Tuesday 11 November 2014

American Monsters Volume 1

Depending on which source you believe, there are anything from thirty to literally hundreds of serial killers wandering the streets of America right now.  In this book, we explore the lives and murderous careers of twelve of these American monsters, including;

David Carpenter: the Trailside Killer, who turned the hiking trails and beauty spots around San Francisco into his personal killing fields.

Westley Allan Dodd: a sickening pervert who tortured, stabbed and strangled three young boys to death.

Richard Ramirez: a.k.a. The Night Stalker, a satanic burglar, rapist and murderer who had the whole of Los Angeles living in a state of terror.

Melvin Rees: dubbed the Sex Beast by the media, this depraved killer from the fifties wiped out an entire family to satisfy his appalling appetites.

Gerald and Charlene Gallego: a killer couple who targeted young girls, killing and raping their way across four states.

Donald Harvey: dubbed the “Angel of Death”, Harvey killed at least seventy hospital patients by suffocation, poisoning, drug overdoses, and other methods.

Robert Berdella: turned his house into a virtual torture castle, where he conducted vile experiments on young men - and noted their reactions in his murder journal.

Harvey Glatman: a sexually depraved photographer who criminal profilers and psychologists consider an archetypal serial killer.

Bobby Joe Long: a prolific rapist who turned to murder, with devastating results for the women of south Florida.

Cleophus Prince Jr.: African-American serial killer who terrorized San Diego in the 1980’s, stabbing young women to death in their apartments. 

Christopher Wilder: a millionaire building contractor with a taste for raping and torturing beautiful women.

Gordon Northcott: an axe murderer from the 1920’s who tortured, sexually abused, and murdered several young boys.

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Click the "Read More" link below to read the first chapter of

American Monsters Volume One


David Carpenter

The Trailside Killer

“Please don't hurt me.” – David Carpenter’s first words to arresting officers.

Over a twenty-month period, beginning in the summer of 1979, a merciless killer stalked the parks and hiking trails around the bay area of San Francisco. The press dubbed this murderer, “the Trailside Killer,” and police seemed helpless in their attempts to stop him. When he was eventually caught, they’d be stunned to learn that he’d once been a suspect in another series of murders, the infamous Zodiac killings.

On August 19, 1979, Edda Kane set out to hike the trails of Mount Tamaulipas, overlooking San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. When she failed to return, her husband called the police and a team was immediately dispatched to look for her. Despite an exhaustive search with tracker dogs, they were unable to locate Edda that night.

Resuming their search the next morning, they soon discovered the missing woman. She’d been brutally slain, her body positioned on its knees in a subservient position. Cause of death was a bullet wound to the back of the head, delivered executioner style. Her purse had been ransacked and her credit cards and glasses were missing. She had not been raped, which left police baffled as to the motive for the murder. Surely the killer could have robbed Mrs. Kane without killing her?

An appeal for information brought them no closer to answering that question. Other hikers reported seeing two men in the area who they described as acting suspiciously. But witness descriptions were inconsistent, and with little physical evidence at the scene, the murder went unsolved.

For a time, hikers in the area maintained a high level of vigilance, walking in pairs. But eventually, things returned to normal. The Kane murder began to look like an isolated incident. Nature enthusiasts returned to the woods.

Then, in March of 1980, another woman was dead. Barbara Schwartz, 23, was hiking with her dog when a man stepped from the cover of the trees and without warning began slashing and stabbing at her. Another female hiker, following a short distance behind, witnessed the entire attack. She ran for help, but by the time it arrived, Barbara lay dead on the ground and her attacker had disappeared into the woods.

The eyewitness though, was able to provide the police with a description. She said that the assailant was a slim, athletic man of about 25. Unfortunately, this would prove wide of the mark and may have hampered the police in their early investigations.

But there were other clues. The initial search turned up a bloodstained pair of bi-focal glasses. A few days later, some boys found a bloodstained boning knife with a ten-inch blade, lying in brush close to the crime scene. The pathologist confirmed that this was the weapon that had inflicted twelve, deep knife-wounds on Barbara Schwartz. The glasses, meanwhile, proved to be prison issue.

Seven months passed. On October 15, 1980, 26-year-old Anne Alderson went jogging in the Tamaulipas. It was the end of the Columbus Day weekend, and the park was busy. Alderson was seen by a number of people in an area close to where Edda Kane had been killed a year earlier. A park employee recalled spotting her sitting on a ledge, enjoying the sunset. He considered warning her about staying in the park after nightfall but decided not to disturb her.

Alderson’s body was found the next day. Like Edda Kane, she’d been shot in the head and her corpse had been posed in a similar position. Unlike in the Kane murder, the victim had been raped. Several people later reported seeing a lone man of about 50 in the area. Once again, eyewitness descriptions varied wildly.

In November of that year, came the horrifying discovery of four more bodies, the result of a couple of double homicides committed in the previous six weeks. 

On November 28, Shauna May went hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore Park, just a few miles north of San Francisco. May was supposed to meet friends there and when she failed to show, her friends alerted park rangers. Her body was discovered two days later. She’d been trussed with a length of wire, shot three times in the head, and hidden in a shallow trench. An autopsy would later determine that she had been raped.

The body of another young woman also occupied the trench. Diana O’Connell, 22, had gone missing while hiking with friends.  She too had been raped and shot in the back of the head.

The two women had been strangers to each other. It seems one of them had chanced upon the killer attacking the other, and had then been attacked herself. This theory was given credence by a hiker who reported hearing four closely spaced gunshots.

As if that wasn’t enough, police soon discovered two more bodies less than half a mile away. The victims were Richard Stowers, 19, and his fiancĂ©e Cynthia Moreland, 18.  The couple had gone missing while hiking together in mid-October. Ballistics would prove that the weapon used in these homicides was the same one that had killed Anne Alderson.

With the body count mounting and no breaks in the case, Bay area police requested help from the FBI. That request went to veteran profilers Roy Hazelwood and John Douglas. 

Douglas traveled to San Francisco to examine the evidence and crime scenes. He developed a profile that described the killer as a local man with a good knowledge of the area, a recluse who may have a speech impediment. Douglas believed the perpetrator to be Caucasian, intelligent, and a blue-collar worker who had spent time in jail. 

His M.O. was to approach the victim from behind, using aggression, rather than persuasion, to gain control. He would be in his thirties and, while he’d more than likely raped before, he would not have committed murder before this series.

The profile was detailed and would later prove to be mostly accurate. But it didn’t stop the Trailside Killer. In March 1981, he struck again, this time switching his attention to Redwoods State Park. Undergraduate students, Ellen Marie Hansen and Stephen Haertle, were hiking a trail when a man approached them. He produced a pistol and told Hansen that he was going to rape her. When she resisted, he fired three shots at her, hitting her twice in the head and once in the shoulder. The stranger then turned his gun on Haertle, shooting him in the neck.

Despite his injuries, Haertle ran to get help, alerting other hikers as the man fled. Later, Haertle was able to provide police with a description. The man was about 50-years-old and balding. He was five-foot-ten and weighed approximately 170 pounds. Haertle also recalled the man’s crooked yellow teeth.

Other witnesses reported a man fleeing the scene and driving off in a small, red car, possibly a Fiat.

Based on the description provided by Haertle, police drew up a composite sketch of the suspect and ran it in a number of newspapers. Four days later, a woman came forward and claimed that she recognized the man in the picture. She said his name was David Carpenter and that he had been a purser on a cruise ship she and her daughter had traveled on twenty-six years before. She said she had confronted Carpenter, who had been pestering her daughter with sexual advances.

Police followed up on the lead, but there were a number of David Carpenters living in the bay area and the information led nowhere.

The killer meanwhile, was plotting his next crime, and perhaps because of the attention the case was getting, or perhaps due to arrogance, he changed his M.O., targeting someone in his immediate circle.

Heather Roxanne Scaggs was a student working part-time at Econo Quick Print, where David Carpenter trained people to use computer-typesetting equipment. He befriended Heather, sometimes giving her a lift home. On one of these occasions, Heather mentioned that she wanted to buy a car of her own, and Carpenter told her that a friend of his had a vehicle for sale. He offered to take her to see it, and pestered her about it over the days that followed, until Heather eventually agreed.

Heather probably had misgivings about Carpenter because before leaving she gave her boyfriend, Dan Pingle, Carpenter’s name and address, as well as the time that she expected to return.

When she didn’t return, Pingle went looking for her, eventually ending up at Carpenter’s home. He confronted Carpenter about Heather’s whereabouts, but Carpenter insisted that she hadn’t shown up for their meeting and that he hadn’t seen her. Pingle then went to the police.

Having previously heard the name Carpenter mentioned in connection with the Trailside Killer case, investigators were immediately interested. And that interest was elevated when detectives met with Carpenter. He bore a strong resemblance to the Trailside Killer suspect.

But Carpenter insisted that he hadn’t met with Heather, and denied any knowledge of her whereabouts. With no evidence to prove otherwise, the police did not have cause to detain him.  

Instead, they placed Carpenter under surveillance while they gathered the evidence they needed to arrest him. When officers eventually moved on Carpenter, his first words were, "Please don't hurt me."

With Carpenter in custody, police searched his car, a red Fiat. In it, they found over 60 books and maps about local hiking trails.

Next, Carpenter was put into a line-up, where Steve Haertle immediately identified him as the man who had shot Ellen Marie Hansen. A number of other eyewitnesses identified Carpenter as the man they’d seen close to the murder sites. A car line-up was arranged and witnesses picked out Carpenter’s red Fiat.

Carpenter was charged with the murders of Heather Scaggs and Ellen Hansen, and the attempted murder of Steve Haertle. He was charged separately with the Marin County killings of Anne Alderson, Diane O'Connell, Shauna May, Cynthia Moreland, and Richard Stowers. All of these murders were linked by ballistics with Carpenter’s .38-caliber revolver, which police had recovered from an acquaintance of his. No charges were brought in the Kane and Schwartz homicides, due to lack of evidence.

While Carpenter was in custody, a ninth body was found in Big Basin Redwoods Park. The M.O. in this case closely followed that of the Trailside Killer, and ballistics would link Carpenter to the crime.

Then, on June 16, 1981, a group of rock climbers in Castle Rock State Park found a jawbone, which they believed to be human.  Forensic analysis proved this to be the case, and further investigation uncovered the remains of Anna Menjivaras, a 17-year-old high school student, who had been missing since December 28 the previous year. 

Anna had worked part-time at the bank where Carpenter had his account. According to other bank employees, he seemed to have a strong attraction to her, often engaging her in conversation and flirting with her. But evidence against him in this case was slim.

As the other cases proceeded, a picture emerged of a twisted and dangerous man. David Carpenter was born in San Francisco on May 6, 1930. His home life was far from ideal, with an alcoholic father who regularly beat him, and an overly domineering mother. As a child, he had a severe stutter and suffered constant ridicule and harassment because of it. He was a bed-wetter and took out his frustration and anger by torturing animals (two traits often associated with fledgling serial killers).

As an adolescent he took to sexually assaulting children and at 17 he was arrested for molesting two of his cousins. He served a year in the California Youth Authority for that offence.

Upon his release, Carpenter worked at several jobs, got married and fathered three children. But his predatory ways continued. In 1960, he was arrested for the attempted rape of an acquaintance, receiving a 14-year sentence. Released in 1969, he was re-arrested in Modesto on February 3, 1970. This time he got seven years for kidnapping and robbery, plus an additional two years for parole violations.  He was released in May 1979. Within three months, he had murdered Edda Kane.

Despite protesting his innocence, David Carpenter received multiple death penalties for the Trailside murders. He is currently on death row at San Quentin.


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