Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Craigslist killer and Alabama shooter


Phillip Markoff, the "Craigslist Killer" still has his fiance by his side, who sounds too typical of a suspected killer's loved ones who are still in shock. She says "he couldn't have done this" and that this is "not the man I know." It never is. If Markoff is the Craigslist killer, he's hardly the first to duck under the cover of a "normal" life to cover his deviant desires. No one suspected devoted family man and Boy Scout troop leader Dennis Rader of being Wichita's feared BTK killer, or attractive law student Ted Bundy of murdering 30-plus women, but both turned out to be true. With surveillance video showing Markoff leaving the scene of the murder and an earlier robbery, a victim also contacted on Craigslist, and items belonging to the victims found in his apartment, there is a strong case against Markoff as another Jekyll/Hyde killer, despite the understandable reluctance of his loved ones to believe it.
Phillip Markoff is the one at fault here, not Craiglist. Even though the site offers services that some may find distasteful, not all people who use the service turn out to be murderers. Just because many serial killers target prostitutes does not mean that prostitution is the cause of serial murder; killers target prostitutes because, unlike other women walking down the street, prostitutes are willing to get into a stranger's car. There are no men who suddenly become murderers because they see a prostitute on the street or an ad for erotic services on Craigslist. Markoff, if he is the Craigslist Killer, was intently looking for victims, and thought Craigslist would be a good place to find them. While this should make people who advertise on Craigslist more cautious, it should not place the blame on the site itself.
Markoff is not the first killer to look for victims through personal ads. The "Want-Ad Killer" got his name because he targeted his first victim by placing an ad for an employee at his gas station. The "Lonely Hearts Killers," or "Honeymoon Killers," found victims through the dating mail-order services popular among aging singles in the 1950s. Albert Fish found his last victim, Grace Budd, after placing a help wanted ad for a farm he didn't have, but took the applicant's sister after her 18-year-old brother, who answered the ad, turned out to be far too strong and adult for the aging sadist and pedophile's tastes.


The man who killed 10 on a shooting spree in Alabama last month, starting with his mother, before setting her house on fire, sent a letter to relatives explaining his crime. It seemed like another case of a down on his luck, angry young man who thought he could restore some kind of balance to the universe through murder, except for one factor. In his letter, he said his mother had cancer, which was not found in the autopsy. His mother had recently been laid off, and in his letter, he says he wanted to make people pay for how he and his mother had suffered. Why this involved killing his mother and burning her corpse, I can't say. The mental processes of these offenders are never easy to navigate. He had also trained to be a Marine, but was discharged from basic training after failing to mention on his application that he had chronic shoulder displacements. His commanding officer also said that he "didn't seem too bright." Unlike the more sophisticated serial killers, who can go for years without getting caught or even suspected, the mass murderer, who commits his crimes out in the open with only self-destruction and the destruction of others on his mind, appears to be on the lower end of the mental spectrum of the criminal.

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