Antonio Barbeau & Nathan Paape: Antonio wanted a quick score. He figured that his 76-year-old great-grandmother was an easy enough target.
Justin Robinson: A terrible murder in a small town, committed for the most flippant of reasons. The teenage killer wanted a little girl’s bicycle.
Aza Vidinhar: An argument over the TV remote results in the brutal slaughter of two boys, aged 10 and 4. The killer is their teen brother.
Samuel Vonachen: A woman and child are killed in a house fire. The police reckon it’s arson. The identity of the firestarter will leave everyone stunned.
Nathaniel Jouett: Angry at the world, a nerdy high school sophomore decides to take out his frustrations on the patrons of a local library.
Eldon Samuel: Eldon Sr. had trained his sons to take care of themselves, to survive any catastrophe. What happens when they start seeing him as a threat?
Matthew Fischer: A petty disagreement quickly escalates to angry text messages. Then it gets more serious. Knives are involved.
Killer Kids Volume 12
On the night of July 4, 1994, 14-year-old Chris Steiner went missing from his home in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Chris had been due to start work at his first paying job that morning and had been excited at the prospect of earning his own money. But when his father went to wake him at 6:15, he found Chris’s bed empty. Confused, George Steiner made a quick search of the house. What he found was troubling. The screen of a ground-floor window had been cut. There were muddy footprints tracking through the house. A patio door was unlocked. George ran to the phone and called the police.
Despite the evidence, though, Baraboo’s finest were far from convinced that a crime had occurred. Perhaps Chris had snuck out to meet a girl, they suggested. The boy’s parents said no. He had been keen to start his new job and would not have missed his first day. They were even more vociferous in their rebuttal of the next suggestion the cops offered. Chris had not run away, they insisted. He was a happy, well-adjusted kid with no reason at all to do something like that. The officers suggested that they wait anyway. They were sure that Chris would show up under his own steam.
But Chris did not show up that day, nor the next. The police belatedly launched a search, but Chris would be missing for nearly a week before the mystery of his disappearance was resolved. The teenager’s badly decomposed body was found on July 10, caught up in the branches of a partially submerged tree on a sandbar in the Wisconsin River. An autopsy ruled that he had drowned. With no obvious signs of trauma to the corpse, it was impossible to say if foul play was involved. The death was categorized as ‘undetermined’. That meant that the police expended little effort in finding a perpetrator.
A year passed. In the early morning hours of July 29, 1995, 13-year-old Thad Phillips was asleep in the living room of his home in Baraboo, when he felt himself lifted from the couch. Groggy with sleep, he assumed that it was one of his parents, carrying him to bed. However, when Thad opened his eyes a few moments later, he realized that he was no longer inside the house. He was out on the lawn and the person carrying him was an unfamiliar, older teen. The boy seemed friendly. He lowered Thad gently to the ground and then asked if he wanted to jog with him to his house. Half-asleep and befuddled, Thad agreed.
Thus began a waking nightmare that Thad Phillips will remember for as long as he lives. At the boy’s filthy hovel of a house, he introduced himself as “Joe” and said that he was throwing a party and that his friends would soon be arriving. Some of the boys he named were familiar to Thad. Then he asked if Thad wanted to check out the model car collection that he kept in his room. Thad said yes and followed him upstairs. It was here, inside the bedroom, that Joe’s demeanor changed. The smile was gone, replaced by a blank, cold-eyed expression. Without warning, he grabbed Thad by his shirtfront, threw him onto the bed and pinned him down. Then he gained a grip on Thad’s ankle and started twisting, bending the joint to an impossible angle. A loud snap reverberated across the room as the bone splintered.
Oddly, Thad felt little pain. That would come later. Right now, his overwhelming need was to get away. But that was easier said than done. Thad was a slight boy, weighing in at just 90 pounds. His attacker was bigger, heavier, stronger. Still, the adrenalin pumping through Thad’s veins gave him strength. He pushed Joe aside, got himself up from the bed, and started hobbling towards the door. He’d made only a few steps when Joe tackled him to the ground.
Now Joe was angry. Punches rained down on the boy. Kicks were landed. Eventually, Thad lay curled into a fetal position on the floor, arms thrown over his face for protection. Then Joe hoisted him to his feet, threw him over his shoulder, and carried him back downstairs. Now that he had subdued his victim, he was sweetness again, gently positioning Thad on the couch. Then he started talking about trivialities, as though nothing had happened.
Thad, though, wasn’t going to let his captor change the subject. He begged Joe to release him, promising that he would say nothing and would explain away his injuries by saying that he’d tripped over a table. “No one will believe you,” Joe told him. Then Thad tried another tack, reasoning with Joe, asking what he’d done wrong, asking why Joe wanted to hurt him. “I just love hearing the sound of bones snapping,” was Joe’s chilling reply. Then he suggested that they watch a movie.
If he hadn’t known it before, Thad Phillips knew now. He was in a perilous situation, a battle to survive. Joe was clearly a sadist and would continue hurting him until it no longer amused him. Thad did not even want to contemplate what came after that. As if to confirm these fears, Joe admitted that Thad wasn’t the first. He’d hurt other boys in the past and one of them had died.
Over the hours and days that followed, Thad would continue to suffer at the hands of his captor. The torture sessions often started when Joe became frustrated at something. Like when his car wouldn’t start, and he came in and twisted Thad’s legs until the bones snapped. Another time, he dislocated the boy’s knees. On another occasion, he jumped on his chest. He also once placed a pillow over Thad’s face, holding it there until the boy began to think that this was it, that he was about to die.
By now in constant agony, weakened by lack of food and loss of blood, Thad Phillips was fading fast. Unless he did something, unless he made some effort to get away, he was going to die right here in this hovel. But how does one escape on legs that are incapable of carrying you? By will and determination and superhuman resilience is the answer. Thirteen-year-old Thad Phillips possessed these qualities in spades.
One time, when Joe went out to visit his girlfriend, Thad pulled himself downstairs, grimacing at every bump on the way down, yet somehow managing not to scream. Unfortunately, Joe returned with the girl before Thad could get out of the house. The two of them sat canoodling on the couch while Thad lay hidden just a few yards away. The escape attempt would earn him a dislocated hip when Joe found him, after the girl had left. Henceforth, he’d be locked in a closet when his captor went out.
Yet even this would not foil the determined youngster. Inside the cupboard was an old electric guitar. Thad used this to force open the door. Then he again endured the agony of traversing the stairs to the ground floor. Several times, during that excruciating journey, he passed out from the pain. Each time he opened his eyes terrified that he’d find Joe scowling down at him. But Joe still hadn’t returned and so Thad dragged himself through the house, to the kitchen, where he had noticed a phone fixed to the wall. One last, superhuman effort was required to haul himself to his feet, leaning hard on a kitchen cabinet. The phone was in his hand. He was punching in the numbers. 9-1-1. The voice on the other end of the line sounded like an angel sent by God.
Thad Phillips had been held captive for 43 hours. During that time, he had sustained fractures to both legs, a dislocated hip, and dislocations to both kneecaps. There were also other injuries, including cracked ribs. Thad could not have survived this mistreatment for much longer. But for his bravery and will to live, he would undoubtedly have become Joe’s second victim. As it was, he would have to endure several surgeries to repair the damage inflicted on him. Despite those procedures, he will always walk with a limp.
“Joe” turned out to be Joe Clark, a 17-year-old miscreant who lived with his mother and older brother. Neither of them was home during the time that he held Thad Phillips captive. But this was no one-off for Clark, no casual undertaking. When police officers searched his house, they found a macabre list on which he’d written the names of 29 local boys. They were arranged into three columns headed, “Can Wait,” “Get to Now,” and “The Leg Thing.” Thad Phillips, it seems, had not only saved his own life but others too.
Joe Clark was originally charged with kidnapping, attempted murder, mayhem, causing bodily harm to a child, causing mental harm to a child, and child enticement. However, once Thad told the police that Clark had admitted killing another child, they cast the net wider. Who was the victim that Clark was referring to? One obvious candidate was Chris Steiner.
The Steiner case had never been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction, least of all the dead boy’s parents. Now his body was exhumed and subjected to a second autopsy. The results left investigators stunned. During the original examination the corpse had been severely bloated, hiding the child’s internal injuries. The body had not been x-rayed at the time. Now it was and revealed that Chris had suffered near identical injuries to Thad Phillips. Joe Clark had just landed himself a charge of first-degree murder.
Yet, even with the overwhelming evidence against him, Joe Clark denied culpability. He admitted taking Thad from his home but insisted that it was just to “hang out.” As for the injuries the boy had sustained, Clark claimed that he’d blacked out and could remember nothing. He denied involvement in Chris Steiner’s death entirely and was backed up by his mother who said that her son, “never left the house after dark.” This was contradicted by several prosecution witnesses and rejected by the jury, who found Joe Clark guilty as charged.
The sentence for the abduction and torture of Thad Phillips was 100 years. For the murder of Chris Steiner, it was life in prison plus 50 years. Joe Clark, who is unquestionably a serial killer in the making, will be viewing the world through prison bars for a very long time. That is a good thing.
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