Category Archives: serial killers

Friday Flash- A Basement Story

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Romeo’s days tilt toward dusk. A sort of reverse Alzheimer’s is gripping his mind and he is remembering. His house is gray, its frame decrepit from neglect and solitude.  Winged things stir hot dust in the attic and frighten him, so by virtue of drifting in and out of consciousness, he stumbles into the cellar. It is like choking on crumbled mummies. Where did all this dust come from?

He pulls a tiny chain in the dark, a string of silver balls chopped off at such a height as to require effort on his part to reach it. The tips of his fingers ignite as they finally grasp the chain and dingy yellow light pushes against the darkness. He is suddenly not alone and the feeling is terrifying.

” Hello?” He coughs and wonders whose ashes are stuck in his throat. Slumping down onto the dirt floor, he stares at the long rows of canning jars. They hold pickled parts of people.

“Pickled parts of people,” he giggles. He lifts one and raises it gently to the swaying light. A bloated clump of flesh bobs up and down. It reminds him of his first lava lamp and the seductive drops of blood floating and morphing in the oil. What was this? A spleen maybe? Huh. A loud crash startles him. It came from an unlit corner.

“Who’s there?” He places the jar gingerly back in place and rises slowly. He sees her eyes first as he swings the light in the manner of a trapeze artist. They absorb the yellow light and burn brighter. He steps over a row of jars and leans his head into the shadows, straining to remember now. Which one? Ah yes, the first.

“Hello, Mother.”

A Different Kind of Victim

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I’ve been following a different kind of serial killer case here in Florida. A case of serial cat killings in Miami.  An eighteen year old by the name of Tyler Weinman was arrested for these cat killings and charged with 19 felony counts of animal cruelty and 19 counts of improperly disposing of the bodies, among other charges. (Disclaimer: he has not been proven guilty yet)

If you haven’t heard about this, here’s a few facts about Tyler:

–His parents are divorced.  His father is a dentist in Palmetto Bay and his mother is a life coach in Cutler Bay, these are the two neighborhoods where the cats were killed.

–He told police he despises his father.

–Miami-Dade Police Department’s psychological services concluded that Weinman fits the profile of a sociopath.

–If convicted of all charges, Weinman could get up to 158 years in prison.

Now, the thing that fascinates me the most about this case  is reading the reaction of the public.  Words like “subhuman” and “evil” were being used. People wanted him hung, skinned alive, locked up for life.

Well, okay…I can see the locked up for life thing. I was just as horrified by the cruelty of these acts as everyone else and killing animals does put him at a higher risk for moving up to people.  Besides, we Americans feel that our pets are members of our families. It’s not like it is in countries, like China, who consider cats livestock. (And don’t get me started on China)  So, the outrage is justified.  But there’s something else here to remember:

This is a child that WE failed as a society.

This is a child with deep, deep psychological problems. A child without the ability to feel empathy, to feel guilt, to feel love. If he feels anything it is rage. Who’s fault is that? Who’s responsibility is it? His parents? His kindergarten teacher? His doctor, neighbor, friend, aunt, coach, boy scout leader? I’m willing to bet someone along the way noticed the fact that this kid was in trouble.  In fact, I’m willing to bet a lot of people along the way noticed and turned their backs. Not their responsibility.

Would you want your son to end up like this? Because somebody’s son did. We owe it to our future children to figure out WHY.

So, yes–the deaths of these family pets breaks my heart and I hope the victims of these crimes can find peace in their good memories.

But the life of the human being named Tyler Weinman is one that we should all be mourning, also.

Too Close For Comfort

So, I grew up in a small Pennsylvania town named after a lumberyard. We lived in the woods, basically, on a thinly populated country road with farms and acres of trees.  You’ve been to a place like this right? The kind of town that you get car-sick on the thirty minute ride to the nearest grocery store. Everyone knows everyone, people let their kids ride their bikes the couple miles to a friend’s house. Great place to grow up.

Our road was out of the way so there wasn’t any drive-through traffic. If you were on that road, you lived on it or were visiting someone who lived on it. 

I don’t remember details of the day. I was probably only around nine or ten. I remember the shock, mostly. The confusion. The shift in my world that this ground-shaking news caused. My childhood best friend, who lived a few miles down the street, had lost her older sister the night before. Actually, she wasn’t lost. She had been stolen. Stolen by a serial killer right off of our safe little country road.

Why? I knew that people grew old and died. I knew that people sometimes had accidents and died. But, this I just couldn’t understand. I mean, I really could not understand. Why would someone kill a beautiful, sweet person? She had a family, she had a job and a pet, she had a smile that could light up a room. If you were good and kind, good things happened to you, right? Nope. Apparently really horrible things can happen to very loved people.

Everything was fragile after that in my world. Things were different, things were not how I thought they were. Trust was gone. I felt vulnerable, unsafe, and terribly sad at the heartbreak my friend and her family were suffering through. And why did their family lose her?  There was no old age, no accident. There was only an intentional act that caused unbearable grief and pain. I could not imagine this being the world I lived in. But it was…and is. And I’m still trying to understand.

Fast forward to 1985. I am a junior in high school now living in Palm Bay, Florida. I am blissfully ignorant of the fact that a man  named John Crutchley–a.ka. the vampire rapist–lives about five miles away. In November a girl escapes from his home–nude with her hands and feet handcuffed and missing about 45% of her blood which she watched him drink–and is saved by a stranger who picked her up off the road. He is arrested and is suspected in the murder of over 30 other women, but never convicted. Four of those young women were killed in our county the previous year.

This time, what strikes me is not the shock that a human being could commit such horrifying acts, but that a human being…namely me…could be so oblivious to the world around her that she didn’t know about this until twenty four years later. Another harsh lesson.

Care to share any encounters with the darker side of human nature? I’d love to hear your stories!

Why Serial Killers?

Have you ever told someone what you write about and you suddenly see them kick into flight or fight mode?  Watched them fold their arms protectively around their body and pre-program 911 into their phone? Yeah. I’ve been experiencing this a lot lately since I’ve started focusing my writing on serial killers. So, I’d like to set the record straight up front.

My obsession with writing about violence and serial killers does not stem from a desire to kill you (unless you go 20 mph in front of me and keep tapping your brakes). It doesn’t mean I want to be a serial killer or even want to know one.

It comes from two things:

Remember that stage all two to three year olds go through? The “why” stage? It seems I have never grown out of that. It drives me nuts not to know why something happens the way it does. That’s the main reason I love science and use it a lot in my writing. Science answers questions. Psychology and neuroscience has come a long way in figuring out human behavior, but not far enough.

Research has shown neurological abnormalities in the frontal lobe of a sociopath’s brain.  So, sociopathy is a disease, not a behavorial choice. When an individual born with this type of brain abnormality grows up in an abusive or neglectful environment, they are going to have problems being empathetic, well-adjusted members of society. They just don’t have the right equipment under the hood.

 Or the other side of the argument…that the harsh environment they grew up in caused these abnormal physical changes in their brain. Either way, we know that our brains are capable of structural changes that affect our personalities. Our brains are capable of re-organizing our thought patterns, the way we view ourselves and others. So, here comes the why–

WHY can’t we stop people from growing up to become sociopaths and serial killers? WHY can’t the ones that have already become these things be helped?

Well, I know why, really. We just don’t know enough yet. Some believe these people are just born evil. That’s the easy way out.  I don’t believe in evil so I can’t accept that explanation. I think they were born into unfortunate environments with vulnerable brain structures. They are just extreme ends of other mental illnesses, a matter of degree.

 I realize this is naive. In NOT knowing, I don’t know what’s impossible. Still, I don’t think we should just throw our hands up and say “well, they are just evil, we can’t help them.” Yes, they should be locked up, seperated from society, but we can’t ignore them. We have to learn from them, understand them and figure out how to stop our future children from becoming them.

I am always shocked more by the real news stories I read. Yesterday I read a story about a dad on PCP who ate his little boys eyes. WTF?  You can’t make this kind of stuff up. Nature is cruel. Humans are cruel. Fiction writers are control freaks. 

In real life, murders go unsolved. Killers walk amoung us, free to destroy more lives.

In fiction, murders are solved, killers are caught and justice is served. As a reader, it’s why I read crime fiction. You can call it fiction, but the satisfaction, the sense of relief gained is real.  And it’s priceless in a world that feels like it’s spinning out of control. 

(The second reason–my personal experience with serial killers–will be the next post, so please come back by and thanks for stopping in!)