Almost 4 Years

In late August, I will officially reach the 4 year mark as an indie author.  It hasn’t always been easy and there have been times when I have thought that I must be out of my mind to continue.  Writing isn’t hard for me, but publishing, marketing, etc is.  However, most months I don’t need a part time job flipping burgers to pay my bills, which is nice (April always sucks for me though and I do wonder about the part time job during that month).

Sorry, got distracted during the intro… Anyway, you can blame my niece for this post.  She walked in the other day, handed me Fortified Dreams (I had loaned her a proof to read at her boring day job) and said something along the lines of “I’m really glad you wrote that one so that I didn’t get bored with the series.  It was much different and will help keep me interested a while longer.”  She didn’t mean it to sound like an insult, even though it sort of did, but I can also relate.  I’ve lost interest in many a series because as the volume numbers climbed, the originality was lost and it seemed like a rehashing of old plot lines for new books.  (B – Did you really think I wasn’t going to give you shit about that? :-P)  It got me thinking about all the things that have been said or asked of me over the last four years…  I’m sharing my favorites.

  • So, you write books, with like, words in them?
  • But you’re a woman.
  • Am I going to like this?
  • Did you come up with the plot or did someone else?
  • You’re a writer, that’s so cute.
  • I thought writers worked in coffee shops and guzzled coffee.
  • You don’t look like a writer.
  • I don’t actually read books, but if I did, I would probably try to read one of yours.
  • Do you write your books yourself?
  • I didn’t realize you were a writer, I thought you were a lesbian.  (I must have missed the job fair where Lesbian was discussed as a career option…)
  • I never read books by women, they’re silly.
  • Aren’t all writers alcoholics?
  • You can make money doing that?
  • So, you spend all day thinking about sex.
  • People still read books?
  • Can you get me Author X’s autograph?
  • Do you know anyone famous?

However, my all time favorite:

  • When you write, do you just make up the words as you go or do you have to learn the language first? (WTF?!?)

Enjoy your Monday!

The Trifecta

While most of the Dreams & Reality books deal with serial killers, there are actually three types of killers that should our society ever devolve to match Cain’s will be a serious problem.  Serial killers, mass murderers, and spree killers would all cause significant population decreases if they existed in the sheer volume that they exist in the fictitious world of my creation.

  • Serial killer is defined as a person who kills three or more people over the course of a month or longer.  They must have “cooling off periods” between times of activity.
  • Mass murderer is defined as a person who kills four or more people with no inactivity between kills.   The activity is usually committed at a single location.  However, this definition is somewhat fluid in nature, as mass murder also includes genocide.  The difficulty arises because genocide must meet more criteria than mass murder, but we do consider genocidal maniacs mass murderers.
  • Spree killer is defined as a person who commits two or more murders, in two separate events with relatively no inactivity between kills.  This definition is also a little fluid, as spree killers are usually limited in how much time is considered “no inactivity” and there is no exact number placed on it.  However, the FBI likes to limit it to less than 30 days.  So, a spree killer might kill one person every five days for a month or he might kill three people on Friday, six on Saturday, one on Monday, and then take the rest of the week off before resuming activities on Friday.

As neat and tidy as these definitions would like to be, most multiple murderers fit more than one category.

  • Charles Whitman climbed the bell tower at the University of Texas on 1 August 1966.  He shot 49 people, 18 of whom died due to injuries.  However, the night before he climbed the tower, he drove to his mother’s apartment and stabbed her to death, then he picked up his wife from work, brought her home and stabbed her to death.  Meaning that while Whitman is most definitely a mass murderer, he could also qualify as a spree killer.
  • H H Holmes will forever be known as America’s First Serial Killer (even though it isn’t true).  However, what most people don’t realize is that Holmes had times when he was a bit of a mass murderer and a bit of a spree killer.  During the World’s Fair in Chicago, an event that lasted 6 months; Holmes used the Murder Castle as an efficient killing machine.  Estimates differ greatly on the number of victims that saw their last days inside the hotel Holmes had built.  The lowest is twelve, so he was murdering at least two people a month.  The highest I’ve ever heard was a 100.  If that number is anywhere close to being true, than Holmes would not have had much cooling off periods between murders.  He would have qualified as a spree killer as well as a serial killer.  Furthermore, there is a subset of mass murders that do take place over prolonged periods of time and are not involved in genocide.  Holmes would qualify for that as well, even if that number is greatly exaggerated.
  • Ed Gein is technically none of these things.  However, he is still lumped in with the rest of the serial killers because police suspected that he killed at least five people above and beyond the two he confessed to.  Aside from the three prostitutes in LaCrosse, Wisconsin whose disappearance might be linked to Gein, he was found in possession of two pubescent vulvas.  The medical examiners who looked through Gein’s treasure trove of body parts didn’t believe they came from dead teenaged girls.  They just couldn’t find the link to any missing teen girls and the vulvas; they don’t exactly have fingerprints or facial features.
  • Charles Starkweather is occasionally called a spree killer and occasionally called a serial killer.  It depends on who one asks.  The problem with classifying Starkweather is that his murders happened over a period of time, longer than a month, but only because there was one murder that was an outlier.  In the wee hours of the morning on 1 December 1957, Starkweather killed a gas station attendant.  However, the rest of his murders (all 10 of them) happened between 21 January and 28 January 1958.
  • Jim Jones is definitely a mass murderer.  However, he is suspected of killing followers who wanted to leave his commune before the mass death took place, making it possible that he was also a serial killer.  And unlike most people think, not all of the followers in Jonestown wanted to drink the punch… The few survivors of Jonestown tell a frightening tale of the last night, with Jones ordering the murders of those that didn’t want to drink poison, either by holding them down and forcing them to drink the punch or by shooting them, and goons chasing people who ran off.  The survivors are the ones that said unhappy Jonestown residents tended to disappear.

Most multiple murderers cross into grey areas.  It happens.  It’s also why classifying them can occasionally be difficult.

Speaking of Cannibalism…

Back to death… If you grew up in the US, you had to learn about the Donner party; a group of settlers that got stuck in the Rockies during the winter and ending up eating each other to survive.  To be fair, they started with the livestock (mostly horses), then moved onto the already deceased, we’re not sure if they actually had to kill each other to survive, but does it matter?  Cannibalism is taboo, except in extreme situations, and this was one of them.  Now, if they killed each other for food, that makes it worse, but if they just ate the dead, it was forgivable.  (I don’t make these rules)

Here’s some less famous cases of cannibalism (and how they relate to my books):

  • Germany 1920s – Now, remember, Germany in the 1920s was pretty much awful, it was cheaper to burn Deutschmarks than use them to buy firewood.  Unfortunately, Deutschmarks might heat your home, but they don’t fill your belly.  Or your neighbors belly.  An enterprising butcher found a solution; he began killing transients (there were a lot of them) and grinding them into sausage to sell to the people in his hometown.  In some ways, he did his clients a favor, by providing cheap meat and his clients were pretty sure the sausage was made out of rats, horses, dogs, and cats, so they didn’t ask any questions.  Only after one of the intended victims got away did the truth come out.  There isn’t much record of how the townspeople who had been buying the sausages felt about this.  The butcher was tried for multiple murder and violating Germany food purity laws.  This case has long been one of interest to me; a serial killer in theory doing it for the greater good.  It inspired the story about the neighborhood “hog roast” that turned out to be a “human roast” on the spit.
  • Vincent Li – Tim McLean got on the wrong bus.  The young man was traveling across Canada when another passenger got up, walked over to him, and began stabbing him.  Vincent Li didn’t know Tim McLean, but that didn’t stop him from killing him, beheading him, and then chewing on his head while disgusted and terrified Greyhound passengers fled the bus.  He also cut off chunks of the victim’s body and ate them while he paced the bus.  Li was found not competent to stand trial.  However, it is his story that first introduced me to the concept of the Wendigo and this incident inspired Gabriel’s experience in Canada while visiting his grandparents.
  • Armin Meiwes – Meiwes placed an internet ad searching for a volunteer to be murdered and eaten.  Bernd Brandes answered the ad.  Meiwes stabbed him in the throat and then began consuming pieces of him for several weeks before found out by German authorities.  Originally, Meiwes was convicted only of manslaughter, since Brandes had volunteered.  A retrial a few years later found him guilt of first degree murder.  This act inspired Cannibal Dreams, but I’m not the only artist to be inspired by it; Rammstein’s song Mein Teil was allegedly inspired by the case as well.
  • Tanzanian Albinos – Being an albino in Tanzania is dangerous.  Eating the flesh of an albino is thought to bring good luck and more than 20 have been killed since 2007 by witch doctors for their flesh.  The problem is prevalent enough that the Tanzanian president issued a statement condemning the practice.  I have known about this for a while and it has not directly inspired anything in a book yet, but I’m sure it will in the future.
  • Katherine Price – In 2000, Katherine Price killed and cooked her boyfriend, John.  She was caught as she was preparing his body as a meal for his children.  It was this incident that inspired the killer in Summoned Dreams with the crockpot of human rump roast.
  • USSR – However, cannibalism reached an all time high in the Soviet Union, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s.  The Soviet Union was a nation in poverty and despair.  And it wasn’t just the Russians eating other Russians.  Their POW camps were overflowing after the Battle of Stalingrad because the Germans surrendered, but there wasn’t enough food to feed the Soviet citizens let alone a bunch of German POWs.  They were rationed heavily and most of the survivors had to turn to cannibalism to survive.  Just a decade before, famine hit Ukraine with such force that many of its citizens (then Soviets) also had to resort to cannibalism to survive.  There are actually propaganda posters leftover from the Ukraine famine warning Soviet citizens not to eat their own children.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I will find a way to put this in a book…
  • Papua New Guinea – At least one tribe is still practicing cannibalism.  Human flesh is referred to as long pig.  They even had a market for it at one time.  However, since the practice is now condemned and criminal, it is done in secret.

Cannibalism is alive and well.  Most people describe it as pork, however, a few eaters have said it tastes like veal.  I have no desire to find out.

 

Innocent Dreams/Cannibal Dreams

It turns out that it isn’t cannibalism that bothers me.  It’s child killers.  This is a bit of a blinding revelation.  I didn’t realize I had issues with child killers until now… But as I work my way through Innocent Dreams, I have begun skipping the killer chapters.  Which is exactly what I did in Cannibal Dreams.

I’ve also noticed that while I blog about serial killers and mass murders and the occasional spree killer, I do not seem to blog about the ones that killed children.  I’ve blogged about children killing children.  Teens killing other teens.  But aside from Wayne Williams, I haven’t really blogged any child killers.  Considering serial killers do in fact prey on children, this seems like an oddity.

So, I did a search of my blog for Albert Fish; child killer and cannibal.  Nothing, nada, zip.  I’ve mentioned him in passing, but he’s never actually gotten an entire blog post to himself.  Considering he had as much of an impact as Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy, it would seem that I would have covered him, at least once.  I haven’t.

As a matter of fact, since I started seriously writing Innocent Dreams, I’ve noticed an increase in nightmares.  The same thing happened during Cannibal Dreams.  There is just something about them, they trigger some sort of primeval reaction.  It’s not just revulsion or irritation or disgust, it’s something more.  Something I can’t quite name, but gets under my skin.

However, I can’t fix it by introducing Patterson.  So, I will continue along with Innocent Dreams as planned.  I might just have to watch a lot more Too Cute! at night.

Fortified Dreams – My Thoughts

We’re taking a break today from the killers.  I’m going to do something I rarely do and give my thoughts on Fortified Dreams.  I don’t normally do this, but what the hell, might as well…

This was the most difficult book I have ever written in the Dreams & Reality series. It is complex and at times, a little confusing. New good guys get introduced. New bad guys crop up. Plus, most of it happens in the space of a single day, spent inside the Fortress… which means a lot of serial killers, mass murderers, and spree killers to fill up twenty or so normal Dreams novels.

There are also some new background tidbits given. Conspiracies are a central theme of the book. The reader will begin to realize just how complicated creating the SCTU & VCU really was. And that some things have been in the works for decades.

Also, there is the return of Patterson. Aislinn Cain and Malachi Blake can’t enter the Fortress without running into Patterson Clachan, what kind of world would that be? Plus, the readers will finally get a good glimpse of Eric Clachan. After all, he killed for one sister, he would definitely stand by his other sister’s side as she and the SCTU/VCU attempted to take back control from the prisoners.

However, what I’m most excited about is the revelation of Fiona’s character. She has been one that has had to grow on Aislinn and readers. Now, the readers will fully understand why she is sometimes antagonistic of Aislinn.

This is my favorite book to date. I hope the readers enjoy it just as much (and as usual, some questions will be answered, some will not… There are more Dreams novels to come and I can’t give away all the secrets at one time).

Nature v. Nuture

Since we are talking about serial killers, I started a blog post about nature v. nurture.  Some people do seem to be born bad.  Others learn it from their environment.  However, I stopped, because in reality, it doesn’t matter whether it’s more genetics than learned behaviors or vice-versa.

The problem is that both of these things give people an out.  An excuse for their crimes, but there really is no excuse.  Lots of people have rough childhoods and turn out fine.  The world is littered with people born with mental health issues like ASPD and go on to be productive members of society.

The biggest problem with finding a genetic link to criminal behavior is that it then becomes no different than having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Lupus.  Conditions where the symptoms can be managed, but not the disease itself.  And we don’t really want that to happen, because instead of The Devil Made Me Do It we have I have bad genes defenses.

On the flip side of this, if we allow for too much environmental conditioning to play a part in how we view criminals, then we run the risk of misplacing the blame.  Thousands of people go through bad things, listen to music with violent lyrics, and watch violent movies yet they do not go around blowing up buildings or shooting people from a tower or torturing young women in the back of vans.

I distinctly remember that after the Columbine Shootings in 1999, several of my favorite bands were suddenly in the eye of the public, who were out for blood.  Rammstein, KMFDM, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails were all mentioned by reporters as being among the favorites of the shooters.  Yet, I had been listening to KMFDM and Nine Inch Nails since 1989 (yes, I was 9 when I was introduced to their music, I can’t remember when Manson and Rammstein reached my music radar but it was before the Columbine Shootings) and I hadn’t tried to blow up my school.  I was even a social outcast, bullied, and teased, yet I still hadn’t considered shooting my fellow students.  I just couldn’t wait to graduate and get away from all the teenage judgment.  So, something besides their environment turned those two boys into killers (for the record, I also played Doom, along with a million other kids and enjoyed horror films, like most teenagers).

It would seem that a kind of perfect storm must exist to create real killers.  A combination of nature and nurture in which the seeds of violence are sewn to create the monsters I research and write about.  One, by itself, doesn’t explain the phenomenon.  Some may be genetically predisposed to lack empathy, sympathy, and fear, but that alone does not mean they will be a criminal.  Others may grow up in abusive families with addict parents who turn them over to foster care and this may make them high risk for criminal behaviors in the future.  However, predisposition and high risk do not actually make a killer.  But even the two of them together… Is that enough?

Or does some magical third ingredient exist that makes the mixture deadly?  It seems likely that there is more involved than just a simple matter of nature v. nurture.  If that was all, we would have lots more killers, especially female killers…

The Jigsaw Murder(s)

When I mentioned Dr. George Hill Hodel Jr in an earlier post, I mentioned the Jigsaw Murders in Manila, Philippines in the 1960s.  Dr. Hodel Jr., as the prime suspect in the murder of the Black Dahlia, is an excellent candidate for the murderer.  Especially considering Lucila Lalu was found in almost the exact same condition as Elizabeth Short.

One should understand that Manila during the 1960s was not a great place to live.  Crime was rampant and it wasn’t limited to the poor.  Even the rich and famous members of Philippine society was at risk.  The same year Lucila Lalu was found murdered, a young movie star was taken hostage by 4 members of the upper class, forced into a hotel, where they tortured, raped, and brutalized her.  Thankfully, they left her alive and were all caught and prosecuted for their crimes.

Lucila Lalu was a young woman who was married to a police officer.  She owned a beauty store and a nightclub.  She was living a good life, until she ran afoul of the wrong person.

May 28, 1967 Lucila Lalu went to work and never returned.  Where she was held for the two days she was missing was never discovered (however, we’ll get into some of that).  On May 30, 1967, the lower portion of her body was found near a river.  Later in the day, her upper torso was found in a park near a major intersection.  Her head was never found.

The police seemed to make some blunders during the investigation.  The biggest one was not searching the prime suspect’s apartment when they arrested him.  Instead, they waited, by which time the scene had been contaminated and possible had evidence planted.  Then there was the confession they got, which was most definitely coerced, most likely with brute force and which didn’t hold up when scrutinized.  While the case was never closed, it was widely accepted that the man did it.

Until it wasn’t… While not officially linked to Lucila Lalu’s murder, two other Filipina women were murdered in a much similar manner in the two years before Lalu’s murder.  Finding information on these two women seem nearly impossible.  They may not even exist except outside the mind of one demented journalist.  A news article was published a year after Lalu’s murder attempting to connect the three victims.  Police denied the victims existed and insisted that Lalu’s murder was a single event.

Only now, we know that may not be true, even if the other Pinoi victims are a figment of someone’s imagination.  Lalu’s body was found drained of blood.  She was bisected just above the hips.  And Dr. Hodel Jr. was living in Manila at the time.  All three of these details are important because they mirror the murder of The Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short.  The only real difference is geography and the missing head.  Lalu was even a very attractive young woman, like Short.

It is very likely that the Short and Lalu cases are linked.  It is also very likely that if the other two victims really existed, they were connected as well.  However, the murder of Lalu, like Elizabeth Short, will go down as unsolved for all time – the Filipina Black Dahlia, so to speak.

The Not-Quite-A-Serial-Killer That Probably Was

Poor Ed Gein… History has painted him with a very wide and severe brush.  He is the basis for many fictional monsters in movies and books.  He is one of the few serial killers that I would say got a bum deal.  By modern standards, Ed would be mentally challenged and probably taken away from his abusive, ultra-religious mother.  He might have grown up to be a nice, normal person, adopted by a family willing to take care of him or perhaps even foster care would have been better than where he did grow up.

Sadly, it was not to be and Ed Gein grew up with a woman who was a bitch.  Mrs. Gein firmly believed in discipline and her version was often brutal, even by the standards of the time.  She considered Ed lazy and stupid making him a frequent target of her wrath.  It got worse after his older brother was killed in a farming accident (and some suspect Ed had a hand in the accident).

However, around town, Ed was well liked.  Growing from an awkward teen into a shy, quiet adult didn’t lessen his popularity and many people hired Ed to work odd jobs on the farms to help supplement the income from the Gein family farm.  He even had drinking buddies that he liked to hang out with on Friday and Saturday nights.  Of course, his mother disapproved of this behavior and even as an adult is known to have beaten him on a few occasions for his lack of control when it came to drinking and God forbid he show interest in a woman.  That met with the strongest reproaches from Mrs. Gein, who is rumored to have forced Ed to take a bleach bath after she caught him flirting with one of the “whores” at the local tavern.

So, Ed might be worth a little pity, he never had a chance to be anything other than a socially awkward adult who couldn’t express normal, human urges.  In many ways, this does explain his grave robbing and necrophilia.

Gein’s case isn’t complicated by the sheer number of possible victims.  There were two; Bernice Worden and Mary Hogan.  He led police to nine graves he robbed and they even had to see for themselves that he had in fact stolen the corpses from them.  There was doubt that the slightly built Ed could dig the grave with a shovel, open the coffin, take out the corpse, close the coffin, and fill it all back in during a single night.  They asked for a demonstration and he managed to do all of it in very little time, which was surprising (maybe he should have been a gravedigger).

Therein lies the mystery of Ed Gein; did he kill anyone besides the two women he confessed to?  Most people think yes.  He had a lot of body parts lying around his house and the two murdered women plus nine robbed graves really didn’t account for all of them.  For example, he had a necklace made from human female nipples and in a box they found several vulvas, two of them from pubescent girls.   There were lampshades made from leathered human skin as well as some other furniture.  He even used the bones to make furniture (maybe he should have been a tanner or a taxidermist).  And he had dug up his mother and preserved her, turning her into a suit he could wear, which is probably a nicer fate than she deserved.

Now, it is possible that these extra body parts were robbed from graves and he just didn’t mention it.  It’s also possible that he killed a few more people, after all, he was sort of a suspect in the death of his brother.  Oddly, several people believed that it was a rumor started by his mother (not winning any Mother-of-the-Year Awards) and didn’t put much stock in the idea that Ed had assisted his brother having an accident.

To the outside world, Ed Gein was a monster of mythical portions and reviled for his sick appetites.  To those that knew him, Ed was more of a pitiful figure that had it rough.  As one can probably tell, I agree with the second evaluation.  I always picture a sort of Lennie-esque figure (from Of Mice and Men) when thinking of Ed Gein.  Abused and mentally challenged, he had no chance at leading a life that wouldn’t end tragically. Of course, I also believe Ed killed more than just 2 women and that he robbed more than 9 graves, which would technically make him a serial killer.

Serial Killers That Were Probably Mostly Innocent

Last one in this series and it is a doozy… Charles Manson.  Stop groaning, I know, I know, Charles Manson is the epitome of serial killer lore, but Manson wasn’t really a serial killer, he was a cult leader that convinced his followers to kill and honestly, they weren’t actually serial killers either.  Manson and the Manson Family were definitely killers, but they weren’t actually serial killers, they were spree killers and one might convincingly argue, mass murderers.  However, Manson himself… Psychopath.  Yes.  Killer.  Not so much.

As a matter of fact, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder because he didn’t actually do the killings himself.  Thankfully, nine counts of conspiracy to commit murder plus all the shenanigans he and the Manson Family pulled during his trial were enough to give him a life sentence (originally it earned him the death penalty, but the abolition of the death penalty in California got his sentence commuted to life in prison).

  • Bernard Crowe – It’s unclear exactly who shot Crowe. Some say it was Tex Watson, some say it is the only crime Manson carried out himself.  We don’t know.  We do know that Crowe was a drug dealer that Tex Watson stole from and that Crowe responded by threatening to kill everyone at Spahn Ranch.  Manson decided to beat him to the punch, so to speak, and shot Crowe.  He believed Crowe was dead and the news the next day did report of a Black Panther being killed in Hollywood.  However, the news report was not about Crowe, who was not a Black Panther (it should be noted that Manson was a racist of the highest order and just assumed all black people were involved with the Black Panthers) and he did live.  There was even some thoughts of putting him on the stand for the prosecution during Manson’s later trial for the Tate/LaBianca murders, but the idea was scrapped because of Crowe’s connections to drug dealing and violent crimes.
  • Gary Hinman – Hinman was killed in July 1969 for money, plain and simple. Manson thought he had some and he sent some followers to go get it.  Unfortunately, that didn’t go as well as Manson would have liked and after holding the man hostage for a few days, he was stabbed to death.  Of course, not before being tortured to give up the money.  In the end, it doesn’t appear he got the money.  The followers did scribble some political gibberish about Helter Skelter and the rise of the race war Mason envisioned happening, as would be their calling card for the upcoming murders.
  • Tate Murders – Sharon Tate/Roman Pulanski just happened to buy the wrong damn house. The previous owner was a recording executive named Terry Melcher.  Melcher was interested in hearing the Manson Women sing and he did do that.  However, no recordings or record deal came from it, as Manson had expected.  Not knowing Melcher’s new address, Manson sent Tex Watson, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins to his former address on August 8, 1969, then occupied by the pregnant Sharon Tate.  There were five people there that night; Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Steven Parent, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger.  All of them were brutally slaughtered and the house decorated with Manson’s political message in their blood.
  • LaBianca Murders – The very next night after the Tate murders, six members of the Manson family arrived at the LaBianca residence. It’s only connection to Manson or the family was that they had attended a party near by the previous year.  There are two accounts of what happened that night.  Tex Watson wrote one account and Susan Atkins wrote another.  The two differ in how much participation Manson actually had in the LaBianca murders, which he did attend.
  • The Double Event that Didn’t Happen – While Watson, Leslie Van Houten, and Krenwinkel to the house of LaBianca, he had Linda Kasabian, Susan Atkins, and Steve Grogan go to the house of one of Kasabian’s acquaintances. The man was an actor and Manson wanted to add him to the race war he was trying to start.  However, Kasabian’s dedication to the Manson Family murders was not as strong as Manson thought and she intentionally knocked on the wrong door, waking up a stranger.  The three left before they could attract too much attention.
  • Donald Shea – Shea was a handyman at Spahn Ranch. In mid-August 1969, the ranch was raided by police.  Manson believed Shea had tipped the police off to his drug activities.  Two members of the family were eventually found guilty of his murder; Bruce Davis and Steve Grogan.  However, both claimed Watson, Bill Vance, and Larry Bailey were also involved.  There was little evidence to find or present since it was 1977 before Shea’s body was found.

The only one that actually might be classifiable as a traditional serial killer is Tex Watson.  He did participate in all the murders to some degree, making him the only one who could possibly have 3 or more victims to his name.  However, given the nature of the Manson Family crimes and the varied participation of those involved, even labelling Tex Watson as a serial killer is complicated.

In the 1960s, it was hard to determine exactly what to call Manson and his Family.  Society was very aware of the concept of serial killers, but spree killers were relatively unheard of at the time (it is still a term that is hotly debated by experts because it’s definition is ambiguous – a killer that kills 2 or more people in 2 or more incidents with no cooling off period between kills – the question is what defines “no cooling off period”).  In the case of the Manson Family killings, a single day between the major incidents (Tate/LaBianca murders) would qualify as no cooling off period, but other serial killers and mass murderers (like Charles Starkweather and Andrew Cunanan) are left in limbo by this definition.

Add to it that Manson’s physical involvement with any and all the killings is left to our imagination and well… He’s just the puppet master and guilty of conspiracy, not actual murder, let alone being a serial killer.

Serial Killers That Were Probably Mostly Innocent

It would be really hard to argue the case that Albert DeSalvo was not a killer.  After all, modern DNA testing has definitively linked him to one of the Boston Strangler cases.  And he was convicted of rape, not murder, because some of his confessions were… not right.

  • The Boston Strangler case is complicated because of the same reason the Atlanta Child Murders and the Lipstick Murders cases are complicated; victimology. There are essentially two sets of victims with all these cases and it’s no different with The Boston Strangler, except it seems to be a matter of living victims versus dead ones.
  • DeSalvo was convicted of the Green Man rapes. These were a series of rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated against young women in the Boston area.  When DeSalvo was named the suspect in the Boston Strangler case and his photo published, several women came forward to accuse DeSalvo of their sexual assaults.  DeSalvo was not a particularly stable individual and most believed he needed medical treatment for a mental condition, which fit in perfectly with the Green Man rapes, as the rapist kept repeating “I’m sorry” during several of the assaults.  A few women even reported that he cried during their assaults.
  • His DNA did link him to one Boston Strangler murder; Mary Sullivan. Sullivan was just 19 when she was attacked, sexually assaulted, and strangled.  However, that wasn’t until 2013.  By then, most of the Boston Strangler case had been picked apart by experts…
  • Now for the Experts…
    • While there are similarities between several of the Boston Strangler cases, they aren’t exactly the makings of an MO or modi operandi. Most of the women were strangled with a ligature, usually their nylon stockings.  However, it was the 1960s and every woman had stockings, but then some were strangled with things like bathrobe belts and by hands.  The differences in age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status was very different.  It looked to most experts like there might be at least three different stranglers.  Also, there were a couple of victims that were stabbed, not strangled and not all the women were sexually assaulted.  Furthermore, of those that were sexually assaulted, some were assaulted by objects, not, um, how do I word that?  Yes, anyway, you get the picture there.
    • The Boston Strangler has a double event. On June 30, 1962, he raped and strangled Nina Nichols in her home and later that day, raped and killed Helen Blake (Newhall Street in Lynn, Massachusetts) in her home.  Interestingly, Nina Nichols lived at 1940 Commonwealth Ave. Boston, Massachusetts.  On June 28, 1962, the Boston Strangler killed Mary Mullen (she actually died of a heart attack during her assault – she was the oldest victim at 85) who lived in an apartment at 1435 Commonwealth Ave.
    • Modern day geographic profiling does not fit the Boston Strangler case. If it were a single killer, he was comfortable with all areas of Boston and the surrounding cities; killing in places like Cambridge and Salem, Massachusetts, not just Boston.  These are not just geographically different areas; they are socioeconomically diverse areas.
    • Even then, the police had doubts that all the cases were related. It was largely under pressure from the public that the cases were linked into a single serial killer case.  Famed profiler Robert Ressler once said that the police put “together so many different patterns that it’s inconceivable behaviorally that all these could exist in one individual.”
    • Police had several suspects in the case, DeSalvo was not among the top. However, he did get institutionalized with one of them, George Nassar.
    • Bizarrely, the person most convinced of DeSalvo’s guilt was his attorney, F. Lee Bailey. And while police were willing to point out the inconsistencies of DeSalvo’s confessions with those of the actual murders, his attorney brushed them away by saying his client was insane, of course he would forget details.
    • Nassar is the first person to report that DeSalvo confessed to the Strangler cases. He told his lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, about it.  Then he told the superintendent at the institution.  However, the superintendent believed DeSalvo had been coerced into the confessions and even coached.  This did not help DeSalvo though.
    • More controversy: DeSalvo said he raped Mary Sullivan and it was this case that linked him through DNA evidence. However, forensic examination at the time of Sullivan’s murder did not reveal any evidence of sexual activity and the seminal fluid was collected from somewhere else within the apartment (meaning, in a bizarre twist of terrible luck, she could have been a Green Man victim and a Boston Strangler victim – DeSalvo even got the time of her murder and the manner in which he killed her wrong in his confession).
    • He got this wrong in almost all of his confessions. One police officer quipped that DeSalvo “either had the shortest memory of any killer or he didn’t do it.”  DeSalvo failed to get names, dates, and murder weapons right in almost all the murder cases, but did manage to remember those details regarding the handful of Green Man rapes he was tried and convicted for.  However, he did know details that were not released to the public about several of them (remember the comment about the superintendent saying DeSalvo was coached through his confessions ahead of time by another inmate?)

Fifty plus years after the first Boston Strangler case and we have just as many questions as we did back then.  Possibly more since we have learned more about DeSalvo, the murders, and serial killers in general.  One thing we do know is that Albert DeSalvo as the Green Man liked pretty, young ladies, not the preferred victim type of the Boston Strangler – the majority of those victims were over 50.

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