Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Fetish Killer

Context

Book cover: Serial Killers: Method & Madness
Book cover: Serial Killers: Method & Madness

Peter Vronsky reported in Serial Killers that on the next afternoon, a 15-year-old girl in Salem, Oregon, complained about a large man with freckles attempting to force her into a sports car. The incidents seemed related but provided no real leads. There were no witnesses and the man described in both cases had left no trail. Investigators did not realize they were in the midst of a serial murder investigation.

   It was a difficult time, with unrest across the country. In 1968, America had been stung by the assassination of presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy, the insolence of the Chicago Seven at the Democratic Convention, and the violence on college campuses over the Vietnam War. A whole subculture experimented with drugs and the occult. And the country was about to see many more serial killers.

Book cover: The Lust Killer
Book cover: The Lust Killer

The account of this series of murders is offered in several encyclopedic works, notably those by Vronsky, Michael Newton and Harold Schechter, but all owe a debt to Ann Rule, who first collected the articles and did interviews for her book, The Lust Killer. She had seen success with her memoir about serial killer Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me, and she'd been writing articles under the pseudonym, Andy Stack. Her literary agent advised her to continue with her pseudonym for the next three books. "When those came out, The Stranger Beside Me was doing very well," Rule explained, "so my agent said that these books got such small advances I should not put my name on them. I stayed with 'Andy Stack,' but after a while I put them under my real name."

Rule indicates in The Lust Killer that her purpose in writing such a book was to "add to the psychiatric research that may one day to treat aberrant minds before they explode into violence." Her feeling is that the more we learn about such offenders, the better our chances for stopping them. At the time of the incidents described here, little was known about truly deviant serial crime. Albert DeSalvo, alleged to be the Boston Strangler, had been interrogated four years earlier; Charles Schmidt, killer of three girls in Tucson, had been apprehended. A murder spree was occurring simultaneously in Michigan with eight dead students, and California was about to witness the Manson massacres and the Zodiac's deadly spree.

But Oregon had not yet experienced any such crimes. It would take a while before investigators understood that they were looking for a serial predator. Even then, they would not fully understand the sort of monstrous urges that drove him. On the day they questioned Sharon Wood, three women were already dead.

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