This Q&A was originally published here.
Producer’s Note: The individual answering questions below states the following as his introduction: “In 2009 I started writing to American serial killers, mass murderers, school shooters, high profile murderers, suspected serial killers, domestic terrorists child killers, etc. out of curiosity. Ever since I have spoken with many through mail or phone about various topics which include as much as their lives, crimes, etc.”
Q: “When you first write to them how do you start the letters?”
A: “I introduce myself, tell them a bit about me and why I’m writing. I ask them to tell me about their current life, or anything really, and invite them to ask me questions. I basically attempt to open the lines of communication. Both them and myself are feeling each other out and cautiously building a rapport.”
Q: “Are there any commonalities between them?”
A: “That’s something I’ve tried to figure out over the years and still have yet to conclude. I see more commonalities in SOME of those who commit like crimes. For example a lot of school shooters mostly became more withdrawn before their crimes. A lot of serial killers seemed to have had a traumatic or abusive upbringing or have gone through a traumatic life event. But I’ve also recently spoken with a sexually motivated serial killer (who admits to necrophilia and mutilation) and he claims to have a perfectly healthy upbringing. He doesn’t know why he does these things. In his words he’s just ‘one sick puppy’.”
Q: “Have you ever talked to Charles Manson and what was he like? Was there a serial killer that made you sick to your stomach to talk to and why?”
A: “Manson is hard to talk to, he’s all over the place. Basically what goes through his head a million miles a minute comes out his mouth. He is interesting though. I’ve also spoken to Susan Atkins via her husband before she died (she was ill with cancer and paralyzed, so she couldn’t physically write).
As far as a serial killer who made me sick. None made me sick but two of which got to me. I’m pretty collected and civil with them but Hadden Clark, a pedophile, asked me for pictures of little girls in dresses. Needless to say that angered me. Also Phillip Jablonski saying he wanted to ‘rape and kill’ a toddler in the visiting cage next to him during a visitation. It shouldn’t have upset me being I was so used to him being as such, but it did.”
Q: “Do you feel that it is their fault that they are the way they are, or that they are just products of environment, genetics, biology, etc..? Obviously this question goes broader than that and the answer reflects the reasons for the behavior of all humans. I guess I want to know if you hold these people responsible or if you think it’s more of a cause and effect, and they were just dealt a bad hand.”
A: “Absolutely they are responsible. Yes there are many contributing factors and some were dealt a bad hand but it doesn’t excuse what they’ve done in any way.”
Q: “Scariest one of them and why?”
A: “Jack Spillman. Because if by some stroke of fate he was ever to be released he would continue killing (he’s not shy about his obsession with torture, murder, and death), and his murders were absolutely horrific. He’s extremely brutal and savage when you know the specifics of his crimes. I’ve spoken to one of David Parker Rays accomplices. No one is certain just how many women he has killed. What’s certain is he was a brutal sexual sadist but he had a very particular way about his crimes. Spillman is much more dangerous in the sense that he didn’t require specific organization to carry out his crimes which also were crimes of severe sadistic torture and frenzied mutilation that makes Ray’s methodical torture seem like he treated his victims nicely.”
Q: “When you wrote those letters, did you put a return address on them? If so, were you ever afraid they might come after you?”
A: “Of course I used a return address. I used my home address. Almost everyone I wrote was doing Life without parole or was on death row. I’ve never feared any of them. Like I said In a previous response I grew up spending my weekends in a prison visiting my Uncle, surrounded by violent criminals. As I got older I got into some minor trouble here and there. To calm all that I started kickboxing when I was in my early 20’s, so I’m not your typical crime nerd you see on tv.”
Q: “Who comes across as the most intelligent serial killer?”
A: “Brian Dugan and Barry Loukaitis are extremely intelligent. While Dugan uses it to manipulate, Loukaitis does not.
Dugan dicks around with the prison system. He’s very intelligent. He is manipulative to get his way and I must say he’s damn good at it. Which is funny cause his crimes don’t show that at all and seemed to lack planning and intelligence.
In short, he had taken months and months filing complaints about him needing a single cell. Expressing that he’s a serial killer and was having fantasies and thoughts of murder. He explained that if he was to kill his cell mate he would get single cell and the department would be at fault due to the months of requests. Basically covering all his angles and willing to kill to get his way.”
Q: “Has anyone ever threatened you personally?
How much do you tell them about you, and are they interested in hearing it? How do they view your relationship and correspondence (if you know)?
What’s the longest correspondence you’ve ever had? How long does it usually take to receive a letter and how long does it take for you to write back? (Also how long are the actual letters)
While I notice you’ve mentioned that some of them refuse to discuss their crimes, are some of them very eager to recount details or justify themselves?”
A: “No one has made any threats to me. I tell them quite a bit about me and they are very interested. Prison is pretty mundane. Some draw pictures for my kid and make my wife handmade cards for holidays. Some consider me a friend, others are just passing time with me, others understand my interest and cooperate with me. Longest correspondence would be 5 years and still currently going. As far as receiving a letter it depends how long it takes the inmate to respond and for it to go through the prison and through the mail. My replies sometimes are fast and sometimes take time depending on how busy I am. From there it goes out to its destination, makes it’s way through the prison mail room where it’s checked and then goes to the inmate. Length of letters vary in length. Yes some are very open to discuss their crimes, but more often they are not. Some claim they are innocent, some can’t discuss crimes for legal reasons (pending appeals, don’t want further charges), some are just bored with it, been there done that kind of thing.”
Q: “Have any described the first time they killed and what finally drove them to do it?
Did they ever feel anxiety about getting caught, or did they not care about it?
How many would you say feel remorseful for their actions and how many would you say don’t care?
Did they ever describe what it was like to kill someone?
What was the most creative way someone got rid of bodies, in your opinion?”
A: “I’ll try and answer all of these as best I can
Yes and yes but neither question really has a general answer.
Most don’t want to be caught. Some have expressed relief after getting caught.
It’s hard to say how many feel remorse, probably not many. One of them once said “I don’t know if I feel genuine remorse, but I know that I should and that just may be the best I can do”. Others brag openly about their crimes and really enjoy all of it. Some are so casual about it they seem unaffected in a negative way.
Yes some have described murders in detail.
Most creative way someone got rid of bodies…. Herb Baumeister buried them in his backyard.
Not a lot of creativity with body disposal in general. Most want to ditch it and go. I find killers that keep bodies close interesting. Often times it’s to relive the crime.”
Q: “Has there ever been an instance where you have understood or sympathized with them?”
A: “Not with their crimes. Some have had horrible life experiences and I feel bad for them for some of the things they had to endure. Some of which are things no human should go through…
I’m not even sure it mitigates it. But it does help to possibly explain the circumstances to how someone comes to do such things. Not sure if it’s the direct cause of their behavior but I do think in most cases it’s absolutely a contributing factor.”
Q: “Are there are lesser known true crime authors out there I should know about? I’ve read most of the obvious ones such as Christopher Berry Dee and John Douglas, and pretty much everything else my local book stores stock, so I’m just wondering if there are any hidden gems I should look for?”
A: “I’m not big into the ‘True Crime’ books. John Douglas is actually kind of a hack. His flawed method of inductive profiling has been wrong time and again. I usually read textbooks by Brent Turvey, books by Pat Brown, and other deductive profilers. as far as ‘True Crime’ stories go, I enjoy Clifford Lindecker (I think I spelled his name correctly).
Q: “Have any of these killers that you’ve spoken with ever shown you any sign that they might have or could possibly change for the better? Even to the point where you think they wouldn’t kill again if they were to be released?”
A: “It really depends on the person, the type of crimes, and more. I know a school shooter that is doing life for multiple murders/attempted murders that I would be fine if he lived next door to me. There is another killer I’ve spoken with who sent me his 25 page story displaying his life, his crimes (murdered a baby when he was 15, was released from prison as an adult and killed his parents). He was on death row for a bit, got off death row and is currently on the tail end of a life sentence (he’s very old). He claims through meditation he has transformed himself and it’s very compelling. Is it true or not, only he knows, but it makes me wonder if a psychopath can rewire themselves and retrain their thinking.”
Q: “Of all the people you have had correspondence with who sticks out as the most memorable and why?”
A: “James Whitey Bulger. He is one of the most notorious American criminals ever. He spoke of his days in Alcatraz, amazing stories of his life when he was on the run, and his current situation (I spoke with him most of the time he was in county jail awaiting on the most recent federal charges he was convicted of. Talking with him was an experience in itself.”
Q: “Is there any common trend in how they choose their victims? Is it usually a personal motivation, someone random, or someone they see or know and who is compelling in some way? Or is it entirely different for each killer?”
A: “Each killer has their own m.o., choice of victims, motivations, patterns, signatures, etc. Some have these things in common with others but that doesn’t mean they are identical. It depends on the individual. For instance two may strangle prostitutes. They both may choose them because they are easy victims. Or one may choose them because he believes they don’t deserve to live and he is on a self righteous crusade to rid the world of them. You can never really induct them into categories cause they are all different in minor or major ways.”
Q: “Who had the longest killing spree over time and who had the largest killing spree in numbers before being caught who you’ve spoken with?”
A: “Either Dennis Rader or Ted Kaczynski in terms of longest going before being caught. As far as body count, Terry Nichols, convicted of over 400 counts of murder.”
Q: “What was Richard Ramirez like? Was he collected, intelligent, strange, etc etc? What was your letter about? I’m really interested in that stuff as well, I always wonder how their thought process/rationale works.”
A: “Ramirez was strange, he would carry normal conversation one minute and then ask me to go to the beach and take pics of girls and mail them to him. He couldn’t have been normal if he tried.”
Q: “How are you emotionally? Does that take any toll on you?”
A: “I’m fine now but for a while I was obsessed with it. I would have horrible nightmares. It’s a very dark world to venture through. I’ve learned to step away from it, separate myself, and not be consumed by it though.”
Q: “Do most of them pick easier targets such as women or homeless people? Have you ever communicated with any that have chosen to go after tougher targets (e.g. large men, police or military personnel) for the ‘sport’ factor?”
A: “It’s not really a matter of sport. It’s a matter of choosing victims that provides them with some sort of sense of pleasure, accomplishment, etc. I’m sure it’s not easy for a mass murderer to kill his entire school or office population, but they damn sure try. Honestly, it sounds bad but I think domestic terrorists choose more challenging victims of higher quality (in terms of societies value)and seek higher body counts.”
Q: “Have you spoken to the Iceman, Richard Kuklinski?”
A: “I have not. He died before I started contacting killers. I have spoken to an Immediate family member of his as well as a detective that worked on one of his cases and I’ve got a pretty good idea of just how bad he was. It’s still pretty bad but nowhere near as bad as the books and HBO shows lead you to believe. Roy Demeo, Tommy Pitera, and Sammy the Bull were much more brutal and efficient mafia killers.”
Q: “Have you been in contact with Robert Lee Yates? One of his victims was the daughter of a close family friend. Anything particularly interesting to note? How does he come off in his letters? Does he seem to be remorseful or just avoids the subject?”
A: “He doesn’t avoid the subject, he’s very aware that he’s a serial killer, but he seems to not openly invite the subject into play. He is super Christian now. He is easy going and comes off very likable. He is one of those people that give no indication of the types of crimes he perpetrated. He comes off as very average and someone you could share a conversation with at a bar or coffee shop, or in line at the store. Nothing about him suggests he’s a brutal sexually motivated serial killer.”
Q: “Does he believe he is absolved of his sins because he is a Christian now? As in, does he believe he is fully forgiven by God because he has repented? Or has he not repented?”
A: “I’m not sure what he believes as far as his faith and his crimes. I never dug into the correlation between the two but it wouldn’t be a far out assumption to think his faith compensates for his wrong doing. It’s not about compartmentalizing when speaking with them, it’s about remaining in total control of your emotions. Staying civil, neutral, open minded to ALL conversation, and never be judgmental or accusatory. I once carried a lengthy correspondence and many phone conversations with a prolific serial killer who swears up and down he is innocent in the face of overwhelming evidence. I wanted to laugh at the notion of his innocence on the phone when we discussed it but I couldn’t. I would acknowledge what he was saying but never took a position of agreeing or disagreeing.”
Q: “I’m curious to know if you’ve noted similar behavioral traits (or any traits, for that matter) among the killers that you’ve interviewed. In the past, I’ve heard people make statements like ‘All serial killers hate animals’ or ‘Unlike people without murderous intentions, killers will not unconsciously yawn after someone close by has.’ From your research/experience, any validity to statements like these?”
A: “When it comes to serial killers they do not all share the same personalty disorders, mental illness, life experiences, and so on. So you may find similar things in certain ones but there is no cookie cutter for them. They are much more complex than most people think.”