives, Cook added. “I don’t think that’s credible evidence to target someone. It’s been proven time and again that this type of targeting is bad police work,” Cook said, “the people who have come forward would appear to have been coerced.”

January 6, 2003 – Robert Pickton – The BC Pork Producers released a written complaint about how the Pickton case was being reported by the media. Disturbed by the association of the alleged serial killer spree to Pickton’s pig farm, the Pork Producers remarked that the property in question had, in fact, more sheep than pigs and that Pickton himself was not associated with their organization. “Consequently, having the words ‘pig farm’ associated with the Robert Pickton murder trial has been and continues to be very negative to our industry,” stated the press release.

January 6, 2003 – Anthony Hardy – The London Ripper suspect, Anthony Hardy appeared in court was charged with three murders including the killings of two prostitutes whose body parts were found in trash containers in London’s Candem area. Police also formally identified the second prostitute as 34-year-old Brigitte Cathy MacClennan. She is believed to have lived in Camden but originally came from New Zealand. The second victim was identified as 29-year-old Elizabeth Selina Valad, originally from Nottingham. The third murder charge was for the death of 38-year-old Sally Rose White who was found dead in his apartment more than a year ago. Detectives said the search for more victims connected with the case continues.

January 5, 2003 -Six Dead in Texas – Six men were shot to death in Edinburg, texas, in a home invasion attack. Police said they believe the assailants were searching for weapons and drugs. A witness, who was tied up during the shooting, told authorities that one of the assailants wore clothing with the word “police” on it. Five of the victims were found in one house; another was found in a second house on the same property.

January 5, 2003 – Edward Morris – After a two-week manhunt throughout Oregon, Edward Morris — charged with killing his wife and three children and dumping their bodies in a forest — was captured in a drug store parking lot here. Though Morris, 37, had been described as “armed and dangerous,” he was arrested without incident. The bodies of his wife, 31-year-old Renee and his three children, Bryant, 10, Alexis, 8 and Jonathan, 4, were found by hunters December 21 on an isolated road about 70 miles west of Portland, in the Tillamook State Forest.

January 5, 2003 – John Allen Muhammad – The Washington Post reported that prosecutors have linked sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad to at least two shootings, including one that left a man dead at a Virginia gas station. Citing four law enforcement sources who asked that they not be identified, the Post reported that investigators found Muhammad’s fingerprint on a street map booklet found at the Manassas, Virginia, station where Dean Harold Meyers was killed October 9. Though the fingerprint on the map doesn’t prove Muhammad fired the shot that killed Meyers, it does place him at the scene of the shooting.

January 4, 2003 – Carl Knapp – A gunman shot and killed three people in an Albuquerque business district, then barricaded himself in a pawn shop for about three hours and shot himself in the chest. Carl Knapp, 48, was hospitalized for the wound, which was not life-threatening. Police accused Knapp of shooting two men and a woman in front of a warehouse in an area of northeast Albuquerque. The victims were identified as Jane Johnston, 42; Steven Goodwin, 49; and Greg McGuire, whose age was not immediately known. Authorities believe the killings were the result of a domestic violence situation.

January 4, 2003 – Four Dead in Virginia – A man in Richmond, Virginia, shot and killed his girlfriend and two convenience store workers before turning his assault rifle on himself. All four victims were declared dead in three different crime scenes. Police said the man went into a home in Richmond’s Southside before 6 p.m. and shot his 27-year-old girlfriend in a bedroom as children and other relatives watched. The man then ran from the house several blocks to the Golden Food Market, where police said he shot and killed the owner of the store and an employee. According to police, the man then forced four men from the van they were sitting in outside the store and drove to a relative’s house, where he shot and killed himself in front of several people.

January 4, 2003 – Three Dead in a Seattle Suburb – The bodies of three men were found in a vehicle along a highway in the Seattle suburb of Kent. Police do not know the men’s identities or a possible motive for the slayings. Police also do not know if the victims were shot at that location. No one was in the driver’s seat when the vehicle was found. Police were called to the scene to check on the dark green Chevy Tahoe after a neighbor reported that someone appeared to be sleeping on the passenger side.

January 4, 2003 – Four Dead in Chicago – Authorities are searching for suspects in the slayings of a 2-year-old boy, his parents and another man inside a home on Chicago’s South Side. The four, last seen in the home at a New Year’s Eve party playing cards and video games, were found shot to death three days later after one of the victims did not show up for work at a security company. Relatives identified the four as Ronald Royals, 21, Sara Perry, 18, their 2-year-old child Ronald Royals Jr. and Prescott Perry, Sara’s father.

A cousin of Royals said she was at the New Year’s Eve party at the house and last saw the four at about 3 a.m. . Tammie Jenkins, 22, said about eight people were at the party when she left. She said there were no arguments during the get-together, and no weapons in sight. “I knew everybody in there and I know that none of them would do this,” she said. “When I left, everything was fine. Ronald said he’d call me later. Now he’s dead.”

January 3, 2003 – John Wolfenbarger & Dennis Lincoln – The uncle of John Wolfenbarger, a 31-year-old man accused of killing a Michigan family of five, testified in a preliminary hearing that his nephew bragged that he had done something that would make the national news. Wolfenbarger’s uncle, William Smith, 36, of Detroit, said that he went to police after his nephew came to his home late on the night of the killings looking for a change of clothes and bragged that he did something that should appear on CNN.

January 3, 2003 – Huang Hu – Chinese authorities executed the owner of a failing kindergarten for mixing rat poison into salt at a rival school’s kitchen and sickening 70 children. Huang Hu, 29, was executed in Zhanjiang, a city in Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong. He was convicted in mid-December after a swift prosecution. Huang owned a failing kindergarten in the nearby city of Wuchuang and blamed competition from a nearby school. He crept into its kitchen Nov. 24 and put poison in salt that was used to make corn porridge. Students and teachers who ate the tainted food suffered spasms and vomiting. Seventy children and two teachers were hospitalized, but all were treated and released.

January 3, 2003 – Moo Chul Shin – A man stabbed his ex-girlfriend, her husband and two daughters, killing the woman and one child before police found him in a New York motel room with his wrists slashed. The killer, 30-year-old Moo Chul Shin, stabbed to death Sook Kim, 34, and Kim’s 7-year-old daughter, Clara, in their apartment in the New York borough of Queens. Shin, of Springfield, Virginia, also allegedly stabbed Kim’s 8-year-old daughter Estelle, who remained hospitalized in critical condition. He later attacked Kim’s 38-year-old husband, Hyunsik Kim, stabbing him on the neck as he prepared to start his work day driving a fruit delivery truck.

January 3, 2003 – Anthony Hardy – Police investigating the murders of two women whose body parts were found in garbage containers in Candem, North London, arrested their main suspect, Anthony Hardy. The 53-year-old suspect was caught on closed-circuit television at University College Hospital on Wednesday asking for medicine for a diabetes-related condition called peripheral neuropathy but left when staff began to query where he lived. Detectives believed that his quest for medication was their main chance of catching him.

December 31, 2002 – John Lee Malvo – Lawyers for sniper suspect John Lee Malvo scored a legal victory when Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Kimberly Daniel ruled that prosecutors had to turn over statements the teenager may have made to police during a seven-hour interrogation session about two Virginia shootings.

December 30, 2002 – Suspected Serial Killer in Lousiana – Police in Lafayette, Luisiana, who are searching for an elusive serial killer, will ask up to 100 men in the area to voluntarily submit DNA samples. Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom said the list of men was drawn up after police received more than 400 tips following last week’s discovery of killer’s latest victim. An FBI profiling team has said the killer likely is a white male, 25-35 years old, who acts awkwardly around women and does blue-collar work. Authorities have taken DNA samples from more than 800 men in the Baton Rouge area — where the first three murders ocurred — and have ruled out 600 of them as suspects.

December 27, 2002 – The Raelian Cult – Though not necessarily a killer cult yet, the alien-worshipping Raelian Cult found a spot in the Cult’s r Us Hit List when their company, Clonaid, announced it had created a healthy baby girl cloned from her 31-year-old mother. “I’m very very pleased to announce that the first baby clone is born,” Clonaid director Brigitte Boisselier, a former research chemist in France, said at a news conference in Hollywood, north of Miami.

December 26, 2002 – Ernest Wholaver – A Pennsylvania man awaiting trial on charges he molested his two daughters was taken into custody for questioning in the execution-style murders of his daughters and their mother. Documents detailing the sexual abuse charges against Ernest Wholaver, 42, say the sisters were afraid to come forward because they feared he would harm them. “We just want to know what he knows,” said District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. Autopsies showed that Jean Wholaver and her daughters, Victoria, 20, and Elizabeth, 15, each died of a single gunshot wound to the head at their home in Middletown. The coroner said the women were apparently shot on Christmas Eve. Victoria Wholaver’s 9-month-old daughter, Madison, was left in the house unharmed.

Wholaver was arrested in July after his daughters told police he had sexually abused them over several years. He was later released on $100,000 bail and ordered to stay away from them. A police affidavit said both Victoria and Elizabeth Wholaver were “very emotional” during interviews in which they said their father kissed, fondled or had sex with them. “Both are very fearful of their father and (indicated) that he is going to get them for telling,” the affidavit said.

December 26, 2002 – John Wolfenbarger & Dennis Lincoln – Two men were charged with murdering five family members during a robbery at their suburban Detroit home. John Wolfenbarger, 31, and Dennis Lincoln, 27, were charged with five counts each of premeditated murder and felony murder of jeweler Marco Pesce, 38, his mother, Maria Vergati, 68; and Pesce’s three children, Melissa, 6, Sabrina, 9, and Carlo, 12. The killings happened after Pesce dropped his children off at his house in Livonia, then went to his office without entering the home, prosecutors said.

December 23, 2002 – John Lee Malvo – Prosecutor Robert Horan Jr. of the Fairfax County Commonwealth denied the New York Times report that said 17-year-old sniper suspect John Lee Malvo was responsible for most of the DC-area sniper shootings. “I don’t think that anybody in the investigation is responsible for the leak, because so much of it was dead wrong,” said Horan, who is overseeing the case against Malvo.

December 23, 2002 – Suspected Serial Killer in Lousiana – Authorities in Lousiana said they believe a woman whose body was found last month in a field near Lafayette was slain by a serial killer responsible for the deaths of three other women in Baton Rouge. The apparent fourth victim, Trineisha Dene Colomb, 23, was reported missing November 22 after her car was found in Grand Coteau, a small town near Lafayette. Two days later, her body was found about 20 miles away by a hunter. DNA evidence from the scene matched genetic evidence from the three other killings, which occurred in Baton Rouge, about an hour’s drive east of Lafayette.

December 23, 2002 – Possible Pre-Christmas Falimicide – Oregon authorities are searching for a man whose wife and three young children were found dead in the snowy woods outside Portland. Though police are unsure whether the father is a victim or a suspect, familicide is not an uncommon holiday ocurrence. The victims are Rene Morris, 31, and her children, Bryant, 10, Alexis, 8, and 4-year-old Jonathan. Police are looking for Edward Morris, 37, and the family’s gray 1993 Dodge Caravan.

The family lived in a single-story white home in north Portland which was strung with Christmas lights. Neighbors said they were very religious and that the kids were very well-behaved. According to Reverend Philip Hawk, the pastor of the church the family attended several times a week, Rene was home schooling the children and was was helping lead the children’s Christmas musical for the church. The father, a former landscaper who had recently started a job in a Target store, was described by neighbors as a loner who had difficulty keeping a job.

A police spokesman said hunters found the first body in Tillamook State Forest, and called authorities from a convenience store. The Oregon State Police forensics team arrived and found the other three in the near vicinity. Dozens of police, FBI agents and volunteers have fanned out through a five-mile area looking for the missing father and/or more victims.

December 22, 2002 – John Lee Malvo – According to a published report in the New York Times, most evidence in the sniper shootings points to teenager John Lee Malvo as the triggerman in most if not all of the shootings. “There is not much pointing to Muhammad, and that is going to make it really hard to show that he was the triggerman,” one senior law enforcement official involved in the case told The New York Times. “There are other ways to attempt to obtain a death sentence, but this lack of evidence has been one of the most perplexing things about the case.”

December 19, 2002 – John Allen Muhammad & John Lee Malvo – A judge has imposed a gag order prohibiting Fairfax County police from publicly disclosing their investigation into sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo. The order, dated December 11 from Circuit Judge R. Terrence Ney, bans police from disclosing any “information which may jeopardize the successful conclusion of the investigation.” Muhammad’s lawyers sought the injunction against Fairfax County police and the FBI following a report last month in The Washington Post saying that Malvo, 17, had confessed to being the triggerman in some of the sniper sniper shootings.

December 15, 2002 – Cary Stayner Feared Yosemite handyman-killer, Cary Stayner, recieved three death sentences for killing Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, and their Argentine friend, Silvina Pelosso, 16, while they stayed at the motel where he worked outside the gates of Yosemite

December 13, 2002 – John Allen Muhammad & John Lee Malvo – The mother of teenage sniper suspect John Lee Malvo has been deported to Jamaica. A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Una James, 38, had left Seattleand was en route to Jamaica, her home country.

In related news, a judge barred television cameras from Muhammad’s trial scheduled to begin Oct. 14. He is charged in the shooting of Dean Meyers on Oct. 9 outside a gas station in Manassas, Va. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 14 in Fairfax County, Va., to determine whether Malvo will be tried as an adult and face the death penalty in the shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin.

December 12, 2002 – German Cannibal Killer – A man in the central German town of Rotenburg, near Kassel, confessed to murdering and eating another man. Prosecutors said the accused and the victim were apparently homosexuals who shared cannibalistic tendencies. The 41-year-old cannibal-killer videotaped the murder. The victim, also in his 40s, answered an Internet post which said: “Seeking young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter.” The man, a computer engineer, then sold all his possessions including a car before disappearing.

The killer chopped up his friend and kept the parts in his fridge. Police believe the murder occurred in spring 2000. Police found deep-frozen human flesh, skeleton parts and video recordings at the scene.

December 6, 2002 – Robert Pickton – Judge David Stone denied an application by Robert William Pickton’s lawyer Peter Ritchie to impose a publication ban on the suspected serial killer’s preliminary hearing. Pickton, a 53-year-old Port Coquitlam pig farmer, has been charged with murdering 15 of the 63 missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Investigators have hinted at finding body parts, DNA and personal items in Pickton’s ramshackled farm. Defence attorney argued that the prosecution’s evidence against his client was so explosive, that it would be impossible to find an unbiased jury of 12 for his trial.

December 4, 2002 – Robert Pickton – One of the 62 women believed to have disappeared from the Downtown Eastside has been located alive. Tanya Colleen Emery, 38, was located living in Central Canada, said the joint RCMP-Vancouver city police task force investigating the disappearances. “She was located as part of our ongoing investigation,” said RCMP Const. Catherine Galliford, spokeswoman for the task force. Emery, who was number 46 on the list, was reportedly last seen in December 1998. Officially, the list now includes the names of 62 women. The task force is reviewing the case of one more woman woman fitting the same profile who could be added to the list.

November 29, 2001 – Christian Stephen Fuhr – Columbus police arrested, 33-year-old Christian Stephen Fuhr and charged him with the murders of two women. Fuhr, a tree trimmer, had been previously questioned by police and released. When he returned home, he gloated to his neighbors that he no longer was a suspect in the slayings of three South Side women. “I’m vindicated. They don’t have nothing on me,” neighbor Thomas Ward recalled Fuhr saying.

Several days later, police returned with arrest warrants for the murders of Shawna L. Sowers and Lisa A. Crow. He also is a suspect in the slaying of Kimberly Rodgers.

Columbus police were led to Fuhr on Thanksgiving morning through a pickup truck found near the crime scene where Crow’s body had been discovered that morning. The truck belonged to Fuhr’s boss, Terry Laymon, who told investigators that he had loaned it to Fuhr a couple days before.

Fuhr had spent Thanksgiving Day and the night before at the home of his ex-wife, Terri D. Byers. She said they knew police were following them. “I was giving him a ride to his trailer, and they were following us,” Byers said. “It was an unmarked car with tinted windows. There was no mistaking it.” Byers, 27, and Fuhr married in August 1999. She said his cocaine addiction destroyed their marriage.

November 28, 2002 – Robert Pickton – Vancouver’se missing women task force wants the public’s help in locating four women who disappeared from Vancouver between 1978 and 1999. Two of the four match the profile of the women who have vanished from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in that they were involved with drugs or the sex trade. The other two do not match the profile, but investigators are still hoping to find out what happened to the women to bring closure for their families.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Corrections Service is investigating reports that former inmates of the North Fraser Pre-trial Centre where Pickton is incarcerated are trying to sell poetry they claim he wrote. Wayne Willows, of the Corrections Service, said he would look into it, but said it is likely a hoax as Pickton does not have access to other inmates.

November 24, 2001 – Three Dead Women in Ohio – Police in Columbus, Ohio, have alerted the public of a possible predator hunting crack-addicted prostitutes in the city’s South Side. Though they stopped short of saying they were looking for a serial killer, they did contact the FBI for help. All three women were discovered nude or partially clothed within a half-mile of each other and within the past two weeks. The three women are Lisa Crow, 36, Kimberly Rodgers, 29, and Shawna Sowers, 30. Besides having criminal records for prostitution and drug arrests, all three women were white.

“There are apparent similarities in these crimes. However, at this time, the investigations have not proceeded to a degree where they would be officially termed the result of a serial killer,” said a news release from Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Earl Smith.

November 15 , 2002 – Myra Hindley – Moors murderer Myra Hindley died of bronchial pneumonia due to problems with her heart. Home Office pathologist Dr Michael Heath said the 60-year-old smoked too much, suffered from high blood pressure, and her coronary arteries were blocked.

One of the most reviled prisoners in Britain’s history, the tabloid press held her in contempt even after death — “The Final Injustice: She Died Peacefully,” read the front page headline of the Daily Mail. Though some people — including the late Lord Longford, Britain’s leading prison reformer — lobbied for her release after serving 36 years, most remain horrified about her claims of “having paid her debt to society.” Ironically, by the time her smoked-ravaged lungs gave out, she was on the threshhold of being released.

November 12, 2002 – Coral Eugene Watts – Serial killer Coral Eugene Watts was again been denied parole. Watts, who admitted to 13 murders, is due to be released from prison in 3 1/2 years. Because of a quirk in Texas law, Watts is scheduled for mandatory release in May 2006. He could be discharged even before that — after his next parole hearing in December 2005 — if he continues to show good behavior, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Todd.

October 25, 2002 – Robert Flores – A student flunking out of the University of Arizona nursing school shot three of his professors to death, then killed himself in front of dozens of terrified students. Tucson police said Robert Flores Jr., 41, specifically targeted the instructors, killing one in her office on the second floor and shooting the others in a fourth-floor classroom as students dove for cover. Flores walked to the front of the classroom and shot the first victim several times, then went to the back of the room and killed the second victim. University Vice Provost Elizabeth Irvin said Flores — not the best student — had failed a pediatric nursing class and was struggling in a critical care class.

The victims — Robin Rogers, 50, Barbara Monroe, 45. and Cheryl McGaffic, 44 — all were Flores’ instructors, Police Chief Richard Miranda said. Flores, a Gulf War veteran, worked at the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System as a licensed practical nurse, and was studying to become a registered nurse, officials said.

October 25, 2002 – Jose Antonio Rodriguez Vega – Spain’s granny killer, Jose Antonio Rodriguez Vega, was stabbed to death by two fellow prisoners in the courtyard of Topas jail in western Salamanca province. Rodriguez Vega, 44, was convicted in 1991 of raping and strangling 16 elderly women in the northern city of Santander over a space of 10 months in 1987 and 1988. Though sentenced to 440 years, by law one can serve a maximum of 30 years in jail. The granny killer was due to be released in 2008.

October 25, 2002 – John Allen Muhammad & John Lee Malvo – Authorities in Alabama have linked Washington-area sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad and his teenage sidekick, John Lee Malvo, to a fatal shooting outside a liquor store on September 21. Muhammad, 41, and Malvo are accused of killing the clerk outside the store as it closed. Dwight Johnson, an officer who heard gunshots that night, chased a man fleeing the liquor store shootings, and helped provide a composite sketch of the suspect. Muhammad is believed to be the man who was chased by Johnson.

October 25, 2002 – John E. Robinson – More than two years after the gruesome discovery of women’s bodies stuffed into barrels on a rural Kansas property, the defense rested in the multiple-murder case of con-artist-serial-killer John E. Robinson Sr. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, alleging that Robinson killed at least six women — three of them in Kansas — in a scheme that included sadomasochistic sex with some of the victims and the adoption of the infant daughter of one.

October 25, 2002 – Robert Pickton – Internet auction website Ebay pulled a site claiming to be selling dirt from the notorious Pickton pig farm. The seller going by the name Dizan Hamilton listed “Robert Pickton Dirt From His Pig Farm” on ebay.ca under item #727373047 in the Collectables: Rocks, Fossils, Minerals section. He was asking for an opening bid of $9.99. The site offered a brief description of the pig-farm story and claimed the seller is a local resident who has been to the Port Coquitlam farm. No bids were made prior to the site being pulled.

October 24, 2002 – John Allen Muhammad & John Lee Malvo – Bringing the sniper killings in the Washington DC area to a conclusion, John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were arrested while sleeping in a car at a Maryland rest stop. They are considered suspects in the sniper shootings that left 10 people dead andf three other wounded over a three-week period. The suspects were found asleep in a blue Chevrolet Caprice that had a hidden compartment for a rifle and the trunk modified to be a sniper’s nest.

October 24, 2002 – Robert Pickton – The family of another of Vancouver’s missing women was notified by E-mail that the Missing Women’s Task Force had found their daughter’s DNA in Robert Pickton’s Port Coquitlam pig farm. The victim, Angela Rebecca Jardine, disappeared four years ago. Pickton, who turns 53 today, has been charged with murdering 15 women on the list of 63 women who have disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in recent years.

October 23, 2002 – John Allen Muhammad & John Lee Malvo – Members of the sniper task force converged on a freeway rest stop in Maryland and arrested John Allen Muhammad, a 42-year-old Gulf War veteran, and John Lee Malvo, his 17-year-old junenile companion. Police said the two were considered suspects in the shootings that have killed 10 and wounded three in the Washington area.

October 23, 2002 – DC-Area Sniper – Police confirmed the slain Maryland bus driver was the sniper’s 13th victim. Police also revealed that the sniper left an angry letter tacked to a tree behind a restaurant where the sniper wounded a man last weekend complained of six failed attempts to reach police, and threatened more killings — of children in particular — if millions of dollars were not deposited in a bank account within two days, according to law enforcement sources.

October 21, 2002 – Two Dead at Monash University – A man armed with several handguns opened fire at Monash University in the southern city of Melbourne, killing two people and wounding eight others. The man, in his mid-30s, was tackled by several students shortly after he opened fire. Monash University Vice chancellor Peter Darvall praised the “brave souls” who helped disarm the attacker. “All I can say is our university is as safe or unsafe as any other part of the community,” he said.

October 21, 2002 – Falun Gong – A follower of the Falun Gong in northeastern China has been sentenced to death for strangling a daughter she believed was possessed by a demon. Guan Shuyun was convicted in Heilongjiang province of murder and other charges related to her alleged involvement with the banned spiritual movement. The court granted her a two-year reprieve before the sentence is to be carried out, the Legal Daily reported. The newspaper said 31 other Falun Gong practitioners were also sentenced but didn’t give details. During one ceremony, the group reportedly tried to exorcise a demon from the woman’s daughter while Mommie Dearest choked the girl to death.

The Chineses government considers Falun Gong an evil cult and has detained thousands of its followers. The spiritual movement was banned by China in 1999. Activists of the group abroad claim hundreds of supporters have died while detained by authorities.

October 17, 2002 – Ira Einhorn – A Philadelphia jury found former hippie guru Ira Einhorn, 62, guilty of the 1979 murder of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux. William Cannon, Einhorn’s attorney, said during his closing argument that the discovery of the mummified corpse in the apartment the couple once shared 18 months after she disappeared was, “just a piece of circumstantial evidence.. It doesn’t mean at all that Ira Einhorn is responsible for her murder.” Prosecutor Joel Rosen said the evidence of Einhorn’s guilt is overwhelming.

October 16, 2002 – Three Dead at the Ministry of Environment – A provincial government worker who had lost his job at the Ministry of Environment returned to his office in Kamloops, British Columbia, with a gun, taking hostages in a standoff that left three men dead. The identities of the dead men were being withheld, and it’s unclear whether the 56-year-old rampager was among them.

October 16, 2002 – Mauro Antonello – A man in the northern Italian town of Chieri shot and killed his ex-wife and six others relatives and neighbors before turning the gun on himself. The gunman, Mauro Antonello, a 40-year-old construction worker, former security guard and gun collector, reportedly had a bitter breakup two years ago with his wife, 40-year-old Carla Bergamin.

October 14, 2002 – John E. Robinsons – Jurors in the trial of 58-year-old John E. Robinson watched a video of a sadomasochistic sex session between an alleged victim and the self-proclaimed Internet Slavemaster. The 40-minute video showed Robinson in a hotel room with Suzette Trouten, who performs sex acts and professes her allegiance to Robinson.

October 9, 2002 – Aileen Wuornos – Serial killer Aileen Wuornos was executed by lethal injection at 9:47 a.m. in Florida State Prison near Starke. Wuornos, 46, became the 10th woman executed in the United States since the death penalty resumed in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. “I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the Rock and I’ll be back like Independence Day with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mothership and all. I’ll be back,” Wuornos, who found Christ in jail, said from the execution chamber.

October 3, 2002 – Possible DC-Area Rampage Killer – Five people were shot to death separately within a few miles of each other around the suburbs of Washington D.C. Authorities announced the killings, that occured over a 16-hour period, wer probably related. Investigators had not found any connection between the five victims.

October 3, 2002 – Robert Lee Yates – Convicted serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr. was sentenced to death in a Pierce County court for the murders of Melinda Mercer, 24, in 1997 and Connie LaFontaine Ellis, 35, in 1998. The two cases went to court after Pierce County prosecutors refused to sign off on the Spokane plea deal and charged Yates with aggravated first-degree murder, the state’s only capital crime.

October 2, 2002 – Nathaniel Bar-Jonah Confessed cannibal killer Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, accused of butchering a 10-year-old boy and feeding him to neighbors, won’t face murder and kidnapping charges because the alleged victim’s mother believes her son is still alive. Zachary Ramsay’s mother, Rachel Howard, said she was prepared to testify she did not believe Nathaniel Bar-Jonah had killed her son in 1996, prompting prosecutors to drop their case. “I did not want Bar-Jonah to be convicted of a crime that I did not believe he did,” Howard said.

September 25, 2002 – Robert Pickton – A spokesman for B.C. Supreme Court said a Canadian judge could throw U.S. reporters out of court if they defy any court ban on publishing details about Robert Pickton’s preliminary hearing on November 4. According to Canadian law, details of preliminary hearings cannot be published, but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said they intend to ignore the ban.

“What could happen,” said Lloyd McKenzie, spokesman for B.C. Supreme Court justices, “is there would be security personnel checking identification, and if they are representatives of a foreign press, they could be told to leave. They could be told, ‘You are now in a Canadian jurisdiction.’ “Post-Intelligencer spokesman James Wright said: “We would treat this the same way we would if we were covering a case in Jakarta. We wouldn’t let the local government determine what we write at home.”

September 24, 2002 – Familicide in Lake Worth – Police in Lake Worth, Florida, aree searching for the nephew of a man found slain along with his girlfriend and her three children — including her pregnant daughter. Police idd not say how the victims were killed but they were trying to identify a suspect and a motive in the slayings. Lt. Susan Wellborn said they were searching for Michael Milan Roman, 29, who lived at the home where some of the bodies were found. The body of Carmen Valentin, 42, was discovered by police in a roadway in Lake Worth, about five miles south of West Palm Beach. Police originally thought she was the victim of a hit-and-run.

Then they found the body of Ismael Gomez, 52, inside a tarp-covered truck behind their home. Gomez lived in the home and was Valentin’s boyfriend of eight years. The bodies of Valentin’s three children — Juan Carlos Valentin, 17, Elizabeth Valentin, 22, and Damarus Valentin, 19, who was eight months pregnant — were found inside the house. Relatives said a note from Roman was also found in the house. “He said he was sorry that happened and that he was going to move,” said Angel Alicea, Carmen Valentin’s nephew.

January-July, 2002 – Morgue Archives – Previous entries to the Morgue Archives.


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Proven Unproven Famous Serial Killers Name 40000 100000 Vlad Tepes aka Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula) 218 250 Harold Frederick “Fred” Shipman aka Dr. Harold Shipman 200 600 Gilles de Rais 140 300 Luis Garavito 127 Dr. Jack Kevorkian aka Dr. Death 125 931 Thug Behram 100 Javed Iqbal 80 Bruno Ludke 80 650 Erzsebet Bathory / Elizabeth Bathory aka The Blood Countess 70 100 Pedro Rodrigues Filho aka “Pedrinho Matador” 67 100 Randy Steven Kraft 65 65 Yang Xinhai 57 300 Pedro Alonso Lopez – The Monster of the Andes 53 56 Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo 52 Anatoly Onoprienko 48 63 Alexander Pichushkin 42 Ahmad Suradji 41 Gerald Eugene Stano 40 W. Wagner, S. Meyer, M. Gruber and I. Leidolf 33 Vasili Komaroff 33 127 Fernando Hernandez Leyva 32 John Wayne Gacy 31 Karl Denke 30 100 Theodore Robert Bundy aka Ted Bundy 28 Patrick Kearney 27 200 Herman Webster Mudgett aka Dr. Henry Howard Holmes aka H. H. Homles 26 38 Marcel Andr 25 Richard Angelo 25 Juan Vallejo Corona aka Juan Corona 24 Friedrich “Fritz” Haarmann aka Fritz Haarmann 17 Jeffrey Dahmer Aka. The Milwaukee Monster 16 Charles Ray Hatcher 15 Alvin & Judith Ann Neelley 15 Dennis Nilsen 15 Rosemary West 15 54 Robert William “Willie” Pickton 15 Frederick Walter Stephen West aka Fred West 14 John Paul Knowles 14 Richard Ramirez Aka. Night Stalker 13 Albert Henry DeSalvo Aka. The Boston Strangler 13 Peter William Sutcliffe aka Yorkshire Ripper aka Peter William Coonan 13 100 Carl Eugene “Coral” Watts, The Sunday Morning Slasher 12 20 Christopher Bernard Wilder 11 Charles Starkweather 11 3000 Henry Lee Lucas 11 Caril Ann Fugate 10 20 William Bonin 10 15 Jack Unterweger 9 15 David Berkowitz aka Son of Sam 8 30 Thomas Quick 8 9 Kendall Francois 8 8 Michael Bruce Ross 7 9 Dayton LeeRoy Rogers aka The Molalla Forest Murderer 5 37 Zodiac Killer 5 19 Charles Panzram aka Carl Panzram 5 30 Roy Norris 5 18 Harvey Carignan 5 Jack the Ripper 5

most notorious

These are not just the standard notorious murderers; these are some of the most horrific killers to have been found guilty of their crimes. They are on this list either because of the nature of their crime, or the sheer number of their killings. Graphic images are marked with [!]. In no particular order:

1. Gilles de Rais, Born 1404 [Crimelibrary]

Gilles

Gilles de Rais (a French nobleman) is considered to be the precursor to the modern serial killer. Before he began his killing spree, he rode as a military captain in the army lead by St Joan of Arc – though it is unlikely that she knew him. He was accused and ultimately convicted of torturing, raping and murdering dozens, if not hundreds, of young children, mainly boys.

According to surviving accounts, Rais lured children, mainly young boys who were blond haired and blue eyed (as he had been as a child), to his residences, and raped, tortured and mutilated them, often ejaculating, perhaps via masturbation, over the dying victim. He and his accomplices would then set up the severed heads of the children in order to judge which was the most fair. The precise number of Rais’s victims is not known, as most of the bodies were burned or buried. The number of murders is generally placed between 80 and 200; a few have conjectured numbers upwards of 600. The victims ranged in age from six to eighteen and included both sexes. Although Rais preferred boys, he would make do with young girls if circumstances required.

At the transcript of the trial, one of Gilles servants Henriet (an accomplice to his crimes) described the actions of his master, which were essentially:

Henriet soon began to collect children for his master, and was present whilst he massacred them. They were murdered invariably in one room at Machecoul. The marshal used to bathe in their blood; he was fond of making Gilles do Sillé, Pontou, or Henriet torture them, and he experienced intense pleasure in seeing them in their agonies. But his great passion was to welter in their blood. His servants would stab a child in the jugular vein, and let the blood squirt over him. The room was often steeped in blood. When the horrible deed was done, and the child was dead, the marshal would be filled with grief for what he had done, and would toss weeping and praying on a bed, or recite fervent prayers and litanies on his knees, whilst his servants washed the floor, and burned in the huge fireplace the bodies of the murdered children. With the bodies were burned the clothes and everything that had belonged to the little victims. An insupportable odour filled the room, but the Maréchal do Retz inhaled it with delight

Images: Castle of Machecoul

2. Richard Trenton Chase, Born 1950 [Crimelibrary]

Richard Trenton Chase

Richard Trenton Chase (May 23, 1950 – December 26, 1980) was an American serial killer who killed six people in the span of a month in California. He earned the nickname The Vampire of Sacramento due to his drinking of his victims’ blood and his cannibalism. He did this as part of a delusion that he needed to prevent Nazis from turning his blood into powder via poison they had planted beneath his soap dish.

On December 29, 1977, Chase killed his first victim in a drive-by shooting, Ambrose Griffin, a 51-year-old engineer and father of two. Chase’s next victim was Teresa Wallin. Three months pregnant, Teresa was surprised at her home by Chase, who shot her three times, killing her. He then had sex with the corpse and mutilated it, bathing in the dead woman’s blood. On January 27, Chase committed his final murders. Entering the home of 38-year-old Evelyn Miroth, he encountered her neighbor, Don Meredith, who he shot with the same .22 handgun. Stealing Meredith’s wallet and car keys, he rampaged through the house, fatally shooting Evelyn Miroth, her 6-year-old son Jason, and Miroth’s 22-month-old nephew, David. As with Teresa Wallin, Chase engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism with Miroth’s corpse. Chase returned to his home, where he drank David’s blood and ate several of the infant’s internal organs before disposing of the body at a nearby church. A witness saw him leaving the scene where he left perfect fingerprints and shoe-prints – leading to his arrest.

On May 8 Chase was found guilty of six counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to die in the gas chamber. Waiting to die, Chase became a feared presence in prison; the other inmates (including several gang members), aware of the graphic and bizarre nature of his crimes, feared him, and according to prison officials, they often tried to convince Chase to commit suicide. On December 26, 1980, a guard doing cell checks found Chase lying awkwardly on his bed, not breathing. An autopsy determined that he committed suicide with an overdose of prison doctor-prescribed antidepressants that he had been saving up over the last few weeks.

Images: [!] A victim

3. Jeffrey Dahmer, Born 1960 [Crimelibrary]

Dahmer1

Dahmer murdered at least 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with the majority of the murders occurring between 1989 and 1991. His murders were particularly gruesome, involving acts of forced sodomy, necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism. Dahmer committed his first murder when he was 18, killing Steven Hicks, a 19 year-old hitchhiker. Dahmer invited Hicks to his house, and killed him because he “didn’t want him to leave.”

On September 25, 1988, he was arrested for sexually fondling a 13-year-old Laotian boy in Milwaukee, for which he served 10 months of a one year sentence in a work release camp. However, in 1988 there was not yet a law requiring offenders to register when convicted of a sex crime against a minor. He convinced the judge that he needed therapy, and he was released with a five-year probation on good behavior. Shortly thereafter, he began a string of murders that would end with his arrest in 1991.

In the early morning hours of May 27, 1991, 14-year-old Milwaukee Laotian Konerak Sinthasomphone (the younger brother of the boy Dahmer had molested) was discovered on the street, wandering nude. Reports of the boy’s injuries varied. Dahmer told police that they had an argument while drinking, and that Sinthasomphone was his 19 year-old lover. Against the teenager’s protests, police turned him over to Dahmer. They had no suspicions, but reported smelling a strange scent. That scent was later found to be bodies in the back of his room. Later that night Dahmer killed and dismembered Sinthasomphone, keeping his skull as a souvenir. By the summer of 1991, Dahmer was murdering approximately one person each week.

On July 22, 1991, Dahmer lured another man, Tracy (Traci) Edwards, into his home. According to the would-be victim, Dahmer struggled with Edwards in order to handcuff him. Edwards escaped and alerted a police car, with the handcuffs still hanging from one hand. Edwards led police back to Dahmer’s apartment. The story of Dahmer’s arrest and the gruesome inventory in his apartment quickly gained notoriety: several corpses were stored in acid-filled vats, severed heads were found in his refrigerator, and implements for the construction of an altar of candles and human skulls were found in his closet. Accusations soon surfaced that Dahmer had practiced necrophilia, cannibalism, and possibly a form of trepanation in order to create so-called “zombies.”

The court found Dahmer guilty on 15 counts of murder and sentenced him to 15 life terms, totalling 937 years in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Dahmer expressed remorse for his actions, also saying that he wished for his own death. On November 28, 1994, Dahmer and another inmate named Jesse Anderson were beaten to death by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver while on work detail in the prison gym. Dahmer died from severe head trauma in the ambulance en route to the hospital.

Images: [!] A victim, [!] Parts of another victim

4. Albert Fish, Born 1870 [Crimelibrary]

Albert-Fish-1

Albert Fish, also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria and possibly the Brooklyn Vampire, boasted that he molested over 100 children, and was a suspect in at least five killings. Fish confessed to three murders that police were able to trace to a known homicide, and confessed to stabbing at least two other people. He was put on trial for the murder of Grace Budd, and was convicted and executed.

Fish was visited in prison by the mother of his victim Billy Gaffney to get more details about the death of her son. Fish said:

[I c]ut 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.

In addition to this horrifying description, Fish confessed to eating parts of Billy:

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.

At his trial, several psychiatrists testified about Fish’s sexual fetishes, including coprophilia, urophilia, pedophilia and masochism. X-rays of Fish’s pelvis show needles which he inserted in to his skin for sexual pleasure.

Images: X-Ray of Fish’s pelvis, Closer view of the X-Ray, Cottage where one murder took place

5. Andrei Chikatilo, Born 1936 [Crimelibrary]

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Andrei Chikatilo was a Ukrainian serial killer, nicknamed the Butcher of Rostov and ‘The Red Ripper.’ He was convicted of the murder of 53 women and children between 1978 and 1990. In 1978, Chikatilo moved to Shakhty, a small coal mining town near Rostov, where he committed his first documented murder. On December 22, he lured a nine-year-old girl to an old house which he bought in secret from his family and attempted to rape her. When the girl struggled, he stabbed her to death. He ejaculated in the process of knifing the child, and from then on he was only able to achieve sexual arousal and orgasm through stabbing and slashing women and children to death. Despite evidence linking Chikatilo to the girl’s death, a young man, Alexsandr Kravchenko, was arrested and later tried and executed for the crime.

He established a pattern of approaching runaways and young vagrants at bus or railway stations and enticing them to leave. A quick trip into a nearby forest was the scene for the victim’s death. In 1983, he did not kill until June, but then he murdered four victims before September. The victims were all women and children. The adult females were often prostitutes or homeless tramps who could be lured with promises of alcohol or money. Chikatilo would usually attempt intercourse with these victims, but would usually be unable to get an erection, which would send him into a murderous fury. The child victims were of both sexes, and Chikatilo would lure them away with his friendly, talkative manner by promising them toys or candy. In the USSR at the time, reports of crimes like child rape and serial murder were often suppressed by the state-controlled media, as such crimes were regarded as being common only in “hedonistic capitalist nations.”

In 1988 Chikatilo resumed killing, generally keeping his activities far from the Rostov area. He murdered a woman in Krasny-Sulin in April and went on to kill another eight people that year, including two victims in Shakhty. Again there was a long lapse before Chikatilo resumed killing, murdering seven boys and two women between January and November of 1990. He was finally caught when trying to approach young children whilst under police surveillance. He went to trial on April 14, 1992. Despite his odd and disruptive behavior in court, he was judged fit to stand trial. During the trial he was famously kept in a cage in the center of the courtroom; it was constructed for his own protection from the relatives of the deceased. The trial had a very disturbing atmosphere. The relatives kept shouting threats and insults to Chikatilo, demanding the authorities to release him so that they could execute him on their own. He was found guilty of 52 of the 53 murders and sentenced to death for each offense.

He was executed by firing squad (shot in the back of the head) on February 14, 1994 after Russian president Boris Yeltsin refused a last ditch appeal by Chikatilo for clemency.

Images: [!] Head of a victim, [!] Body of a victim

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6. Joachim Kroll, Born 1933 [Crimelibrary]

Krolledit

Kroll was a German serial killer and cannibal. He was known as the Ruhr Cannibal (Ruhrkannibale), and the Duisburg Man-Eater (Duisburger Menschenfresser). He was convicted of eight murders but confessed to a total of 13.

On July 3, 1976, Kroll was arrested for kidnapping and killing a four-year-old girl named Marion Ketter. As police went from home to home, a neighbor approached a policeman and told him that the waste-pipe in his apartment building had blocked up, and when he had asked his neighbor, Kroll, whether he knew what had been blocking the pipe, Kroll had simply replied; “Guts”. Upon this report, the police went up to Kroll’s apartment and found the body of the Ketter girl cut up: some parts were in the fridge, a hand was cooking in a pan of boiling water and the intestines were found stuck in the waste-pipe.

Kroll said that he often sliced portions of flesh from his victims to cook and eat them, claiming that he did this to save on his grocery bills. In custody, he believed that he was going to get a simple operation to cure him of his homicidal urges and would then be released from prison. Instead he was charged with eight murders and one attempted murder. In April 1982, after a 151-day trial, he was convicted on all counts and was given nine life sentences.
He died of a heart attack in 1991 in the prison of Rheinbach, near Bonn.

7. Dennis Rader, Born 1945 [Crimelibrary]

Dennis-Rader-1

Rader is an American serial killer who murdered at least 10 people in Sedgwick County (in and around Wichita), Kansas, between 1974 and 1991. He was known as the BTK killer (or the BTK strangler), which stands for Bind, Torture and Kill, an apt description of his modus operandi. Letters were written soon after the killings to police and to local news outlets, boasting of the crimes and knowledge of details. After a long hiatus these letters resumed in 2004, leading to his arrest in 2005 and subsequent conviction.

Using personal jargon for his killing equipment, Rader casually described his victims as his “projects” and at one point likened his murders to euthanizing animals by saying he “put them down.” Rader created what he called a “hit kit,” a briefcase or bowling bag containing the items he would use during murders: guns, tape, rope and handcuffs. He also packed what he called “hit clothes” that he would wear for the crimes and then dispose of. Rader bound, tortured, and killed his victims. Rader would strangle his victims until they lost consciousness, then let them revive, then strangle them again. He would repeat the pattern over and over again, forcing them to experience near-death, becoming sexually aroused at the sight of their struggles. Finally, Rader would strangle them to death and masturbate to ejaculation into an article of their clothing, usually underwear.

Rader was particularly known for sending taunting letters to police and newspapers. There were several communications from BTK during 1974 to 1979. The first was a letter that had been stashed in an engineering book in the Wichita Public Library in October 1974 that described in detail the killing of the Otero family in January of that year. In early 1978 he sent another letter to television station KAKE in Wichita claiming responsibility for the murders of the Oteros, Shirley Vian, Nancy Fox and another unidentified victim assumed to be Kathryn Bright. He suggested a number of possible names for himself, including the one that stuck: BTK

A sample of one of his letters:

The victims are tie up-most have been women-phone cut- bring some bondage mater sadist tendencies-no struggle, outside the death spot-no wintness except the Vain’s Kids. They were very lucky; a phone call save them. I was go-ng to tape the boys and put plastics bag over there head like I did Joseph, and Shirley. And then hang the girl. God-oh God what a beautiful sexual relief that would been. Josephine, when I hung her really turn me on; her pleading for mercy then the rope took whole, she helpless; staring at me with wide terror fill eyes the rope getting tighter-tighter.

Rader plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison – a sentence he is currently still serving.

Images: [!] Bound neck of victim, [!] Body of another victim, [!] Clothed body of bound victim, [!] Bound in grave

8. John Haigh, Born 1909 [Crimelibrary]

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John George Haigh (July 24, 1909 — August 10, 1949), the “Acid Bath Murderer”, was a serial killer in England during the 1940s. He was convicted of the murders of six people, although he claimed to have killed a total of nine, dissolving their bodies in sulphuric acid before forging papers in order to sell their possessions and collect substantial sums of money. He acted under the mistaken belief that police needed a body before they could bring a charge of murder. As a consequence, he was convicted through forensic evidence and executed on August 10, 1949.

After hiring rooms in Glouster Road, London, he bumped into an old wealthy boss William McSwann in the Goat pub in Kensington. McSwann introduced Haigh to his parents, Donald and Amy, who mentioned that they had invested in property. On 6 September, 1944, McSwann disappeared. Haigh later said he hit him over the head after luring him into a basement at 79 Gloucester Road, London SW7. He then put McSwann’s body into a 40-gallon drum and tipped sulphuric acid on to it. Two days later he returned to find the body had become sludge, which he poured down a manhole.

He told McSwann’s parents their son had fled to Scotland to avoid being called up for military service. Haigh then took over McSwann’s and when Don and Amy become curious about why their son had not returned after the war was coming to an end, he murdered them too. On July 2, 1945, he lured them to Gloucester Road and disposed of them.

Detectives soon discovered Haigh’s record of theft and fraud and searched the workshop. Police not only found Haigh’s attaché case containing a dry cleaner’s receipt for Mrs Durand-Deacon’s coat, but also papers referring to the Hendersons and McSwanns. Further investigation of the sludge at the workshop by the pathologist Keith Simpson revealed three human gallstones.

It was reported that Haigh, in the condemned cell at Wandsworth Prison, asked one of his jailers, Jack Morwood, whether it would be possible to have a trial run of his hanging so everything would run smoothly. It is likely his request went no further, or, if it did, the request was denied. Whatever the case, Haigh was led to the gallows by Chief Executioner Albert Pierrepoint on August 10, 1949.

9. Javed Iqbal, Born 1956 [Crimelibrary]

Fnov04 Iqbal Pakistan

Javed Iqbal Mughal (1956?-2001) was a serial killer from Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. He claimed he killed 100 boys during an 18 month period. He had been arrested in June 1998 for sexually abusing 2 boys for money. He went off on bail, and began murdering boys shortly afterwards. Iqbal found boys on the street, charmed them into his confidence, and then drugged, raped, and strangled them. He then cut the body into pieces and put them in a vat filled with hydrochloric acid. Once all of the remains were liquified, he dumped them. He first used the sewer, until neighbors complained of an acrid stench. He then decided to use the Ravi River. The partially liquified remains of two boys, one of whom was named Ijaz, were the only ones found of Iqbal’s victims. He kept the rest in an acid drum outside his house. He also kept clothing and shoes as trophies of his crimes. When he got to his fiftieth victim, he started taking pictures of them.

No one had noticed the disappearance of the boys that Iqbal killed. Iqbal claimed that he could have killed 500 if he had wanted to. He reportedly said “I am Javed Iqbal, killer of 100 children … I hate this world, I am not ashamed of my action and I am ready to die. I have no regrets. I killed 100 children.”

From a letter written by Iqbal:

“I had sexually assaulted 100 children before killing them,” read the first placard. “All the details of the murders are contained in the diary and the 32-page notebook that have been placed in the room and had also been sent to the authorities. This is my confessional statement.”

Iqbal was sentenced to death by hanging, although the judge said he would have liked Iqbal to be strangled 100 times, cut into 100 pieces, and put him in acid. Before this sentence could be carried out, he was found strangled with his bed sheets in his prison cell on October 7, 2001. One of his accomplices, Sajid, was also strangled. Pakistani authorities say that the men committed suicide. Another accomplice had previously fallen to his death from a CIA window.

10. Ted Bundy, Born 1946 [Crimelibrary]

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heodore Robert ‘Ted’ Bundy (November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) is one of the most infamous serial killers in U.S. history. Bundy raped and murdered scores of young women across the United States between 1974 and 1978. After more than a decade of vigorous denials, Bundy eventually confessed to 30 murders, although the actual total of victims remains unknown. Typically, Bundy would rape then murder his victims by bludgeoning, and sometimes by strangulation. He also engaged in necrophilia.

He would approach a potential victim in a public place, even in daylight or in a crowd, as when he abducted Ott and Naslund at Lake Sammamish or when he kidnapped Leach from her school. Bundy had various ways of gaining a victim’s trust. Sometimes, he would feign injury, wearing his arm in a sling or wearing a fake cast, as in the murders of Hawkins, Rancourt, Ott, Naslund, and Cunningham. At other times Bundy would impersonate an authority figure; he pretended to be a policeman when approaching Carol DaRonch. The day before he killed Kimberly Leach, Bundy approached another young Florida girl pretending to be “Richard Burton, Fire Department,” but left hurriedly after her older brother arrived.

After luring a victim to his car, Bundy would hit her in the head with a crowbar he had placed underneath his Volkswagen or hidden inside it. Every recovered skull, except for that of Kimberly Leach, showed signs of blunt force trauma. Bundy often would drink alcohol prior to finding a victim.

On death row, Bundy admitted to decapitating at least a dozen of his victims with a hacksaw. He kept the severed heads later found on Taylor Mountain in his room or apartment for some time before finally disposing of them. Bundy also confessed to visiting his victims’ bodies over and over again at the Taylor Mountain body dump site. He stated that he would lie with them for hours, applying makeup to their corpses and having sex with their decomposing bodies until putrefaction forced him to abandon the remains.

Despite having five court-appointed lawyers, he insisted on acting as his own attorney and even cross-examined witnesses, including the police officer who had discovered Margaret Bowman’s body. The Judge, when passing sentence said:

“It is ordered that you be put to death by a current of electricity, that current be passed through your body until you are dead. Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself, please. It is an utter tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity as I’ve experienced in this courtroom. You’re an intelligent young man. You’d have made a good lawyer, and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don’t feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Once again, take care of yourself.”

Bundy was executed in the Electric Chair at 7:06 a.m. local time on January 24, 1989. His last words were “I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.”

Images: [!] Head of a victim, [!] Another victim, [!] Bundy after his execution

Notable mentions: John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz, Herman Mudgett


definition

Serial killers are people who, on multiple occasions spread over time, murder victims who are generally unknown to them beforehand.

Their crimes are committed as a result of a compulsion that, in many but not all cases, has roots in the killer’s (often dysfunctional) youth, as opposed to those who are motivated by financial gain (e.g., contract killers) or ideological/political motivations (e.g., terrorism, democide). Many times this compulsion is linked to the individual’s sexual drive.

Some research suggests that damage to certain regions of the brain (hypothalamus, the temporal lobe, and/or the limbic brain) or genetic traits passed down from abusive mothers can also play a part in the behavior of serial killers.

Defining serial murder

The term serial killer is widely believed to have been coined either by FBI agent Robert Ressler or by Dr. Robert D. Keppel in the 1970s (the credit for the term is still disputed). Serial killer entered the popular vernacular in large part due to the well-publicized crimes of Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”) in the middle years of that decade.

The term allows criminologists to distinguish those who kill several people over a long period of time from those who kill several people during a single event (mass murderers). A third type of multiple killer is a spree killer.

The following are brief definitions of these three types:

  • A serial killer is someone who commits three or more murders over an extended period of time with cooling-off periods in between. In between their crimes, they appear to be quite normal, a state which Hervey Cleckley and psychologist Robert Hare call the “mask of sanity.” There is frequently — but not always — a sexual element to the murders.
  • A mass murderer, on the other hand, is an individual who kills three or more people in a single event and in one location. The perpetrators sometimes commit suicide, meaning knowledge of their state of mind and what triggers their actions is often left to more speculation than fact. Mass murderers who are caught sometimes claim they cannot clearly remember the event.
  • A spree killer commits multiple murders in different locations over a period of time that may vary from a few hours to several days. Unlike serial killers, however, they do not revert to their normal behavior in between slayings.

All of the above types of crimes are usually carried out by solitary individuals. There have been examples in all three categories in which two or more perpetrators have acted together. Author Michael Newton states that this happens in about a third of the cases. Lee Boyd Malvo and John Muhammad are prime examples. Both are known for the Beltway sniper attacks.

There are other types of multiple killings as well, although they often involve larger organizations than two or three perpetrators: genocide and terrorist attacks.

Serial killers are generally, but not always, male. Noted female exceptions include Aileen Wuornos, Myra Hindley and Erzsébet Báthory.

Serial killers are specifically motivated by a variety of psychological urges, primarily power and sexual compulsion. They often have feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, sometimes owing to humiliation and abuse in childhood or the pressures of poverty and low socioeconomic status in adulthood, and their crimes compensate for this and provide a sense of potency and often social revenge, by giving them a feeling of power, both at the time of the actual killing and also afterwards for power-control killers. The knowledge that their actions terrify entire communities and often baffle police adds to this sense of power. This motivational aspect separates them from contract killers and other multiple murderers who are motivated by profit. For example, in Scotland during the 1820s, William Burke and William Hare murdered people in what became known as the “Case of the Body Snatchers.” They would not count as serial killers by most criminologists’ definitions, however, because their motive was economic. Of course, people do things for multiple motivations.

In some cases, a serial killer will plead not guilty by reason of insanity in a court of law. This defense is almost uniformly unsuccessful. In most US jurisidictions (i.e., the states), the legal definition of insanity is still generally based upon the classic common law “right or wrong” test delineated by an English court in the 1843 M’Naghten case. The M’Naghten rule, as it’s generally known in the legal profession, hinges upon whether the defendant knows the difference between morality (right and wrong) at the time of the offense. With serial killers, extensive premeditation, combined with lack of any obvious delusions or hallucinations that would hinder the defendant’s ability to elude detection after committing multiple murders, make this defense extremely difficult.

The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a serial killing as: “involving the killing of several victims in three or more separate events.” This definition is especially close to that of a spree killer, and perhaps the primary difference between the two is that a serial killer has a cooling-off period. They will commit a murder and temporarily feel sated until they feel their homicidal urges resurface. The time period between murders can vary between a few days to several years and will often decrease the longer the offender goes uncaught. For example, Jeffrey Dahmer murdered his second victim nine years after his first, but his last eight victims were murdered in a span of just seven months. Spree killers, on the other hand, do not have a cooling-off period and are in a state of constant hunting until they are caught or killed, even though their murder spree may sometimes extend to a period of several months.

Serial killers frequently have extreme sadistic urges. Ones who lack the ability to empathize with the suffering of others are frequently called psychopathic or sociopathic, terms which have been renamed among professional psychologists as antisocial personality disorder. Some serial killers engage in lust and torture murder, loosely defined terms involving, respectively, mutilation for sexual pleasure and killing victims slowly over a prolonged period of time.

Psychology and development

Most serial killers have dysfunctional backgrounds. Frequently they are physically, sexually or psychologically abused as children. There can be a close correlation between their childhood abuse and their crimes. It is often impossible to know exactly what happened in any individual’s childhood, so some killers may deny having been abused, while others may falsely claim they were abused in an attempt to gain sympathy or tell psychologists what they want to hear.

The element of fantasy in serial killer’s development cannot be overemphasized. They often begin fantasizing about murder during or even before adolescence. Their fantasy lives are very rich and they daydream compulsively about domination, submission and murder, usually with very specific elements to the fantasy that will eventually be apparent in their real crimes. Others enjoy reading stories of sadism, packed with rape, torture and murder.

Some serial killers display one or more of what are known as the “MacDonald Triad” of warning signs in childhood. These are:

  • Fire starting, invariably just for the thrill of destroying things.
  • Cruelty to animals (related to “zoosadism”). Most children can be cruel to animals, such as pulling the legs off of spiders, but future serial killers often kill larger animals, like dogs and cats, and frequently for their solitary enjoyment rather than to impress peers.
  • Bedwetting beyond the age when children normally grow out of such behavior.

Many experts have claimed that once serial killers start they cannot (or only rarely) stop. Recently this view has been called into question as new serial killers are caught through methods that were previously unavailable, such as DNA testing. Some argue that those who are unable to control their homicidal impulses are more easily caught and thus overrepresented in the statistics.

Prevalence

There have been conflicting reports as to the extent of serial murder. The FBI claimed in the 1980s that at any particular time there were roughly 35 active serial killers in the United States, meaning that the serial killers in question have committed their first murders but have not yet been apprehended or stopped by other means (e.g., suicide or a natural death).

This figure has often been exaggerated. In his 1990 book Serial Killers: The Growing Menace, Joel Norris claimed that there were five hundred serial killers active at any one time in the United States, claiming five thousand victims a year, which would be approximately a quarter of known homicides in the country. Some have argued that those who study or write about serial killers, be they employed in the judicial profession orjournalists, have a vested interest in exaggerating the threat of such offenders.

In terms of reported cases, there appear to be far more serial killers active in developed Western nations than elsewhere. Template:Citation neededThere are several reasons that may contribute to this:

  • Detection techniques in developed nations are better. Multiple victims of one offender are quickly identified as being linked, so the apprehension of the offender comes more quickly than in a nation where the police are generally more underfunded and have fewer resources.Template:Citation needed
  • Developed nations have a highly competitive news media, so cases are reported more quickly.
  • The United States and Western Europe have avoided the large-scale, state-sanctioned censorship that news outlets in certain nations have, in which stories related to serial murder have been suppressed. An example of this is the case in Ukraine of serial murderer Andrei Chikatilo, whose murder spree continued largely unreported and poorly investigated by police in the former Soviet Union due to the idea that only supposedly corrupt capitalistic Western countries bred such killers. After the collapse of the USSR, there were a number of reportsTemplate:Citation needed of prolific serial killers whose crimes had previously been hidden from the West behind the Iron Curtain.
  • Cultural differences could account for a larger number of serial killers, not just a larger number of reported cases.

Serial murder before 1900

Although the phenomenon of serial murder is generally regarded as a modern one, it can be traced back in history, albeit with a limited degree of accuracy.

In the 15th century, one of the wealthiest men in France, Gilles de Rais, is said to have abducted, raped and murdered at least a hundred young boys. The |Hungarian aristocrat Elizabeth Báthory was arrested in 1610 and subsequently charged with torturing and butchering as many as 600 young girls. Although both De Rais and Báthory were reportedly sadistic and addicted to murder, they differ from typical modern-day serial killers in that they were both rich and powerful. Based upon the lack of established police forces and active news media during those centuries, it may very well be that there were plenty of other serial killers at that time who were either not identified or not publicized as well.

Some historical criminologists have suggested that there may have been serial murders throughout history, but specific cases were not adequately recorded. Some sources suggest that legends such as werewolves and vampires were inspired by medieval serial killers.Template:Citation needed

In his famous 1886 book Psychopathica Sexualis, Richard von Krafft-Ebing notes a case of serial murder in the 1870s, that of an Italian man named Eusebius Pieydagnelle who had a sexual obsession with blood and confessed to murdering six people. The unidentified Jack the Ripper killer slaughtered prostitutes in London in 1888. Those crimes gained enormous press attention because London was the center of the world’s greatest superpower at the time, so having such dramatic murders of financially destitute women in the midst of such wealth focused the news media’s attention on the plight of the urban poor and gained coverage worldwide. Joseph Vacher was executed in France in 1898 after confessing to killing and mutilating 11 women and children, while American serial killer H. H. Holmes was hanged in Philadelphia in 1896 after confessing to 27 murders.

Types of serial killer

Organized and disorganized types

The FBI has roughly categorized serial killers into two different types: organized and disorganized.

  • Organized types are usually of high intelligence and plan their crimes quite methodically, usually abducting victims, killing them in one place and disposing of them in another. They will often lure the victims with ploys appealing to their sense of sympathy. For example, Ted Bundy would put his arm in a fake plaster cast and ask women to help him carry books to his car, where he would beat them unconscious with the cast and spirit them away. Others specifically target prostitutes, who are likely to voluntarily go with a serial killer posing as a customer. They maintain a high degree of control over the crime scene, and usually have a good knowledge of forensic science that enables them to cover their tracks, such as by burying the body or weighting it down and sinking it in a river. They follow their crimes in the media carefully and often take pride in their actions, as if it were a grand project. The organized killer is usually socially adequate and has friends and lovers, often even a spouse and children. They are the type who, when captured, are most likely to be described by acquaintances as “a really nice guy” who “wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Some serial killers go to lengths to make their crimes difficult to discover, such as falsifying suicide notes, setting up others to take the blame for their crimes, and faking gang warfare. The case of Harold Shipman, an English family doctor, is slightly unusual in that his social position and occupation was such that he was able to portray victims as having died of natural causes; between 1971 and 1998 he killed at least 250, and possibly well over 400, of his own mostly elderly patients – and until very near the end of his rampage it was not even suspected that any crimes had been committed.
  • Disorganized types are often of low intelligence and commit their crimes impulsively. Whereas the organized killer will specifically set out to hunt a victim, the disorganized will murder someone whenever the opportunity arises, rarely bothering to dispose of the body but instead just leaving it at the same place in which they found the victim. They usually carry out “blitz” attacks, leaping out and attacking their victims without warning, and will typically perform whatever rituals they feel compelled to carry out (e.g., necrophilia, mutilation, etc.) once the victim is dead. They rarely bother to cover their tracks but may still evade capture for some time because of a level of cunning that compels them to keep on the move. They are often socially inadequate with few friends, and they may have a history of mental problems and be regarded by acquaintances as eccentric or even “a bit creepy.” They have little insight into their crimes and may even block out the memories of the killings.

A significant number of serial killers show certain aspects of both organized and disorganized types, although usually the characteristics of one type will dominate. Some killers descend from being organized into disorganized behavior as their killings continue. They will carry out careful and methodical murders at the start, but as their compulsion grows out of control and utterly dominates their lives, they will become careless and impulsive.

Motive types

The organized and disorganized model relates to the killer’s methods. With regards to motives, they can be placed into five different categories:

Visionary

Contrary to popular opinion, serial killers are rarely insane or motivated by hallucinations and/or voices in their heads. Many claim to be, usually as a way of trying to get acquitted by reason of insanity. There are, however, a few genuine cases of serial killers who were compelled by such delusions.

Herbert Mullin slaughtered 13 people after voices told him that murder was necessary to prevent California from suffering an earthquake. (Mullin went to great pains to point out that California did indeed avoid an earthquake during his murder spree.)

Ed Gein claimed that by eating the corpses of women who looked like his deceased mother, he could preserve his mother’s soul inside his body. He killed two women who bore passing resemblances to his mother, eating one and being apprehended while in the process of preparing the second woman’s body for consumption. He also used the flesh of exhumed corpses to fashion a “woman suit” for himself so that he could “become” his mother, and carried on conversations with himself in a falsetto voice. After his arrest he was placed in a mental facility for the remainder of his life.

Mission oriented

These serial killers believe that their acts are justified on the basis that they are getting rid of a certain type of people (often prostitutes or members of a certain ethnic group). They believe that they are doing society a big favor. Robert Pickton of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, is accused of being this type of killer. He is currently charged with the murders of 27 prostitutes from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and is suspected in the deaths of up to 30 more.

Hedonistic

This type kills for the sheer pleasure of it, although what aspect they enjoy varies. Some may enjoy the actual “chase” of hunting down a victim more than anything, while others may be primarily motivated by the act of torturing and abusing the victim while they are alive. Yet others may kill the victim quickly, almost as if it were a chore, and then indulge in necrophilia or cannibalism with the body. Usually there is a strong sexual aspect to the crimes, even if it may not be immediately obvious, but some killers obtain a surge of excitement that is not necessarily sexual, such as David Berkowitz, who got a thrill out of shooting young couples in cars at random and then running away without ever physically touching the victims.

Gain motivated

Most criminals who commit multiple murders for material ends (such as mob hit men) are not classed as serial killers, because they are motivated by greed or economic gain rather than psychopathological compulsion. There is a fine line separating such killers, however. For example, Marcel Petiot, who operated in Nazi-occupied France, would classify as a serial killer. He posed as a member of the [rench Resistance and lured wealthy Jewish people to his home, claiming he could smuggle them out of the country. Instead he murdered them and stole their belongings, killing 63 people before he was finally caught. Although Petiot’s primary motivation was materialistic, few would deny that a man willing to slaughter so many people simply to acquire a few dozen suitcases of clothes and jewelry was a compulsive killer and psychopath.

Power/control

This is the most common serial killer. Their main objective for killing is to gain and exert power over their victim. Such killers are sometimes abused as children, which means they feel incredibly powerless and inadequate, and often they indulge in rituals that are linked, often very specifically, to forms of abuse they suffered themselves. One killer, for example, forced young girls to perform oral sex on him, after which he would spank the girl before finally strangling her. After capture, the killer claimed that when he was a child his older sister would force him to perform oral sex on her, then she would spank him in order to terrify him into not telling their parents.Template:Citation needed The ritual he performed with his victims would negate the humiliation he felt from his abuse as a child, although such relief would only be temporary, and like other such killers, he would soon feel compelled to repeat his actions until eventual capture. (The vast majority of child abuse victims do not become serial killers, of course, meaning that such abuse is not regarded as the sole trigger of such crimes in these cases.) Many power/control-motivated killers sexually abuse their victims, but they differ from hedonistic killers in that rape is not motivated by lust but as simply another form of dominating the victim.

Some serial killers may seem to have characteristics of more than one type. For example, British killer Peter Sutcliffe appeared to be both a visionary and a mission-oriented killer in that he claimed voices told him to clean up the streets of prostitutes.

Alternatively, another school of thought classifies motive as being either: need, greed or power. That said, all crime can be divided into one of these three categories.

Why are serial killers not caught more quickly?

It is possible that many would-be serial killers are apprehended before they kill the three or more victims required to qualify them as such in the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Similarly, it is certain that some are detained under mental health regulations and do not directly answer for their crimes. Others go on to kill many more people over years without being apprehended.

Serial killers, despite the media attention, commit only a tiny fraction of all murders in any time period. Murder is usually either a crime of personal relationships and short intense emotion, or an unintended consequence of other crimes. Because of this, most murders are comparatively simple to solve; in most familial deaths, the murderer makes little effective effort to conceal the crime and confesses easily; in other cases, the murderer is usually a local or is known to the police. These assumptions, with which any law enforcement officer naturally approaches a single murder, are barriers to catching a serial killer.

Another barrier to serial killers’ early capture is their diverse backgrounds, choices of victim, and methods of killing. They almost never have any links to their victims—they pick by whim or impulse, seeking types or opportunity rather than any easily detectable link. As noted above, organized offenders can take steps to minimize the evidence they leave behind, and commit crimes away from their locale. It can take a number of murders before a serial killer is even suspected.

Even if a serial killer is known to be operating, it is difficult to catch the culprit. Potential victims can be identified only by broad type, and generic area warnings produce little more than fear and misdirected violence.

In addition, police departments are often reluctant to admit they have a serial killer on their hands due to the immediate public pressure on them to catch them that immediately ensues. Law enforcement departments are known to try and “wait it out” hoping the killer will move to another jurisdiction, rather than publicly admit they have a killer on their hands.

The commonality of habitual traits of serial killers allows the construction of a psychological profile. This allows targeted interviewing of suspects, although there are often a large number of entirely innocent individuals who have some match to the profile. Also, some serial killers are skilled at concealing their true selves behind a charming facade.

Unfortunately, profiles are built upon historical precedents of known serial killers that sometimes do not accurately model actual culprits. Such problems plagued the hunt for the D.C. sniper John Muhammad and [ [John Lee Malvo]], whose initial profile indicated a Caucasian male. A different problem plagued the hunt for Aileen Wuornos in Florida’s “Highway Killer” case; police initially believed the killer to be male.

Serial killer investigations sometimes reveal an unsatisfactory side to law enforcement; inertia, incompetence, bureaucracy, mismanagement, agency “turf wars”, missed opportunities, racial or gender bias, and other failures can slow down the investigation and, indirectly, allow further murders.

While there is a public misconception that serial killers generally want to be discovered, in most instances this is not the case, as serial killers will often go to great lengths to prevent capture or to push police and investigators towards the wrong subjects.

Serial killers in popular culture

Because of the horrific nature of their crimes, their highly varied personalities and profiles, and their ability to evade detection and kill many victims before finally being captured and imprisoned, serial killers have quickly become something of a cult favorite, and have been featured in many novels, movies, songs, comic books, true crime works, video games and other media.

The public’s fascination with serial killers has led to many successful crime novels and films about fictional serial killers, including Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho; and especially Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs and Academy Award-winning movie adaptation, whose main antagonist, the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, is a cultural icon. The character John Doe, from the movie Se7en, is another well-known fictional serial killer.


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