Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Coming up . . . serial killers!

As my regular readers, and those who know me in the flesh, are aware, I have a fascination with serial killers.

An entirely benign interest, I assure you.

On Thursday, though, I am attending a seminar put on by the FBI dealing with serial killers operating on our highways, particularly the interstates. This is the website associated with the program they are putting on.

Who knew?

I've never, to my knowledge, met a serial killer. I have spoken to half a dozen murderers in person, all before I became an ADA, and all were on death row for their crimes. Ah, the benefits of being a journalist.

The most chilling was the one I mentioned the other day, Eric Nenno, who was on death row for killing a seven-year-old girl just outside Houston back in 1995. I interviewed him last year for a book I was planning to write, asking to come see him by just mailing a letter. He wrote back saying, essentially, "Sure, come see me, but hurry because I'm being executed in a couple of weeks."

So I hurried to death row, getting there on a Friday. His execution date was the following Tuesday.

I was there a couple of hours and it felt surreal. His appeals were done, he had no hope for salvation (bodily, at least), so he spoke openly. He admitted to being a pedophile and it was only after a couple of hours that I really saw how messed up his wiring was: he was describing the moment he lured the little girl to his house. He'd done so by offering to show her his guitar (her dad played in a band).

"I asked if she wanted to see it, and when she said 'Yes,' that's when I knew she wanted to [be with] me."

Yes, that's what he thought. He said something similar when I asked if he'd done anything like this before. He told me about the girl he'd kissed while her mother was out of the room, how they'd kissed each other, and more. She was five.

My hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I wanted to . . ., well, you can imagine.

But I'm reminded of that interview because as I look at the map on the FBI site of all those highway killings I can't help but wonder how many people there are out there, people we walk, run, and drive past every day, whose wiring is so differently and so dangerously connected.

Maybe I'll get some insight Thursday. If so, I'll report back.

Okay, I'll report back anyway.


  1. Chilling to say the least. I read about the FBI Interstate Hwy study previously and am writing a short story based on the concept of a trucker being a killer.

    Great post.

  2. That is in fact a disturbing story. But, as a criminal defense attorney, I would have no qualms in representing him. Pedophiles are, as you suggest, mentally ill and they too deserve a good defense.

    The only defendant I would ever have trouble representing would be a child pornographer in a case in which the motivation was economic. Now that is truly evil. Yes, they too deserve a good defense. Just not from me.

  3. C'mon now. Of all the information out there about Eric Nenno, you choose the About.com page? The TDCJ webpage at least includes his occupation prior to his death sentence, his completed education, and even, now that he's dead, his last words and last meal.
    Most of your readers probably know that to sentence someone to death a Texas jury has to answer two questions unanimously during the punishment phase. The second and most contentious asks the jury if the defendant presents an ongoing danger to society. Its a very complicated question, with no real answer, regardless of how we attempt to deal with it in trial. A person who is dangerous to a playground full of 12 year old boys does not necessarily post a threat on the death row pods at Polunsky, neither to the condemned who inhabit them or the guards who are unfortunate enough to patrol those halls. Even the Court of Criminal Appeals found that Kenisha Berry, a woman convicted and sentence to death in Harris County in 1998 of killing her child, who allegedly had killed infants borne to her prior to the one with whose murder she was charged, did not pose the kind of danger envisioned by the intent of the second question. There are no infants on death row and ostensibly... she can't become pregnant again if incarcerated for life... but we all know the fallacy in THAT thinking.


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