Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Groupies

So Many to Choose From

Sondra London
Sondra London
According to one Web site about serial killer groupies, the "queen" of this genre is Sondra London, who says she fairly represents serial killers in the media and has had numerous correspondents among men on death row.

London' s career with serial killers apparently began inadvertently when she dated Gerard Schaefer, a man later convicted of two 1970s murders. He was suspected in 34 cases and he confessed to having killed between 80 and 110 over eight years. London helped him get a collection of fiction published that detailed crimes suspected to have been real. Apparently he was her first lover, and while she was initially appalled (according to Colin Wilson) that she had dated a serial killer that did not stop her from contacting him in prison and becoming an advocate until he was killed there.

She also got involved with Keith Jesperson, the Happy Face Killer, posting his ideas on the Internet, which angered him. One can still find traces of this altercation on various Web sites—as well as London 's denials about it.

Gerard Schaefer
Gerard Schaefer
But her real "catch" was the Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling. He used his opportunity to speak during his trial to sing to her in court. He didn't have much of a voice, but his heart was in it and she looked thrilled.

Rolling had been caught by a tape recording of himself that he left in some gear in a campsite near the scene of three murders. While he claimed that an evil entity possessed him (and London advocates this in a book they wrote together, The Making of a Serial Killer), his magical thinking tends to undermine the credibility of his account. Even Colin Wilson's foreword fails to stiffen the book academically, as he too accepts the defense that Rolling may have been possessed by some demon.

Regardless of Rolling's claims, it's clear that London overlooks his brutality, as many groupies do, and she helps Rolling indulge himself in reliving his crimes by getting him to describe them for publication. She seems not to see how this collaboration was likely a narcissistic way for him to relive and even wallow in the killings. In many places, he's grotesquely flippant.

Keith Jesperson
Keith Jesperson
To summarize: Two young coeds from the university were found stabbed to death in Gainesville, Fla., in 1990. Both had been posed for shocking effect. After midnight that same day, another call came in for a missing 18-year-old woman. Police went to her apartment and found her head propped on a bookshelf in the bedroom. The headless body was sitting on the edge of the bed, bent over at the waist. All had been sexually assaulted.

Two days later, in a ground-floor apartment about a mile from the second scene, a male and female were found stabbed to death. The nude body of the girl was lying face-up in the hallway. She had been stabbed in the heart and sexually assaulted. The male was found in bed with many wounds to his arms and hands, and stabbed to death.

Danny Rolling
Danny Rolling
Days later, Rolling was arrested for robbing a store a few miles away from the murders, which inspired an officer to check the bag found in the woods. Rolling had actually left his name on the tape recording, and a screwdriver found in his effects proved to be the pry weapon.

As he was being charged with those murders, he wrote to London in 1992 after he read a screenplay written by another inmate that London was editing. She quickly responded. Within six months they were "in love," and in February 1993 they announced their engagement. It was at this time that he confessed to the five Gainesville murders. He was convicted and sentenced to death five times.

London then persuaded him to write the book about his experiences, including his difficult childhood with an abusive father, and he turned all rights over to her. "You are the wind in my tree," he writes to her, as part of the text. He describes her as Lady London, his soulmate, his "true extension."

She claims in her "Author's Note" that by the time the book was published, Rolling was no longer "overwhelmed by dark forces" and was more whole as a person. While he tended to fragment into three personalities during stress (and she uses all the requisite language but has no credentials to pronounce him a multiple personality), he was no longer struggling as much with that. He was "arguably, more healthy."

Internet sources report that the two are no longer engaged. According to The Making of a Serial Killer, "the State denied them the God-given right to become man and wife. But that's another story, and it remains to be seen if the ending will be a happy one."

It does, indeed.

Yet it seems that California does not share Florida 's reserve. A groupie there managed to work her way into the heart of a serial killer, and to get him to marry her.



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