Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carroll Edward Cole

First Blood

Carroll Edward Cole was born at Sioux City, Iowa on May 9, 1938, the second son of LaVerne and Vesta Cole. A sister followed in 1939, before the family moved to Richmond, California, LaVerne seeking work in the local shipyards. Drafted to serve his country in World War II, LaVerne would be absent when his younger son's life took a sudden and bizarre turn for the worse.

One day in 1943, as Cole recalled, his mother took him with her to visit an unfamiliar apartment. There she met soldiers, engaging in drunken sex while Eddie waited in the squalid parlor with strangers. Afterward, at home, Vesta beat Eddie and twisted his arms, threatening worse if he ever revealed her transgression. The excursions were repeated, each capped with increasingly sadistic punishment, until his father returned home at war's end. According to school records, Vesta kept her whipping boy at home until age seven, when by law he should have entered first grade at six.

War's end and his father's return brought relief of a sort, but only by a matter of degree. Vesta still harassed and punished Eddie over the slightest infraction, and he had also begun to suffer at school. Playmates teased him mercilessly about his "girl's name," often leaving him in tears.

"The kids made quite a thing of taunting me," Cole later recalled. "I felt the animosity, withdrawing more and more into myself." One afternoon, hiding beneath the porch at home, Cole briefly "blacked out" and awoke to find he had strangled the family's puppy. Strangely relieved by the act of killing, he began to fantasize about killing his mother—or, for that matter, any female who crossed his path.

Despite those lethal daydreams, Cole's first murder victim would be male. The boy—"an ass from school named Duane"—was one of those who taunted Cole relentlessly about his name. One summer afternoon in 1946, Cole joined his brother and a group of other boys to go swimming at Richmond's yacht harbor. Duane was part of the group, and they had barely reached their destination when he resumed the tired old litany: "How does it feel to have a girl's name, Carroll?"

They were alone, with Cole in the water and Duane crouched on a nearby log, prepared to spring. He held his nose and jumped, Cole tracking his progress from a trail of bubbles, moving to intercept Duane. As Duane tried to surface, Cole clamped his legs around the other boy's neck, bracing his hands against the nearest log for leverage. "I held him under till I knew he was dead," Cole later wrote. "And when I let him go, he sank."

Authorities dismissed the drowning as an accident, though Cole spent several months in fear of imminent arrest. "I was afraid of the police—with reason, as I thought—but there was no remorse about Duane," Cole said. "I hated him, and I was glad I stood up for myself."

It was the first time, but it would not be the last.


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