Speech-Language Pathology/Stuttering/Famous People Who Stutter/Serial Killers and Murder-Suicides

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David Carpenter[edit]

After examining a series of killings near San Francisco area hiking trails in 1979, FBI psychological profiler John Douglas concluded that the Trailside Killer was a stutterer.

Most serial killers approach their victims in a social situation and talk the victims into getting in a car, such as picking up hitchhikers. But the Trailside Killer attacked women hiking alone. The Trailside Killer used a "blitz" attack to overpower and dominate his victims, suggesting that he was "someone with some condition he felt awkward or ashamed about" who overpowered and controlled women as "his way of overcoming this handicap." But the power of the attack ruled out a physically disabled killer. A "very homely" or disfigured individual would have been remembered by witnesses. Douglas concluded that stuttering can make a strong man feel powerless, and was something the killer "could easily feel ashamed of or uncomfortable with…yet wouldn't 'stand out' in a crowd. No one would know about it until he opened his mouth, took off his hat, and picked his afro. "

One victim was a high school student working part-time at a bank. She had been "kind and sweet…to a regular customer with a severe stutter"—who had an incarceration record for sex crimes. 50-year-old industrial arts teacher David Carpenter was investigated and convicted of murdering eight women.

Robert Hansen[edit]

In 1983, a seventeen-year-old prostitute in Anchorage, Alaska told a fantastic story to police. A man had handcuffed her, taken her home, and raped and brutalized her. Then he took her to his private airplane, telling her they were going to his remote cabin. She escaped and ran to the police.

Robert Hansen was in his mid-forties, married with two children, and manager of a successful bakery. He owned an expensive home, as well as an airplane and a mountain cabin. He was "short and slight, heavily pockmarked, and spoke with a severe stutter. [The FBI profiler] surmised that he had had severe skin problems as a teenager and, between that and the speech impediment, was probably teased or shunned by his [childhood] peers, particularly girls. So his self-esteem would have been low. That might have [explained] why he moved to Alaska [from Iowa, when he was 25] —the idea of a new start in a new frontier."

Hansen was also a "proficient hunter" with a "well-outfitted trophy room where he watched television, full of animal heads, walrus tusks, horns and antlers, mounted birds, and skins on the floor." Under attic floorboards was another "trophy room": a hunting rifle matching bullets that had killed four prostitutes, as well as "various items of cheap jewelry belonging to the victims…a drivers license and other ID cards from some of the dead women…[and] an aviation map marked with where he had left various bodies." Other jewelry "trophies" he had given to his wife and daughter.[1]

John O'Brien[edit]

Two murder/suicides strangely echoed each other. In 1993, John O'Brien asked members of his stuttering self-help group where the heart is located in a person's chest. The next day he brought a handgun to the New York subway equipment facility where he worked. He shot a co-worker in the head, killing him instantly, and then shot his supervisor in the chest, leg, abdomen, and back. The supervisor lived. O'Brien then killed himself with a shot to his heart.

O'Brien stuttered severely. He had been denied a promotion because of his speech, but co-workers didn't know whether his victims had ridiculed him. Friends described O'Brien as "an unbelievably nice guy," "quiet," who "never bothered anyone."[2]

Pierre Lebrun[edit]

In 1999, Pierre Lebrun brought a high-powered hunting rifle to the Ottawa, Canada, city bus transit complex machine shop where he worked. He killed four co-workers and then killed himself. A suicide note listed many more co-workers that he disliked, and his pockets were full of live ammunition, leading police to speculate that his gun jammed and prevented more killings.

Lebrun stuttered mildly. Lebrun's mother reported, "He said a group of people were harassing him—not only one person, but a group of people. That's why he killed, that's why he went there—to kill the people who harassed him."

Lebrun's cousin recalled teasing in school. "That was the only thing that bothered him. It didn't bother him that he had the stutter; it bothered him that people would bug him about it."[3] Lebrun had completed a four-month speech therapy program two years earlier. He was described as "a really nice guy," "friendly," and "quiet and well-mannered."[4]

  1. ^ Douglas, John. Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. New York: Scribner, 1995.
  2. ^ Laboy, Julio. Newsday, September 12, 1993.
  3. ^ Ottawa Citizen, May 3, 1999.
  4. ^ Reuters, Sun Media; April 7-9, 1999.