Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bones to Talk With

Shocking Discovery

A hiker walking through the woods came across a scuffed and rusty red cooler.  Opening it, he was shocked to find the decapitated skeletonized heads of several dozen animals -- 31 in all.  With them, bagged in plastic, were four red and yellow spiral notebooks full of handwriting.  In crooked, evil-appearing script, they were labeled "The Slayer Book of Death." Volumes 1-4, "The thoughts of Jason Massey."  The hiker knew enough about the case to realize that this was an important piece of evidence, so he called the police.

Jason Massey's trophy cooler
Jason Massey's trophy cooler

The journal entries began in 1989 and ended in 1993, the month in which the kids had been murdered.  Inside, among other things, Massey described the episode in which he had killed the dog of a seventh-grade girl (probably Anita Mendoza), smearing the blood on her car.  He'd never been arrested for it, but now it was clear that he had done it.  His other desires directly reflected the precise acts committed against Christina Benjamin.  It was like a signature.  Personality determines behavior, and one's fantasies will likely match one's actions.

After reading them, there was no doubt among the prosecutors about how thoroughly obsessed Massey had been for years with murder and torture.  He wanted to become a "murder machine."

On October 6, 1994, while the prosecution team was going through the journals for the next phase of the trial, the jury took just three hours to convict Jason Eric Massey of both murders.  (Some sources say one count, some say two, and Massey's appeals claimed that it was only one and he rails against those people who believed mistakenly that it was two.  Cox's book suggests that it was one, but the trial took the jury through the double murder, piece by piece, never emphasizing only one victim.)

Before the penalty phase was to begin the next day, Strange's staff copied over five hundred pages from Massey's death journals.  Then they prepared a statement to get the jury ready for what they were about to see and hear.

First, there was the opening of the cooler, which gave forth a terrible stench, and the removal of several of the skulls.  This cooler had been discussed earlier in the trial, because Massey's acquaintances knew about it, and now here it was.  The man who had found them, who had once been a neighbor to the defendant, acknowledged in court that he had made this discovery.

Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas

Then Paul Demomio, the young man who had made the anonymous call during the early stages of the investigation, came forward to talk about his experience with Jason Massey.  They had taken drugs together and talked about raping girls.  He had killed animals with Massey and even assisted in an armed robbery.  He was now a student getting counseling and living a good Christian life.  When he had heard about the murders, he had called to tell the police to look for Jason Massey.  He also identified Massey's handwriting in the Slayer Books of Death.  It was the road he had been on (and Massey had even considered him to be a killing partner like Henry Lee Lucas had), but family and friends had turned him around.

Then Dr. Dekleva identified what he knew of the journals, since he had read two of them.  He believed that Massey was not a good candidate for rehabilitation.  Dr. Clay Griffith, a forensic psychiatrist who had read through the journals, letters, and Dr. Dekleva's report, concurred.  He said that Massey's form of antisocial personality was too severe to ever successfully treat and would probably not diminish with age.  He would always be a danger.  An FBI profiler took the stand to say the same thing.

Then came the journal entries, which detailed Massey's intent to become a famous killer.  In these pages, it was clear that Massey had picked out one young girl after another, all between the ages of ten and thirteen, to be his "first."  He had claimed undying love for them and the need to possess them, which he could only do if he killed them.  Christina Benjamin had been just one of many, and Massey had apparently been responding to some inner demon that reacted badly when girls rejected him.  They had to die.

It was also clear that he was determined to do what he claimed he would do, because that was the way to "be a man," and he needed to be the best at whatever he set out to do.  Apparently, he had attempted murder before but had failed at it.  That had not sat well with him.  In part, this was related to his hatred toward his mother and his desire to kill her.  In part it seemed to be influenced by a grandmother who insisted that he had to "make his mark."  Ultimately, his violence welled up from the feeling that "the Master" -- Satan -- was watching him at all times.  He wanted to do something significant, like an all-out massacre.  He worried that if he did not act soon, God would come and take his girls away from him.

The defense, somewhat unprepared for this blow to their case, nevertheless managed to use the journals to some benefit, showing passages where Massey described being lonely, having doubts, and wanting to turn away from all this and be good.  He had described being sexually abused by a babysitter when he was around five and being hit by a father who'd left him and his mother when he was two.  Hartley hoped he could drum up a little sympathy.

He also put Jason's sister on the stand to describe their difficult lives as children, but this backfired when the prosecution got her to say that despite all that, she had been able to live an upstanding life.

The prosecutors relied on Massey's own words from his journal to prove the aggravating circumstances that would show a depraved mind.  Massey had kept track of his animal abuse, killing 41 cats, 32 dogs and seven cows, removing their heads to keep with him to remind him of his violence.  The evidence was right there in the courtroom.

It was clear that had he not been stopped in July 1993, he would have killed again.  His greatest ambition, he wrote in these books, was to become America's most famous serial killer. "My goal is 700 people in twenty years."  (Some sources put that number at 1,000.)

After only fifteen minutes on October 12, 1994, the jury decided on the death penalty.  Before sending him to Death Row in Huntsville, the judge told Massey that his death would be "more humane" than the deaths he had inflicted on his victims.

On his way to Death Row, Massey said that he had placed Christina's head and hands in a pillowcase with her clothes and thrown them into the Trinity River.  No one believed him because it was inconsistent with his previous behavior with animals.  He liked his trophies.  They figured he had buried these objects in the woods somewhere.

Massey was surprised to have been convicted at all, and he was not about to just give up.

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