Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Case It's Based On

What About Chainsaws?

While TCM was initially inspired by a killer who did not use a chainsaw, it pays to examine the history of crime to see if anyone did in fact kill with this weapon. It's happened, though not by a serial killer or a compulsive maniac.

Vernon Geberth
Vernon Geberth

Vernon Geberth records the chainsaw murder of two men involved in drug sales, in the fourth edition of his book, Practical Homicide Investigation. Two men, associates in the drug trade, had been tortured with a chainsaw, then killed and cut up. Their parts were dumped in a remote area. Both, it turned out, had been enforcers for a drug lord and had decided to keep the money from a recent transaction rather than deliver it to the boss. Geberth offers no names or dates, but the morgue photo is sufficient to show what a chainsaw can really do.

Bobby Pollard
Bobby Pollard

Several crimes feature dismemberment by chainsaw. A husband and wife, Bobby and Louise Pollard, pled guilty to killing and dismembering two people in 1997. After killing them, the couple used a chainsaw to cut them into parts and place them in a freezer, which they buried on their farm.

Louise Pollard
Louise Pollard

In 1997 Nicola Grogan was tried in Britain for the murder of her ex-lover and for cutting up his body with a chainsaw. She was found guilty of manslaughter. Also in Britain in 2001, the nude body of a middle-aged man was found in a field, clearly dismembered by a power tool before being set on fire.

Daphne Wright
Daphne Wright

In a supposed lesbian love triangle, Daphne Wright, a deaf woman, is going on trial for killing Darlene VanderGeisen in February 2006. The victim's body parts were found scattered in a landfill and bone fragments and tissue that matched her turned up in Wright's basement. She had been bludgeoned and then cut apart with a chainsaw. Wright claims to be innocent.

Darlene Vandergeisen
Darlene Vandergeisen

Recently a former fertility nurse went on trial for murdering her husband and dismembering him. Melanie McGuire allegedly shot and killed her husband in 2004, then used a chainsaw to chop his body into five parts for disposal. Investigators surmised that she packed each piece into a trash bag, put them into her luggage, and tossed the suitcases into the Chesapeake Bay. They had just closed on a house when he disappeared, but within days the suitcases containing his remains washed up in Virginia Beach and on an island. The motive offered at trial was that McGuire was having an affair. She had purchased a gun a few days before her husband vanished and her computer yielded suspicious searches for such things as "murder and suicide."

Melanie McGuire
Melanie McGuire

Even more bizarre, chainsaws have been used in suicides. In France, a woman constructed an elaborate guillotine contraption with a chainsaw, got beneath it face-down, and let it do its bloody work. A man in Prague apparently tried something similar, but the tool missed his jugular vein and lodged in his spine. He survived but probably wished he hadn't. Prior to this, he had tried hanging himself, but the tree branch broke under his weight. When he fell to the ground, he broke both of his legs. He was only 32, facing a divorce.

In California in 1993, a man who used chainsaws to trim trees became the first U.S. victim of suicide-by-chainsaw. Richard Possehl, 27, pressed the running saw against his neck, nearly removing his head. He was found near a cemetery. Not sure this could be a suicide, authorities re-enacted the incident with a mannequin to ensure that he could have killed himself in this manner, and it proved to be possible. Possehl's fingerprints were the only ones on the saw.

In March 2007, two men in Atlanta, Georgia, tried to commit mutual suicide together with a circular saw. They left a note behind with their apartment manager, saying their business was failing and they'd been diagnosed with AIDS, then began the process. They managed to remove three of their four arms, cutting six inches above the wrist, before police arrived to stop them. The manager had read the note and called 911. Both men, in their early forties, were taken to the ER and placed in intensive care, where they were stabilized.

Whether it's in a movie or a real crime, a chainsaw is one of the most intimidating weapons to ever be turned against a person. As a horror device, it's obviously here to stay.

 

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