Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Gallaudet Murders

Criminal Enterprise

As part of the case against Mesa, the prosecutors presented the post-arrest videotaped confession, which made it disturbingly clear that Mesa had targeted Eric Plunkett because he had cerebral palsy. He had figured the boy would be weak. Not only that, he was also open with his belongings and his space, so Mesa had practiced going into Eric Plunkett's room to see if he could sneak in without being noticed. Then he did go in one night. From behind, he grabbed Eric in a choke hold and squeezed until he fell to the floor. Mesa then used a chair to beat him repeatedly until it was clear he was dead. Then Mesa rifled through the unlocked desk drawers to find the debit card. He went out the next day to use it to purchase some items for himself and his girlfriend.

Not long after this, Mesa considered killing his roommate, but changed his mind when he thought it would too obviously point the finger at him, and looked for someone else. He did steal the roommate's credit card.

After Christmas, Mesa was running out of money. When he noticed that Benjamin Varner lived alone on the fourth floor and learned he had money, Mesa next targeted Benjamin. Since he was larger than Eric had been, this time Mesa armed himself with a knife. Benjamin put up a fierce struggle, during which Mesa stabbed him seventeen times, escaping the room in such haste after Benjamin died that he left a few incriminating items behind, including the knife.

Mesa sweated it out but when he did not hear any mention of Benjamin's death the next day, he decided to return to the room to grab his possessions and Benjamin's checkbook. He put his bloody jacket and the knife into a bag and dumped them into a trash bin, but he failed to spot or clean up the blood trail he'd left. He also neglected to wipe down surfaces where he'd left a few fingerprints. Thus, he was caught. Nevertheless, he claimed on tape that he had confessed out of guilt and to allow the school community some peace of mind. He probably thought his "generous" impulse would count in his favor. According to one reporter, throughout the confession, Mesa alternated between being disturbed by his actions and being indifferent. At the end, he even placed a fast-food order.

Three psychiatrists who'd examined Mesa for the prosecution found him to be depressed and antisocial but sane and malingering faking a mental illness but defense experts said that Mesa suffered from a rare condition known as Intermittent Explosive Disorder, and thus he could not control his actions.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder: an impulse control disorder in which a person fails to resist aggressive impulses that are out of proportion to the provoking situation. The person often describes the episode as being precipitated by significant tension or rage; their thoughts race, their body tingles or tightens, they feel overwhelmed by the need to act out. Once they do, the episode results in a sharp decline in arousal and a feeling of relief.

The experts also talked about Mesa's childhood difficulties with a father who had beaten him over his inability to communicate. The result was that he would fly into uncontrollable fits of rage and do terrible things. He felt distant from his family and unloved. (His father told reporters that he had not understood the effect of his behavior on his son it was just the way children were raised in Guam. He had not known any better.)

Yet Mesa was not about to let the experts speak for him. He had his own card to play, and to do so, he took the stand in his own defense.