Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Team Killers, Part Three

Soul Mates and Psychopaths

Sometimes the formation of a team is based in sexual attraction or family ties, but the most dangerous teams are composed of two or more psychopaths who chance to meet and who realize they now have a partner as depraved as they are. With no moral boundaries, they work together to expand their range of criminal creativity and affirm each other in their brutality.

Alton Coleman & Debra Brown (AP/Wide World)
Alton Coleman & Debra Brown (AP/Wide World)

Alton Coleman, 28, and his girlfriend Debra Brown, 21, are a case in point.

After Coleman got out on bail for a charge of raping a 14-year-old girl, he went on the run in 1984 from Waukegan, Illinois, with Brown at his side. This ninth-grade dropout was also suspected in the kidnapping of a missing 9-year-old girl, and a warrant was out for his arrest. Once he was gone, her body was found, raped and strangled.

Book cover: The Anatomy of Motive
Book cover: The Anato-
my of Motive

"Seldom in my career," wrote former FBI profiler John Douglas in Anatomy of Motive, "have I come across a more depraved individual than Alan Coleman, willing to rape or kill practically anyone or anything that moved and totally unconcerned with the consequences."

Being on the run did not stop this rapist/killer, however, and he got Brown fully involved. Just over two weeks after they left, a seven-year-old girl was raped and stabbed while her cousin, two years older, was raped and beaten. This girl survived to explain how they had been lured toward a car by a black couple asking for directions.

The next crime occurred in Ohio, when a woman took in a couple who claimed they had no money. That night she and her 10-year-old daughter were strangled. Shortly afterward, a woman kidnapped from Gary, Indiana was found strangled near Detroit. (This sequence of events is a bit different in John Douglas's book, but the victims are the same.)

Coleman and Brown moved quickly, returning to Ohio, where in Cincinnati, they attacked a couple and stole their car. On the way, they raped and strangled another young girl and shot an elderly man to death, leaving him in a ditch.

Throughout this spree, these two assaulted and stole from people who survived and were able to describe their attackers. They were soon on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. Douglas did a fugitive profile and suspected that Coleman was indulging in a fantasy of sexual domination. "This is what made him feel good and gave him most satisfaction in life," Douglas declared. He predicted that Coleman would eventually return to the Chicago area, because that was the place with which he was most familiar.

An acquaintance brought this couple's run to an end by alerting the police in Evanston, Illinois. They had kidnapped, raped, and killed across six states, so they ended up being tried in several places. Coleman even subpoenaed Brown to appear at one of his trials and say that she had killed the victim. She agreed to say what he asked, and Douglas interviewed her in prison and found her to have a slave-like personality, passive and compliant. She appeared not to care what she had done.

They were convicted on many counts and sentenced to death in Ohio. Coleman received four death sentences and Brown two. However, Brown' sentence in Ohio, where she was detained, was commuted to life.

* * * *

Lawrence Bittaker arrest photo & Roy Norris prison ID photo
Lawrence Bittaker arrest photo & Roy Norris pri-
son ID photo

Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker met in prison and discovered a common taste for sadistic sexual torture. Once released, they bought a van in Los Angeles, which they dubbed "Murder Mac," and used it to troll for young female victims. They grabbed Cindy Schaeffer, 16, on June 24, 1979 and repeatedly raped her before strangling her with a coat hanger. The next one got an ice pick through the brain, and following that attack, the men tortured and killed two teenage girls together before dumping their bodies over a cliff. They killed another girl on Halloween and left her on someone's front lawn.

But one pick-up whom they raped but released turned them in. In custody, Norris confessed and implicated Bittaker as the ringleader. He showed the police where the bodies had been left.

Both men were charged with five counts of murder, along with an assortment of other crimes from rape to conspiracy. Norris got immunity from the death sentence for his testimony against Bittaker. Instead, he was sentenced to 45 years, while Bittaker went on California's death row to await execution.

* * * * *

David Alan Gore in prison
David Alan Gore in prison

David Alan Gore and Fred Waterfield, criminal cousins in Florida, took to hunting down women during the early 1980s for their violent sexual pleasure. Gore served as an auxiliary sheriff's deputy, which made their "hobby" much easier to pull off. Waterfield offered Gore $1,000 for each pretty girl he could bring back. He used his badge to get girls into his car, taking his first victim off a school bus and driving her home to get her mother, so he would have two. He raped them both, and when Waterfield arrived, he tied up the mother so tight that she choked to death. He then raped the teenager and murdered her, leaving Gore to get rid of the bodies.

Waterfield demanded a blonde and Gore complied by disabling Judith Daley's car and offering her a ride to a phone. They raped her, killed her, and then dumped her in a swamp for the alligators to feed on.

Their next victims were a pair of female hitchhikers, who were raped and then shot. The spree ended when someone phoned in a report that a naked man was chasing a naked woman, firing a gun. The police arrived at the suspect's house to find the body of a 17-year-old girl in the trunk of Gore's car. Gore surrendered and showed the officers to the attic. There they found a 14-year-old girl, still alive, bound to the rafters. She was a friend of the dead girl, and they had been hitchhiking together.

Gore quickly turned on his cousin, describing their criminal history in detail. Waterfield was caught, both of them were convicted of rape and murder, and Gore received a death sentence while Waterfield got two life sentences.

* * * * *

Douglas Edward Gretzler (AP/Wide World)
Douglas Edward Gretzler
(AP/Wide World)

Another team who chanced to meet while drifting aimlessly around the country were Doug Gretzler and William Luther Steelman. Willie was 28 and Doug 22 when they met. Steelman had once been committed to a mental institution, and when he met Gretzler, the stage was set for a spree unlike the Southwest had ever seen before.

It started on October 28, 1973, when the two men entered a house trailer in Mesa, Arizona and shot to death the adolescent couple who lived there. Then they traveled to Tucson and killed a young man, leaving his body in the desert before returning to the city to murder another couple in their apartment. As they left and drove into the desert, they found a man in a sleeping bag and killed him as well. In Phoenix, they grabbed two more young men, stripped and killed them, leaving their bodies in California.

Arizona authorities knew who they were looking for and quickly issued warrants.

On November 6, this spree-killing team hit again, but this time with nine victims all at once. They went to a house where an 18-year-old girl was baby-sitting Walter and Joanne Parkin's two children. The sitter's parents had dropped by, along with her brother and fiancÚ, and then the Parkins came home. The killers shot them all, leaving the Parkin couple in their bed and stuffing the rest of the bodies into a closet. Collectively, these nine people were shot 25 times.

Two days later, the killers were apprehended at a motel. Gretzler cracked, describing the other crimes and where all the bodies were. Convicted in trials in two states, they were sentenced to die in Arizona. Steelman died in prison. Gretzler was executed in 1998.

* * * * *

In Paris, between 1984 and 1987, two men preyed on elderly women. They were known as "the Monster of Monmartre." Their victims, ranging from 60 to 95 years of age, were often bound and beaten before they were murdered. One was forced to drink bleach. Another woman was stabbed 60 times.

Sketch of Jean-Thierry Mathurin in court
Sketch of Jean-Thierry Mathurin in
court

The "monster" turned out to be a 21-year-old, bleached-blond, black transvestite, Thierry Paulin, who often invited his 19-year-old lover, Jean-Thierry Mathurin, on his criminal escapades. They would follow elderly women home from the grocery and then jump them as they opened their doors. On his 24th birthday, now separated from Mathurin, Paulin attacked three older women. Two died but one survived to finger him. Upon his arrest, he confessed to 21 murders, naming Mathurin as a frequent accomplice. Mathurin was arrested and charged with nine counts of murder. He refused to even say Paulin's name, and both went to prison, where Paulin died of complications from AIDS in 1989.

As we've seen, teams can fall apart, and not all attempts to solicit team members for a criminal venture turn out well, either.

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