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On the eve of his 58th birthday, just hours after telephone chatting farewell with his wife Primrose, Dr. Harold Shipman, Britain’s most prolific serial killer, cheated the hangman’s noose by committing suicide with bed sheets in his prison cell.
Over 23 years he killed 215 patients. Jane Gaskill, daughter of parent victims, said of the suicide, “He’s won again. He’s controlled us all the way, even to the last step. I hate, hate him for it.”
Dr. Shipman’s horrific tally is matched by Luis Alfredo Gravito Cubillos, convicted in 2002 of murdering 200 children ages 8 to 13 in Columbia, South America. His victims were tortured, decapitated. Sentence total: 2600 years (judicial overkill; 563 more to go).
Here’s tallies for some of America’s infamous serial killers: David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz (6 killings; 6 maimings; 1400 arsons); Richard “Night Stalker” Ramirez (20; 13 convictions); “Zodiac Killer,” identity still unknown 44 years later (6); John Wayne Gacy (33); Ted Bundy (35 to 60), Jeffery Dahmer (17, some ritual cannibalism).
The number of female serial killers compared to males is small. Harold Schecter’s “The Serial Killer Files” (Balantine Books) profiles 13 of history’s deadliest women, including Aileen Wuornos, subject of bio-flic “Monster,” starring Charlize Theron.
Wuornos, often dubbed “America’s first woman serial killer” — she wasn’t, by a century — was abandoned at six months by her mother, sexually abused as a child by her father (who later hanged himself after being caught molesting a girl).
Wuornos off’d seven truckers out for a mutual prostituting lark. At her 1992 trial her lesbian lover turned state’s evidence, testifying against her. She was executed in October 2002, becoming a feminist icon of sorts.
Serial killer memorabilia are coveted. Gacy’s paintings are pricey. (One collector buys his evil clowns to destroy them). Trading cards, comic books, T-shirts, snow globes, snapshots sell fast. All aptly named “murderabilia.”
Son of Sam’s letters written to “fans” bring $200 on e-Bay. “I know what a nightmare it is to see some of these things marketed,” he frets. “The sale of these things grieves my heart.”
Arrested in 1979, Berkowitz, now 65, professes to be born-again. “Son of Hope.” He’s not the only serial killer to be “washed in the blood of the Lamb,” as the old-time gospel hymn ghouls it. Saved for eternity with Jesus!
He’s joined by Jeffrey Dahmer — purportedly now serving out his sentence in Heaven — who repented of his ghoulish sins, accepted Jesus as his personal savior, only to be done in by a convict he was sharing a soap-on-a-rope prison shower with.
Although Gacy and Dahmer were gay, Wournos, a lesbian, the majority of serial killers are straight according to author Schecter. (Not that that’s consolation to the gay living or the straight dead.)
Bar stooling recently at an on-campus bistro, a student asked me off hand if I knew the name Mudgett. Said he was related. Jeopardy surprise! I did. Real last name of Dr. H. H. Holmes,”America’s first serial killer.” 100 to 200 murders.
(Herman Webster Mudgett. Studied medicine at U of M. Graduated 1884. Passed through Detroit in 1892. Murdered dozens in his horror hotel during Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition. Hanged 1896. His last request: burial under 16′ of concrete.)