Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Natural Born Killers

Tripping Out on Mickey and Mallory

A month after enrolling at Northeastern Oklahoma, Sarah dropped out. Her parents did not hear from her again for about a month. By that time the damage had been done.

On the evening of March 5, 1995, about a month after Sarah dropped out of college for the second time, she and Ben secluded themselves in a cabin belonging to Sarah's parents. There they repeatedly dropped LSD and proceeded to watch a videotape of Oliver Stone's movie, Natural Born Killers, numerous times.

Actors in the movie Natural Born Killers
Actors in the movie Natural Born Killers

In the movie, two lovers, Mickey and Mallory (played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis), go on a multi-state killing spree in the Southwest, taking 52 lives in a three week period. In so doing, they take on celebrity status, thanks to the publicity given to them by a TV crime show host, Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr). The couple is finally caught and imprisoned, but an interview Mickey gives to Gale on Super Bowl Sunday incites a prison riot. During the riot, Mickey and Mallory escape, killing another fifty or so people in the process, including Gale, the prison warden, and the detective who was responsible for their capture. At the movie's end, Mickey and Mallory have children and are seen happily rambling along the highway in their Winnebago.

DVD cover: Birth of a Nation
DVD cover: Birth of a Nation

In the century-old history of filmmaking, countless movies (and later TV and cable shows and video games) have been blamed for inspiring acts of violence. One of Hollywood's first great epics, D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, was accused of fostering a resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan and an increase in lynchings after its release in 1915. In the late 1960s, A Clockwork Orange inspired a number of forced home entries and rapes. But no film in history was linked to more acts of violence than Natural Born Killers. And the ability of the film's protagonists to get away with their crimes made the imitation of them all the more appealing to "copycats."

Ben Darrus was one of them. In his tripped-out state, apparently, Ben began having fantasies of duplicating Mickey and Mallory's feats, with Sarah as his partner in crime. In her later confession, Sarah said Ben talked gleefully about invading a random farmhouse, slaughtering all of its occupants after robbing them, then moving on to the next victims. This is what Mickey and Mallory did in the movie.

On the morning of March 6, 1995, Sarah and Ben packed her Nissan Maxima with canned goods and blankets and headed toward Memphis, Tennessee where they heard that the Grateful Dead were having a concert. They also packed along a loaded .38 special that was in the cabin and belonged to Sarah's father. (Sarah later claimed she brought it along to protect herself from Ben, if the need arose.) Heading south, they hooked up with I-40 and drove all the way across Arkansas, arriving in Memphis only to find out that the Dead concert was still a few days away. With time on their hands, the couple mulled over what to do next.


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