When people think of male killing teams, they rarely think of the two men who were responsible for making true crime into a unique genre: Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. On November 15, 1959, in search of a safe inside the farmhouse owned by Herbert Clutter, they slaughtered a family of four and then made a run for it.
Famed writer Truman Capote was looking for book ideas and he came across two possibilities: following a “day lady” aroundManhattan or exploring the impact on the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, of this mass murder during the night. A friend advised him to “do the easy one—go to Kansas.” Little did he know.
The newspaper story about the murders was brief, just a few paragraphs, but it got his interest. “It suddenly struck me,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1966, “that a crime, the study of such, might provide the broad scope I needed to write the kind of book I wanted to write. Moreover, the human heart being what it is, murder was a theme not likely to darken and yellow with time.” What he wanted to accomplish was nothing short of “literary photography.”
So he packed up and went to Kansas with his friend Harper Lee, and then spent the next 10 years of his life writing an American classic. Not only did he learn about who the Clutter family had been and how the townsfolk reacted to this brutal crime, but when the killers were caught, he got to know them as well and was even invited to their execution—an event that deeply affected him. In fact, he was the only person they wanted to spend time with before they died.
Dick, a psychopathic drifter from a stable home, had met Perry in prison. Perry had a bad leg, limited intelligence, and suffered from serious headaches. He’d bragged that he’d once murdered a man, so Dick thought he could use Perry to pull off the murder of this rich farmer that he’d heard about from a fellow con. Herb Clutter, 48, had a safe full of money—-$10,000—-he’d been told, and it would be easy pickings for a man who knew where to go. Dick had a plan, and when he and Perry were released, he put it into motion.
As they collected the things they would need, Dick insisted, “No witnesses.” They were to leave no one behind alive. Perry wasn’t so sure about that, but he didn’t argue. They moved on toward the farmhouse. Waiting one evening until the place looked dark, they went inside, cut the phone lines and roused Clutter out of bed. Tying up his wife and two teenage children in various rooms, they insisted he open the safe. He told them there was no safe. That’s when they got upset.
When the Clutters missed church the next morning, friends went to find out what was wrong. The murderous rampage the night before was soon discovered.
Nancy Clutter, 16, once full of hope and promise, was found first. She had been shot in the back of the head at close range. She was lying on her side, facing a wall that was covered in a spray of blood. Her hands and ankles were bound, but the covers had been pulled over her, as if someone had thought to cover the horrible sight.
Mrs. Clutter was on her bed, shot dead, with her hands tied in front of her. Her mouth had been taped with adhesive and her eyes were wide open in fear.
Not finding Clutter or his son, Kenyon, the investigators went into the basement. Kenyon was lying on a couch, his head cradled by a pillow, but he was bound hand and foot, with tape over his mouth. He’d been shot squarely in the face, at close range. He had to have seen it coming.
The last one to be found was Herb. He, too, had been shot in the face, but his throat had been cut as well. Tape was wound around his head and across his mouth, and his ankles were tied together. He was sprawled on a mattress box in front of the furnace. Next to him was the bloodstained imprint of a shoe or boot.
No one had any idea who could have done this—-certainly no one who lived there. Clutter had no enemies. The family members were kind and gentle. Everyone liked them. Then investigators learned about a man in Kansas State Penitentiary who had told Dick Hickock about Herb Clutter—the very guy who’d described the nonexistent safe. He knew who had killed the Clutter family, and he’d confided his secret to a fellow inmate, who then passed it on to the warden. The search was on, with 18 men from various law enforcement agencies assigned to the case.
Dick and Perry were arrested in Las Vegas after they had traveled from Mexico to Acapulco to Miami Beach and back to the southwest. They were brought to Garden City, Kansas, where a crowd of people waited to see them, Capote among them. He tried to interview them the next day, but Perry was suspicious and Dick so garrulous that he said essentially nothing.
Perry Smith, mugshot
Dick Hickock, mugshot
Over the next five years, as they were convicted, sentenced to be hanged and appealed their convictions, Capote got to know Perry much better. Ironically, Perry told him that all he’d ever wanted to do in his life was to produce a work of art, and now his crime was going to do that for him. He didn’t like the title, though. The murders, he insisted, were not committed in cold blood.
It was never quite clear which one had committed the murders. Dick, who was the first to break down and confess, denied committing any of them, but Perry said that he’d done two and then had handed Dick the rifle and told him to finish it. So that was two a piece. Then he’d amended his statement, because he didn’t have parents and Dick did, so he didn’t mind taking the full rap. That would spare the feelings of Dick’s family.
About the Clutters, Perry said, “I didn’t have anything against them, and they never did anything wrong to me—-the way other people have all my life. Maybe they’re just the ones who have to pay for it.”
As he went to his execution, Perry kissed Capote on the cheek and said, “Adios, Amigo.”
This type of criminal team, composed of from two to five people, is often guided by a central figure with a particular fantasy. Something about his energy inspires the other participants to serve that fantasy. Without him, they may never have committed a murder. To some degree, they all have psychopathic traits, and while a few have claimed after arrest to have been unwilling accomplices, the evidence indicates otherwise, as we shall see.
It’s a Living
Body-snatching has long served the purposes of religious cults that need certain human organs for their rituals. In 1604, King James made it a felony inEngland to steal a corpse for witchcraft. Nevertheless, grave robbing reaching its morbid height during the 18th and 19th centuries, when it served the medical establishments. Physicians and medical students needed to dissect bodies to improve their knowledge.
At first, there were no real laws, except prohibitions against taking a corpse’s possession, so grave robbers left the clothing behind, but that situation eventually changed. Fines were imposed and grave-robbers were arrested.
In Britain, legal restrictions were especially strict. Although medical schools were allowed to have four corpses per year from the gallows, the supply was terribly inadequate, so in some places, students were actually required to supply their own corpses. That meant raiding the cemetery. Since they couldn’t afford to be arrested, they often paid “resurrection men” or “sack’ em up” men to take the risk for them.
At night the snatchers would use wooden spades and dig down only at the head end. Then they’d break open the top part of the lid to lift the body out with a hook and rope. Real professionals working in teams could get the corpse and replace the dirt in about an hour. One gang of ghouls had stolen nearly 800 bodies in two years.
Yet some tired of digging up graves and figured that there was an easier way of getting cadavers, so they turned to murder. William Burke ran a boarding house in Edinburgh, Scotland with his partner William Hare. They knew how much they could make supplying bodies to surgeons, and they had a regular customer who asked no questions. The trick was to present a body that had no bruises or wounds, because that was the most valuable, especially if it was fresh.
Sketches of William Burke and
The way they worked was to get their victim drunk and then either grab him from behind in an arm lock around the throat or sit on his chest while holding his nose and mouth closed. This method came to be known as “burking,” because it left no mark. In nine months, they managed to kill 16 people and to sell them for an average of 10 pounds a piece.
They were caught in 1828, and Hare turned on Burke. He went free while his wife and Burke’s mistress, who had also been involved, fled the country. Burke was tried and sentenced to be hanged. Then in an ironic twist of fate, his corpse was turned over to the anatomists at Edinburgh University to be dissected. Thirty thousand people saw his execution and anatomized body, which was put on public display to deter others from mimicking his foul deeds.
It’s not unusual that someone involved in a team crime talks, as we will see in the next chapter.
The Evil Apprentice
Robin Gecht had once worked for John Wayne Gacy, and it was his contention that Gacy’s single mistake was not to kill 33 young men but to keep most of the bodies under his house.
During the 1980s, according to one member of the gang, Gecht led a group of three other men known as the Ripper Crew or Chicago Rippers in killing an estimated 17 women. They would kill a victim, severe one or both of her breasts with a thin wire, clean it out to use for sexual gratification, and then cut it into pieces to consume. Ostensibly, they were worshipping Satan, and eating the female’s flesh was a form of ancient devilish communion. One person said that Gecht sometimes had sex with the breast on the spot.
Robin Gecht, Ed Spreitzer &
Gecht had a real ability to draw others to him and get them to do his bidding. No matter how sick or disgusting it was, he inspired others to get involved. He got his start by molesting his sister, which resulted in him being sent him to live with his grandparents. During adolescence, he developed a keen interest in Satanism and its secret rituals, believing that they offered some sort of power over others.
When Gecht was 30, he met Ed Spreitzer, 21, and the teenaged Kokoraleis brothers, Andrew and Thomas. All three were easily led by a charismatic personality, and together they roamedChicago at night in Gecht’s van hunting for female victims. When they got one, they raped her, beat her up, tortured her, and then strangled her. They also took a breast for Gecht’s altar. One person admitted that they consumed it while Gecht read verses from the Bible.
The gang got away with this for several years, but were finally caught when a survivor identified the van and Spreitzer offered a full confession. They were charged with various offenses, but Gecht was never convicted of any murder. He was not the one who had killed. Like Charles Manson, he had merely inspired the others to do the actual killing. Two of the others received the death sentence, while the third man got 70 years in prison.
Book cover of The Serial Killer Letters
Jennifer Furio, editor of The Serial Killer Letters, wrote to Gecht in prison to ask him why he’d been so obsessed with women’s breasts. While he denied that he’d murdered or harmed anyone, he did say that the obsession was a “thing” with his family, going back to his great grandfather. He didn’t offer any details.
Eric W. Hickey, a criminologist who wrote extensively about a study involving over 300 serial killers, said in Serial Murderers and Their Victims that “for some multiple killers, murder must be simultaneously a participation and a spectator endeavor; power can be experienced by observing a fellow conspirator destroy human life, possibly as much as by performing the killing. The pathology of the relationship operates symbiotically.” The killers each add something to the other’s excitement. Perhaps what they could not do alone, they could do within the chemistry of the dangerous association.
Book cover Serial Murderers and Their Victims
According to the study, 74% of team killers are white; female killers participate with males around one third of the time; and the majority of cases involve only two offenders working together. Of victims of serial murder, some 15% were murdered by team killers and in the majority of cases, the victims were strangers. Sometimes the team leader or dominant partner sends the others out to do what he wants, and sometimes he participates. At times they’re related or married, and other times they’re strangers who happen to spark the right chemistry. When females are involved, it’s generally the male who masterminds the homicides, unless the female is dominant, such as in a mother-son team. There is always one person who maintains psychological control.
Christopher Robin Worrell and James William Miller
The rare team involves a person who just goes along, as James William Miller insisted happened with him and his heartthrob, Christopher Robin Worrell on a 51-day spree in the late 1970s in Australia. Worrell would have Miller drive to pick up girls, and after he had sex with them and killed them, he’d make Miller help him dump the bodies. Miller claimed complete innocence in the murders, although it was clear that in most instances, he knew what Worrell planned to do. Seven women died and one was buried alive before Worrell was killed in a car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol. Thanks to a tip from Worrell’s girlfriend, police arrested Miller and he led them to three of the bodies that had not yet been found. He loved his friend, he claimed, and so he could not turn him in. Helpless or not, he still got six life sentences.
Miller is a rare one. Generally when things get hot, psychopaths save themselves by turning on the other person, or at the very least, they spread the blame.
Henry Lee Lucas,
In a 1996 study, it was estimated that 28% of men who commit sexual homicide got their start during adolescence. Henry Lee Lucas was 15 the first time he killed in 1951, and the reason he murdered this teenage girl was to see what it was like to have sex with a human. Prior to this, says Stephen Egger in Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon, he had been killing animals for sex, primarily with a knife. His second victim nine years later was his 74-year-old mother, once a prostitute, whom he stabbed to death with a knife.
Lucas was arrested and jailed for illegal possession of a weapon. At that time, he told a jailer that he’d done some bad things, and he began to confess, and confess, and confess. At first the police believed him, but as his death toll climbed to some 600 victims in nearly every state and in Canada, it began to seem like he was just a compulsive confessor. Nevertheless, he did point to places where victims were found and it’s now estimated that he was responsible for some 40 to 50 murders.
Ottis Toole, police photo
In 1976, after years in prison, Lucas teamed up with arsonist and serial killer Ottis Toole, who enjoyed mutilating corpses. Later Toole claimed to have been a cannibal, but Lucas said that he’d abstained from that behavior because he did not like the taste of barbecue sauce. He did tell Toole that they had a devil in them that made them do these things that most people didn’t.
They traveled together from one state to another, and their favorite prey were female hitchhikers. For a while, Toole’s orphaned nephew and niece, Frank and Becky Powell, came with them. Then it was just Lucas and Becky, 13. When she argued with Lucas one day and slapped him, he killed her with a knife. Then he raped the corpse, dismembered it, put the pieces into a pillowcase, and dumped them in a field.
The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers book cover
Toole’s grandmother had been a Satanist, according to Michael Newton in The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, and had dubbed him, “the devils’ child.” He watched her dig up graves for body parts. Already an arsonist, he committed his first murder at age 14. A traveling salesman picked him up for sex and Toole ran the man over with his own car. He was suspected in four other murders across the country before he met Lucas in Florida. Introducing him to “The Hand of Death cult, Toole talked about how they killed children for sacrifice to Satan. While Lucas was off with Becky, Toole allegedly killed nine people in a state of rage over their betrayal. He was caught burning buildings and imprisoned in Florida.
By that time, Lucas was also in prison in Texas, confessing to his crimes, so Toole added a few to the list, including the murder of Adam Walsh, whose death precipitated the television program, America’s Most Wanted. He confessed to many more crimes, not all of which were accepted, and died in 1996 in prison.
In 1985, Lucas had recanted most of his confessions, saying that he’d been coerced to close the cases, but then returned to some of his original statements. Then he said that everything was a lie: “I set out to break and corrupt any law enforcement officer I could get. I think I did a pretty good job.”
He did get the death penalty for a case they called “Orange Socks,” although he’s had two stays of execution because the evidence was too slim.
The victims of these two men ranged in age from young children to elderly women, killed in every conceivable way and disposed of by dumping, dismembering, and incinerating. How many murders they actually committed will probably never be known.
That’s not the case with the two men who found in their kinship a different kind of blood connection.
Some team killers are related, notably the Menendez brothers, Erik and Lyle, who in July 1989, slaughtered their wealthy parents in Los Angeles. They shot their father six times and their mother ten. Calling 911 in a fake cry of distress, they cast blame on the Mafia, but their subsequent spending spree made police suspicious. An investigation turned up their purchase of shotguns under a false ID, and then Erik broke down and confessed to a therapist. Arrested and tried, they claimed they’d killed their father in self-defense after years of abuse from him, and had killed their mother because they knew she couldn’t live with the murder of their father. Despite hung juries in their initial trials, eventually both were convicted of two counts each of first-degree murder.
Erik and Lyle Menendez (AP)
A more dangerous team of blood relatives was composed of the two cousins who came to be known as the Hillside Stranglers.
October 17, 1977, Yolanda Washington, 19, was picked up, strangled, and dumped near the entrance to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery. Ted Schwartz, author of The Hillside Strangler, said that the killers’ MO was to pretend to be police officers making an “arrest.” Their first three victims were prostitutes, and they would pick them up, have sex with them—often while bound—kill them, and dump them by the roadside.
The second victim, Judy Miller who was 15, was found on Halloween. According to Corey Mitchell in Hollywood Death Scenes, she had been laid in a garden on an anthill and her legs had been posed in the shape of a diamond. It was clear that she had been trussed up with ligatures while alive and then strangled. A white fiber was found on her eyelid. At that moment, it meant nothing, but it would prove to be a significant piece of evidence.
A week later, another woman was found in Glendale, California, on a golf course. She was 21 and she joined Miller, who had not yet been identified, in the morgue.
On November 20, two victims were discovered who had been abducted from a mall. They were 12 and 14, and they were not prostitutes. Their bodies had been rolled down a 50-foot embankment into a trash heap. The same night produced a sixth victim and all of her bruises matched those of the others. She had been an art student and was on her way home from class.
“That put a little panic in the city,” said retired LA sheriff’s detective Frank Salerno for Court TV’s Mugshots. He had been involved with the Los Angeles investigations. Now that it was clear that women were being killed at random and in rapid succession, people all over the city were afraid.
In three days, an actress, 28, was found alongside a freeway exit ramp. A business student became the eighth victim on November 28, but she had burns in the palms of her hands as if from electrocution. That was a new twist, yet she was linked to the others by a common MO. Thousands of tips were called in and the media dubbed the killer The Hillside Strangler. Yet police believed there had to be two.
Another murdered prostitute was soon found naked on the side of a hill. She appeared to have been posed in a spread-eagle fashion as some kind of insulting statement. This time there were witnesses who had seen two males with her. That was clear evidence that more than one killer was at work, but then the leads dried up. They were at a dead end.
All of a sudden, the murders stopped as quickly as they had begun. Police waited through the holidays with no new bodies clearly linked to the spree. Then on February 17, 1978, the highway helicopter patrol spotted an orange compact car crashed off a highway, and locked inside the trunk was victim number 10: Cindy Hudspeth, 20. She had been strangled and also had ligature marks. A witness came forward to describe the person who had been driving the car, but once again, they made no arrests. Then nothing else happened. Months went by and there were no new deaths.
Yet the killers had not stopped; one of them had simply left town with his girlfriend.
Almost a year after the last Los Angeles victim was discovered, in Bellingham, Washington, college roommates Diane Wilder and Karen Mandic were reported missing. On January 12, 1979, a security officer said that one of them had indicated they were going to do a security job for Ken Bianchi, a good-looking man with a girlfriend and infant son who was a captain at the security company.
They thought this was not a first murder, since it was carefully done. They picked up Bianchi for questioning and collected trace evidence, which turned up three important items:
· carpet fibers on the bodies that matched those from inside the house
· a lint brush in Bianchi’s home with fibers from the house and hairs from one of the girls
· pubic hair on one girl, which matched Bianchi
They then linked him through his California drivers’ license with the string of the Los Angeles murders from the year before, and it turned out he had jewelry in his home from two of those girls. It didn’t take long to connect him with his cousin, Angelo Buono, who ran a car upholstery shop near many of the body dumpsites.
Angelo Buono, police files
An eyewitness took the stand who had seen one abduction. He described the car and Angelo Buono as the driver. Fibers on another victim had come from a chair in Buono’s house. They also matched material from Buono’s upholstery shop to the fiber on the eyelid of the first victim.
The trial lasted two years with a parade of 250 witnesses and a thousand exhibits. On Halloween 1983, the jury convicted Buono of nine of the ten murders and gave him nine life sentences. Bianchi, who had pleaded to five, was given five life sentences on top of the two he had in Washington.
Not all male teams kill females. Some are looking for same-sex arrangements.
Elmer Wayne Henley
In some cases, teamwork involves one or more accomplices supplying a primary person with whatever he wants, for which they receive something in return. Dean Corll, “the candy man,” got sexually involved in Texas with another boy named David Brooks, and together they participated in petty crimes. Then Elmer Wayne Henley, 17, came into the picture, and his testimony later was the best picture investigators could get about what had happened to both the perpetrator and the victims.
For $200 or more per pick-up, Henley and Brooks procured young males for the older Corll to abuse. Eventually he began to kill the boys, most of whom were hitch-hikers and transients. After handcuffing them to a board and torturing them with large implements, he’d shoot or strangle them. Sometimes he even chewed off their genitals or castrated them, said Henley. A few times he killed two together, and the youngest victim was only nine.
Dean Corll, military photo
The end came on August 8, 1973, when Corll decided to kill Henley and some of his friends. Henley, bound, persuaded him not to, and when freed, he shot his former employer five times. After he called the police, they came and found seventeen bodies of white males hidden under a boathouse, along with containers of genitalia. At two other sites, ten more bodies were found.
This case is similar to one from Hanover, Germany during the early 1900s. Fritz Haarmann, a homeless vagrant who’d once been institutionalized, learned to butcher meat, which allowed him enough income to buy a home. Having a protected space, he began to find wandering waifs at the train station and take them home. Since he was somewhat homely, he teamed up with a good-looking male prostitute named Hans Graf who was better at getting boys to come with him. He’d take them to Haarman’s home, where Haarman would feed them and then force them to have sex. Often those victims would simply vanish.
Together they trapped and killed an estimated 50 young men over a period of five years. They were finally stopped when someone found a sack of skulls and bones in the Leine Canal and turned them into the police. Since Haarmann lived near the canal and had been arrested before for sexual assault, investigators searched his home. They found clothing from missing boys and bloodstains on the walls. Again, they arrested Haarmann and he confessed.
He called his victims “game” and described how he would grab them, sleepy from a large meal, and while sodomizing them would chew through their throat until the head was practically severed from the body. As he tasted their blood, he achieved orgasm. He would then cut the flesh from their bodies, consume some of it, and sell some on the open market as butchered meat. The rest of the parts he dumped into the canal.
Not all of the team killers have serial crimes in mind. The next pair had a simple plan for a single evening, but ended up with nine victims.
The Good and the Bad
It began as a plan for a robbery, Alessandro Garcia admitted in his long and self-serving statement to police. He and Jonathan Doody had plotted it for two months after hearing from Jonathan’s brother about the solid gold Buddha and the safe that contained $2000. The Buddhists monks at the temple west of Phoenix, Arizona near Luke Air Force base also kept money under their mattresses. It seemed like easy pickings, and to build their courage, they turned their “mission” into a “war game.”
They purchased military clothing and harnesses with knives, then borrowed a rifle and 20-guage shotgun. Late in the evening of August 9, 1991, they drove to the temple in Doody’s 1983 Ford Mustang. They checked it out and then left, returning around 15 minutes later. Then they burst in and ordered the monks to the floor. They arranged them in a circle, kneeling and facing one another, and for the next hour they took turns holding them at gunpoint and ransacking the place. The monks had offered no resistance. At one point, a nun came in and she was forced to join the men.
They placed what they took into two military duffel bags. The temple did have a safe but they couldn’t find a key to get it open. Doody wanted to ensure there would be no witnesses, and that meant killing everyone there. Standing on a couch above the monks, he just began shooting them, shooting them in the back of the head. He went from one to another, and if the first shot appeared not to have killed the victim, he’d shoot again. In the end, nine people lay dead in a circle. Garcia used the back of a knife to carve the word “Bloods” on the wall in the hallway, hoping to deflect the police, and together they sprayed the place with fire extinguishers.
It took almost two months, but the military police spotted the rifle and it was confiscated for testing. They had a match, and a link to a killer: Jonathan Doody. He lived with Garcia and a search of their apartment turned up the shotgun.
Apparently Garcia told his girlfriend afterward that there were more people involved than just him and Doody. She didn’t know how many but she remembered him saying that there were “a whole bunch of us.” Police tried to pin the crimes on four men from Tucson, from whom they had gotten coerced confessions, but all the evidence pointed to only two offenders: Doody and Garcia. They had the murder weapons. Their little war game had turned into a deadly escapade that had horrified a peaceful community and created an international incident with the Thai government. No one could quite believe that two boys, 16 and 17, had just slaughtered people as they knelt and awaited their fate.
In July 12, 1993, Jonathan Doody was convicted of nine murders and sentenced to 281 years in prison. Although the prosecutor had sought the death penalty, the judge felt that it could not be determined which young man had actually used the rifle, so he was cautious. Alessandro Garcia was sentenced to 271 years in prison, the maximum possible under his plea agreement. He had turned on his friend, but it hadn’t gotten him much—probably because a month after the Buddhist Temple murders, Garcia had persuaded his 14-year-old girlfriend to help him murder a woman out camping. While Doody appeared to be the mastermind, Garcia was clearly a psychopath.
In many ways, their cold-blooded approach to harming people just to prove something mirrored that of one of the most famous tag-team thrill kills in America.
The year was 1924. The place was Chicago. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb—-both 19, brilliant, educated, and wealthy—-were close friends. They had a sexual relationship, although Loeb appeared to cooperate only as a means of controlling Leopold.
Leopold & Loeb awaiting court
According to Professor Douglas Linder of the University of Missouri, Leopold read the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and believed that superior men (such as himself and Loeb) have no moral boundaries. Leopold persuaded Loeb that they should prove their superiority by performing the perfect crime. They started with petty crimes, says Hal Higdon, author of The Crime of the Century: The Leopold and Loeb Case, but wanted more attention, so they began to plot a murder.
On May 21, they went out to select their victim, trolling the area around the exclusive boy’s school that Leopold had once attended, grab a boy, and make his parents pay a ransom. To them it mattered little whom they grabbed. It had only to be someone whose disappearance would generate publicity.
As they watched from the car, fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks walked toward them. They offered him a ride and he climbed in. Within a block, one of them hit him with a chisel, then smothered him by shoving a rag into his mouth. Afterward they drove some distance away so they could strip him and pour acid on his face and genitals to prevent people from identifying him. Then they ate dinner in the car while they waited for darkness. Finally they tossed the mutilated body naked in a culvert where Leopold often went birding, and then returned home to place a call and write a ransom note for $10,000 to the victim’s parents.
Yet their perfect crime soon unraveled. The body was found, and near it were a pair of glasses that were linked to Leopold. Also, Loeb couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and his incessant theorizing about the crimes alerted police. When he was taken in for questioning, he spilled the beans. Then Leopold added his own version, and each accused the other.
As they coldly provided details, it turned out that the murder had been committed to entertain them. They’d been bored. “It was just an experiment,” Leopold said. “It is as easy to justify as an entomologist in impaling a beetle on a pin.” They simply wanted to test their ability to plan and carry out a crime without being caught.
With the persuasive help of attorney Clarence Darrow, they avoided the chair and got life in prison, where Loeb eventually died. After 33 years, Leopold was paroled and he lived out the rest of his life in Puerto Rico.
Yet their example did not to dissuade others from killing for a thrill, and several more male teams perpetrated their own similar crimes.
More astonishing still were the 10-year-old boys who decided to kidnap a boy one day when they grew bored. In 1993, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables took two-year-old James Bulger out of a shopping center in Liverpool, England. They led him for a ways and then splashed him with blue paint, pelted him with bricks, and hit him with an iron bar. Then not knowing how to end it, they laid him down on the railroad tracks and kicked him in the head and groin. Removing his pants and underwear, they fondled him and may have pushed batteries into his anus. One of them admitted later that they had continued the attack because “he just kept getting up.”
Jon Venables & Robert Thompson
Expert testimony from psychiatrists affirmed that these boys were not insane; they had understood the nature of their crime and knew it was wrong. Thus, their state of mind at the time of the crime was not psychotic. In essence, they knew what they were doing but saw nothing wrong with it. While they went to prison, they were released when they turned 18 and given new identities. It’s no wonder that the British are upset to have these dangerous boys back in society.
Yet there’s no shortage of young men capable of killing for a lark. On April 19, 1997, Thomas Koskovich, 18, and Jayson Vreeland, 17, ordered a pizza from a Dunkin’ Donuts in Franklin, New Jersey. They kept calling places until they found one that would deliver. They ordered two cheese pizzas and gave an address that was actually an abandoned house. Then they went there to wait.
Thomas Koskovich and Jayson Vreeland
Jeremy Giordano, 22, and Giorgio Gallara, 24, went out with the pizzas, never suspecting that they had been chosen at random to die that night. As they approached the house, Koskovich and Vreeland came up to the car. Gallara, sitting with the pizzas on the passenger side, rolled down his window to ask for the money. Koskovich pulled out a .45 caliber pistol and shot at both of them. Giordano was killed when one bullet severed his spinal cord, while Gallara received bullets in the face, arm, and shoulder. The bullet to the back of his head that killed him came from Vreeland’s gun.
The killers then searched the bodies for money. After that, they hugged each other and expressed great excitement over what they had just done. “I love you, man,” Vreeland reportedly said. But then he felt a twinge of conscience, so they changed out of their bloody clothing and went to church.
A former girlfriend heard about the murders and recalled Koskovich telling her that he had planned to do something like that. He’d wanted to join the Mafia or become a Navy Seal, and he believed that killing someone would help him to achieve his goals. He’d also stated that he wanted to see what an act like that felt like.
One team killer who was in it for the thrill was Leonard Lake. When he was arrested in 1985 for illegal possession of a weapon, he swallowed a cyanide capsule. The police were mystified by his rather extreme reaction, but then they found out his secrets.
He owned a cinderblock bunker outside Sacramento, California, where he and his partner, Charles Ng, had taken numerous people to torture and kill. It’s estimated they may have had as many as 25 victims, both male and female. Some had responded to classified ads or the promise of a job, and a few of them were even related to their killers. Lake took photographs and videotapes of his attempts at sexual slavery, and he wore clothing that suggested some sort of cult activity.
Charles Ng, mugshot
Ng was 15 years younger and had gotten his criminal start with shoplifting and theft. He’d been arrested while in the marines, but had escaped. Seeing one of Lake’s ads for a mercenary soldier, he went looking for the man and they soon became a team. He may not have realized that Lake actually wanted a killing partner, but there’s no doubt that he eagerly participated in the spree.
Lake left a diary and videotapes behind that provided graphic images of sexual torture, murder, and cremation, and these tapes included Ng. After strangling or shooting a victim, they dismembered them with a power saw and burned them in metal drums. Any bones were pulverized and buried in bags. Later, police found 45 pounds of bone fragments and teeth.
Although Lake had eluded justice by causing his own death, Ng was extradited from Canada and put on trial. He caused numerous delays, firing one lawyer after another, and insisted that he was both an unwilling accomplice and a changed man. His criminal proceedings were the most expensive in U.S. history. Finally he was convicted by a savvy and disgusted jury in the murders of six men, three women, and two babies, and given the death sentence. He quickly appealed this sentence, based on its cruelty, and will no doubt spend even more of taxpayers’ money before it’s over.
Not all team killers do their deeds in a series or a spree. Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, had a plan for a rather ambitious mass murder at their school. Adolph Hitler’s 110th birthday was coming up and they wanted to commemorate it. Obsessed with violent video games, a fascist youth subculture, and paramilitary techniques, they had collected an arsenal of semiautomatic guns and homemade bombs with which to perpetrate a crime that the nation would never forget.
Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold
Members of “the Trenchcoat Mafia,” dubbed for their habit of wearing black trench coats, the boys had long been bullied by classmates. They didn’t like that and had decided it was time for payback. Having no reason to live, they decided to kill themselves, take out as many of their hated classmates as they could, and blow up the school.
The day before their rampage, they sent an email to the local police declaring the plan for their revenge. They blamed parents and teachers for turning their children into intolerant sheep and announced their own suicide. It was a disturbing forewarning.
At 11:30 a.m. on April 20, 1999, they hid weapons and bombs beneath their long trench coats and then ran amuck through the school, yelling and shooting. When they reached the library, they cornered and killed their largest number of victims before turning their guns on themselves. Some said they specifically targeted a black football player and some outspoken Christians. It all happened quickly, but with devastating impact that reverberated across the nation. After police got into the building, they counted 34 casualties. Fifteen people died in the melee, including the shooters.
Then Harris’s diary turned up, which confirmed the elaborate plan. For over a year they had worked at it, drawing maps, collecting weapons, and devising a system of silent hand signals for coordinating their moves. Behind closed doors in their parents’ homes, they had spoken of death and of their lone-wolf brand of heroism. The simple fact that emerged is that they were angry, bitter kids who had access to guns, who identified with a twisted dictator, and who were inspired by images of grandiose violence.
It’s apparent that some people can only act out their aggression or sick fantasies as part of a team. Having the other person there as a witness and participant affirms what they’re doing and makes them bold. The other, weaker person (or people) may feel that participating is his only way to be accepted or cared about. He’s easily manipulated through his vulnerability, low self-esteem, and neediness. Team members feed each other and the whole often becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Human relationships and weaknesses being what they are, there’s no doubt that killing teams will continue to be part of the landscape of crime.
Folie a Deux?
When two people go on a killing spree together, the question is always asked whether either would have ever done such a thing alone. Did they bring out the worst in each other? Had they never met, might each of their lives have been different?
Roy Hazelwood, a former FBI profiler, and his associate, Janet Warren, did a study of the patterns they found among partners in which sexual sadism was a strong dynamic, publishing it in the third edition of Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation. They spoke with 20 women who had been the wives and girlfriends of men whom they considered sexually sadistic. They hoped to learn more about the habits and sexual preferences of these men, as well as to understand more clearly how they persuade women to partner up with them and even get involved in killing. It is one of the few studies done in which the women get to speak, and while it is valuable for understanding a certain type of killing couple, some of the generalizations give the impression that the psychology of team killers follows a specific formula. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Book cover: The Gates
of Janus, by Ian Brady
of Janus, by Ian Brady
Before looking at this study, let’s study a few different types of couples to see how they portray a certain type of dynamic. We begin with the case of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, known as Britain’s notorious Moors Murderers. While their case has been covered extensively by many authors, a new book by Brady himself gives their experience together a different cast. That publication came about from his contact with noted crime writer, Colin Wilson, who himself offers an analysis.
When Wilson engaged in a prison correspondence with Brady, he had a unique chance to try to understand a murderer’s logic. Brady wrote him hundreds of letters about the nature of killing, and the result was Brady’s book, The Gates of Janus, with an introduction from Colin Wilson.
Ian Brady (CORBIS)
Called “the most evil man alive,” Brady offers his insights into many other murderers, affirming Wilson’s classification of Brady as “a self-esteem killer.” By that he means that some murderers are fueled primarily by one of the “growth needs” listed on psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human motivations (hunger, safety, social connection, self-esteem, and self actualization). Self-esteem killers act out to feel better about themselves and to win admiration. That does seem like a feasible explanation for Brady’s crimes, but a look at Brady’s philosophies indicates that he may have been motivated by the need for self-actualization, a step above self-esteem on Maslow’s hierarchy. In other words, for him, killing appeared to be a creative expression of his nihilistic ideas about life. He didn’t need a partner, but once he had one, all he had to do was persuade her to accept his philosophies.
Book cover: Crime and
Ian Brady was a fan of Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, who wrote such classics as Crime and Punishment and The Possessed. Both books deal with someone who becomes obsessed with planning a crime, and Dostoevsky had laid out the psychology of such a person in detail. The character of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, in particular, is obsessed with proving that he is beyond the laws of society because he is a “superior” man. He interprets that to mean that, should he decide to, he could kill someone at whim, without consequences. He selects an old woman and carries out his plan, having also to murder another woman who happens along. Then he writes feverishly about the act and its proof that he is a superior being. While he ended up disintegrating, which disproved his ideas about himself, Brady took the notion seriously. For him, it seemed a real possibility.
Brady developed as a loner in Glasgow, Scotland, who indulged in petty crimes that by the age of 17 landed him in jail. His exposure in jail to hardened criminals apparently had some influence, according to Wilson’s understanding from Brady’s correspondence, and Brady developed an attitude that he was going to act out against society for the injustices against him. His goal was to amass as much money as he could in the least amount of time. Once released from prison, he looked for opportunities to achieve that. He continued to read widely and became a strong admirer of Hitler and Nazism. He also denounced religion.
Myra Hindley (CORBIS)
Myra Hindley was 18 when she met Ian Brady in 1961. She was a simple girl who loved children, and she took a job at Millwards LTD in Manchester, England, where Brady was working. She became infatuated with him and so was an easy mark.
“Ian told me,” says Colin Wilson, “that the relationship was so close that they were virtually telepathic.” Brady managed, according to Myra’s diary, to convince her there was no God and that morality was relative. That meant that her own convictions could not have been firmly grounded. Did he have a sense of this or did he manipulate her into being so pliable? It’s likely that her conversion was a little bit of both.
He spoke of Nazism and the violent hedonistic philosophies of the Marquis de Sade, and soon had her hating people as much as he did. He proposed that they enrich themselves through a life of crime, to which she acceded, and she soon found herself helping him to rape children and bury them on the moors. Their first victim in 1963 was a 16-year-old girl, but the children got progressively younger. The next was a 12-year-old boy. (For full details on these crimes, see Crime Library’s story devoted exclusively to this killing couple.)
Brady hoped to acquire another accomplice, Myra’s brother-in-law, David Smith, who came under Brady’s spell. He tried to get Smith to kill someone, but when the job was mishandled, Brady grew paranoid, so Myra had to persuade him not to kill the young man. Brady later got him involved in a murder that he had performed in the home of Myra’s grandmother, with the elderly woman present upstairs. However, Smith couldn’t take what he’d seen, and he told his wife, who informed the police. They arrested Brady first, and then Myra. In 1966, both were sentenced to life in prison, but neither admitted to involvement in these criminal acts. They wrote to each other from their separate prisons. However, Myra returned to Catholicism and her attitudes about Brady shifted. She began to say that she had been under his influence. He had changed her. It had never been her idea.
Myra wanted out of prison, so she wrote a long document that detailed how Brady was entirely responsible for the murders. Like many such psychopathic couples, each partner looks to his or her own interests, so Myra decided to use him to win parole. At first, Brady had exonerated her, but upon hearing how she had turned on him, he implicated her in everything, even saying that some of the brutality was her idea.
By 1987, Myra had admitted to her part in the murders, although she claimed that she was forced into it through blackmail. Brady, she said, wanted to commit the perfect murder, and she had helped him get victims, but she denied being present to any of the actual killings. She believed that Brady would kill her, too, or her grandmother, so she went along with whatever he asked. She also implicated David Smith as Brady’s accomplice. Either she was telling the truth or she was playing her female advantage while being even more conniving than Brady.
Yet for all her detail, Brady gave a fuller peak into the motives and experiences of the career killer. In his book, he makes it clear that he thinks of crime as an exciting venture for the solitary explorer, “consciously thirsting to experience that which the majority have not and dare not.” Human nature, he believes, when not bounded by social convention, is more inclined toward “the crooked.” Nevertheless, it’s not the ultimate high; in fact, its lack of satisfaction can be a real letdown. The doer of such deeds is generally too preoccupied with the possibility of discovery that he fails to fully experience it as he might.
As for murder itself, “viewed scientifically, the death of a human being is of no more significance than that of any other animal on earth.” Serial killers, he adds, are people who are “unavoidably a failure in many normal walks of life.” This would describe both him and Myra. Such a person lacks patience, he writes, and eschews the kind of boredom that most other people accept. “The serial killer has chosen to live a day as a lion, rather than decades as a sheep.” Once he has committed homicide, he accepts his acts as normal, and the rest of humanity as “subnormal.”
While Brady goes on to describe the cases of individual serial killers such as Ted Bundy and Carl Panzram, he only addresses the dynamics of a team in depth when he discusses the Hillside Stranglers, cousins Kenneth Bianci and Angelo Buono. Here he talks about the shared delusion known as folie a deux, an intellectual form of persuasion and conversion of one partner by another. It can only occur, he says, if the target person is “fertile soil in which such proposals can readily take root.” In other words, the criminal desire must already be present.
This analysis removes any ideas about the compliant accomplice who was merely the right kind of person in the wrong place at the wrong time. If a person got involved in crime as the result of another person’s influence, then that person was already a criminal waiting to happen. That’s Brady’s take on it, anyway.
Brady takes a swing at Myra when he writes, “It is human nature that, if caught, the pupil will blame the master for his criminal conduct.” Even so, the pupil’s zeal, had she not been caught, would have outraced the master’s. In that case, a role reversal may occur and the master becomes the pupil. Myra, he seems to be saying, was as bad as he and might easily have become worse.
While he wrote a letter denying that his relationship with her was based on coercion, she insists that he had a certain charm that made her believe anything and want to do anything for and with him. Was that due to her vulnerability or to his power? It’s difficult to tell.
Whether Myra was a dormant criminal with Brady’s nihilistic criminality a catalyst or whether she acted out of some other motivation, it seems clear that Brady was the dominant personality. It’s more likely than not that had she never met him, she would have lived a much more ordinary life. She might have even been nurturing rather than antisocial.
Yet it’s not always the male who leads the dance. Sometimes two partners are nearly equal in their capacity for atrocity, and their equal ability to suffer no remorse fuels a pattern of increasingly aggressive acts against others. Only when they get caught do they stop. A number of male-female couples fit this profile, despite the fact that the female inevitably claims to have been a victim. However, her actual behavior tells a different story. A case in point is the couple that has become a role model for many killing couples, Bonnie and Clyde. Their story is fairly well-known, but let’s look at a brief summary to see how they developed together as killers.
“Death is the Wages of Sin”
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (AP)
Bonnie Parker liked to write poetry about the exploits of her lover, Clyde Barrow, and she found his violence erotic. Deputy Ted Hinton was one of the six officers who ambushed and shot the couple to death. As the last surviving member of that gang, he tells the story in Ambush: The Real Story of Bonnie and Clyde. While he viewed Bonnie as a nice girl who was fairly normal, it’s clear that Clyde brought out something in her that was anything but. She had plenty of chances to walk away, to turn him in, to say no to the crimes they were committing, yet she stuck with him to the bitter end.
During the 1930s, when people were suffering from a serious nationwide Depression, outlaw gangs made headlines with their sensational bank robberies, shoot-outs and escapes. The like had not been seen since the James Gang the century before.
One of the troublemakers in Dallas, Texas, at that time was Clyde Barrow. Hinton knew Barrow’s family, so he was aware of how Barrow had gotten his start early. His girlfriend since 1930 was Bonnie Parker, a spitfire. Hinton also knew her from her days as a waitress. She hoped to become a singer or a poet. She was 20 when she met and fell in love with 21-year-old Barrow. Already married to a man who had ended up in prison, she cleaved to the outlaw, whose anger at the intense poverty that restricted him, found expression in a reckless aggression that she admired. His older brother was the same, and the townspeople knew them as “that Barrow Bunch.”
The year he met Bonnie, Clyde was sentenced to prison for 14 years for car theft and burglary. He had a fellow inmate cut off two of his toes so he could get out. It didn’t work, but he did get paroled from the overcrowded system in 1932. Bonnie had waited for him.
Clyde’s first murder was an accident, when a bullet ricocheted off a safe. He hadn’t pulled the trigger, but his presence there convinced him he’d end up executed. That added an edge to his adventures: he had nothing to lose, and Bonnie apparently found this exhilarating. Together they went on a spree of robberies, and then began to kill, taking on and losing partners, and always staying together. Police chased them from state to state, but they always eluded capture, and Bonnie wrote poems about it.
Finally, they were trapped, and they went out just as Bonnie envisioned—dying together.
On May 23, 1934, six officers awaited the couple on a lonely stretch of road near Gibsland, Louisiana. They had gotten a tip that the couple would be coming down that road. The officers settled in for a long vigil, which finally paid off. The lovers came driving through and the officers just started shooting. “For a fleeting instant, the car seems to melt and hang in a kind of eerie and animated suspension…Clyde’s head has popped backward, his face twisted at the shock of pain as the bullets strike home.”
Officers who shot Bonnie & Clyde (CORBIS)
The execution lasted about 12 seconds and then the incident was over. Bonnie and Clyde were dead.
The car took 167 bullets, and a coroner later counted the number of wounds that the killers had received. Each was shot more than 50 times. None of the officers was hit. In fact, neither of the fugitives had managed to fire a single shot.
The bullet-riddled car
The outlaws were towed to town in their car, and people came from miles around to have a look at them and to touch the “death car.” They wanted to see for themselves the place where Bonnie and Clyde had met their match. School children ripped pieces from Bonnie’s dress and hair.
Despite her desire to be buried next to Clyde, their respective families separated them in death. Yet there was no doubt that they had been in love and had enjoyed their escapades together. Both had probably known that eventually they would be apprehended, but that awareness had failed to stop them. Bonnie had chosen to be with Clyde, and he was a lawbreaker and a killer. She, too, had likely shot at least one of the victims, so wasn’t just along for the ride.
Other women have followed their lovers into crime, but some have later claimed that they had no choice. A look at one such case makes this claim hard to believe. Like Bonnie, Karla Homolka appeared to know what she was doing and to enjoy it, as long as she was doing it with her man, “the king.” Karla is a classic psychopath who appears to have met the man through whom she could act out those things she might not have done on her own. Not that she flinched from them; indeed, she appeared to thrive on them, but she needed a man to put her own inner depravity into motion.
In an article on female serial killers, A.J. Cooper discusses women who kill with adult males. The victim, Cooper says, is usually a family member or an acquaintance, and the male accomplice is typically a boyfriend or husband. The male usually initiates the molestation and the female is usually sufficiently dependent on him to remain passive in the face of violence. She fears being abandoned or beaten. Eventually she may come to accept her role and even get “a measure of sexual/emotional gratification.” Most of them have longstanding insecurity and are poorly educated. Many were abused during childhood.
In Karla Homolka’s case, none of this is true. She was confident, educated and in contact with her family. She was co-equal with her partner in violence, and even suggested some of it before he thought of it. Partnerships like hers, Cooper says, are potentially more dangerous than those in which the woman passively complies.
In Deadlier than the Male, author Terry Manners describes in detail how Karla and her husband, the notorious Paul Bernardo, had killed three girls, starting with her own sister. It was Karla who had drugged young Tammy before Christmas in 1990 so Paul could rape her. Trying to please her man, she slipped an animal tranquilizer into Tammy’s eggnog while they were all together in the basement of Tammy and Karla’s parents’ home, and when the girl passed out, they took turns having sex with her. They made a videotape of these activities so they could relive the pleasure. To their surprise, Tammy vomited and then suffocated and died. They redressed her and dragged her into the bedroom. However, there was no way to save her, so they claimed she’d had too much to drink. Karla took the lead in covering up the murder. The medical examiner failed to check very closely, and Karla and Paul kept their dark secret to themselves. However, Karla then dressed in her sister’s clothes so that Paul could reenact the rape scene.
At no point did she protest and, caught on video, she seems to have thought the whole thing was quite funny.
Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka wedding photo
Karla was 17 when she met Paul Bernardo, 23. To neighbors they seemed the perfect couple, but behind closed doors they carried out atrocities that boggled even the minds of the lawyers who later defended them. Karla had started out seemingly a simple, middle-class girl (she says) who just wanted a boyfriend, but from the moment they met, she was attracted to Paul, the sadist. She let Paul do anything he desired with her and his demands became increasingly brutal. Nevertheless, she wrote notes telling him she wanted more. He liked being in control, and with him Karla later claimed that she felt at peace. They married in 1991 at Niagara Falls, just two weeks after Paul had committed his second murder. Stephen Williams and Nick Pron both published books on the case (see bibliography) and fuller details can be read elsewhere on Crime Library.
Paul had raped and killed 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy, who was last seen alive at a party and was found dismembered and cemented into seven blocks of concrete submerged in a lake. Then another schoolgirl, Kristen French, disappeared. She was seen being forced into a car in the middle of the day while walking home from school. Two people were in the car. Then weeks later she was found murdered, her long brown hair hacked off.
It turned out that Karla had lured her toward the car because, as she later put it, Paul liked young girls and that way she could keep him happy. Before killing her, they kept Kristin captive for a few days for their pleasure.
Karla was the one who turned Paul in. As the police closed in, she saw a chance to save herself, so she lied to get a short prison term in exchange for details about what Paul had done to the girls. There were incriminating videotapes of both murdered girls being there in his home, forced to have sex. He was charged with 42 criminal counts.
For her cooperation and a plea of guilty to two counts of manslaughter, Karla was sentenced to only two 12-year terms to be served concurrently. At her parole hearing in 1997, it was determined that she was still too potentially violent to be allowed into society. The same was true as of February 2001.
While some people believed that she was coerced into what she did by her overbearing husband, many others are just as certain that she was as much a part of it as he was, and that she enjoyed it. While little research has been done on the remorseless female who uses a man to act out her own violence, this could be a case in which such a dynamic occurred. That she could kill her sister and then continue to participate in more rapes and murders with her sister’s co-killer for several years indicates a deviant personality. She was also caught on videotape telling Paul that she wanted to get many more young virgins for him. He had not scripted her to say this; it was spontaneous and flirty. She clearly had her own ideas about how to torment innocent victims.
Karla and Paul are not alone. In fact, Michael Newton states in The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers that about 25% of all serial killers are male-female teams, including the likes of:
Fred & Rose West (South West
- Fred and Rosemary West, who were sexual sadists with more than 12 victims between them. Fred had killed three times before meeting Rosemary, including his first wife, and they worked together to torture nine young girls. Their 16-year-old daughter was among the victims. To elude detection, between 1977 and 1987, they buried the remains in their home. After arrest, Fred said he’d killed more than 20 women. He committed suicide in prison in 1995, while Rosemary is serving a life sentence for 10 counts of murder.
Raymond Fernandez & Martha Beck
- Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez swindled women together and killed several. They were suspected in as many as 20 deaths, including a child, but they only confessed to two. Martha, a grossly overweight woman, fell for Raymond’s charm, but he wanted only to take what he could from her. Married three times and quickly divorced, Martha had an appetite for bizarre sex. She persuaded Raymond, who believed in black magic and who had conned over one hundred women out of the money, to team up with her. During 1947 and 1948, they engaged in fraud and deception of vulnerable women, stealing their money, and that activity soon turned to murder. One victim was strangled into unconsciousness and then Martha drowned her in the bathtub. Arrested and tried in a sensational proceeding that involved Martha’s descriptions of her strange sexual practices with Raymond, they were convicted of murder. Despite Martha’s attempt to appear to be a woman who’d fallen under a con man’s spell, these two were executed on the same day in 1951. She proclaimed her love for him all the way to the chair.
Doug Clark & Carol Bundy
- Doug Clark and Carol Bundy were responsible for “the Sunset Strip Slayings” in Hollywood in the early 1980s. Carol would entice young girls into the car so that Doug could force them into sexual acts, during which he would shoot them in the head. He would then have sex with the corpses, or just with a severed head. Once Bundy made the head up to look like Barbie, which Doug then took for his pleasure. When arrested, they were charged with six counts of murder—five females and one male (a friend of Carol’s who had suspected Doug in the string of slayings.) Clark was sentenced to die while Bundy, who testified against him, got two consecutive life terms.
Gerald & Charlene Gallego
- From 1978 to 1980, Gerald and Charlene Gallego engaged in a series of sex crimes together in California and Nevada. As was the typical pattern for such couples, Charlene (Gerald’s seventh wife) would entice girls into their car so that Gerald could rape, abuse and shoot them. Often kidnapping two girls together, they killed 10 people. A witness gave police enough information to link the last dead couple (a male and female) to the Gallegos, and they ran but were quickly captured. Charlene turned against her husband and was the star witness in trials in both California and Nevada, where Gerald received the death penalty both times. Charlene got 16 years for her part and was released in 1997.
Each couple involved a male and female who together lured and savaged innocent victims, including children. While no formal studies have been done on the kind of chemistry that happens between two people that sets off a rape or killing spree, many experts believe that under other circumstances and with another man, the female might not have been as sadistic or cold-blooded. (Yet in some cases, the female was the dominant or encouraging partner.)
Back to the study that former FBI Special Agent Roy Hazelwood did. He found that most of the women who get involved with these sadistic males are from backgrounds that included physical and sexual abuse. Once merged with their sadistic partners, they become unable to form their own identities because “the sadistic fantasy of the male becomes an organizing principle in the behavior of the women.” From his interviews, he concludes that couples like Karla and Paul are not like the team killers, Bonnie and Clyde.
“Let’s take Bonnie and Clyde,” he says. “Wives and girlfriends of sexual sadists are quite different. I interviewed twenty women, and four of them had participated in the murder of another person. You can’t excuse that. They are legally, morally, and ethically responsible for what they’ve done. But I believe the man had reshaped their sexual norms.” After having spoken to these women, he viewed them as compliant accomplices with weak self-esteem who were isolated and made to believe that the male in their lives was the center of the universe. They had to do what he wanted or their world would fall apart.
Yet those psychiatrists who have evaluated some of these women believe that even without the male, they had the potential for aggression or cunning against others. It was also difficult to confirm the details of their self-reports. Maybe they were abused, maybe they weren’t. There is certainly no evidence of that for Karla Homolka, or Bonnie Parker. That means it may not be just team chemistry. It could be about a shared ability to harm others and a willingness to witness and participate in it without trying to stop it.
In fact, if not for certain women, the lives of some men might not have been so violent.
The Female Aggressor
Karla Fay Tucker (AP)
Karla Fay Tucker, 23, was in the mood for acting out and she wanted to go out. She was a tomboy who liked to prove herself in her Houston, Texas, neighborhood. She could get into a fight with the best of them and she found good company among bikers or Vietnam vets. In 1983, her boyfriend, Daniel Garrett, was teaching her combat maneuvers. There’s no evidence that he would have turned violent had she not goaded him into it. She got high on speed and urged him to go with her for a ride. She was feeling mean that night and she had a target.
There was a guy, she said, that she disliked. His name was Jerry Lynn Dean. She persuaded Daniel to help her to break into his house and take something—specifically his Harley motorcycle. Daniel did what she wanted, although he wasn’t comfortable with this act.
When they entered Jerry’s house in the dark, Karla heard him waking up on his futon. Rather than leave before he discovered them, she jumped him, scaring him, and her power over him gave her an enormous rush. He started to struggle as she straddled him, so she grabbed a pickax to hold him down, and the more he struggled, the more she was determined to keep him down. She hit him again and again, using the ax to put 11 deep stab wounds into his throat and chest. The bloody killing excited her and, as he died, she experienced a sexual climax.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Jerry’s girlfriend, Deborah Thornton, was there, too, so Karla began to hit her as well. However, as Gini Graham Scott put it in Homicide, her arms got tired, so she persuaded her boyfriend to finish it. He did what she asked.
Later she bragged about the incident to her sister, who was so disgusted she turned Karla and Daniel in to the police. Karla was convicted of murder and executed in Texas.
Judith Ann Neelley
Like her, Judith Ann Neelley persuaded her husband, Alvin Neelley, to participate in a series of brutal crimes. In 1980, she robbed a woman at gunpoint and then began a rampage that involved murder. Together these two viewed themselves as outlaws, calling themselves ‘Boney and Claude.’ One day they lured a 13-year-old girl into their car and in front of their own twins, they molested her and then killed her. Judith injected her with liquid drain cleaner and then shot her. She also shot a man, but he survived the attack and fingered her for shooting him and killing his girlfriend.
When this team was arrested, Alvin claimed that Judith had instigated the crimes, being responsible for eight murders, and he had just gone along with her. She liked to have power over others, he said. He didn’t know what else to do.
Yet when she was arrested, she quickly blamed Alvin and said she was a victim of domestic abuse. She tried to claim she was insane and could not help what she had done. While the jury convicted her of murder in 1983, they recommended a life sentence. However, the judge sentenced her to death, but her sentence was commuted in 1999 to life in prison.
One of their victims who had escaped said that Judith was the one with the gun, and that she had bragged about committing numerous murders, but no evidence ever linked her to any unsolved cases. Nevertheless, she appears to have had a thirst for violence and power. That she was young, slender and blond gave her an advantage with those who would rather believe that the male was the instigator. She was just a girl, after all. Yet the facts of the case say otherwise.
Not all teams are out-and-out killers. Some escalate from other crimes. They cross one moral boundary, and that makes it easier to cross another.
In Pleasanton, California, on December 2, 1997, 22-year-old Vanessa Lei Samson was abducted while making her usual morning walk to work. A dark green minivan pulled up beside her, the door opened and she was gone.
Book cover: Hunting Evil
Carlton Smith tells the story of what happened in Hunting Evil, about a male-female team of rapists who operated in the area for more than four months before they were apprehended.
The story, while unclear, appears to have begun in 1974 with another killing, that of 13-year-old Cassie Riley. She was last seen at a local grocery store. Her body was found on a bush-covered embankment along a creek, with her head pointing toward the water. Her pants were still zipped but pulled down to her ankles. Her shirt and bra were pulled up. Evidence was collected near the crime scene, but most important, investigators found sneaker prints, size 10. That would help to narrow down suspects. The autopsy revealed that Cassie had died from drowning. However, injuries to her head, neck and body showed that she had been the victim of a severe assault. There was no evidence of sexual penetration, but clearly someone had gone after her.
Eyewitnesses, including her own sister, claimed that before her disappearance, Cassie was speaking to a younger man wearing a green shirt with a patch on the sleeve. Jimmy Daveggio was named as one of the boys at the park where she had been seen, so police interviewed him on October 2, 1974. He later revealed that Cassie had once been his girlfriend, but since other boys had claimed the same thing, investigators did not consider this relevant information. In retrospect, it might have been.
Six months later on May 21, 1975, Marvin Mutch was accused of the murder. However, there was no hard evidence to convict and no shoe prints were ever presented to match the prints at the crime scene.
Carlton Smith believes that this may have been where Jimmy Deveggio, who became a violet sexual predator, got his start. He reports that Jimmy’s sister recalled their mother lying to police about Jimmy’s whereabouts on the day Cassie disappeared, saying that he had been home at the approximate time of Cassie’s murder. Where he actually was is anyone’s guess.
Jimmy Deveggio mugshot
As a charming, blue-eyed young man, Jimmy liked women, but his volatile temper got him into trouble. Once he stole a girlfriend’s mother’s car. Another time, he got a young girl pregnant. He was constantly getting into fistfights. Because of his problems, he was sent to live with his natural father in Pacifica, California. But that worked out badly and he was soon back with his mother.
When he robbed a gas station, he was sentenced to a short term at the Alameda County boy’s detention camp. He now called himself Jime, although he acquired another nickname, “Froggie.”
Jime wasn’t good at keeping himself out of trouble, and soon he was into gambling and drugs. He also committed numerous burglaries and was charged with abduction and rape, although because the victim had been intoxicated the charges were dropped.
After further incidents, Jime’s parole officer decided to send him for a psychiatric evaluation. He was determined to be a sex offender and was sent to the California Medical Facility at Vacaville, but was released fairly soon. It wasn’t long before he was arrested again, this time for picking up a female officer posing as a prostitute and offering her money for sex. He was also charged with disorderly conduct and fined for drinking and driving.
Jime moved to Sacramento where he became a member of the motorcycle gang known as the Devil’s Horsemen. The only prerequisite was owning a Harley Davidson, so he stole one. He dyed his hair purple to match his bike and got fiercely tattooed. He soon met his next girlfriend, who was eager to join him in some sadomasochistic activities.
When high school dropout Michelle “Mickie” Michaud first met Jime, or “Froggie,” she was already considered incorrigible. By age 16, she had run away from home and moved in with a drug dealer who beat her. She worked as a prostitute and was arrested in 1991 in a massage parlor. She was fined, went through several more lovers, and then encountered Froggie at a neighbor’s house in 1997.
Mickie was impressed with his motorcycle, and after they got to know each other, with his protection of her. Nobody could treat her like a whore when she was with Froggie. She liked that.
Eventually he moved into her house and during the holiday months stopped her from seeing her parents. He wanted to isolate her for better control. During this time Mickie played house. She took care of her kids, rounded them up when “Daddy” came home, cooked dinner at which Froggie would say grace, and even prepared lunches to take down to the bar. It was good in the beginning, but soon nothing became good enough for Froggie. He would complain if she brought him lunch and he would complain if she didn’t. He became impossible to please.
Just before Christmas, the bar where Froggie worked was robbed of the Christmas presents, and a few nights later the safe was broken into — $6000 was missing. Although he was never confronted, in February Froggie was fired on grounds of fighting with customers. He took a job as a security guard.
Froggie soon started bringing girlfriends home. Mickie allowed it to keep him happy, thinking that if she gave him his space, eventually he would get tired and she would have him back.
Yet Froggie eventually became abusive. He would beat her, lock her in his room, and leave for days and not tell her where he was going. He used speed, which put them in debt. To help financially, Froggie’s friend moved in and together they sold crack from the house. It wasn’t long before they were in trouble.
The Sacramento police came looking for Froggie’s friend on a warrant, and while apprehending him, they discovered a stash of methamphetamine and a nine-millimeter pistol. Then they learned about Froggie’s status as a sex-offender. Because there were children in the house, he was ordered to move out
After another suspicious burglary, Froggie was kicked out of the gang, and that’s when he developed a fascination with serial killers, especially Gerald Gallego. Just as Gerald had done with Charlene, Froggie persuaded Mickie to pick up one of his daughter’s friends and lure her back to where he was staying. There Froggie raped her.
Soon, Mickie was fully involved in Froggie’s scheme and they became kidnappers. A 20-year-old night student, Alicia Paredes, was walking home one evening. As she crossed the bridge, a dark green minivan came up beside her. Froggie and Mickie grabbed her so Froggie could rape her. They then dropped her off, but not before she had overheard Froggie refer to the female driver as “Mickie.” She reported it and worked with a sketch artist to develop the suspects.
Froggie removed the two middle seats from the van to better accommodate his plans. He also gave instructions for Mickie to get another woman. He forced this one to perform oral sex on him while Mickie held her head, telling her what to do to “Daddy.” When it was over Froggie tried to console the girl and blamed Mickie for everything. He even sent her to go get ice for the girl’s mouth.
A few days later the couple was back on the road, this time accompanied by Mickie’s daughter. Mickie had told her of “secret lusts” she’d had and that one of them was a desire for them to have sex. Later that night, Mickie held her daughter down and undid her pants to allow Froggie to perform oral sex on her while she called for “Mommy.” When it was over the girl went to sleep in the back of the van.
On another night, they gave drugs to a girl and then hit her over the head as she was hunched over trying to snort it. She tried to fight back, but they hit her again and then handcuffed her. In a safe place, Froggie removed the handcuffs and had the girl fellate him. He commanded her to act like she enjoyed it. She remarked that she couldn’t because the experience reminded her of her stepfather. This ruined Froggie’s fantasy so he stopped. Mickie took over while Froggie masturbated. The couple then took pornographic pictures of her and blackmailed her with them.
Mickie wrote bad checks and was soon arrested. On November 9, 1997, she was booked into the Douglas County jail. While she was there, Froggie removed the rear bench seat from the van. Once Mickie was released, the couple hit the road again with this stripped down van. They grabbed a prostitute. When Froggie attacked her, she fought back and managed to escape.
Things were finally closing in on this couple. A few days after Mickie’s release from jail, the police took a statement from the friend of Mickie’s daughter whom Froggie had violated. She mentioned the gun, the rape and the van. Mickie’s daughter described how her mother had bragged of their rape in Reno as well. The officer on the case soon realized that Froggie was a sex offender.
On November 21, 1997, Mickie’s daughter gave police information about where Mickie and Froggie were. She also told them about other victims.
Even so, the couple remained free, and that was bad news for their next victims.
While checked into a motel in Sacramento, Froggie raped his younger daughter while Mickie waited in the bathroom. Then he performed oral sex on her while he penetrated her with his finger. He went on like this for an hour and then called Mickie to come out of the bathroom and join them. When they were finished, they lay on the bed in the hotel room and Froggie said that he wanted to torture someone. His daughter declined to be his victim. That meant he had to find someone else, so he sent Mickie out to get a flashlight, a man’s shirt and two curling irons.
A few days later, the couple circled the Pleasanton, California, area while Froggie fantasized about the girls he saw walking by. They stopped into a sex store and purchased a gagging device and video titled “Submissive Young Girls.”
On December 1, FBI agents met with Alicia, the first rape victim who had seen them and overheard the female’s name, and showed pictures of Froggie and Mickie. She was unable to identify them. She even went so far as to identify someone else as her attacker.
The next day, the police issued a warrant for the arrest of James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud.
Froggie continued to obsess about torturing and killing someone. One morning while driving around, he ordered Mickie to turn around, go back and pick up the “the one with the pretty black hair.” A few minutes later, they grabbed Vanessa, the woman they would kill. Froggie had rigged the floor of the van by putting ropes through brackets so he could tie up his victim. He placed his new gag on her as well. Then while assuring her about what a good sex slave she was going to be, he sexually assaulted her.
Then Froggie took over the driving while Mickie went into the back. She noticed that one of the curling irons appeared to have blood and feces on it. Froggie got them all to a hotel, where they both assaulted the victim again. Then they got back into the van, where Froggie strangled Vanessa with a rope while he raped her, saying, “There, now we’re bonded forever.”
They dumped the body over an embankment and drove away.
Mickie had a court date the following morning, and the FBI had contacted her mother, who gave her up. The agents tracked down Froggie and Mickie to a motel and made the arrest, on charges of kidnapping and assault. At this time, no one knew that Vanessa Lei Samson had been murdered.
When Mickie was searched, officers found a nylon rope in her pocket. As they were doing this, the van was being searched as well. They discovered a receipt from a Pleasanton motel for November 30 through December 2. They did not yet know its significance, but soon would.
On December 4, Vanessa’s body was discovered partially frozen by the road. It had a ligature mark around the neck. Her backpack was also retrieved, which helped with identification. It was clear that before she had died, she’d been assaulted over a period of time—later discovered to have been about 35 hours.
From the Douglas County jail, Mickie saw a news broadcast reporting that a woman’s body had been found off the side of Highway 88. She confided in a friend she had made in jail, who turned her in to the authorities.
Froggie and Mickie were now suspects in a murder.
Mickie eventually waived her rights and talked to police. She discussed Vanessa and Alicia, but she often trailed off in a distracted way. She went on to say that the gag device should still have Vanessa’s saliva on it because she had never wiped it off. She also told them about the bloody curling iron.
Eventually Mickie was transferred to federal custody and assigned an attorney. Part of her testimony was brought into Froggie’s trial. Mickie pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and was sentenced to 12 years, while Froggie got 22 for the same crimes. Mickie eventually appealed.
They were both delivered to the authorities in Alameda County, where a grand jury indicted them for kidnapping and murder of Vanessa. They were ultimately convicted, and on September 25, 2002, five long years after the murder, Froggie and Mickie were sentenced to die. No arguments from their respective attorneys could soften the obvious depravity of their acts. They had tortured a woman for an extended period of time, and that was something that nobody could understand.
Even if a woman could claim that she participated in brutal acts out of fear of a man, it’s beyond comprehension why she would not go to the authorities. Some say that the pressure for women to have men in their lives works even with such couples—better to have a killer than no man at all. Yet some women are just as strong, if not stronger, than the male member of the couple. It defies all reason why they think that being part of a killing couple is exciting, even erotic. The fantasy generally does not have the same force of compulsion that it would for a male, and yet certain females do develop an aggressive side that inspires them to act out. They may like that a male leads the dance, or they may initiate the action themselves. In any event, it’s clear that being part of such a team does present a certain amount of positive reward for the female. It’s just as clear that more research should be done on this dynamic.
Caril Fugate & Charles Starkweather (CORBIS)
Before the murderous couples depicted in Badlands, True Romance and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, there were Charles Starkweather, 19, and Caril Ann Fugate, 14. These real-life killers, who in part inspired all three films, cut a swath of murder through Nebraska in 1958. They killed family, friends and strangers. At times they did it for utilitarian reasons and at other times there was no apparent reason at all.
Videocovers Natural Born Killers, Badlands &
The couple became a cultural archetype of youthful alienation and random violence. Between them, they had 11 victims, and from their respective confessions, it’s difficult to tell who actually did what. But there’s little doubt that, although neither was raised in an abusive family, Charles was angry and trigger-happy, while Caril Ann was young and indulgent, so together they made for a dangerous team.
“I had hated and been hated,” Starkweather once said, “I had my little world to keep alive as long as possible and my gun. That was my answer.”
The male-female couple who indulges in random violence against family and strangers is a particular sort of team killers. In Natural Born Killers the protagonists kill to satisfy their anger and their inclination to exercise power over those they consider their inferiors. The female, abused by a dominating and disgusting father, appears to engage in the violence as an extension of her eroticism and her freedom, while the male simply likes to exercise power. They are predators who love to kill.
Two other films featuring murderous couples, Badlands and True Romance, demonstrate how the pair can develop a murderous drive together, partly from individual impulses to act out and partly because there’s someone next to them who sees them at their worst and who nevertheless loves and encourages them. A woman with low self-esteem feeds off any positive attention and a “lone wolf” male is happy to have an admirer. The violence is rewarded, the more the better. Sometimes in these couples the female is merely a passive presence, and sometimes she is as active and mean as the male. Unlike in these movies, however, somewhere along the line, “true love” typically breaks down.
The following account of Starkweather and Fugate is largely culled from three books: Michael Newton’s Wasteland: The Savage Odyssey of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, J. M. Reinhardt’s The Murderous Trail of Charles Starkweather and J. Sargeant’s Born Bad: The Story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate. These authors provide a detailed picture of what happened with these two, before, during and after their spree.
Born in 1938, the third of seven children, Charles R. Starkweather lived all of his young life in abject poverty in Lincoln, Nebraska. His father worked as a handyman. Even worse than having no money was the fact that young Starkweather was short, myopic, red-headed, and bowlegged. He also had a speech impediment. Inevitably taunted by classmates with nicknames like “Red Headed Peckerwood,” he lapsed into what he later described as “black moods,” developing “a hate as hard as iron” against anyone who humiliated or ostracized him. Even the little that he could accomplish, such as artwork, the other children ridiculed. A turning point came in 1956 when he saw James Dean play a disillusioned adolescent named Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause. That character expressed the same emptiness and isolation that he felt, and they very nearly shared the same last name. Starkweather had found his hero.
Starkweather’s twin passions were cars and hunting, but he claimed that he would “rather hear the crack of a firearm than have or drive the finist [sic] car in the whole wide world.” He dropped out of the ninth grade to work in a warehouse. There Starkweather was struck in the head just above his left eye by a machine lever. He developed continual headaches and periods of confusion. It’s possible that this incident contributed to the lack of inhibition he was soon to experience regarding violence. (Other killers have had brain damage.) He then took a job hauling garbage, but so resented the wealthy people in neighborhoods in which he worked that he’d curse them from his truck. The one person in whom he took comfort was sassy Caril Ann Fugate. In Charles’s rented room, they danced, made love, and practiced throwing knives.
Yet Caril Ann’s family, unnerved by Starkweather’s habit of carrying a rifle wherever he went, forbade her to see him. She didn’t obey and continued to see him.
On December 1, 1957, in need of money, Starkweather robbed a gas station in Lincoln. He abducted the attendant, 21-year-old Robert Colvert, drove him to a rural area and killed him with a shot to the head at close-range. The robbery netted Starkweather $108. The murder, he later confessed, made him “feel different” and his headaches cleared up. When he realized that no one suspected him of this deed, Starkweather confided to Caril Ann that he had robbed the station but had not killed Colvert. He quickly spent most of the money.
Then, less than two months later, on January 21, 1958, Starkweather was thrown out of his apartment for nonpayment of rent. That was the date that the killing spree began in earnest. He went to Caril Ann’s home while she was at school and got into a violent argument with her mother, Velda Bartlett. As Starkweather recalled, “They said they were tired of me hanging around,” and blows were exchanged. Bartlett slapped him, an act which humiliated and enraged him. It is not clear whether he waited for Caril Ann’s return from school or went ahead without her, but he killed the woman with a single shot from a .22 caliber rifle. Afterward, he stabbed and shot her husband. Starkweather then threw a knife at two-year-old Betty Ann, hitting her in the throat. He finished her off by using his gun butt to crack her skull.
Robert Colvert, Mr & Mrs Bartlett & Betty,
Dragging the bodies outside, he hid them in unused outbuildings. Caril Ann had either witnessed all of this or was told about it when she came home. In either case, rather than react to the slaughter and turn him in, or at least run away, she stayed with him. She had opportunities to escape, but she failed to do so. The couple stayed in the house for the next six days, hanging a sign on the door to ward off police and family: “Stay a Way Every Body is Sick With the Flue.” Whenever Caril Ann did venture out to speak with someone who knocked, she claimed that her mother’s life would be in danger if she let them in. Oddly, no one took action on these strange communications.
The bodies were discovered on the morning of January 28, but the two lovers were already on their way to Bennett, 16 miles south, to hide out on the farm of a family friend, 70-year-old August Meyer. Starkweather’s car got bogged down on the property and Meyer and Starkweather got into a fight that climaxed with Starkweather shooting Meyer and his dog “in self-defense.” Leaving their car stuck in the mud, Starkweather and Fugate walked to the highway and got a ride from high school sweethearts, Robert Jensen, 17, and Carol King, 16.
Carol King and Robert Jensen, victims
At gunpoint, Starkweather robbed Jensen of $4. Caril Ann took the bills from the boy’s wallet. He then made Jensen drive to an abandoned schoolyard, ordering him onto the steps of the storm cellar, where he shot the boy six times in the head. He fell to the foot of the stairs and was left there. King was also shot to death, and her genitals viciously slashed with a knife, but Starkweather blamed Caril Ann for the crime, citing jealousy as the motive. She said that he had done it. The truth was never clear, although there was reason to believe that he had tried to rape King, but had been unable to perform and, enraged, had slashed her. He dumped King’s half-nude body on top of Jensen’s in the cellar and stole Jensen’s car. He later claimed that he had killed Jensen in self-defense, but since he shot Jensen from behind, it seems unlikely.
Returning to Lincoln on January 30 to acquire a less conspicuous car, the couple invaded the home of a banker, C. Lauer Ward. Ward wasn’t home, so they tied up his wife Clara and a deaf maid, 51-year-old Lillian Fencl and viciously stabbed both women to death in a bedroom. Starkweather also broke the neck of the family dog and then waited for Ward to return. They struggled with the gun and Starkweather pushed Ward down the cellar steps before blasting him several times. Then Starkweather and Fugate stole clothing and money, and fled in Ward’s Packard, intent on escaping to Washington state.
Mr & Mrs Ward and Lillian Fencl, victims
On February 1, they reached Douglas, Wyoming, after slipping through a dragnet that included 200 members of the Nebraska National Guard. Starkweather felt they needed to switch cars. He spotted a Buick parked beside the road and inside, asleep, was shoe salesman Merle Collison. Starkweather pumped nine bullets into the helpless victim, into his face, neck, hand and leg—again, “in self defense.” As Starkweather struggled to remove the body, another motorist happened by. They grappled over Starkweather’s gun and were spotted by a patrol officer. The deputy sheriff stopped and Caril Ann jumped from the car and ran toward him, pointing at Charles as she cried, “He killed a man!”
Startled and outnumbered, Starkweather fled in the Ward car, topping speeds of 120 mph, as his pursuers radioed ahead for a roadblock. Concentrated gunfire drove him off the road, and Starkweather surrendered. He made a full confession of his crimes, sometimes taking the blame and other times sharing equal responsibility with Fugate.
How do these couples get to the point of such wanton massacre, especially when the violence seems to be spurred on by just one of them?
Let’s look at the typical dynamic.
While there are a few notable exceptions to this general portrait, many couples (no matter what gender) tend to follow a similar pattern. Two people meet and feel a strong attraction, or they are related and have established an intimate familiarity with each other that allows them to share fantasies—even violent ones. Typically one is dominant, and that one seduces the other into sharing his or her fantasy, and then into acting it out. If they succeed, they get bolder, with the dominant one feeling arrogant and alive, and the submissive one often experiencing some guilt, but reluctant to withdraw. However, he or she is often afraid of the dominant one, so will continue to go along.
The urge to commit another crime becomes compulsive for the dominant partner. In the case of two equally dominant partners—more rare but it happens—they egg each other on. If either feels unsatisfied, that one may go off and commit other crimes on his or her own. With a dominant/submissive couple, the dominant one determines what they will do next. As they escalate, the submissive one (who also may be passive-aggressive) will either get out of the situation, undermine the plan or talk to the authorities (or tell someone else that will go report it). In any event, this person will attempt to end the crimes. He or she has had enough, either because of safety fears or because the guilt has become a burden.
If both are arrested, the submissive usually will attempt to save himself by turning on the dominant partner and blaming him for the most serious crimes. At first the dominant one may protect the weaker one, but generally he turns on the other one and implicates him or her.
Inevitably, they end up estranged, with the dominant using whatever leverage he can get from his association with the submissive partner.
Agnes (left), Andras (center) and Tunde
Pandy (AP/Wide World)
Pandy (AP/Wide World)
A typical case was a father-daughter team in Brussels, Belgium, who were convicted of multiple counts of murder in 2002. The father, Andras Pandy, brutalized the daughter, Agnes, including raping her since she was 13. Out of fear, she was his accomplice for three years, helping him to kill and get rid of five of the six victims that she knew about until she finally confessed to the police.
Andras Pandy was a Hungarian-born priest, but he had raped his daughter and two stepdaughters. Agnes told authorities about six relatives who were killed—Pandy’s first two wives and four of his children and step-children—but the body parts and sets of teeth pulled from the basement and refrigerators on one of his properties were tested for DNA and proved to belong to other people. In the end, authorities suspected Pandy in the deaths of 13 people, some of them children. According to Agnes some had been shot and others bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer. She and Pandy hacked the corpses into pieces and wrapped them in plastic. Some were dumped outside the home, while others were immersed in an acidic drain cleaner called Cleanest, which could dissolve meat from bones and then dissolve the bones themselves.
Although Pandy denounced the investigation as a witch-hunt without physical evidence, the prosecutor described him as a man who wanted to be in control of those who knew about his incestuous activities. Mostly that meant killing them. He claimed that the missing relatives were still alive. He was in touch with them “through angels.”
Mugshot of Agnes Pandy & recent photo
of Andras Pandy (AP)
of Andras Pandy (AP)
At the conclusion of his trial in 2002, Andras Pandy was convicted on six counts of first-degree murder and three counts of rape, getting life in prison, while Agnes, 44, got 21 years on five counts for her participation.
Agnes claimed that she was equally a victim. “I had no way out,” she said. “I was completely in his grip.” She was unsparing in her details of Pandy’s brutalization.
Agnes was a submissive person who accommodated a killer for three years and who finally turned on him. While she may not have initiated the crimes, she certainly participated and did nothing on five separate occasions to report her father. She went along.
In fact, numerous teams are formed among those who are related by blood or marriage, cementing an intimacy that fully exploits the relationship.
Sante Kimes was a born con artist. She had no sense of boundaries, and even got her children involved in her schemes. She did not hesitate to do whatever it took to get what she wanted for herself. Kent Walker, her oldest son, remembers life with his mother in his book, Son of a Grifter, in which he attempts to make sense of why he rejected her life of crime while his younger half-brother Kenny did not. Sante was simply a charmer; she worked people with skill.
“I’ve met a lot of good liars in my day,” Walker says. “None of them are as good as my mom.”
Book cover: Son of a
This team of grifters, Sante and Kenny, came to national attention with the 1998 disappearance of a wealthy philanthropist, Irene Silverman, from her Upper East Side mansion in Manhattan. Her husband had died 15 years earlier, and since that time she had taken wealthy tenants into her apartment suites for company. Among them were the Kimeses.
Kenny was 24 at the time, and he presented himself as a polished young man fresh out of college, and quickly ingratiated himself with the elderly widow. He and his mother, 64, then finagled a real estate document with Silverman’s signature on it, but the notary public refused to sign it without Irene present. The Kimses could not produce her and her friends began to wonder where she was.
On July 5, 1998, Silverman, 82, was last seen in her nightgown on the sidewalk of East 65th Street. After that, her whereabouts became a mystery.
On that same night, Sante and Kenny were arrested for auto theft in Las Vegas. A search of their Lincoln Town Car turned up Silverman’s passport, a pair of handcuffs, several syringes, a Glock 9-mm handgun, stun guns, wigs and papers that indicated that the two had planned a con on the elderly lady so they could take over her $7.7 million dollar townhouse.
In fact, these two had a lengthy rap sheet for numerous crimes, from theft and forgery to insurance fraud. Sante even served prison time for enslaving domestic help, and she was suspected in an arson and the disappearances of two men.
Apparently as Sante and Kenny traveled around, as Sarah van Boven reported in Newsweek, people began to disappear. One man, David Kazdin, in whose name they had taken out a title on a home that they subsequently burned for insurance money, was found dead and stuffed into a dumpster.
In May 2002, even without a body, the jury found that there was nevertheless sufficient evidence to convict this team of first-degree murder. The jury found Sante guilty of 58 different crimes and Kenny of 60. They were given multiple life sentences, with Sante getting 120 years and Kenny 125. The judge called Sante a “sociopath of unremitting malevolence.”
Kent Walker, Sante’s first son and an accomplice in some of her earlier crimes, says that there was no one easier to love and no one easier to hate. She had once used him to escape arrest by punching him hard in the mouth and directing the police against a store clerk who was accusing her of theft. They arrested the clerk, while Sante took Kent to the doctor. When he was arrested at age 12 for theft, he decided to turn his life around. He would not become his mother’s partner, so she eventually turned to his half-brother. “He bought into Mom’s delusions,” Walker said. “She broke his spirit.”
Court TV correspondent
Maria Zone (CTV)
Maria Zone (CTV)
After their New York trial, the Kimses were scheduled to be extradited to California to face charges in another murder, but in the summer of 2001 Kenny took a hostage in the prison—Court TV correspondent Maria Zone—and held her for four hours to try to force a deal. It didn’t work, and he got eight years in disciplinary confinement. As a way to reduce that time, Kenny admitted that Irene Silverman was indeed dead and that he had wrapped her body in garbage bags and dumped it in a hole at a construction site in New Jersey. He did not know where the site was. The only thing he could say to help was that the building was close to water.
He and his mother were then taken to Los Angeles and indicted by a grand jury for the murder of David Kazdin. A witness came forward to say that he saw Kenny standing by the victim with a gun in his hand. As of this writing, that capital trial is pending, and Sante is expected to act as her own lawyer. Since Kenny is alleged to be the triggerman and since Sante has shown extreme disregard for her children’s welfare in the past, there’s little doubt that she will likely do what she can to save her own skin.
* * * * *
Crime writer Michael Newton estimates that 13% of serial murders involve multiple killers, and more than half of such teams involve only two. In his Enclyclopedia of Serial Killers, he includes many pages in the appendices that list team killers. Male couples are the most common, with male/female couples accounting for about 25%.
Ray and Faye Copeland, 75 and 69 respectively, were married and living together on a farm in rural Chillicothe, Missouri. They often hired drifters looking for work, or took them out of homeless shelters. Ray would involve them in schemes to cheat neighbors out of cattle, and one man who was working with him noticed something odd in October, 1989. In the ground, he discovered an assortment of bones, along with a human skull. Fearing for his life, he left and called in a tip to a television program called “Crimestoppers” that operated out of Nebraska. Since local law enforcement already suspected Ray of cattle fraud, they decided to investigate. They found that the tipster had been Ray’s partner in crime, so when they tracked him down, he admitted to the lesser crime but insisted that something larger was amiss on that property.
The sheriff brought the Copeland couple in for interrogation, and while they were off their property, another type of investigation got underway. On farms that Copeland had leased, the remains of five men were dug up—men that no one had missed so their disappearances had gone unreported. All were shot in the back of the head with a .22 Marlin rifle. That gun was found at the Copeland’s primary farm. In addition, a ledger was discovered that listed the names of transients employed by them, and some of those were ominously marked with a “X.” The prosecutor speculated that these men knew about Ray’s double-dealing and had been eliminated as witnesses against him.
Initially it was thought the murders were solely the work of Ray Copeland. Then Faye wrote a note to her husband, who was being assessed for the possibility of insanity, to “remain cool.” That handwriting matched the handwriting in the ledgers. In addition, Faye had stitched together a patchwork quilt from strips made from the clothing of the men who had been killed. Prosecutors saw this as damning evidence.
Faye was prosecuted for five counts of first-degree murder, found guilty, and sentenced to die. Then Ray was tried, found guilty and also sentenced to die. Before they could execute him, Ray died in prison. Many people fought for Faye’s release, claiming there was no evidence that she was part of any of the murders and plenty that Ray had dominated and battered her, so her sentence was commuted to life without parole.
They were the oldest couple ever condemned to death in the United States.
Other such couples have taken even bolder steps, and contrary to what the media asserted following a sniper spree, these teams are not as “unheard of” as one might think. Let’s look at four all-male couples who operated in similar ways.
D.C. snipers John Muhammad & John Lee
While John Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, have stirred up much discussion with their multiple-state spree picking off strangers with a high-powered gun, it’s not true, as some crime professionals said, that the like has never been seen before. We have certainly had snipers, we’ve seen black snipers, and even pairs who worked together to terrorize people—even another pair of black males. We’ve also seen children team up to become murdering snipers.
In his book Killer Kids, crime writer Michael Newton describes Jonesboro, Arkansas, boys Andrew Golden, 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, as “gun buddies.” On March 24, 1998, in the middle of the day, they dressed in camouflage fatigues, set off a fire alarm in Westside Middle School and as teachers and children streamed out of the building, they lay on the ground with their rifles and took aim. They pumped out 23 shots, wounding 15 people and killing five. All but one was female. One of the surviving wounded was a girl who had rejected Andrew’s advances.
The boys then ran to a van that they had stocked with more guns and ammunition, but the police apprehended them before they could do any more harm. It turned out that they had stolen three rifles and 10 pistols from relatives, and had stacked up quite a large quantity of ammunition. They also stole the van (neither had a driver’s license). The whole thing was carefully planned and one of the boys had even waited in the woods all morning while the other bided his time until just after noon before pulling the alarm.
Earlier, Johnson had telegraphed his intent by telling classmates that he “had a lot of killing to do.” Yet neither boy could give a reason why he had fired on these innocent people. They had been given guns at an early age and taught how to use them properly, and both boys liked violent videogames and paramilitary fantasies. Together, they proved to be a deadly combination.
* * * * *
Gary & Thaddeus Lewingdon
In February 1978, three people were shot in their home in Columbus, Ohio, with a .22 rifle. The victims were shot multiple times. The same gun was implicated through ballistics tests in four more shootings (including victims’ pets), and then the police matched it to a bullet found in two female murder victims in Newark, Ohio, the year before. They were shot while leaving work and were left to freeze in a snow bank. One more man was shot before Gary Lewingdon was arrested for credit card fraud. He had items that belonged to the last victim. Under interrogation, he admitted his part in the killings, but claimed that his brother Thaddeus was in on them, too, and was the one who led the duo.
Thaddeus was arrested and he made a full confession, although he indicated that it was Gary who wanted to continue. Both were convicted of multiple counts of first-degree murder and given multiple life sentences, and Gary eventually became psychotic. While Thaddeus died in prison from cancer, Gary attempted to escape from the forensic hospital where he was held, but he was recaptured. Denied parole in 1998, he remains incarcerated.
* * * * *
In the early 1970s, two black men, Erskine Burrows and Larry Tacklyn, used a .22 revolver to kill several high-ranking officials On September 9, 1972, they shot police commissioner George Duckett after luring him to the back door of his own home. They also wounded his daughter, who ran to help him.
Scotland Yard came in to investigate but was unable to identify the killer.
The next incident was a double murder of even greater proportions. On March 10, 1973, the island’s governor, Sir Richard Sharples, and his captain, Hugh Sayers, were shot while they were on the terrace of Government House. Sir Richard’s dog was also shot and killed. Two black men were seen running from the area.
Again, Scotland Yard’s investigator got nowhere.
Another double murder occurred on April 6, but this time the victims were shopkeepers. Mark Doe and Victor Rego were bound in their supermarket and shot with a .32 revolver, although some .22 bullets found at the scene linked them with the previous shootings. Two black men were seen leaving this scene, and a witness knew one of them: Larry Tacklyn.
Police arrested him but failed to apprehend his partner, who went on to rob the Bank of Bermuda of $28,000. Shortly thereafter, Erskine Burrows, identified as the bank robber, was arrested, and now officials had this killing team in custody. It was thought that Burrows had acted alone in the first killing, but that Tacklyn had been part of the other four. At trial, Burrows was found guilty on all charges, but Tacklyn was only convicted of the shopkeeper murders. Both received the death sentence and both were hanged.
* * * * *
As for Muhammad and Malvo, the extent of their crimes is still being determined. Their spree came to national attention on October 2, 2002, around Rockville, Maryland, and from there it spread to Washington, DC, Fredericksburg, VA, and other places in the general tri-state area. Thirteen people were shot at random with a Bushmaster .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle, and 10 of them died. One was a boy critically wounded in a school yard, another an analyst for the FBI, who died.
The twosome terrorized the area for three weeks and demanded $10 million before being found sleeping in their car along I-95 on the night of October 24. They had left notes and made phone calls that eventually were traced to them via associations in Washington state. Ballistics linked them to all 13 shootings, but it didn’t stop there. The men were also tied to six other shootings, three of them fatal, in other states, and two more shootings are still under investigation at this writing.
Impounded car in D.C. sniper case (AP)
After a seven-hour interrogation, Malvo admitted to being the triggerman in some of the shootings, making him eligible to be tried as an adult on capital murder charges. He said the shootings were organized and planned, with one of them serving as a lookout and the other the shooter. They used two-way radios to communicate, making sure that conditions were acceptable before moving forward with the plan. They watched news coverage carefully and moved around to create fear and confusion. Their 1990 Chevy Caprice was also rigged to be able to shoot from inside.
The case has already stretched out farther than investigators originally imagined, so many leads are still being followed up. To this date, Muhammad has offered no information as to his motives, but his stint in the military, along with the behavior reported by his acquaintances, indicates that he is an angry man with plenty of issues, not the least of which is an affinity with terrorist groups who hate the U.S.
While serial killers are found more often in America than elsewhere, other countries do spawn them, so let’s look at a couple of European team killers who appeared to act out of displaced hatred.
Born of Hate
As 2002 opened, a couple who met through a heavy metal rock magazine ad were tried in Bochum, Germany for killing a friend in what appeared to be a Satanic ritual. Manuela Ruda, 23, and her husband Daniel, 26, stabbed Frank Haagen 66 times, beat him with hammers, drank his blood, and left his decomposing body next to the coffin in which Manuela liked to sleep. A scalpel protruded from his stomach and a pentagram was carved onto his chest. They then prepared to continue to act out in this manner against others, because they knew it was what Satan would require of them.
Manuela Ruda & Daniel Ruda & victim, Frank
They drove around town, awaiting Satan’s next order and armed themselves with a chainsaw, just to be “prepared.” They were arrested at a gas station.
In court, Manuela claimed that she’d gotten a taste for vampirism when she encountered vampire cults in Britain and drank blood at “bite parties.” She delivered her soul to Satan, who had ordered the “sacrifice” in what she described as an aura of light and energy. She and her husband did commit the crime, they both admitted, but they were not responsible. They were merely Satan’s instruments and had to “make sure the victim suffered well.”
Forensic psychiatrist Norbert Leygraf assessed them and said they were severely disturbed and could kill again. He recommended that they be kept in a secure institution.
* * * * *
Verona, Italy is the fictional setting for Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. It also hosted a team of killers who played out what America’s Leopold and Loeb might have done had they not been caught after their first murder.
Book cover: The Encyclo-
pedia of Serial Killers
pedia of Serial Killers
Brian Lane and Wilfred Gregg’s The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, describes Wolfgang Abel and Mario Furlan as school chums, a year apart in age. Both came from privileged backgrounds and both were highly intelligent. They appear to have begun their criminal career in 1977 by burning a man to death in his car. Then they went to Padua, where they knifed a casino employee and a waiter to death. They escalated their brutality by using an axe on a prostitute and a hammer on two priests (one suffered 26 blows) before they returned to their initial MO by burning alive a hitchhiker who was sleeping in Verona’s city center.
But these were all rather traditional compared to what they did next. A homosexual priest became a victim when they hammered a nail into his forehead. Then they attached a wooden cross to a chisel and pushed this into the man’s skull as well.
At almost every scene, starting in 1980, they left notes that explained the reason for the murders. Laura Coricelli, who covered the case for an Italian newspaper, wrote that they sent these pamphlets to newspapers as well, claiming they had murdered three store clerks. Apparently these two viewed themselves as the last surviving Nazis, and their victims were among those who had “betrayed the true God”—mostly homosexuals and prostitutes, society’s “inferior people.” The notes were all attributed to “Ludwig.”
Killing individuals apparently failed to satisfy their appetites, so “the Ludwig band” burned down a building in Milan that housed a cinema that showed pornographic films, and six people died inside. Next they set a fire in a discotheque, killing a woman and injuring forty more people. When they tried to commit arson at a more crowded dance hall, the discotheque Melamara di Castiglione of the Stivere, they were caught. Had they not been discovered, they might have killed as many as 400 revelers.
Arrested in March, 1984, they went to trial at the end of 1986. Abel was 27 and Furlan was 26. Furlan’s handwriting was matched to one of the Ludwig notes, although he and Abel both denied having anything to do with the “Ludwig” killings or the hate pamphlets. In Abel’s apartment, they found a book with the name “Ludwig Friar” highlighted in the text. Witnesses had also placed them at the cinema fire and near one of the murdered victims. Twenty-seven charges of murder were leveled against them, but they were found guilty of only 10. Because they were deemed partially insane, primarily because of suicide attempts in prison, both got a sentence of 30 years. However, after serving only three, they were allowed to live in “open custody,” which meant they were moved into a village and required only to report to the police on a regular basis. Essentially they’re free to do mostly what they please and they continue to maintain their innocence.
Soul Mates and Psychopaths
Sometimes the formation of a team is based in sexual attraction or family ties, but the most dangerous teams are composed of two or more psychopaths who chance to meet and who realize they now have a partner as depraved as they are. With no moral boundaries, they work together to expand their range of criminal creativity and affirm each other in their brutality.
Alton Coleman & Debra Brown (AP/Wide World)
Alton Coleman, 28, and his girlfriend Debra Brown, 21, are a case in point.
After Coleman got out on bail for a charge of raping a 14-year-old girl, he went on the run in 1984 from Waukegan, Illinois, with Brown at his side. This ninth-grade dropout was also suspected in the kidnapping of a missing 9-year-old girl, and a warrant was out for his arrest. Once he was gone, her body was found, raped and strangled.
Book cover: The Anato-
my of Motive
my of Motive
“Seldom in my career,” wrote former FBI profiler John Douglas in Anatomy of Motive, “have I come across a more depraved individual than Alan Coleman, willing to rape or kill practically anyone or anything that moved and totally unconcerned with the consequences.”
Being on the run did not stop this rapist/killer, however, and he got Brown fully involved. Just over two weeks after they left, a seven-year-old girl was raped and stabbed while her cousin, two years older, was raped and beaten. This girl survived to explain how they had been lured toward a car by a black couple asking for directions.
The next crime occurred in Ohio, when a woman took in a couple who claimed they had no money. That night she and her 10-year-old daughter were strangled. Shortly afterward, a woman kidnapped from Gary, Indiana was found strangled near Detroit. (This sequence of events is a bit different in John Douglas’s book, but the victims are the same.)
Coleman and Brown moved quickly, returning to Ohio, where in Cincinnati, they attacked a couple and stole their car. On the way, they raped and strangled another young girl and shot an elderly man to death, leaving him in a ditch.
Throughout this spree, these two assaulted and stole from people who survived and were able to describe their attackers. They were soon on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Douglas did a fugitive profile and suspected that Coleman was indulging in a fantasy of sexual domination. “This is what made him feel good and gave him most satisfaction in life,” Douglas declared. He predicted that Coleman would eventually return to the Chicago area, because that was the place with which he was most familiar.
An acquaintance brought this couple’s run to an end by alerting the police in Evanston, Illinois. They had kidnapped, raped, and killed across six states, so they ended up being tried in several places. Coleman even subpoenaed Brown to appear at one of his trials and say that she had killed the victim. She agreed to say what he asked, and Douglas interviewed her in prison and found her to have a slave-like personality, passive and compliant. She appeared not to care what she had done.
They were convicted on many counts and sentenced to death in Ohio. Coleman received four death sentences and Brown two. However, Brown’ sentence in Ohio, where she was detained, was commuted to life.
* * * *
Lawrence Bittaker arrest photo & Roy Norris pri-
son ID photo
son ID photo
Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker met in prison and discovered a common taste for sadistic sexual torture. Once released, they bought a van in Los Angeles, which they dubbed “Murder Mac,” and used it to troll for young female victims. They grabbed Cindy Schaeffer, 16, on June 24, 1979 and repeatedly raped her before strangling her with a coat hanger. The next one got an ice pick through the brain, and following that attack, the men tortured and killed two teenage girls together before dumping their bodies over a cliff. They killed another girl on Halloween and left her on someone’s front lawn.
But one pick-up whom they raped but released turned them in. In custody, Norris confessed and implicated Bittaker as the ringleader. He showed the police where the bodies had been left.
Both men were charged with five counts of murder, along with an assortment of other crimes from rape to conspiracy. Norris got immunity from the death sentence for his testimony against Bittaker. Instead, he was sentenced to 45 years, while Bittaker went on California’s death row to await execution.
* * * * *
David Alan Gore in prison
David Alan Gore and Fred Waterfield, criminal cousins in Florida, took to hunting down women during the early 1980s for their violent sexual pleasure. Gore served as an auxiliary sheriff’s deputy, which made their “hobby” much easier to pull off. Waterfield offered Gore $1,000 for each pretty girl he could bring back. He used his badge to get girls into his car, taking his first victim off a school bus and driving her home to get her mother, so he would have two. He raped them both, and when Waterfield arrived, he tied up the mother so tight that she choked to death. He then raped the teenager and murdered her, leaving Gore to get rid of the bodies.
Waterfield demanded a blonde and Gore complied by disabling Judith Daley’s car and offering her a ride to a phone. They raped her, killed her, and then dumped her in a swamp for the alligators to feed on.
Their next victims were a pair of female hitchhikers, who were raped and then shot. The spree ended when someone phoned in a report that a naked man was chasing a naked woman, firing a gun. The police arrived at the suspect’s house to find the body of a 17-year-old girl in the trunk of Gore’s car. Gore surrendered and showed the officers to the attic. There they found a 14-year-old girl, still alive, bound to the rafters. She was a friend of the dead girl, and they had been hitchhiking together.
Gore quickly turned on his cousin, describing their criminal history in detail. Waterfield was caught, both of them were convicted of rape and murder, and Gore received a death sentence while Waterfield got two life sentences.
* * * * *
Douglas Edward Gretzler
Another team who chanced to meet while drifting aimlessly around the country were Doug Gretzler and William Luther Steelman. Willie was 28 and Doug 22 when they met. Steelman had once been committed to a mental institution, and when he met Gretzler, the stage was set for a spree unlike the Southwest had ever seen before.
It started on October 28, 1973, when the two men entered a house trailer in Mesa, Arizona and shot to death the adolescent couple who lived there. Then they traveled to Tucson and killed a young man, leaving his body in the desert before returning to the city to murder another couple in their apartment. As they left and drove into the desert, they found a man in a sleeping bag and killed him as well. In Phoenix, they grabbed two more young men, stripped and killed them, leaving their bodies in California.
Arizona authorities knew who they were looking for and quickly issued warrants.
On November 6, this spree-killing team hit again, but this time with nine victims all at once. They went to a house where an 18-year-old girl was baby-sitting Walter and Joanne Parkin’s two children. The sitter’s parents had dropped by, along with her brother and fiancé, and then the Parkins came home. The killers shot them all, leaving the Parkin couple in their bed and stuffing the rest of the bodies into a closet. Collectively, these nine people were shot 25 times.
Two days later, the killers were apprehended at a motel. Gretzler cracked, describing the other crimes and where all the bodies were. Convicted in trials in two states, they were sentenced to die in Arizona. Steelman died in prison. Gretzler was executed in 1998.
* * * * *
In Paris, between 1984 and 1987, two men preyed on elderly women. They were known as “the Monster of Monmartre.” Their victims, ranging from 60 to 95 years of age, were often bound and beaten before they were murdered. One was forced to drink bleach. Another woman was stabbed 60 times.
Sketch of Jean-Thierry Mathurin in
The “monster” turned out to be a 21-year-old, bleached-blond, black transvestite, Thierry Paulin, who often invited his 19-year-old lover, Jean-Thierry Mathurin, on his criminal escapades. They would follow elderly women home from the grocery and then jump them as they opened their doors. On his 24th birthday, now separated from Mathurin, Paulin attacked three older women. Two died but one survived to finger him. Upon his arrest, he confessed to 21 murders, naming Mathurin as a frequent accomplice. Mathurin was arrested and charged with nine counts of murder. He refused to even say Paulin’s name, and both went to prison, where Paulin died of complications from AIDS in 1989.
As we’ve seen, teams can fall apart, and not all attempts to solicit team members for a criminal venture turn out well, either.
Judas Does Not Play Well With Others
Charles Schmid Jr.
When Charles Schmid, 23, started killing high school girls in Tucson, Arizona, in 1964, he got two people to go along with him. Self-conscious about his short stature, he strutted around in boots stuffed with newspapers and tin cans. He also wore make-up and tried to look like Elvis Presley. People viewed him as an eccentric character, but girls were easily enamored of him.
On the night of May 15, he persuaded John Saunders and Mary Rae French to go with him while he raped and killed Alleen Rowe in the desert. He buried her there in the sand and even bragged about it afterward, but no one reported it.
The following summer, Schmid strangled two girls and buried them out in the desert as well. Having gotten away with it once, he figured he was immune, so he took his buddy Richard Bruns out to see what he had done. This was Schmid’s way of getting compliance while bragging about what he’d done. If someone saw the body and did nothing about it, he was part of the team.
But Richard was distressed by what he had seen and finally went to the police and took them to where the girls’ skeletal remains still lay buried in the sand. A shoe-clad foot sticking out of the sand marking the spot.
Schmid was arrested that November, shortly after his marriage to a 15-year-old girl. Then Saunders and French were arrested, but they turned state’s evidence against Schmid, sealing his fate. He was sentenced to die, but he died instead in prison. For their part in the first murder, Saunders got life and French four to five years.
This is a good case of a psychopath believing too well in his own powers of persuasion, to the point where his discernment fails him. Many a killer has been undermined by someone he or she viewed as an accomplice, who in the end had other plans. Those teams that appear to succeed best are often glued together by common sexual appetites, clandestine activities or fetishes. We’ve seen some examples among male/male and male/female teams. Now let’s look at a few exclusively female team killers.
It was in Walker, Michigan in 1987 where a pair of lesbians made murder into a sexual game. Gwedolyn Gail Graham, 23, and Catherine May Wood, 24, worked together at the Alpine Manor Nursing Home. Graham was a nurse’s aid and Wood was her immediate superior. Wood had divorced her husband and gained an enormous amount of weight, so she was in need of a friend. When she met Graham, they immediately hit it off and it wasn’t long before they became lovers.
It was Graham who first broached the subject of murder. They practiced sexual asphyxia to achieve greater orgasms, so Wood later claimed she thought Graham was kidding. Yet the linked pain and pleasure of their sexual games became threaded with the idea of cruelty. Just talking about murder got them both sexually excited.
They started killing patients in January and continued for three months, picking victims whose initials, taken all together, would spell out the word, “murder.” Graham dubbed this “the Murder Game.” Posting Wood as sentry, she started with several elderly women, but they struggled so hard she had to back off. Oddly enough, none of them registered a complaint, and in fact, most of the patients liked these two women. In many respects, they appeared to be good at their jobs.
Then Graham went into the room of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease whom she knew would be unable to fight her off. Using a washcloth over the woman’s face, she smothered her to death. In the weeks that followed, Graham moved on to another, and then another. There were times when the act of killing so excited her that when she was done, she and Wood went to an unoccupied room for a quick sexual encounter. Graham even took items off the victims—jewelry or dentures—to help her to relive what she had just done, and she found enormous emotional release in killing.
In a morbid postscript, these women washed the bodies down as part of the postmortem routine, and handling the people they had just killed excited them even further. They simply could not stop.
Then they got bolder. They told colleagues what they were doing, because even the confessions added to their heightened sexual drive, but their accounts were dismissed as sick jokes. Graham showed three aides her shelf of souvenirs, and still, astonishingly, no one stopped them.
Then Graham pressured Wood to take a more active role. To prove her love, she would have to kill one of the patients herself. Wood wasn’t ready for this, so she worked behind the scenes to get herself transferred to another shift.
This angered Graham, who then took up with another woman and eventually left Michigan to go work at a hospital in Texas taking care of infants. A terrified Wood confessed everything to her former husband, who called the police.
Of the 40 patients who had died in that three-month period, eight seemed suspicious enough for further investigation. Then investigators settled on five, and arrested both women. Wood turned state’s witness against her former lover for a sentence of 20 to 40 years. She told them she’d come forward because of Graham’s admission to her that she wanted to “take one of the babies and smash it up against a window.”
Graham was convicted on five counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder (although Wood had claimed that she’d tried to smother five more patients.) She got six life sentences, with no possibility of parole.
* * * * *
Another team of female killers in a medical context were a pair of midwives who stimulated the imaginations of a village full of women, many of whom then acted out against husbands and children. The so-called “angel-makers of Nagyrev,” which is a farming village in Hungary are believed responsible for the deaths of an estimated 300 people over a span of 15 years.
It all started during World War I, when midwife Julius Fazekas took care of people’s medical needs. Her cohort in crime, reputed to be a witch, was Susanna Olah, a.k.a., “Auntie Susi.”
Most of the village’s men had gone to war in 1914, but the women had access to the Allied prisoners of war in camps outside town. When spouses returned, many of the wives were unhappy. They’d gotten used to their sexual freedom. Rumors of their unrest got back to the midwives, so they began to show the women a way to be rid of their unwanted burdens. They boiled arsenic off strips of flypaper, dispensing poison to whomever wanted it. By some estimates, around 50 poisoners went into action and because of the high death rate, the area eventually became known as “The Murder District.”
Eventually they were stopped and the midwives arrested, along with 36 other women, with more to follow, and 26 actually went to trial. Eight received the death sentence, seven got life, and the others spent some time in jail. Among those who died was “Auntie Susi,” because it was she who had distributed the poison. One account says that Fazekas was one of those hanged, but another describes her suicide by poison in her own home, surrounded by pots of boiled flypaper. At any rate, the woman who’d come in to offer her “medical” services had inspired a shocking murder spree, and the final tally will never be known.
The same may be said of the next couple, who persuaded people to die as sacrifices to their religion.
Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo & Sara Maria Aldrete
Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo was the High Priest and Sara Maria Aldrete his High Priestess. What they were doing was uncovered after a 21-year-old college student, Mark Kilroy, turned up missing. A student at the University of Texas, he went with three classmates to Matamoros, Mexico, just over the border. It was March 1987, and they went from bar to bar, as students on spring break will do. But Mark disappeared.
His family instigated a search, which failed to turn up anything until they got a tip about a drug raid on a remote homestead called Rancho Santa Elena. Apparently a blond man from the states was seen bound and gagged in a van at the ranch. A search turned up an altar of some kind in a shed, along with bloodstains, human hair and something else organic that was later identified as part of a human brain. A severed goat’s head indicated that the people who lived here were involved in a religious cult, which turned out to be a Satanic form of Santeria. In this religion, human sacrifice was performed to protect them from police attacks, and Mark Kilroy had been among them. His headless torso was discovered in a mass grave containing the decapitated and mutilated bodies of 14 other men and boys.
All of these people had been killed on the orders of the cult leaders, Constanzo and Aldrete, who had fled before the raid. They had insisted that prior to any major drug deal, they needed the heart and brain of a human victim to boil and consume. Many hapless victims had served that purpose.
The two elders were traced to Mexico City in 1989, but police were too late to grab Constanzo. He had ordered his cult members to shoot him while he was locked in an embrace with his homosexual lover, and they had obeyed. Aldrete fled the apartment but was caught. She denied having any part in the human sacrifices, but she was indicted, along with other surviving members of the cult.
In the end, she got six years for her association in the crimes, and in another trial was convicted of multiple murders. For that, she got a sentence of 62 years. Her four accomplices from the ranch got 67 years a piece.
It was believed that Constanzo had long practiced his black magic openly, taking two dozen sacrifices around Mexico City during one year. When he demanded full partnership in a powerful drug family and was rejected, all seven high-ranking members turned up dead, with evidence of pre-mortem torture. He was not one to be trifled with, believing he had supernatural powers, but in the end, his mistakes ended his long string of murders.
* * * * *
It’s likely that killers will continue to team up, using a partner to affirm a plan or to assist with some devious activity that requires more than one person to accomplish. Criminologists would do well to study this dynamic in more depth than has yet been done, so as to try to understand how such teams develop and operate. The “compliant accomplice” theory goes only so far. Much more needs to be done in this area.