Do I have an almost obsession with true crime? Yes, I do. Do I have a section of my bookshelves dedicated to my “murder books”? Yes, I do. Do I have another blog on which I discuss such things? Yes, I do. It’s called Murder & Mayhem.
My son calls me “Reaper Creeper,” implying that I’m some kind of murderer groupie. I am not. What I am is fascinated with the pathways that take some to commit murder, the psychology and the stories behind it. Plus, I come by it honestly. I come from a long line of attorneys who had their fair share of criminal cases. It was my dad who really got me into it. It became a thing (an odd thing, admittedly) that every Christmas, my dad would buy me a few murderful books. When he passed in 2015 and that Christmas approached, it was really hard for me, because that had become such a Dad-Kim thing. But my lovely husband took up the mantle for Dad, which is a lovely, oddly sweet thing. I remember sitting on the floor in our then-home in Arizona, sobbing as I clutched a book about murderers to my chest.
Yes, I’m weird. And because I fully embrace keeping it weird, how about a list of interesting true-crime stories? And I’d like to note that the man-child who so disparagingly calls me “Reaper Creeper” is also the one who suggested this topic for my Thursday 13. Interesting true crime… not all murdery.
in no particular order
1. Garrett Phillips
Garrett Phillips was only twelve years old when he was murdered in Potsdam, New York in 2011. Potsdam just happens to be my hometown. This was a hotly controversial case, in my town and across the country. And it exposed a lot of not-so-nice things. From the very beginning, the police and media focused on Nick Hillary, a coach at a local university and the ex-boyfriend of Garrett’s mother, Tandy. It became pretty obvious that he was an easy target as a black man, despite the presence of other, far more likely suspects. He was acquitted in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped the accusations. One of those more likely suspects was Tandy’s other ex, a sheriff deputy with penchant for domestic violence and harrassment. In truth, it was a bungled case from the beginning… overt racism by the system in how the police treated Hillary, prosecutorial misconduct by the DA in terms of withholding exculpatory evidence, etc. So much that she was banned from practicing law for two years. How this case was handled and the massive racism that it made so obvious was disheartening, and part of the reason I will never live there again.
2. Marion Zimmer-Bradley
The sordid tale of MZB is one that devastated me. I was a hardcore fan of her Mists of Avalon saga, a series that meant a lot to the fabric of me. But then the news broke of the atrocities that she and her husband committed, even sexually abusing her own children. MZB’s husband was incarcerated for child molestation, dying in prison. According to MZB’s children, while their father was a rampant serial rapist, MZB was far worse… violent and cruel and sexually abusive to both girls and boys. My heart still hurts.
3. Liu Yongbiao
Yongbiao is a Chinese writer who has been sentenced to death for the murder of four people in the Yangtze Delta. In 1995, he and his accomplice robbed a man at a hostel, stealing a watch, a ring, and 10 yuan, or approximately $1.50 USD. Then they killed him, as well as the elderly owners of the hostel and their young grandson. It took almost 22 years for them to be caught. The interesting part? Yongbiao admitted that the killings had inspired much of his “fictional” work.
4. Israel Keyes
This is a man who learns a skill and then finds a way to use it other aspects of his life. However, Keyes did not use his skills for good. He was a soldier who learned out to plan an operation down to the last minute detail. That skill served him well for his murders, which is what makes him interesting. Keyes created “murder kits.” He put together kits of cash, clothing, weapons, and other useful items like rope, zip ties, duct tape, etc. Then he stashed them in various places around the United States. Some of them were buried, others hidden out of the way. He would then fly to one place, then double back by another means of transportation to search for a random victim in the vicinity of his kits. Because he had his murder kits, he carried no weapons and used no credit cards. That and his random victim selection made him much harder to catch. Another interesting note? After he was in custory, he painted 11 skulls with his own blood, one for every victim.
5. Nicole Houchin, Nace Houchin, & John Mackay
This one may be a little less well known, but it’s one that rocks my world. A little disclaimer… I know Nicole. She was a neighbor, a fellow Army wife. Not to rehash the whole story, but her daughter was physically violent and often targeted one of my son’s, who is several years younger. Nace and my own husband were deployed at the time, and Nicole and her daughter made my life hell for the better part of a year. A couple years after Nicole moved away, Dana Mackay was found dead in her bedroom in Virginia while her husband John was in New York. After that, it was a tale of stupid criminals. It was only a couple days after Nicole and John were arrested, and later two others. The interesting part. Nicole was married to Nace. John was married to Dana. Nicole and John were having an affair, and Nace and Nicole were somewhat estranged. Yet Nicole was able to convince Nace, her husband, to help her kill her lover’s wife. WHAT?! And Nace was the one who broke the entire thing open. Now all of them are serving life sentences with a plea agreement to serve less.
6. Gypsy Rose Blanchard
This is one of the most heartwrenching stories I’ve come across. Did she do wrong by killing her mother? Yes, of course. But if there was ever a case for mitigating factors, this one is it. Her mother’s Munchausen made Gypsy Rose’s life hell and torturous, even to the point of leaving Gypsy Rose with permanent issues. That is a girl who has suffered.
7. Joe Exotic & Carole Baskin
I think it would be remiss of me not to mention these two lovely people. Did I watch the Netflix show? You bet your ass I did. It was pure, unadulterated insanity. The nutso band of weirdos that worked for and with Joe Exotic, the obsessive rivalry with That Bitch Carole Baskin, the possiblity that the latter may have killed her missing former husband, the horrific animal abuse (by Joe and, I daresay, Carole), Joe’s murder-for-hire plots, Joe’s throuple (both of his husbands men who claim to be straight)… it’s a shit show of the highest order.
8. Rodney Alcala
This one is a wild one. For one thing, the man was like Teflon. He committed violent sex crimes against women and children, but kept flying under the radar by changing his identity, although flimsily at best. Of course, most of his criminal activity took place in the 1970s and 1980s, before tech was what it is now. But more interesting was that in the midst of his offending, he spent time hiding in plain sight. For a time, he worked at the LA Times, even was interviewed by cops as a part of the investigation into the Hillside Strangler. And then… he appeared as a contestant on The Dating Game. And won the date. However, the woman was smart and refused to go out with him.
9. The Axeman of New Orleans
This guy, never officially identified, was essentially the Jack the Ripper of the bayou. His targets were thought to be racially motivated, mostly those of Italian ethnicity. He also had fondness for jazz. He went so far as to send a note to police, telling them he wouldn’t harm anyone who played jazz. Needless to say, there was a lot of jazz in NOLA during the early 1900s.
10. Father Travis Jhon Clark & the Dominatrixes
The title alone should spark your interest. It did mine. The now-former priest and his lady friends have been charged with vandalism after being caught having sex on the altar of a Lousiana Catholic church in September of 2020. He was reported as being in his priestly garments while engaging in the aforementioned act. Needless to say, he was removed from his post the day after his arrest. The altar has been removed and burned.
11. Dorian Corey & Bobby Worley Wells
Bobby Wells, born Worley, did three years at Sing Sing for raping a woman in 1963. In 1968, he got into a fight with a female neighbor, reportedly hurting one of her children. When the woman threatened to call the police, he disappeared and was never seen again. Until 1993. That’s when the famous drag queen Dorian Corey passed away. When her Manhattan apartment was cleaned out, a body was discovered in a large trunk. It was Bobby. No one knows how Bobby came to be in the trunk, just that he was shot in the back of the head.
12. Angela Diaz
This chick… I just don’t know. Diaz married Ian Diaz in 2016. By all accounts, they had a good marriage. But then Angela began receiving all kinds of emails, filled with threats and disturbing imagery. She reported to police that people were popping up around her house, threatening to rape her. Then Angela was found in an alley, bruised and battered after an attack. At the hands of her husband’s ex, Michelle Hadley. Michelle was arrested and charged with harrassment. The charges later expanded to include stalking, attempted rape, and more. However, it was soon discovered that the IP address used to send the emails was Angela’s, that she was the author of the messages. But more bizarre was that she’d also been planning her own assault, posing ads on Craigslist to get someone to both assault her and rape her. Now she’s in prison for five years.
13. The Oil Tank
I know. Weird. And it’s not really true crime. More true crime adjacent. But still weird. For six months in 1995, Donna Graybeal of Billerica, Massachusetts, was constantly harrassed by bizarre phone calls. 2,688 of them, every 90 minutes. But there was no voice on the other end, just what sounded like a rush of air. Police traced the calls to a couple living in Potomac, Maryland. However, it was quickly discovered that they were innocent. The perp? The heating oil tank in their home. It wasn’t being used, but it had an autodialing mechanism installed on it by the manufacturer, Steuart Petroleum. It was designed to autodial the company whenever the tank was running low on fuel. The number to the mechanism was disconnected. However, this wasn’t the end. In 1995, Donna set up a 800 number for a business, and against all odds, she got the same damn number that Steuart Petroleum used to receive those autodial calls. And soon after, the device on the oil tank reactivated and started calling her again, another 2000 times.
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