Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Gallaudet Murders

The Devil's Hands

Testifying via an interpreter, Mesa claimed he'd been unable to stop himself from killing the other two boys. He'd had a devil on his shoulder urging him to get money and an angel urging him to resist the devil. This cartoonish rendition of "voices in my head" probably swayed few who heard it. In fact, theft is a far cry from murder, so if the "devil" was urging him to steal, that did not explain the rest of his actions.

Poster of The Undertaker
Poster of The Undertaker

Mesa further explained the nature of his experience. He said that a pair of hands, gloved in black leather, had signed to him the commands to commit the murders. "I felt as if they were more powerful than I am," he claimed. He identified the hands as those of a professional wrestler known as the Undertaker, but also said they had been signing to him since childhood. At their instigation, he once had used a baseball bat to bludgeon the family cat and her kittens until they were dead. The hands had shown him exactly how to kill both Eric and Benjamin. To fight the evil hands so he would be caught and not have to kill again, he went to a bank that he knew had a surveillance camera to cash Benjamin's check. But the hands had already directed him to kill both the lead prosecutor and himself.

At this revelation, Boasburg pointed out to Mesa that he had not obeyed the hands because he had not done what they asked.

"Not yet," was Mesa's quick reply.

In the end, his devil's hands defense did not prevail. Neither did the diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder. The jury deliberated only three hours and found him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. The boy once named by classmates "Most Likely to be Rich" was going to spend the rest of his life in prison. He showed no expression as he heard his fate via an interpreter. His family was absent, having received notification too late to get to the courtroom. In July, Mesa was sentenced to life without parole. Bond said he would appeal, based on the fact that Mesa had not understood his rights when he gave the confession. In addition, it was not clear that police interpreters had accurately communicated their questions to Mesa. That appeal is pending.

After the trial, Eric's father commented that it was the "right verdict," and Benjamin's mother said that while she was happy with this resolution, it did little to alleviate the pain of her loss.

Thomas Minch filed a lawsuit for false arrest and defamation of character.

Cogswell Hall was converted from a dorm into a general use building. A memorial was set up to honor the victims. The incident inspired an episode on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, in which the world of the deaf was explored.

Poster. CSI Crime Scene Investigation
Poster. CSI Crime Scene Investigation

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