This post is taking extra time to research so be patient. If you have any suggestions on who should be included on this list, hit me back with a name in comments.
First of all, let me apologize for the hiatus between posts. Rest assured that I am back and you can look for regular posts from the Reignmaker1911.
Freeways aren’t anything spectacular, other than the daily hazards that accompany driving they aren’t looked upon as dangerous. They run through cities, counties and states, allowing us to maneuver about this country of ours. Unfortunately between 1972 and 1980, numerous freeways in southern California became the final resting place for a great many, the number may be in the hundreds. At least 36-44 male victims are accredited to a single murderer. The highways and byways of California ran red with the blood shed by William George Bonin who raped, tortured and murdered these men. Though many murderers used these thoroughfares as their killing fields, it was the wicked exploits of William Bonin that earned him the title of, “The Freeway Killer.”
Born January 8, 1947 to alcoholic parents, William Bonin along with his older and younger brothers, were raised primarily by his grandfather, a convicted child molester. The pattern of abuse and the vicious cycle of rape permeated Bonin’s life at an early age. As a child young William was raped by his father. At the tender age of 6 Bonin was sent to an orphanage. During this period he was subjected to constant sexual assaults perpetrated by the older boys. Eventually, William became a willing participant in the homosexual sex acts with the other boys. At the age of 9, Bonin was released from the orphanage and began his transition from prey to predator as he began to molest younger boys in the area.
In 1965 Bonin enlisted into the Air Force and was sent to Vietnam. While logging over 700 hours of combat and patrol time, Bonin earned a Good Conduct Medal. William Bonin also displayed exemplary courage under fire by risking his own life to save the life of a fellow soldier. Bonin was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force in October, 1968 and returned to Connecticut to live with his mother before moving to California. Air Force officials later learned however that Bonin, during his tenure in the service, had sexually assaulted two fellow soldiers at gunpoint. From this point the depravity and sexual sadism of William Bonin would reach new depths.
In 1969 Bonin would have his first run-in with law enforcement. He was arrested for the sexual of assault of 5 young men throughout Los Angeles County. During the assaults Bonin picked up the boys while driving around then handcuffed and sodomized them. During pre-trial evaluations Bonin was diagnosed as a “mentally disordered sex offender” and upon conviction was remanded to Atascadero State Hospital. It was here that the light was shed on the abuse Bonin received as a child. Though he had no memory of the abuses, physical evidence proved otherwise and the doctors deduced that his subconscious had repressed any ability to recall the experiences consciously. Doctors also found a variety of other physical and psychological anomalies. They reported brain damage in the area that is thought to restrain violent impulses; manic-depressive illness, and several unexplained scars on his head and backside. As with the abuses; Bonin could not recall the origins of his scars. Bonin remained at Atascadero for five years. He was released, not due to being cured but due to fact that nothing more could be done for him. On his file the doctors simply stated that he was no longer a danger to others. Though he was examined at great length by neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists; the actual treatment William Bonin received is unknown to this date.
Obviously Bonin had not read his own chart because within 16 months of his release he had sexually assaulted 14 year old David McVicker at gun point and attempted to abduct another teenage male. Bonin received a sentence of one to 15 years in prison. McVicker would be his last rape victim that lived to testify.
Released in October of 1978, Bonin was anxious for a fresh start. He immediately moved to the town of Downey, CA and soon found employment as a tow truck driver. William even met a girl with whom he began dating. He told friends the he and she went to nearby Anaheim every Sunday. Bonin became acquainted with fellow Downey resident Everett Fraser. Fraser would throw elaborate parties at his home, to which he would always invite Bonin. A 22-year-old factory worker and part-time magician named Vernon Butts was in attendance at one of these parties. Over time Butts became enamored with Bonin and was excited by sadistic homosexual activities. Sharing the same ideology, the ne’er-do-well Butts leapt at the chance of becoming Bonin’s first accomplice. Together, they would prowl the highways of Southern California in Bonin’s olive drab van, looking for teens to ravage.
In May of 1979 the body of 14-year-old Reseda resident, Thomas Lundgren was discovered in Malibu. Lundgren had been emasculated as well as slashed across the throat, stabbed, and strangled to death. In August the remains of Mark Shelton, a 17-year old from Westminster were found at Cajon Pass. On August 5, 1979, sometime between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., Bonin and Butts picked up Marcus Grabs. Grabs was hitchhiking along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach. The depraved duo sodomized, beat and stabbed Grabs over 70 times. They then dumped the body in Malibu Canyon. Butts would go on to assist Bonin in at least 5 more murders. Despite the obvious similarities in modus operandi of the three killings, officials in Orange as well as Los Angeles County refused to acknowledge the possibility of a serial killer being in operation. However, that manner of thinking would change as the death toll continued to rise.
Three weeks later the mutilated and semi castrated corpse of 15-year-old Donald Hyden of Hollywood would be found near Ventura Freeway. On September 12, 1979, the body of David Murillo, 17, was found in the same vicinity. Both teens had been sodomized and strangled with a ligature. David’s head had been bashed in with a tire iron. Eight days later, an 18-year-old Newport Beach youth named Robert Wirostek was abducted as he cycled to his job at a grocery store: his body was found on September 19 alongside the Interstate 10 Highway.
In late November 1979 a corpse of an unidentified youth was found in Kern County. The victim was savagely beaten, then strangled to death before his body was discarded. On December 2nd, the nude body of 17-year-old, Frank Dennis Fox was found alongside a highway five miles east of San Diego. On December 13th another John Doe was found, mutilated and discarded like trash. In early January of 1980, the body of Michael McDonald from Rialto was found fully clothed body in San Bernardino County Approximately a week and a half later the strangled corpse of 15-year-old, Long Beach teen, John Kilpatrick was found in Rialto.
In early 1980 Bonin had recruited a new accomplice, another sexual psychopath, Gregory Matthew Miley. On February 3rd, while driving from Downey to Hollywood they met a 15-year-old hitchhiker named Charles Miranda. They forced Miranda into the van and robbed him of his wallet. Bonin then over powered the boy and beat and raped him. Bonin then goaded Miley to join in, not being able to sustain an erection, Miley raped the boy with a blunt object.
On February 5th 1980 the two men abducted, raped and killed James McCabe. The 12 year old boy was waiting at a Huntington Beach bus stop for a bus to Disneyland. The two men tricked young James into the van by promising to take him to Disneyland. Once inside, Miley drove as Bonin beat and raped the boy. Eventually Miley pulled over into secluded area and as Bonin strangled the boy with a tire iron, Miley jumped up and down on his chest. James McCabe’s body was left near a garbage dumpster in the Garden Grove area of the city of Walnut, CA. These monsters used McCabe’s six dollars, his Disneyland entrance fee, to purchase themselves lunch.
Ronald Gatlin, an 18 year old from Van Nuys, CA was found in March 1980. Not only was Gatlin beaten and sodomized as the others were; Gatlin suffered deep lacerations in his ear and neck resulting from being tortured with an ice pick. His body was found in the city of Duarte. One week later, on March 21st, 14-year-old Glenn Barker was also raped, beaten and strangled to death with a ligature; which had become Bonin’s signature method of murder. Unlike the others, Barker’s body bore multiple cigarette burns, possibly the evidence of a new accomplice. Later that same day 15-year-old Russell Rugh was abducted from a bus stop in Garden Grove. He too had been raped, bound, beaten and strangled to death. His body was found laid next to that of Barker’s in Cleveland National Forest in Southern California.
One evening in late March, Bonin encountered William Pugh at a function held by Everett Fraser. Bonin offered him a ride, agreeing to take him wherever he was going. Once inside, Bonin asked Pugh if he would like to engage in sexual intercourse with him. Shocked by the question, Pugh attempted to jump out of the van at the next stoplight. Bonin grabbed him by the collar, snatched him back in and according to Pugh; confessed to him his exploits as “the Freeway killer”. He told Pugh just how much he enjoyed picking up teenage males to rape, torture and murder. He then leaned in even closer and said, “If you want to kill somebody, you should make a plan and find a place to dump the body before you even pick a victim.” He dropped Pugh off at home without incident. Pugh, a common thief had never killed anyone; that would all change very soon.
Harry Todd Turner was a 15-year old runaway from a boy’s home in the Lancaster community. Bonin and Pugh found the boy street walking in Los Angeles and offered him $20.00 for sex. Once inside the van, Bonin bound, raped and bit the boy numerous times. Exhausted from the assault, Bonin told Pugh to beat the child. Pugh beat Turner about the head and body for several minutes with a blunt object. Bonin then strangled Turner to death with his own T-shirt and discarded him near the Santa Monica Freeway.
April 10, 1980 proved to be a busy day for the psychopaths; abducting 16-year-old Steven Wood from Bellflower, as well as 18-year-old Lawrence Sharp from Long Beach hours later. Both young men were sodomized, beaten and strangled with Wood’s naked corpse being discarded beside the Pacific Coast Highway. Sharp would be found in May behind a Westminster gas station.
Bonin would re-team with Vernon Butts in the April 29, 1980 kidnapping of 19-year-old Daren Kendrick. Kendrick was abducted from the parking lot of his job. While he was raped and beaten like the other victims, Kendrick was forced to swallow chloral hydrate which left him with caustic chemical burns on his mouth, chin, chest and stomach. The young man also suffered an ice pick being driven through his right ear that caused a fatal wound to the upper cervical spinal cord. His body was found in Carson near the Artesia Freeway.
On May 19th Bonin asked Butts to accompany him on his next foray. Butts declined the offer and Bonin went on alone to abduct a 14-year-old South Gate boy named Sean King. According to Bonin, King’s body was discarded in Yucaipa, though to date his remains are yet to be found. Excitedly, Bonin returned to Butt’s home and bragged of the killing to his accomplice.
In late May, Bonin asked a 19-year old, mentally challenged drifter by the name of James Munro to move in with him. Impressed with his demeanor, Munro agreed to the arrangement. Bonin also convinced his supervisor at the Montebello delivery firm for which he worked to give Munro a job. Approximately a week later Munro and Bonin spotted Steven Jay Wells at a bus stop on El Segundo Boulevard. After being enticed into the van, Wells was driven to Bonin’s apartment where, according to Munro, the youth was raped, beaten, and strangled with his own T-shirt. The two men then stuffed the lifeless body into a box and proceeded to the home of Vernon Butts. Bonin asked Butts for advice concerning methods of disposing of the corpse with Butts simply responding, “Try a gas station like’ or ‘where’ – I don’t know which – ‘we dumped the last one.” Wells’ body was found discarded behind a Huntington Beach gas station.
Unbeknownst to Bonin, William Pugh had been arrested in May for an unrelated car theft. While incarcerated, Pugh heard on the news of law enforcement’s search for the perpetrator of the rash of murders. Confiding to a counselor, Pugh expressed that he may know who is responsible for these crimes. The counselor relayed the information to a LAPD homicide sergeant named John St. John. St. John interviewed Pugh, finding his testimony to be credible; St. John decided that Bonin might indeed be the Freeway Killer.
Round-the-clock surveillance of William Bonin began on June 2nd, 1980, the same day that Steven Jay Wells was murdered. On June 11 police observed Bonin attempting to pick up five separate teenage boys. William Bonin was arrested later that evening while sodomizing a young man in his van. In July, police arrested 22-year-old Vernon Butts, charging him as an accomplice in six of the “freeway” murders.
Bonin was formally charged with 14 counts of murder, eleven counts of robbery, plus one count each of sodomy and mayhem. Butts, charged with 6 counts of murder himself and fearing the death penalty, began to tell police of other accomplices. James Michael Munro, who upon Bonin’s arrest had stolen his car, was arrested in Michigan on July 31 and returned to California to stand trial on charges of killing Stephen Wells. Miley was arrested in Texas and charged with the murders of Charles Miranda and James McCabe. Butts, Miley and Munro all agreed to testify against Bonin in exchange for being spared the death penalty. Pugh, also attempting to save his own skin, agreed to a plea deal in exchange for his testimony and eventually received 6 years for manslaughter.
Bonin expressed no remorse for what he had done. Once confronted with the evidence Bonin freely confessed to police concerning the crimes for which he was charged as well as to those that law enforcement knew nothing of. Bonin confessed to killing 21 young men and boys, though officials cite that through blood and semen stains as well as hair and carpet fibers, the number of deaths for which he is responsible may possibly be double that. He shared aspects of each crime in horrifying detail. After his arrest Bonin told a reporter “I’d still be killing. I couldn’t stop killing. It got easier each time.”
Bonin’s trial began on November 5, 1981in Los Angeles County. Here he was charged with the murder of 12 of his victims, the victims who were murdered within the county jurisdiction. Vernon Butts, Greg Miley and James Munro testified for the prosecution. They spelled out details of the torture suffered by assorted “freeway” victims, the glee with which Bonin inflicted pain and the roles each of them played in the commission of these atrocities. In return; Butts, Miley and Munro drew life sentences in return for their testimony against Bonin.
On January 5, 1982, after eight days of deliberation, jurors convicted Bonin on ten counts of murder and ten of robbery. (He was acquitted in the deaths of Thomas Lundgren and Sean King.) Two weeks later, he was formally sentenced to death. About one year later he was convicted in Orange County of the other four murders, for which he received a second death sentence. Though sentenced to death, Bonin took advantage of the American legal system and appealed his sentence a number of times. After exhausting all of his appeals, on February 23, 1996, William George Bonin was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison. Bonin was the first person to be executed by lethal injection in the history of California.
The true crime genre has given me insight on some of the most wicked people to walk the face of the earth. At times I sit in utter amazement as well as in true disgust as I read and research the atrocities committed by the men and women. The most frightening thought is that these people look exactly like anyone else. There is no visible indicator that would identify any of the people as inherently evil or dangers to humanity, yet as we read we realize that we share this planet with individuals that give no regard to human life.
After hundreds of hours of reading, interviewing and film, I thought that I had reached a point of numbness in respect to the depravity of these crimes. I felt that by constantly being exposed to these crimes I would develop a mental callousness to these people and their exploits and honestly in a way….I had. However, my next subject made me realize that I’m not quite as tough as I thought I was.
In 39 short years on earth, Carl Panzram would murder at least 22 people and sodomize 1000’s of males. Panzram was born on June 28, 1891 in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. The last of 8 children, Panzram was a mischievous child; when he was eight he was convicted of drunk & disorderly conduct behavior. Carl broke into a neighbor’s home when he was 11. He stole anything he could get his hands on, including a handgun. He was quickly found out by his brothers, who beat him unconscious. Panzram received beatings from his brothers regularly and for any reason, no matter how insignificant. Carl was later arrested for the burglary. In 1903, at the age of 12, he was sent to the Minnesota State Training School. During his two year stay, Panzram was repeatedly raped, beaten, and tortured by staff members. In retaliation, young Carl burned down the school’s warehouse. By the time he was released in 1905, Carl was a teenage alcoholic filled with hatred and rage. Panzram developed a propensity for running away from home. When he was 14 he ran away and was reportedly gang raped by a group of hobos.
As he entered adulthood, Panzram became a proficient thief and burglar. He went through varied periods of incarceration until he joined the United States Army in 1907. While serving his country Panzram was convicted of larceny and served a prison sentence from 1908 to 1910 at Fort Leavenworth. During his time in prison, Panzram tallied numerous violations of prison rules, each carrying its own punishment, usually merciless beatings from prison guards. Upon his release from Leavenworth in 1910, Panzram realized that he was virtually homeless. Having spent most of his life behind bars, Carl Panzram had become irreversibly and totally evil, void of any level of kindness.
To call Carl Panzram a rapist would be like calling the North Pole “chilly.” From the time he was released from prison, Panzram robbed and raped his way around the country. He rode the trains over vast distances and spent time in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Utah, cutting a path of destruction across the country in a methodical, relentless way that kept police hot on his trail but a step behind. He raped without mercy, rarely passing up an opportunity to take on a new victim. In his autobiography
Panzram stated, “Whenever I met one that wasn’t too rusty looking I would make him raise his hands and drop his pants. I wasn’t very particular either. I rode them old and young, tall and short, white and black. It made no difference to me at all except that they were human beings.” Panzram also had an affinity for fires also. In his own words he states, “I burned down old barns, sheds, fences, snow sheds or anything I could, and when I couldn’t burn anything else I would set fire to the grass on the prairies, or the woods, anything and everything.”
In the summer of 1911, Panzram went about the business robbing and burglarizing. He would make his escapes by hopping boxcars and rolling to the next town. He jumped a freight train heading northwest and brought along some stolen guns that he had buried outside town before he got arrested. While he was in a boxcar with two other bums, he saw another opportunity for rape. Just as he was about to make his move a railroad cop appeared. Panzram got the drop on the officer, raised his pistol and robbed the cop of his watch and whatever money he had. Then, while the other two men watched, he raped the officer at gunpoint. He then forced the other two men to do the same.
Carl continued his travels around the country using various assumed names. On June 1, 1915, Panzram burgled a house in Astoria, Oregon. and was arrested soon after while attempting to sell some of the stolen items. Law enforcement promised Panzram a light sentence if he revealed the whereabouts of the rest of the stolen goods. Though he complied, Panzram was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Feeling double-crossed, he broke out of his cell and burnt down the jail. Panzram was immediately transferred to the Oregon State Penitentiary. Once at the prison, Panzram got into trouble almost immediately for rule violations, and punishment became routine; as did his escapes from prison. On May 12, 1918, Carl escaped from the Oregon Prison for good. He sawed through the window bars using a hacksaw blade and jumped down off the prison walls. As frantic guards fired hundreds of rounds at the fleeing convict, Panzram made it into the woods and disappeared from sight. He later hopped a freight train heading east and left the Pacific Northwest forever.
In the summer of 1920, Panzram ended up in the city of New Haven, Connecticut. He found an old three-story colonial located at 113 Whitney Avenue. Once inside, Panzram found a large amount of jewelry, bonds and a .45 caliber automatic handgun. The name on the bonds was William Howard Taft; yes the 27th President of the United States. Panzram had burglarized the home of ex-president Taft. Taft’s Colt .45 caliber handgun would go on to be used in several murders. After stealing everything he could carry, Panzram escaped through the same window that he entered and hit the streets carrying a large bag of loot.
In 1920, Carl Panzram crossed from thief and rapist to serial murderer. He traveled to the lower east side of Manhattan and sold most of the stolen jewelry and bonds. Using some of the money he gained from the burglary, Carl bought a yacht named the Akista. He sailed the boat up the East River, eastward through the Long Island Sound past the south shore of the Bronx, the City of New Rochelle, and Rye and onto the rocky coast of Connecticut. As he traveled he would burglarize several boats, he would steal booze, guns, supplies and anything else that he could make a buck from. He docked the Akista at the New Haven yacht club; it was there that the seed of a murderous future was planted.
While at the yacht club, Panzram noticed the constant flow of sailors. He realized many of them were looking for work on outgoing freighters or local boats. Panzram concocted a scheme to hire sailors as deckhands for his ship then rob rape and kill them. From his confession Carl admits, “Every day or two I would go to New York and hang around 25 South Street and size up the sailors. We would wine and dine and when they were drunk enough they would go to bed. When they were asleep I would get my .45 Colt automatic, this I stole from Mr. Taft’s home, and blow their brains out.” He would then tie a heavy rock to the body and toss the deceased sailor overboard. Panzram murdered at least 10 sailors in this fashion. Local residents became suspicious when he would dock to buy supplies; regularly carrying a different crew. Upon realizing that he was arousing the curiosity of the locals, Carl sailed down the coast of New Jersey with his last two passengers until he reached Long Beach Island, where he intended to kill them both. In late August 1920, a huge gale hit and the Akista smashed to pieces against the rocks. The three men swam to shore and parted ways.
In 1921, Panzram served six months in jail in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for burglary and possession of a loaded handgun. When released he stowed away on a ship and landed in Angola, a Portuguese colony on the west coast of Africa. Panzram landed a job with the Sinclair Oil Company as a foreman on an oil-drilling rig. The company was involved in searching for new sources of oil in Africa. Once there Panzram raped and murdered an 11 year old African boy. He gives the account in chilling detail, “A little nigger boy about 11 or 12 years old came bumming around,” he said. Panzram lured the boy back to the Sinclair Oil Company grounds where he sexually assaulted and killed him by bashing his head in with a rock. “I left him there, but first I committed sodomy on him and then I killed him,” Panzram wrote in his confession. “His brains were coming out of his ears when I left him and he will never be any deader.”
Panzram then moved to an area called Lobito Way and lived in a fishing village. The locals suspected him of murder but had no proof. He eventually hired six natives to assist him in the lucrative but dangerous occupation of crocodile hunting. While in the jungle the six men demanded a share of the profits. In return, Panzram shot each native in the back of the head then fed the bodies to the hungry crocodiles; he then rowed back to Lobito Bay. Realizing that many people saw him leave with the men and come back alone, he knew he had to relocate.
Panzram then headed north up the Congo River toward a place called Point Banana and then made his way to the Gold Coast. Robbing local village farmers along the way, he eventually got enough money to buy a fare to the Canary Islands. From there he stowed away on a ship to Lisbon, Portugal. Upon his arrival, he soon discovered that the local government knew about his crime spree in Africa and cops were on the lookout for him. Fortunately for Panzram he found another ship headed for America. Stowing away on the ship he soon found himself back in the United States by the summer of 1922.
Soon after he arrived in the U.S. Panzram renewed his captain’s license and retrieved the papers for his yacht, the Akista. His plan now was to steal another boat and register it with his yacht’s name. On July 18, 1922, while searching unsuccessfully for a similar boat to steal, Carl came across a 12 year old boy walking alone on the west side of Salem, Massachusetts. The boy’s name was George Henry McMahon who lived at 65 Boston Street in Salem. He had spent most of the day in a neighbor’s restaurant until the owner, Mrs. Margaret Lyons, asked George to run an errand. Panzram kept the boy for 3 hours where he reportedly sodomized the child six times before bashing his head in with a large rock. During the rape, Panzram stuffed magazine pages down the child’s throat and after the murder; the boy was left covered up with tree branches.
In haste, Panzram rushed to separate himself from the crime scene. As he fled the wooded area where he left McMahon’s body; two Salem residents passed by. The pair noticed how nervous and fidgety Panzram seemed, but they continued on their way. Though young George Henry’s body would be found three days later, the crime would go unsolved until 1928.
Panzram continued his search for a replacement boat and early in the summer of 1923 he stole a ship out of a Providence, Rhode Island marina. Panzram sailed the boat up the Hudson River to Yonkers. In Yonkers Carl met 15 year old George Walsoin. Panzram used the teen’s infatuation with sailing to lure him into his clutches. Promising that he would allow the boy to work with him on his trip upriver, Panzram waited til late in the night and sodomized the child.
Arriving in Kingston, a small bay off the Hudson, Panzram met a young man that seemed interested in purchasing the boat. Panzram took the buyer out to the yacht on the night of June 27 where they had a few drinks together. Unbeknownst to Panzram, the young man had no intention of purchasing the boat but to simply rob Carl of all he possessed. Realizing the true objective of his guest, Panzram shot the man, tied a metal weight onto the body and threw the man overboard; young George Walsoin stared in utter shock.
The next morning, Panzram and Walsoin, sailed into Poughkeepsie, NY. Panzram went on shore and stole a quantity of fishing nets worth more than $1,000. They set sail again and cruised across the river to Newburgh. After the boat dropped anchor, George jumped ship and swam to shore. He eventually made his way back to Yonkers the next day and told the police about being sexually assaulted by Panzram.
Area police were on the lookout for Panzram and his ship. After staking out the marina all night, Panzram docked and on the morning of June 29, 1923, the officers boarded the yacht and arrested Panzram. Using his sailing name, “Captain John O’Leary,” Panzram answered questions from the investigating detectives who charged him with sodomy, burglary and robbery. The next day he was placed in the Yonkers City jail awaiting court appearance. Panzram used his boat as collateral to hire an attorney. In turn, the lawyer arranged bail for Panzram, who immediately skipped. The lawyer, attempting to verify his property, was alerted by authorities that the boat was stolen and must be immediately confiscated. The attorney was left with nothing for his services.
On August 26, 1923, Panzram broke into the Larchmont train depot on Chatsworth Avenue. While rifling through passenger luggage he was confronted by a Larchmont cop, Officer Richard Grube, who was making his rounds. After wrestling with and disarming Panzram, he placed him under arrest. Still using the name John O’Leery, Panzram confessed to three additional burglaries. In village court the next morning, Judge Shafer set bail at $5,000 and remanded Panzram to county jail pending grand jury action. While in the village jail, Panzram told cops he was an escaped prisoner from Oregon where he was serving a 17-year sentence for shooting a police officer.
Larchmont police sent telegrams to Oregon. On August 29th, they received a reply citing that “Jeff Baldwin,” was a wanted man in Oregon. Telegrams came from various regions of the United States, each with various names but all describing the same man, verifying that indeed this man is wanted with several bounties on his head. Panzram even tried to claim a $500 bounty on himself using the logic that since he confessed, he should receive the reward.
Larchmont sentenced Panzram to prison for a five year term. He was taken to Dannemora, just 10 miles from the Canadian border, in October 1923. During an escape attempt, he climbed one of the prison walls and immediately fell 30 feet below onto a concrete step. He broke both legs and ankles. His spine was also badly injured. He received no medical attention for his injuries. He was carried into a cell and dropped on the floor. In July 1928, after serving five long, hard years, Panzram was discharged from Dannemora. Permanently crippled by lack of medical attention and certifiably insane, Carl Panzram was free again.
Consumed with revenge, the six foot 200 lb. Panzram set to put in motion the killing spree he had concocted while incarcerated. Within two weeks, he committed a dozen burglaries and killed at least one man during a robbery in Baltimore. Fortunately for the citizens of Washington DC, Panzram was arrested for burglary. It was during this period of incarceration that Carl would meet his one and only friend. Through this friendship the world would become aware of the true evil that coursed through the veins of Carl Panzram.
A naïve 26-year-old rookie guard named Henry Lesser had recently been hired to the jail in Washington DC. As Panzram was processed into the jail, an inquisitive Lesser asked Carl why he was here. In response Panzram said with a wry smile, “What I do is reform people.” The young guard monitored Panzram over the next few weeks. Unbeknownst to Lesser, Panzram wasn’t planning to hang around much longer. He had gradually been chipping away at the concrete surrounding the bars in the window of his cell so that he could eventually escape. His plans were thwarted by an overzealous inmate that informed the warden of his plans. As punishment Panzram was handcuffed to a pole and beaten mercilessly by guards. Lesser pitied Panzram and expressed his compassion by giving him a dollar to buy cigarettes and extra food. In a life filled with pain, this was the only act of kindness that was ever expressed to Carl Panzram. The two men became friends and confided in one another. Soon, Panzram agreed to write his life story for Lesser. And so, over the next few weeks, while Lesser supplied pencil and paper, Panzram wrote down the details of his twisted life of hate, depravity and murder.
Panzram wrote a 20,000 word confession. Within this journal of his life, Carl detailed the murders of at least 22 murders, over 1000 rapes and countless robberies and arsons; all eventually verified by the authorities of the various municipalities in which they occurred. As Panzram enlightened society to the true nature of his crimes, he felt obligated to divulge a trick used by criminals of his day to avoid capture. Criminals were frequently able to avoid arrest warrants by changing names. Panzram committed his transgressions against society under several names including, Jefferson Baldwin, Jeffrey Rhodes, John King and John O’Leery.
The document not only gave accounts of crimes but also contained Panzram’s opinions of the criminal justice system of the day. He gave graphic testimony of abuses he suffered while in prison. Prisons at that time were little more than hell holes, castles of pain designed to break unruly inmates; mentally and physically. Wardens served as the kings of these castles of pain and used the guards to carry out their orders, often utilizing physical torture to ensure obedience. The purpose of prison was strictly punishment and detention with little to no emphasis placed on rehabilitation. Panzram’s descriptions of his treatment during his periods of incarceration led to major changes in corrections in prisons nationwide.
Void of guilt or remorse, Panzram wrote of his tyrannical exploits occurring around the globe. He proudly admitted being the perpetrator of these crimes and gave vivid accounts of each offense, given with disturbing detail. Panzram however, adamantly blamed the commission of these acts on the criminal justice system. He blamed his crimes, not on himself but on society and the prison system, which he said perpetuates itself by producing more criminals.
On November 12, 1928, his trial for burglary began. Acting in his own defense, Panzram was found guilty by the jury and sentenced to 25 years. Panzram was promptly transferred to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. While in Leavenworth, Carl was assigned to work in the laundry facilities. Having told the warden that he would kill the first man to bother him, on June 20, 1929 he killed Robert Warnke, foreman of the prison laundry, battering him to death with an iron bar. During the trial for this murder, the jury took just 45 minutes to arrive at a verdict. Carl Panzram was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
Panzram refused to file any appeals, threatening to kill human rights activists that attempted to appeal on his behalf. On September 5, 1930 Carl Panzram was hung at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. When they put the noose around his neck, he allegedly spat in his executioner’s face and declared, “I wish the entire human race had one neck, and I had my hands around it!” When asked by the executioner if he had any last words, Panzram barked, “Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while you’re screwing around!”
Such was the end of arguably the most evil man in American history. In his own words, Carl Panzram describes his life, “I am 36 years old and I have been a criminal all of my life. I have 11 felony convictions against me. I have served 20 years of my life in Jails, Reform Schools and prisons. I know why I am a criminal. Others may have different theories as to my life but I have no theory about it. I know the facts. If any man ever was a habitual criminal. I am one. In my lifetime I have broken every law that was ever made by both Man and God. If either had made more, I should cheerfully have broken them also. The mere fact that I have done these things is quite sufficient for the average person. Very few people ever consider it worthwhile to wonder why I am what I am and do what I do. All that they think it is necessary to do is to catch me, try me convict me and send me to prison for a few years, make life miserable for me while in prison and then turn me loose again. That is the system that is in practice today in this country. The consequences are that such that any one and every one can see crime and lots of it. Those who are sincere in their desire to put down crime are to be pitied for all of their efforts which accomplish so little in the desired direction. They are the ones who are deceived by their own ignorance and by the trickery and greed of others who profit the most by crime. If you or anyone else will take the trouble and have the intelligence and patience to follow and examine every one of my crimes and actions you will find that I have consistently followed one idea thru all my life. I preyed upon the weak the harmless or unsuspecting. Those I have harmed were all either weaklings either mentally or physically. Those who were strong in either mind or body I first lied to and led into a trap where they were either asleep or drunk or helpless in some way. I always had all the best of it, because I knew ahead of time just what to expect and the others did not. I therefore was strong in my knowledge and stronger in body than those preyed upon. This lesson I was taught by others. Might makes right.”
As a son, a father, a brother and a husband; I know and respect the value of family. With my last contributions we took a look at women evil enough to hurt innocent children. Now we will take a look at familicide. Familicide is a type of murder or murder-suicide in which at least one spouse and one or more children are killed. Imagine a home on your block; on Wednesday the family unit is seen participating in normal family activities. However, on Thursday morning the same house is taped off by the police and body bags are being loaded into vans as neighbors look on in disbelief. Such is the post familicide setting.
The most publicized incident of familicide in recent years was that of the June 25, 2007; murder/ suicide of professional wrestler Chris Benoit and the Benoit family. Over a three-day period, Benoit had killed his wife and son before hanging himself. Ironically, I was headed to Georgia to see my family during that time and as a ChrisBenoit fan the incident truly hit home.
As I researched more cases under this topic, I came across one of the most disturbing men that I have ever read about. I was not familiar with Marcus Wesson or his exploits but at the end of my investigation, I knew that the world needed to know about this individual.
Marcus Deion Wesson was born in Kansas on August 22, 1946. In the early 60’s, after a normal childhood, Wesson dropped out of high school and joined the Army. Upon his return from his Europeanbased military service, Wesson began having an affair with a married Rosemary Solorio in San Jose. Solorio eventually left her husband to begin a life with Wesson who moved in with her and her children.
In 1971, Solorio gave birth to Wesson’s first son; Wesson at the time was attempting to have a relationship with Solorio’s daughter Elizabeth. Wesson told Elizabeth that God had chosen her to be his “new wife,” and in 1974 Wesson performed a mock wedding between him and the 9 year old Elizabeth. The thirty-something Wesson began abusing Elizabeth sexually when she turned 12. The two legally married after her 15th birthday and she went on to bear 10 children for Wesson.
The abusive Wesson did not allow Elizabeth to participate in the upbringing of their children. Elizabeth’s sister left her seven children in the care of Wesson and Elizabeth, citing that she could no longer care for them. Wesson home schooled the children, teaching them out of a bible that he had written himself. Within the pages of this bible Wesson taught his children that Jesus Christ was a vampire as well as other embellishments that he used to lay the foundation of his wicked intentions. He demanded that the children refer to him as “Lord” or “Master” and taught them that he was God.
Wesson never held a job for any considerable amount of time, therefore he and the children often lived in run-down shacks, boats, and vacant houses while relying heavily upon welfare as the primary source of income. Wesson continued his blasphemous teachings; instructing the children to be prepared for the upcoming Armageddon. As he had done to Elizabeth, Wesson would teach the girls that they were to become his wives. Fearing that his authority may one day be undermined and to quell any sexual feelings that they may develop for each other, he separated the boys from the girls. For several months the boys stay in a shack in a heavily wooded area and the girls on a rundown boat. Wesson sexually abused at least three of his nieces and two of his own daughters. Each of them forced to participate in a mock wedding around their seventh through ninth birthdays. All of the five girls would become pregnant by Wesson; frightened by Wesson with threats of harm against them and their children if they were to admit the paternity of their children, these girls would endure the abuse in silence. In total Wesson fathered up to 18 children with 7 women including the 5 girls.
On March 12, 2004, several members of Wesson’s non-immediate family insisted upon the release of the children/grandchildren and the end of his incestuous relations with his children. The outside demands initiated a coup of sorts within the Wesson family compound in Fresno. As the disturbance escalated, police were called to the scene and the incident was initially handled as a domestic disturbance. During the confusion Wesson disappeared into the house for approximately 80 minutes. Afterwards Wesson reappeared with blood soaked clothing and officers stampeded through the door.
The officers ran into a pitch dark room. Feeling along the walls for a light switch, other officers cast their flashlights onto a mass in the middle of the room floor. Finally, a light switch was flipped and what was next seen looked like something from a horror movie. There was a pile of bodies on the floor, babies, kids, young women. Nine total. Blood pooled around them on the ground. As the officers searched for any signs of life they made notice that each victim had been shot through the eye. Also found in the room were several antique coffins.
During the investigation Wesson told officers of the suicide pact that had been made long before this date. Shortly after they moved into the Fresno home, Wesson purchased 12 mahogany coffins at an antique store. He had instructed his older children that in the event of authorities attempting to remove the children, they were to first murder their offspring before killing themselves. He would stay alive to explain their decision to the public, according to the plan. When Wesson disappeared into the house, he was terminating the lives of the children that the others couldn’t bring themselves to kill.
Wesson’s trial began in June of 2005. During this time the exact nature of Wesson’s incestuous behavior came to light. According to Wesson’s defense, it was Sebhrenah Wesson that held the .22-caliber Ruger Mark II pistol to the eye of each child and squeezed the trigger before killing her sister Elizabeth and her herself. The defense used this in an attempt to cast doubt concerning the guilt of Marcus Wesson. The prosecution argued that Wesson was ultimately guilty of the massacre, because he’d primed his children to kill and be killed. The jury concurred and on June 17, 2005, Wesson was found guilty of nine counts of first-degree murder as well as 14 counts of forcible sexual assault and the sexual molestation of seven of his daughters and nieces. Marcus Deion Wesson was sentenced to death on June 27, 2005.
As I close this post, the normal question of why doesn’t come to mind. The question that does come to mind is how. How can one be so wicked as to sexually abuse anyone, much less his own child? I look down upon my own children, as they sleep, with an immeasurable amount of love. However, I look upon the world in which I live with a sense of disdain; knowing that I share the planet with monsters such as Marcus Deion Wesson.
During my periods of incarceration, I’ve found myself, on several occasions, in the company of individuals that I thought were the embodiment of pure evil. As I sat in the dining halls and day rooms, I listened to men tell stories of street life and give graphic accounts of murderous events that have taken place on the underbelly of society. Regardless of how vile and disturbing the stories passed around behind prison walls were, they pale in comparison to the horror I discovered during the research for this post.
Until recently, I had never heard the term, “baby farm,” before. Also, until recently that is, I had always considered infants exempt from violent crime. True, periodically you would have an isolated case of violence of some sort toward a baby, but it wasn’t commonplace. The truth is; you don’t realize how much you don’t know until you learn something.
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, baby farming was a popular form of income in Europe, Great Britain and the United States. Baby farming meant the taking in of an infant or child for payment. Women would advertise themselves as a child care provider and take in as many infants and children as they could. baby farmers were paid in the understanding that care would be provided. Some baby farmers “adopted” children for lump-sum payments, while others cared for infants for periodic payments. In the case of lump-sum adoptions, it was more profitable for the baby farmer if the infant or child she adopted died, since the small payment could not cover the care of the child for long.
Children born out of wedlock, divorced mothers and poverty stricken families often brought unwanted children to these places. Mistresses of married men were forced to place their babies in these farms to conceal their affairs. The black market sale of babies and children was prevalent during this period also. Acquired through baby farms, crooked social services workers or simply kidnapped, infants were regularly sold to wealthy families. If a child could not be sold or pimped out to community pedophiles they were neglected to the point of death or simply murdered outright. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances regarding the child’s conception, the mother could not appeal to authorities concerning the whereabouts of her child. To do so would cause the woman a great deal of shame and ridicule; illegitimate births were frowned upon heavily during that era. If the parent did return to claim the child, the “farmer,” would tell them that the baby died of natural causes or taken by a social services worker. Usually, simply threatening to expose the infidelity of the woman and her lover to the community was enough to quell any investigation
Baby farms, black market adoption houses and child procurers caused the child mortality rate to skyrocket during this period as infants were murdered by the thousands. Of the hundreds of baby murderers of this period, three caught my attention as the most sadistic: Amelia Dyer, (England), Marianne Skoublinska, (Poland) and Enriqueta Martí, (Spain).
Amelia Dyer was born in 1837 and earned the title of the most prolific baby farm murderer of Victorian England. A nurse by trade she began using her home to house infants of young women who had conceived illegitimately. Fathers of illegitimate children had no financial obligation to the child or mothers during this time which left the mothers in desperate need of housing and child care. Dyer portrayed herself to be a kind woman that would provide a safe and loving home for the child. She would advertise to nurse and adopt a baby, in return for a substantial one-off payment and adequate clothing for the child. In reality, Dyer would farm off the babies for adoption while allowing the rest to die of neglect and malnutrition. Eventually Dyer took to murdering each child herself which allowed her to keep most, if not all of the fees. Dyer ran her business unnoticed until a doctor made note of the number of infant deaths in her establishment. The authorities were alerted and Dyer was arrested and convicted; not of murder, but of neglect. Dyer was sentenced to 6 months hard labor.
Upon her release, Dyer resumed her murderous career. Learning from her mistake of involving doctors, Dyer would now dispose of the bodies of murdered infants herself. Over the years, Dyer would attract the attention of the police several times. Each time they would get close, she would fake a nervous breakdown, relocate her business and take up an alias name to work under. After several bodies of infants began to surface, each linking to Dyer in some manner, authorities devised a plan using a decoy mother to set Dyer up. The plan was successful and as Dyer sat, expecting a distraught mother to show up, the police came and searched her premises. As they entered the home, the stench of death overtook many of the officers. No bodies of infants were found, however, authorities did find direct evidence linking Dyer to the murder of at least 20 infants. Estimates conclude that after decades of being in business Dyer was responsible for at least 400 deaths of infants and children. Amelia Dyer was found guilty of murder and on Wednesday, 10 June 1896, she was hanged at Newgate Prison in London, England.
Marianne Skoublinska was a Polish murderess that operated her baby farm in the late nineteenth and centuries. Not much is known about Skoublinska and her baby farming business. What is known is that in the late 1800’s, Madame Skoublinska left the baby farming business to begin a lucrative career in post pregnancy infant disposal, or after birth abortions. It seems that a parent or parents of unwanted infants paid Skoublinska to destroy the baby.
It is unknown exactly how long she operated this business, but in 1890 the public learned of the sinister livelihood of Marianne Skoublinska. Police and firefighters were called to a fire at her place of residence. As the fire was extinguished bodies of five children were found, not in bed but buried in various sections of the home. During the autopsy the physician determined the these children had not perished as a result of the fire but had received life ending injuries previous to the fire being set, one of which bore distinct traces of the skull having been battered in. Skoublinska was immediately placed under arrest.
During the investigation and trial the true horror of this woman’s deeds were exposed. As the police questioned neighbors they found that Skoublinska had only resided in that particular home for four months. As they dug for evidence in rubble of Skoublinska’s home, it is said that fifty bodies of children were found. Neighbors also testified of Skoublinska’s boasts of having the fattest, healthiest hogs in the district on account of the exceptionally good feed she provided for them. The truth was, she often threw the bodies of babies to the hogs to be devoured.
Marianne Skoublinska stood accused of the murder of 76 infants and children. She was charged with setting fire to her cottage, containing the bodies of five little children, in order destroy evidence and collect on the insurance on her property. At the trial it was established that not a single child who was entrusted to her care and entered her den ever left her house alive. It was also shown that she charged two different amounts for, “taking care” of children, fifteen roubles for allowing the baby to die in a few weeks, and twenty for killing the baby within a day or two. Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence against her, Marianne Skoublinska could not be convicted of murder and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Enriqueta Martí was never a baby farmer; but she was a prostitute, kidnapper, procuress of children, pedophile, cannibal and child murderer. Born in 1868, Marti
made an attempt at normal domestic life however, the seedier side of Barcelona, Spain attracted her and she became a prostitute. During the day she would dress as a homeless person, begging for hand outs and looking for children that seemed lost or abandoned. When she found a child she wanted she would take them by the hand and lead them where she wanted. The child was normally pimped out to area pedophiles then murdered the child later that evening.
Eventually her dreams of socializing with Spain’s elite came true. Her pimping and prostituting gave her the income necessary to live well and attend all of the gala events where the wealthy of Barcelona gathered. It is probable that in these places she offered her services as procurer of children. It was her connections with the wealthy that enabled her to continually operate a brothel that made whores of children aged 3 to 13. Though she had been arrested for operating such a business, Enriqueta was never tried and the matter of the brothel was lost in the judicial and bureaucratic system.
Marti was also a practitioner of black magic and considered a witch doctor. The ingredients she used to make her remedies were made from the remains of murdered children. Ranging from infants up to children of 9 years, she used everything that she could; the fat, blood, hair, and bones (that normally she turned into powder). For this reason, she did not have problems disposing of the bodies of her victims. Marti sold salves, ointments, filters, cataplasms and potions all of which were supposedly cures for diseases and ailments which had no cure at the time. Wealthy people of Barcelona paid large sums of money for these remedies.
The true number of children taken by Marti is unknown. Over a twenty year span experts theorize that Enriqueta Martí may be the most dangerous serial killer in the history of Spain. During her years of operation in Barcelona the public suspected that someone was kidnapping babies. Throughout this period there were many children who disappeared without a trace and the fear among the population was crippling.
On February 10, 1912 Marti kidnapped her last victim, Teresita Guitart Congost. On February 17th, a neighbor of Marti, Claudia Elías, saw a little girl playing with another child through the window of Marti’s home. Elias, having never seen the children before, asked Marti about them. Marti gave know response and began to keep all curtains to her home closed. A child fitting the little girl’s description had been reported missing; Elias, finding Marti’s behavior peculiar, reported her suspicions to a neighborhood businessman and to the authorities. Under the guise of a chicken inspection, law enforcement gained entry to the house and found the two girls. One in fact was the missing Teresita.
During questioning, the other child; Angelina, gave a frightening testimony. She told of another child, a boy named Pepito. Unbeknownst to Marti, she had witnessed Marti kill Pepito on the kitchen table. She explained how Marti dismembered Pepito, “like a chicken,” the little girl described. The girls further told authorities about how they themselves were lured away from their parents by Marti promising candies to them. After questioning the girls were returned to their homes.
During the investigation, authorities searched Marti’s current home as well as two of her previous places of residence. From their searches they found countless jars containing parts of children. In hidden rooms they found fifty pitchers, jars and washbowls with preserved human remains: greasy lard, coagulated blood, children’s hair, skeletons of hands, powdered bones and pots with the potions, ointments and salves already prepared for sale. Throughout the walls and ceilings of the homes were skeletons of infants and young children. Authorities also recovered blood soaked bags; some containing children’s clothing while others contained small human bones.
Enriqueta was imprisoned in the “Reina Amàlia” jail to await judgement. She tried to commit suicide by slashing her wrists with a knife of wood. Fearing that a successful suicide attempt by Marti would cause a riot among the community who wanted to see Marti tried and executed, she was put on 24 hour watch by other inmates. It would be those inmates that killed Marti while in prison custody. The death of Enriqueta robbed authorities of the opportunity to completely expose all of her secrets. The kidnapper and murderer died the early morning of May 12, 1913.
As a result of these women and murderers like them, laws were put in place around the world to protect children. One thing for certain, when driving through rural areas, I will never look at farms the same again.
The primary target of male serial murderers is women. Recently I’ve become curious about the existence of female serial killers and their tendencies. Though some women kill their husbands or significant others in a fit of passion or rage, the focus of many female serial killers are children.
In the early to mid 1900’s, children became very profitable to those wicked enough to use their innocence for their own vile motives. Many used children in their sweat shops, forcing children to work ungodly hours for little or no pay. Others pimped children out to pedophiles willing to pay top dollar to live out their sickest fantasies with a child. Regardless of the purpose; if someone wanted a child, one of the biggest child brokers of the day was Georgia Tann.
Born July 18, 1891, Georgia Tann would reap untold millions by kidnapping and selling children from 1920-195o. The same woman is responsible for the murder of children; her death toll may number in the thousands.
As a young adult Tann began her career in social work, it was during this period when her warped views of wealth and parenting began to take shape. Employed at the Mississippi Children’s Home-Finding Society, she began to view wealthy people as the higher type and poverty stricken women as “breeders” often referring to the women as cows. She convinced herself and others that that poor people were incapable of proper parenting.
In 1920, Tann began her career as a baby snatcher. Her father, who was a judge, would sign papers deeming poor mothers as unfit parents thereby enabling Georgia Tann to “legally” remove a child from the birth parents and sell the innocent to the highest bidder. In 1924, Tann moved to Tennessee and began working for the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, where she turned part-time baby snatching into big business.
Shortly after her relocation to Tennessee she became an acquaintance of Memphis’s corrupt and powerful mayor, Edward Hull Crump. With the help of the mayor, Georgia eventually set up her own orphanage. Tann and her lesbian partner, Ann Atwood Hollinsworth, began selling children around the country to anyone willing to pay her price, often receiving as much as $100,000 in today’s money for babies. In Memphis, most of Tann’s crimes were accomplished with the aid of Memphis Family Court Judge Camille Kelley. Just as her father did in Mississippi, Judge Kelley would facilitate the removal of a child from its birth parents simply with the stroke of a pen. In other cases, single parents would drop off their children at nursery – when they came back to collect them, they would be told they had been taken away by welfare officers. Tann was also documented as taking children born to unwed mothers at birth, claiming that the newborns required medical care. When the mothers asked about the children, Tann told them that the babies had died, when they were actually placed in foster homes or adopted.
Georgia Tann dealt with only white children. Blonde hair and blue eyes brought the highest price. She lied about the child’s intellect and health to fit the adoptive parent’s desires. Tann would alter the children’s records and falsify birth certificates to make them more appealing to prospective adopters.
People ordered children as if they were ordering furniture, and Tann gladly supplied the demands, charging astronomical figures. She sold children to known molesters, abusers, for labor (one child toiled in a field at 18 hour days, eventually running away). She sold a baby to replace a dead baby. If the adoptive family angered her or would not bend to her extortive demands, she would remove the child. Records indicate that Georgia Tann sold well over 5000 children and killed hundreds more.
The children that Tann could not place were simply discarded like waste. Once deceased, the tiny corpses were simply buried in the yard. So many children died while in Tann’s care that at one point, the infant mortality rate in Memphis, TN was highest in the country and many more deaths were never reported. Many children died as a result of neglect and abuse; in 1945 it is estimated 40-50 children died in less than four months while housed in the illegally operated home. Children were starved, beaten, molested, mentally abused, and received no medical attention. Infants were kept in appalling conditions in suffocating heat. Some were sedated until they could be sold. Many were ill. In public, Georgia Tann spoke out loudly against child abuse, baby selling, corruption, and advocated child welfare reform. Privately, Tann preyed on young girls, sexually, physically, and mentally abusing her charges.
By 1940, alerted by the rising infant mortality rate in the city, some people were on to Tann. By 1950, officials began a long-overdue investigation into Tann’s business. State investigator Robert Taylor reported the horror of what had taken place at Tann’s orphanage, saying: ‘Her babies died like flies.’ As authorities closed in on her dealings, cancer was ravaging Tann’s body. Conveniently for the corrupt politicians who had collaborated in her black market baby trade, Tann was too sick to be questioned about her crimes. Georgia Tann and her allies would never see justice in this life. On September 15, 1950, she died of cancer.
The Georgia Tann/Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal resulted in adoption reform laws in Tennessee in 1951.
Albert sat in his room on a frigid January morning. He had become accustomed to entertaining himself with the vivid images, thoughts and memories that occupied the four corners of his mind. Some of the memories were decent, most depraved, but all of them were his property. He recalled a poverty stricken childhood filled with pain and suffering. Even now, memories of Saint John’s Orphanage were clear as a bell. Just as clear as if it all happened yesterday. The death of his father left his mother and siblings in dire straits. As the youngest of four, he was the child forced to live at the orphanage. “They tried to break me!” Albert thought to himself. The staff would administer ungodly beatings to the children for the slightest infraction. “They broke the other children”, Albert reminisced, “but not me, I embraced the pain.” Albert sat back and closed his eyes, not only had he embraced the pain, he fell in love with it; it would be a love affair that would endure throughout his life.
Nearly drifting into sleep, Albert was awakened by the piercing sound of his mother’s voice. He looked around the small room then realized it was simply a dream. Albert was almost nine when his mother came and “rescued” him from the orphanage. He then thought of the little boy he met when he was 12. The feelings he had for the telegraph boy were feelings that he had been taught were for a girl. Though these feelings initially frightened the young Albert, his suitor eased his conscience and assured him that his feelings were virtuous and that they should continue their relationship. Albert’s young friend introduced him to urolagnia and coprophagia and taught Albert that the taste for urine and feces was an acquired one; but one that he would learn to enjoy.
Fighting off the sleepiness that was beginning to fall upon him, Albert smiled when he remembered being a young man in New York City. Unable to find employment, Albert made a living doing something he truly enjoyed, having sex with men. Unhappy with Albert’s status at that time, his mother introduced him to his would be wife. “Did I truly love her?” Albert thought to himself. The word love had become so distorted and twisted in his life that he was truthfully unsure about any emotions as they related to him. Ironically, just as his mother once did, his wife abandoned him and left Albert with six children to raise. While raising his children, Albert would attempt to teach them the joy and ecstasy of pain. He would fashion a paddle filled with nails and have the children paddle him until he bled.
Suddenly a loud noise down the hall interrupted his daydream, but Albert soon quelled his anxiety and resumed his reminiscent state of being. As he turned the pages of his life, a malevolent spirit seemed to invade Albert. The once pleasant atmosphere had become somber as Albert began to think about “the boys.” Beginning in 1890, about the time he arrived in New York, Albert began having “urges.” He could always hear the voices that would speak to him, giving him disturbing tasks to carry out. Ordinarily, he was strong enough not to relent to their power. But now, now he wanted to succumb to them. He would become a willing participant to their ungodly requests. Albert thought of all of the little boys that he had tortured and raped. Albert then stood up and walked over to the mirror on the wall. Gazing at his reflection, he formed a wry smile, “I wanted them to enjoy the pain as I did,” he whispered to himself. Having traveled across the country extensively, Albert once bragged to someone that he had children in every state. The true and horrific nature of that claim had yet to be revealed at that time
Albert looked around the room and scoffed at the peeling paint, “what a shotty job,” he thought to himself. Having been a painter himself, he was extremely critical of the work of others. Albert sat down again and thought about the children that he’d extended his special brand of caring to over the years. Unrepentant, he enjoyed memories of the pain and suffering he inflicted upon these young victims. The mere recollection of their torture sent Albert into a sexually aroused state. He recalled his” instruments of Hell” consisting of a paddle of nails, meat cleaver and knives and how he used them on the children. Their screams were a sheer delight to Albert; to him their cries were like the songbird in flight.
Albert stood up to look in the mirror again, staring at his reflection; he began to think of two men that greatly influenced his life. The first man was a past lover of his. On a romantic afternoon, the two had visited a waxworks museum. Albert became fascinated by an exhibit that demonstrated the bisection of a penis; soon after, he developed a morbid interest in castration. Still gazing at his reflection, he remembered how, as a younger man, he had mastered the art of seduction. The young Albert had men at his beck & call back then. There was one man; Albert sat down, struggling to recall his name. “Kenner, Kenny no Kedden, Kedden was his name,” Albert said aloud. Kedden was a retarded man that Albert had seduced. When he first laid eyes on Kedden, Albert had decided that he would be the one to satisfy his newly found fixation with castration. After tying up a naked Kedden, Albert began to cut around his penis. Smiling, Albert sat back on his bed, reliving the moment then suddenly; his cheerful demeanor became sullen as he remembered the look of anguish on Kedden’s face. It frightened him so that Albert administered first aid to the wound, left a $10.00 bill on Kedden’s knee and left town, never to return to St. Louis.
Albert thought of the second man as a godsend. Throughout his younger years Albert could not understand the insatiable hunger that he felt. His ravenous desires had gone undiagnosed until he ran into an old friend, Capt. John Davis. Davis would entertain Albert with tales of his adventures on the Steamer Tacoma. Albert chose to lie down to fully relive Davis’ accounts of his exploits in China. Albert smiled as he remembered how Capt. Davis emphasized to him the state of poverty and starvation that the Chinese were going through. How the meat of children drew top dollar during the famine. He especially enjoyed the graphic description of the whipping of the children to tenderize the meat for consumption.
Albert then relived the pleasures that were derived from his encounters with these men. As he lay, hunger pains actually set in when he recounted the children he had devoured over the years. He remembered how much he enjoyed preparing the children for his meal. No longer was the whipping of the children to no avail, the whippings were now used to tenderize the children’s flesh. In his own mind the recipes he had conjured up were delectable. Utilizing his vivid imagination, he could see the faces of “his children,” as he so affectionately referred to them. Albert recalled watching Francis X. McDonnell play with the other boys. He’d been able to lure him away, sexually assault him and just when he was about ready to dismember him to take home; he heard voices and people coming. He hadn’t eaten Francis, but as he thought back now, he could visualize the possibilities. The name Billy Gaffney popped into Albert’s head. He remembered this little boy as well as the methods and efforts he used to create a fine meal of the four year old. “Little Grace,” Albert whispered to himself, as he sat down on the bed. Albert reminisced about how cute Grace Budd was. Seven years after abducting Grace, Albert wrote a horrifying letter to the Budd family detailing the kidnapping and demise of their beautiful daughter. He had actually come to the Budd home to take their son Edward, “Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her,” he repeated to himself a line he’d written in his letter to the Budd family. Suddenly, his mood changed from reflective to irate. “Why did I write that letter?” Albert said while banging his head against the wall. The letter, that infuriated Albert, had been a key component in alerting the world of his depraved existence.
Albert’s once blissful demeanor had now been replaced with rage. Again he stood and looked into the mirror. This time he saw something else, he saw an imprisoned old man. His recollection of the letter he’d written to the Budd family brought him swiftly into the sobering reality of his current situation. The letter also reminded him of a face; angrily Albert spat into the toilet, not the face of a child but that of Detective William F. King. He remembered his arrest and interview at the police station. Albert vehemently denied any involvement in any kidnapping or murder. “I don’t know anything about those bones they say they’ve found. And cannibalism! The very thought sickens me,” Albert recited the testimony to himself in the exact same manner that he told police on the day of his arrest. However, due to Detective King’s tenacious questioning, Albert soon recanted and confessed, signing a full statement filled with the horrendous details. Albert’s face took on a smug look as he recalled Detective King transcribing the declaration of guilt he provided. He remembered the officers’ look of utter disgust as he gave the account of Billy Gaffney’s death, dismemberment and consumption in full detail. Albert was no stranger to the police or to prison, however this time; there were no sexual escapades with the other men as there were on his first arrest. Absent were the nice calming doctors and comfortable hospital stays as in his second arrest. The only comforting aspect of Albert’s current predicament is that it would soon be over.
Albert continued to stare into the mirror. Raising his head and gazing into the light, Albert began to pray. He had always heard voices in his head, during his confession he admitted that everything he had done was at the command of God. Continually looking at his reflection in the mirror, he gave thanks for his frail and gentile demeanor that had given him the ability to abduct and devour children around the country. Albert told Detective King that it had been the voice of John the Baptist that led him to the 23 states that he had lived in. He also informed the detective that in each state, he had killed at least one child. Albert never returned to the same neighborhood. Though the wickedness of his deeds knew no racial barriers, he had always been partial to Black and disabled children, reasoning that police would be less inclined to look for them. Still gazing at his likeness, Albert took note of his thick gray hair and his drooping gray moustache. While thinking of his beloved rumpled suits, he had an epiphany. The very same qualities that allowed him to ravage the children of various communities in perceived anonymity were the same characteristics people remembered to identify him at his trial. Albert’s head dropped.
As the noises of chains and voices became louder, Albert resumed his prayerful state. He spoke out loud to himself “What I did must have been right or an angel would have stopped me, just as an angel stopped Abraham in the Bible [from sacrificing his son].” He began to hum hymns that he recalled from his youth in the orphanage. Crying, he fell to his knees and began to recite scriptures, “Happy is he that taketh Thy little ones and dasheth their heads against the stones,” he said piously. At times he would go on endlessly with quotations from the Bible all mixed up with his own sentences.
Hours passed, Albert maneuvered so that he might enjoy the excruciating pain within his hips. During questioning he admitted that he had been sticking needles into his body for years. He had been placing them in the area between the rectum and the scrotum. At first, he said, he had only stuck these needles in and pulled them out again. In an effort to reach the next plateau of pain, he stuck others in so far that he was unable to get them out, and they stayed there. To verify his statements, Albert was X-rayed and sure enough, there were at least twenty-nine needles in his pelvic region. The pain caused Albert to think about his children and the games that he’d taught them in their youth. Though he had wished his children would learn to enjoy the pain as he did, he never forced it upon them. Actually, Albert had been a very fine father. He never once in his life laid a hand on one of his children. Thinking of them sent Albert into a depressed state, he whispered to himself, “I’m still worried about my children,” he sniffled. His six children ranged from age 21 to 35. “You’d think they’d come to visit their old dad in jail, but they haven’t.”
The voices in the hallway moved closer to Albert. The rattling of the chains reminded him of the inevitable. The facial expressions of the jury were seared into Albert’s consciousness. He remembered looking at them as they listened attentively to the prosecution read the ghastly account of his alleged crimes. Ten hours of testimony was resolved in a mere half of an hour, “We find the defendant guilty as charged,” the jury foreman said. The words of Judge Frederick P. Close were deafening in his mind. ”Death by electric chair,” said Judge Close. Albert thanked the judge for his sentence; he recalled how the thought of experiencing the voltage in his body excited him. Albert enthusiastically welcomed prospect of feeling that much pain. Pain had been the only constant in Albert’s life and he was a loyal friend to it as it was to him.
As the prison cell doors opened to take Albert to his court designated appointment, he fell into a state of emotional numbness. As the officers extracted him from the cell, one of them asked him sarcastically, “are you ready to die?” Albert responded, “I have no particular desire to live. I have no particular desire to be killed. It is a matter of indifference to me.” The officers placed Albert in the chair and fastened the straps, preparing him for his final transition. As he sat excitedly anticipating the currents that soon would be coursing throughout his body, Albert had a thought. From this point forward, Hamilton Howard “Albert” Fish would strike fear in the hearts and minds of children for centuries to come and would forever take his place in the annals of American history as,