Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Bruce Ross: Staring Death in the Face

Sexual Sadism

The earliest account of Michael's purported mental illness began when he was a little boy. James quoted Karen Clarke who wrote in a 1992 Police magazine article saying that, "as a little boy, he had fantasies about women — about bringing them to a special underground place, hiding them and keeping them to love him." She was further quoted as saying that "as a teenager, he molested several little neighborhood girls... as an adult his fantasies grew more sexual and progressively more violent." Some believe that Michael's anger towards his mother was one of the primary contributors to his aggressive feelings towards women. However, it has also been suggested that his violent behavior was actually due to a hormonal imbalance in the brain. What is most likely is that it was a combination of both factors.

Michael Ross 1998 prison ID
Michael Ross 1998 prison ID

In his writings from jail, Michael often described his violent sexual urges as a separate uncontrollable entity that would suddenly take him over without warning and propel him to do things he knew that were wrong. He wrote in a 1998 article titled "It's Time for Me to Die: An Inside Look at Death Row," that his urges were like "living with an obnoxious roommate" that he could not escape because it was always present. He further stated that he would often get "orgasmic pleasure" from his fantasies and acting them out, yet he would also be "disgusted later by the exact same thoughts." After relieving himself from his fantasies he said he "felt such a sense of loathing and self hatred" that he often longed for death to liberate him from his mental torture.

A vast majority of the psychiatrists who treated Michael diagnosed him with the paraphiliac disorder known as "sexual sadism." In his book The Psychopathic Mind: Origins, Dynamics and Treatment, Dr. J. Reid Meloy described sexual sadism as "the conscious experience of pleasurable sexual arousal through the infliction of physical or emotional pain," which is characteristic in most sexual psychopaths. His psychiatrists made several attempts to reduce Michael's "repetitive thoughts, urges and fantasies of the degradation, rape and murder of women," which he claimed he couldn't get out of his head. Michael said that the female contraceptives Depo-Provera provided some relief of his symptoms in that they helped to reduce his testosterone levels to "below prepubescent levels," further leading to a significant reduction in his violent urges and fantasies.

However, the relief was temporary. Michael developed liver problems as a direct result of the hormones and had to discontinue using his medication. Soon afterwards, he complained that the violent sexual urges re-emerged. A little more than a year later, Michael was given an alternative form of female contraception, which allowed him to regain control over his sadistic impulses to attack women.

The medication purportedly allowed Michael the clarity to grasp the full extent of his horrific crimes. Even though he claimed that he could sparsely remember the details of the murders he did begin to realize some of the agony he caused the families of his victims. He claimed in his article that he was haunted by their pain but knew that there was nothing he could do to absolve what he did. Consequently, Michael decided to put himself and the families of his victims out of their prolonged state of misery by volunteering for execution. His controversial decision would be met with mixed reactions ranging from anger to relief and cause a temporary upheaval in the system that was unaccustomed to prisoners seeking a state assisted suicide.


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