Posts tagged ‘american’

Profile of an American Serial Killer: Pee Wee Gaskins

Donald Henry Gaskins, Jr, born March 13, 1933

Florence County, South Carolina, United States

a.k.a. “Pee Wee Gaskins,” “Junior Parrott”

Pee Wee Mugshot

“I have walked the same path as God.” – Gaskins

Pee Wee Gaskins was born Donald Henry Gaskins, Jr., to an unwed mother in rural South Carolina.  He earned the name Pee Wee due to his small stature, and was frequently physically abused by many of his mother’s boyfriends throughout his young life.  When his mother finally did marry, Pee Wee’s life didn’t improve due to the rigid discipline and violent consequences he and his half-siblings were subjected to by his new step-father.  The cards were stacked against Pee Wee from the moment he was born.

When Pee Wee was a young boy, he started to display violent behavior and never did well in school.  Pee Wee spent much of his young life committing petty thefts, burglarizing homes and getting in school yard fights. By the time Pee Wee was eleven-years-old, he dropped out of school and started working part time as a mechanic in a local garage where he met two boys, Danny and Marsh, who were close in age and also dropouts.  The three coined themselves “The Trouble Trio” and committed a variety of violent crimes together.  The trio burglarized homes, solicited prostitutes and raped young boys.  They always threatened the young boys so that they would be too afraid to tell police what happened.

Marsh had a younger sister whom they all gang raped.  They were caught, and were subjected to severe beatings by their parents as punishment.  Afterward, Danny and Marsh left town and Pee Wee continued on his own.  When Pee Wee was 13, in 1946, he was interrupted by a girl he knew while he was burglarizing a home.  Pee Wee wrestled an ax away from the girl, and hit her twice with it:  once in the head and once in the arm.  The girl survived, miraculously, and Pee Wee was sent to reform school at the South Carolina Industrial School for Boys until the age of 18 after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and intent to kill.

While Pee Wee was in reform school, he was gang-raped and became the sex toy of older “Boss-Boys” who would protect him in exchange for sexual favors.  Pee Wee escaped many times, once even managing to get a job with a traveling carnival and married a 13-year-old girl.  Afterward, he turned himself into police to complete his sentence.

When he was released in 1951, Pee Wee started working on a tobacco farm until he discovered insurance fraud.  Pee Wee and a friend collaborated with tobacco farmers to steal their crops and cover up the crime by burning their farms for a fee. Eventually, Pee Wee earned a reputation as “the barnburner” and was confronted by a friend who was also his boss’ daughter.  Again, Pee Wee lost his temper and split the girl’s skull using the hammer he had in his hand.  He was tried and convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder and received a five-year prison sentence.

How to describe Pee Wee in five words:  Brutal, detached, paedophile, cannibal, psychopath

During his next stint in the can, Pee Wee used his previous knowledge to earn him the title of “Prison Power Man.”  To do this, Pee Wee needed to find the biggest threat, the meanest of the mean, and take him out in cold blood.  Pee Wee decided on Hazel Brazell, the hardest, coldest known inmate in the prison.  He earned Brazell’s trust, and within a week, he sliced Brazell’s throat, earning him six months in solitary confinement.  After he was returned to population, Pee Wee was a prison hero, a “Power Man.”

In 1955, Pee Wee’s wife filed for divorce, driving him into a furious rage.  He escaped from prison, stole a car and went to Florida where he joined another carnival and married another young girl.  Two weeks later, the marriage ended and Pee Wee met Bettie Gates, a pretty, voluptuous carnival girl with whom he was instantly infatuated.

Gates convinced Pee Wee that her brother was in jail in Tennessee and needed them to come bail him out.  Pee Wee agreed to help Gates, driving her to Cookeville, TN, where they got a hotel room, and Pee Wee walked to the jail with a carton of cigarettes and bail money in his hand.  When he returned to the hotel, both Gates and Pee Wee’s car were long gone.  Gates tipped off the authorities and soon, police captured Pee Wee, and he went back to prison.  Gates had conned Pee Wee; her “brother” was actually her husband who escaped from prison using a razor blade tucked inside the carton of cigarettes Pee Wee delivered to him.

In prison for the third time, at a federal penitentiary in Atlanta, GA, Pee Wee became friends with mafia boss, Frank Costello, who named him “The Little Hatchet Man.”  Pee Wee was offered employment by Costello, should he ever need a job.

After Pee Wee was released from prison in August, 1961, he returned to Florence, SC, and started working in the tobacco fields again.  He continued his life of crime, by burglarizing and raping just like always. In 1962, he was arrested again for statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl, but escaped authorities and traveled to North Carolina, where he married a 17-year-old, who was, in his words, “old for my standards.”  Within weeks, Pee Wee’s new bride turned him into police and he was convicted of statutory rape and sent to the Columbia penitentiary for six years.  In November 1968, Pee Wee was paroled and swore he’d never go back to prison again.

It was at this time in Pee Wee’s life that he began identifying what he called, “them aggravated and bothersome feelings,” which seemed to trigger horrific fantasies Pee Wee eventually started acting on.  In September 1969, Pee Wee picked up a female hitchhiker and started flirting with her.  When she laughed at him, he beat her unconscious, raped, sodomized and tortured her then weighted her body and dumped her into a swamp, still alive.  This was his first “Coastal Kill,” as he would later call them.

The “Coastal Kills” were murders of random people.  These murders were the most terrifying because Pee Wee would subject his victims to insane methods of torture, sometimes for days.  Sometimes, he would cannibalize their severed body parts while they watched and would force them to eat their own flesh.

Pee Wee didn’t have a particular type of victim; he would kill men, women and children indiscriminately.  Whenever the “bothersome feelings” would return, Pee Wee would find another random victim, and unleash hell upon their final moments.

In November 1970, Pee Wee began his “Serious Murders,” which were the killings of close friends and family. His first “Serious Murders” were his own 15-year-old niece, Janice Kirby, and her friend, Patricia Alsobrook.  Pee Wee offered the girls a ride home and took them to an abandoned house where he raped, beat and drowned the girls in different locations.

In 1973, Pee Wee purchased an old hearse, and when questioned about it, he responded, “I kill so many people I need a vehicle to haul all the bodies to my private cemetery.”  At this time, Pee Wee lived in Prospect, SC, with his wife and child.  He had a reputation for being weird, explosive and mentally disturbed, but not dangerous.  He had friends who liked him.

In his book, “Final Truth,” co-written with Wilton Earle, Pee Wee recalls his crimes as one would recall any normal memory of their life.  Pee Wee boasts how he was able to pass lie detector tests with flying colors even though he was lying the entire time.  Pee Wee took great pride in his ability to earn the trust of his victims, and got off on controlling their lives up until the moment he ended them.  It was a way for him to exert his need to dominate and control his circumstances, the little abused boy speaking up and defending himself, but Pee Wee wasn’t a little boy anymore, and his victims had done nothing to deserve his wrath.

One of Pee Wee’s friends, 23-year-old Doreen Dempsey, an unwed mother of a 2-year-old girl, and pregnant, was planning to leave the area and asked Pee Wee for a ride to the bus station.  Instead, Gaskins took her to a wooded area, raped her and killed her, but before he killed Doreen, he started fondling her 2-year-old daughter.  Horrified by the sight, Doreen protested, and Pee Wee smashed her skull.  Then, he raped and sodomized the baby girl, later describing it as the best sex of his life.

By 1975, Pee Wee, by his own admission, had killed and disposed of over 80 people, during his “Coastal Kills.” He focused more on his “Serious Murders,” and in the same year, Gaskins was hired to kill a wealthy farmer from Florence County, Silas Yates. Yates’ ex-girlfriend, Suzanne Kipper, paid Pee Wee $1,500 to kill Yates, and one night, Pee Wee, Diane Neely, John Powel and John Owens conspired to kill Yates.  Neely, Powel and Owens were all associates of Kipper’s, and Neely lured Yates out of his home while Pee Wee kidnapped and murdered him as Owen and Powel watched, then all three buried Yates’ body.

Shortly thereafter, Neely and her boyfriend, ex-con Avery Howard, tried blackmailing Pee Wee for $5,000 in hush money.  Pee Wee tricked them into believing he would give them the money, then killed both of them and disposed of their bodies.  Pee Wee continued killing and torturing other people he knew, including 13-year-old Kim Ghelkins, who, like so many others before her, resisted his sexual advances.

Pee Wee began confiding in Walter Neely, and he soon became Pee Wee’s trusted friend after helping him kill and dispose of two heathens who tried to steal Pee Wee’s shop equipment.  Pee Wee showed Walter where he disposed of the bodies of all the other people he had killed, approximately 181 according to Pee Wee, which, if it’s true, makes him the most prolific serial killer in American history.

Neely eventually broke down and told police what he knew. Pee Wee was arrested and charged with nine counts of murder after police found the bodies of several of Pee Wee’s friends.  Pee Wee was sentenced to death.  He later confessed to seven additional murders to avoid additional death sentences.  His sentence was commuted to life with seven consecutive life terms in November, 1976, after the US Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.  In prison, Pee Wee thrived off of the royal treatment he received due to his notoriety.  While in prison, Pee Wee was hired by Tony Cimo, son of Bill and Myrtle Moon (both victims of death row inmate, Rudolph Tyner) to kill his parents’ murderer, since they were both in prison together.  Pee Wee had certain privileges in prison which allowed him rights other inmates didn’t have.  Pee Wee was able to form a relationship with Tyner, posing as a drug dealer and lacing them with rat poison in attempts to kill him.  After none of these attempts worked, Pee Wee fashioned a home-made bomb with C4, using a military-style boot with a hole cut in the heel to smuggle it around in the prison.  Pee Wee rigged a device similar to a portable radio in Tyner’s death row cell and told Tyner this would allow them to communicate between cells.  When Tyner followed Pee Wee’s instructions to hold a speaker to his ear at an agreed time, Pee Wee detonated the explosives in his cell and killed him. “The last thing he heard was me laughing,” Pee Wee later boasted.  Pee Wee received the death penalty again after the murder of Rudolph Tyner.

While he was on death row, Pee Wee told his life story to a journalist by the name of Wilton Earle, and confessed to over 181 murders, including Margaret “Peg” Cuttino, the 12-year-old daughter of then SC senator James Cuttino, Jr.  Someone else had been sentenced and was in prison for this crime, and police dismissed most of Pee Wee’s claims because they found them impossible to verify.  Pee Wee said he had a “special mind” that gave him “permission to kill.”

Pee Wee Gaskins was executed on September 6, 1991, at 1:10AM.  He was the fourth person to die in the electric chair after the death penalty was reinstated in South Carolina.  His last words were, “I’ll let my lawyers talk for me.  I’m ready to go.”


Profile of an American Serial Killer: Richard Ramirez

Ricardo Leyva Múñoz Ramirez, born February 29, 1960

El Paso, Texas, United States

a.k.a. “Richard Ramirez,” “Night Stalker,” “El Matador”

Ramirez in Court
“Serial killers do, on a small scale, what governments do on a large one.” – Ramirez

As a young girl living in Glendale, CA, at the same time the Night Stalker terrorized Southern California, I was first introduced to the concept of a serial killer, thanks to none other than Richard Ramirez.

My late father, God rest his soul (March 31, 1944 – March 9, 1991), formerly a police officer in Maricopa County, Arizona, warned me about the Night Stalker and made sure our family was safe by securing the windows and doors at night himself.  He even went so far as installing wrought iron bars on every window and a gate made of wrought iron around the house.  I didn’t know it at the time, but found out after he died that he also had a .38 Special and a .357 Magnum hidden to protect us.

Growing up being a cop’s daughter has some interesting side effects.

Nonetheless, the subject of Richard Ramirez is a portrait of tragedy, neglect, drug abuse and epic law enforcement failure.

As a boy, Ramirez was a quiet, kind-hearted child, the youngest of five, born to working class Mexican immigrants Julián Ramírez and Mercedes Muñoz.  Ramirez is remembered as a loner by his classmates.  When he was two, he developed a contusion on his head after sustaining an injury caused by a dresser falling on him.  He had to receive over 30 stitches.  When Ramirez was six years old, he was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy and suffered from grand mal seizures.  By 10 years old, Ramirez had developed a strange fondness for the dead and began spending the night and sleeping in cemetaries near his home.

Ramirez began to grow close with his cousin Mike who was a Special Forces Vietnam War Veteran.  Mike used to talk at length with Ramirez about his escapades in Vietnam; how Mike tortured and killed several women.  He justified his torture and murder of these women by saying they were the enemy and no one cared about them anyway.  Mike took pictures of the graphic displays of violence and proudly showed them to his young cousin Ramirez.  At such a tender time in Ramirez’ adolescence, he was exposed to two forces of humanity normally kept very separate.  These forces were infused in Ramirez’ mind and he grew up thinking sex and violence were one in the same.

Mike and Ramirez would spend time together smoking cannabis and driving around town, having conversations about murder where Mike would give Ramirez advice on the proper method to shoot and cut people for “maximum effect.”

One day, during an argument with his wife about his unemployment, Mike shot his wife in the face, while Ramirez stood 2-3 feet away.  Ramirez never told anyone he witnessed the murder, and one may discern that Ramirez became the Night Stalker at this time in his life, before he had ever actually hurt anyone else.  Ramirez reportedly saw blood “squirting” from the wound in Mike’s wife’s head, and drew great pleasure from the sight.

After this turning point in Ramirez’ life, he began compartmentalizing (compartmentalizing is a known psychological behavior in sociopaths with the propensity to commit murder and live a normal life at the same time without any emotional interference) and subsequently lost his cousin/mentor Mike, who was arrested and declared insane, then placed in a mental asylum; Ramirez also started skipping school, smoking cannabis and sniffing glue by the time he was in seventh grade.  Ramirez became a thief to support his drug use.  Ramirez attended Thomas Jefferson High School in El Paso, Texas, dropping out before completing one year.  During that time, Ramirez was arrested twice for possession of illegal substances.

Once Ramirez had dropped out of high school and started getting a criminal record, he continued to spin out of control, drawing five-point pentagrams on his body and declaring his loyalty to Satan.  Ramirez began using cocaine daily, neglected his personal hygiene and survived on junk food.  His teeth slowly began rotting making his breath foul and offensive, a trait his surviving rape victims would terribly remember.

How to describe Richard Ramirez in five words?  Sloth, murderer, paedophile, chauvenist, Satanist.

Richard Ramirez’ victims of choice were mainly women; he only killed men when they were in the way of him overtaking the female.  Then he got them out of the way as quickly as possible by shooting them in the head.

Ramirez didn’t have a certain type of woman he targeted.  The ages of the women he killed ranged from 6 to 83.  Ramirez had no regard for human life and would rape and mutilate his victims without regret.

One living victim of Richard Ramirez reported having to profess her love for Satan while performing fellatio on Ramirez.

Ramirez played games with police, jumping from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, exploiting the poor communication between them.  Poor police work kept the Night Stalker in business for over a year, torturing, raping and murdering innocent Californians from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

One night in late August, 1985, a teenager who was working on his motorcycle at his parents’ house noticed a strange orange Toyota driving into the neighborhood, and noticed it again as it was leaving.  The teenager was suspicious, so he wrote the license plate number down and called the police the next morning.  Police determined that the 1976 orange Toyota had been stolen in Chinatown while the owner was dining at a restaurant.  An alert was put out for the car, and two days later it was located in the Rampart section of Los Angeles.  Having connected the vehicle to Ramirez, the police kept the car under surveillance for 24 hours hoping they would catch the Night Stalker as he came to claim his vehicle, but to their dismay, he never showed up.

Forensics revealed a good fingerprint on the car which turned out to belong to Ricardo “Richard” Leyva Múñoz Ramírez.  Further analysis revealed that this print matched a print taken from a window sill at the Pans’ home, where Ramirez killed Peter, aged 66, and raped his wife Barbara, aged 64.

Police immediately released Ramirez’ mug shot photograph to the press, naming him as the Night Stalker and dispatched units to the Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles, expecting to find Ramirez there ready to escape.  What they didn’t know is that Ramirez wasn’t even in California at the time his photo had been released.  He was in Arizona visiting a brother, but was returning that day.

Richard Ramirez Mug
Ramirez Los Angeles County Jail booking photo

On August 31, Ramirez arrived in the downtown Greyhound Los Angeles bus station, unaware of police present.  As Ramirez left the bus station, he noticed the area was flooded with cops, but managed to get past them unnoticed, still unaware that he had been identified as the Night Stalker.  He walked to the corner store to get some coffee, and the clerk immediately recognized his face and began shouting, “El Matador (“The Killer”)!”  Ramirez noticed that his face had made several front covers on the newspaper rack in front of him so he grabbed La Opinion, and ran.

Ramirez ran two miles east from downtown Los Angeles, looking for a car to steal so he could get away quickly.  He found Faustino Pinon’s red Ford Mustang, unaware that Pinon was underneath it working on the engine.  Ramirez noticed the car was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition so he jumped in and started it.  As soon as Pinon, aged 56, heard the engine start, he rolled out from under the car, angry.  Pinon grabbed Ramirez around the neck and Ramirez warned Pinon that he had a gun, but Pinon ignored him.  Ramirez put the car in gear and tried driving away, but Pinon would not let go of him.  The car crashed into a fence, then a garage.

Pinon then opened the door, dragging Ramirez out and threw him to the ground.  Ramirez struggled and got away, running across the street to the De la Torres residence as 28-year-old Angelina de la Torres was getting into her Ford Granada.  He stuck his head through the driver’s side window and demanded the keys from her, threatening, in Spanish, to kill her if she did not.  She screamed for help, and her husband Manuel, aged 32, came running from the backyard grabbing a length of metal fence post as he passed through the gate along the side of the house.  Jose Burgoin, a neighbor, heard the struggle in Pinon’s driveway, and immediately called police.  He ran outside to help Pinon and heard Angelina screaming. Burgoin called his sons (Jaime, 21, and Julio, 17) for assistance.  As the Burgoin brothers ran to help Mrs. De la Torres, they saw Ramirez scrambling across the front seat of her car.  Jaime recognized him from the pictures in the newspapers and on television and yelled that this was the killer, and all the men made a mad dash to catch him.  Ramirez ran for his life, but Manual de la Torres caught up with him and hit him across his neck with the metal post he carried with him.

Ramirez got up and continued running away, desperately trying to avoid capture, but De la Torres followed him, bashing him repeatedly from behind.  Jaime Burgoin caught up with Ramirez and punched him. Ramirez fell to the ground but quickly dusted himself off and continued to run with De la Torres and the Burgoin brothers at his heels.  Finally, De la Torres swung hard and hit Ramirez on the head.  Ramirez collapsed immediately, and the Burgoin brothers tackled him, holding him to the ground until police arrived.

Within 24 hours of naming Ramirez as the Night Stalker and releasing his picture to the public, he was behind bars where he belongs.

Ramirez was charged with 14 murders and 31 other felonies related to his 1985 crime spree.  He was also charged with a 15th murder in San Francisco and rape and attempted murder charges in Orange County.

Richard Ramirez Horns
“Big deal. Death always went with the territory. I’ll see you in Disneyland.” What Ramirez told reporters when he received the death penalty in November 1989.

At the time of this writing, it’s been almost 21 years since Ramirez has been sentenced to die in San Quentin’s gas chamber.  In that time, Ramirez has become a celebrity, developed a following, attracted groupies, married a groupie who has planned to kill herself once Ramirez has been executed and started a cult.

[[Conversation between Richard Ramirez and “Eric Gein,” a murderabilia collector.]]

Richard Ramirez, condemned on California Death Row

Ramirez was a fan of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC and, according to police, wore an AC/DC concert -shirt and left an AC/DC hat at one of the crime scenes.  Ramirez says, “Night Prowler,” by AC/DC from their album “Highway to Hell”, was a big influence for his actions.  The song helped name him while police fumbled to figure out just who this madman was.

Ramirez still lives in San Quentin, and still has a fan base.

[[“Night Prowler” – AC/DC]]

[[“Night Prowler” by AC/DC – Lyrics]]