What was behind the crimes of Robert Lee Bennett Jr.? Because he was frequently described as a gay basher, his attacks were assumed to be the result of a homophobic homosexuals hatred for his own preferences directed outward.
For several years, Bennett denied that he was gay. However, he eventually admitted to being gay, Notte said. Was he, as most people naturally suppose, a homophobic homosexual? Notte was not able to say with certainty. He never expressed any homophobic sentiments to me, the attorney related.
But the gay-basher label is incomplete. As far as is known, Bennett never sought out homosexuals per se, but men he thought were selling gay sexual services. Similar crimes occur in the heterosexual community. Ted Bundy murdered young women. Joel Rifkin murdered female prostitutes.
Of course, there are strategic reasons why someone bent on robbery, rape or other violence might target prostitutes of either sex. They are easy prey, being approachable and accustomed to odd requests. Being paid to drink does not set off an alarm in someone who may, as one hustler recalled, have been paid to urinate into a jar by a fetishist. Since prostitution is illegal, its perpetrators are less likely to report crimes against themselves to the authorities. All of these may have been factors in the Handcuff Mans choice of targets.
One of the victims, Michael Jordan, commented, I feel sorry for this guy. I dont feel sorry for him in some ways but I feel sorry for him because I dont understand why he would do something like this. Its got to be something that [is] hurting him inside so bad or something.
Bennett was not insane. The office of his attorney, Guy Notte, had a team of psychiatrists in Florida examine him. He was completely sane, Notte recalled. He knew right from wrong. He had a behavioral disorder. Thats an understatement.
He is known to have suffered from chronic impotence, which may have been a factor in his burning the genitals of male prostitutes. If you can do something I want to do and cant, Notte speculated, I might want to destroy your ability to do it.
While the Handcuff Mans sexual dysfunction may explain his choice of victims, it does not explain his barbaric cruelty. After all, there are millions of men who suffer from impotence, and very few of them become violent.
Could sexual sadism have been behind his crimes? There is no evidence that Bennett reached an orgasm while he was torturing his victims. Still, it cannot be ruled out, since his victims were usually unconscious. It is possible that, like a minority of other sex offenders who are described as generally impotent in non-violent situations, Bennett could only get erections or climaxes through criminal acts.
A contempt for those who sell sexual services is common in our culture. After all, prostitution is a criminal offense and whore a common term of derision. That feeling might have become an exaggerated and obsessive fixation for Bennett.
He is not known to have expressed remorse for his crimes or any concern for the damage done to his victims. Gary Clapp, who saw Bennett in the Tampa courtroom during his plea, said, I dont think hell ever feel sorry for anything hes done. This guys a sick puppy.
Notte described Bennett as, very cold and clinical. He never would in so many words admit doing these things although he pled guilty.
Once during his imprisonment, in 1997, Bennett got a disciplinary write-up for disorderly conduct. Other than that, he appears to have been inoffensive as a prisoner. He did, however, break with Notte. Bennett attempted to bring an ineffective assistance of counsel claim against the lawyer because, according to Notte, he believed that we had told him he would get out in two or three years. No attorney would take Bennetts case but he did find a lawyer who filed a suit against Notte to get Bennetts fee back.
That lawsuit was still pending when Bennett died of a stroke on April Fools Day 1998. He took the reasons for his hatred of male prostitutes, and the genesis of his extraordinary cruelty, with him to his grave.