Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carroll Edward Cole

'Not Mentally Ill'

The thrill derived from murder is a temporary fix. Like any other powerful narcotic, homicidal violence satisfies the senses for a time, but the effect soon fades. And when it does, a predator goes hunting.

"If I thought my life was going to improve," Cole said, of killing Duane, "I was sadly mistaken. Neither at home or at school. I was getting meaner and meaner, fighting all the time in a way to hurt or maim, and my thoughts were not the ideas of an innocent child, believe me."

Cole masked his morbid fantasies to a degree, in elementary school and junior high, but they began to take a toll. An IQ test administered in February 1953 ranked Cole at the "genius" level of 152, but his grades scraped along that semester at a D+ average. By high school he was burglarizing liquor stores and drinking heavily, finally dropping out entirely in the middle of his junior year.

Cole worked briefly at a Richmond factory, then joined the Navy in February 1957. Drinking and theft of government property sent him to the brig, but it was a San Diego arrest on suspicion of burglary and auto theft that finally got Cole discharged on October 4, 1958. For reasons even he could not explain, Cole returned to his parents' home in Richmond and endured a new round of abuse from his mother, rubbing his nose in the latest abject failure.

Cole remained with the family, working odd jobs and logging various minor arrests, until June 1, 1960. That night, prowling a local lover's lane, he approached two couples in a parked car and attacked them with a hammer. Convicted of assault with a deadly weapon on June 28, he was sentenced to 30 days on the county work farm.

The Manor House at Napa State Hospital
The Manor House at Napa State

In January 1961 Cole flagged down a Richmond police car and told the patrolmen of his urge to rape and strangle women. Several phone calls later, the officers suggested voluntary self-committal to a mental hospital. Cole entered Napa State Hospital on February 2, 1961, for 90 days' observation and treatment. He wanted help, but dared not mention Duane's murder and could not bring himself to discuss Vesta's cruelty. Reports from Napa record Cole's fantasy of a "happy childhood," noting that he "talk[ed] about both of his parents in rather glowing terms." Vesta confirmed the lie when she was interviewed by Dr. R.C. Hitchen. Another psychiatrist, Dr. L.M. Jones, described the final meeting where staff members discussed Cole's case:

It was felt by some that he was a possible sexual psychopath, potentially dangerous to the community. Staff made a diagnosis of Anti-Social Sociopathic Personality Disturbance on March 21st and recommended that he be discharged, Not Suitable, Not Mentally Ill and recommended that he apply for outside psychiatric treatment or voluntary admission to Atascadero State Hospital because of his sadistic, abnormal sexual tendencies.

Napa staffers released Cole on March 25, 1961. While serving a six-month sentence for auto theft, that July, Cole repeated his plea for psychiatric help. Judge Raymond Coughlin signed the committal order on October 6 and Cole entered Atascadero State Hospital 10 days later. Doctors there found his test results "very puzzling and contradictory." Dr. Irwin Hart diagnosed Cole as "a very passive-dependent person with a façade of independence, and confusion concerning sexual identification." Cole was transferred to Stockton State Hospital for further testing and treatment on September 12, 1962. There, Dr. I.I. Weiss noted that "He seems to be afraid of the female figure and cannot have intercourse with her first but must kill her before he can do it." Weiss diagnosed Cole's condition as a "schizophrenic reaction, chronic undifferentiated type"—and released him on April 19, 1963 with an "indefinite leave of absence to self."

Upon his release, Cole noted that his family "was solicitous, to some extent, but they were really wishing I was elsewhere." Brother Richard had moved to Dallas with his wife, and Texas was suggested for a change of scene. LaVerne bought the bus ticket in May 1963 and Eddie headed south.