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Serial Killer vs. Serial Killers

How has Covid-19 affected serial murderers?

used with permission from iclipart
Source: used with permission from iclipart

On January 21, 2021, the CDC reported the one-year anniversary of the first case of the coronavirus in the United States. Over the past 12 months, the impact of the coronavirus has been exponential and has affected virtually every aspect of our lives, especially our interactions with and relationships with each other. Which is worse, we worry — catching a potentially fatal virus from someone we care about or killing that person by giving it to him/her? Every social encounter is burdened with the knowledge that the coronavirus could turn any of us into an accidental serial killer.

We have plenty of evidence of Covid-19’s deadliness, especially among the elderly and those of us with pre-existing health conditions. Put those individuals in close quarters and you have a recipe for disaster, as evidenced by the astronomical infection rates and elevated death tolls in nursing homes and prisons. In fact, for at least five serial killers, the coronavirus has done what juries, judges, death row, and/or years of incarceration could not: kill them.

  • Notorious for having committed more serial murders [he confessed to 93; over 60 have been confirmed] than anyone else in the United States, 80-year-old Samuel Little succumbed to COVID-19-related pneumonia on December 30, 2020. He was serving three consecutive life terms in California, having bargained his way out of the death penalty in exchange for information about his victims.
  • Seventy-four-year-old British serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, responsible for brutally attacking at least twenty 20 women and girls between 1975 and 1980, killing 13, died after catching COVID-19 and refusing medical treatment.
  • David Owen Brooks, 65, died in a prison hospital in Galveston, Texas on May 28, 2020, from Covid-related complications. He was serving six life sentences for helping serial killer Dean Corll rape and kill at least 28 teenage boys and young men in Houston in the 1970s. Brooks and another teen, Elmer Wayne Henley, lured several of the victims to Corll’s apartment.
  • Described by one reporter as the “least tragic coronavirus death in Florida,” 73-year-old serial killer and rapist Eddie Lee Moseley died of Covid-related pneumonia on May 28, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale. He had been locked away since 1987 for multiple rapes and an unknown number of murders; the latter has been estimated as somewhere between eight and 16 women. Due to severe and unpredictable aggression and significant intellectual impairment [he had an estimated IQ of 52 and was forced to leave school at age 13 after repeatedly failing the third grade], he was found incompetent to stand trial and spent most of his incarceration at various forensic psychiatric hospitals.
  • An Italian serial killer also received some medical karma. Donato Bilancia was serving 13 life sentences for murdering 17 people (both men and women) between October 1997 and April 1998.

The Almost-Release of The Green River Killer

For serial killer Gary Ridgway, however, the coronavirus almost got him what nothing else could: release from prison. As Covid-19 swept through the Washington state prison system, advocates for prison inmates argued that leaving vulnerable inmates behind bars was essentially a death sentence and petitioned the Washington state Supreme Court seeking the immediate release of inmates 50 and older, those with underlying health conditions, and anyone with less than 18 months to go on their sentence. Qualifying innates only needed to fall into one of these categories and there was no mention of violence risk, seriousness of the offense, or current sentence.

Approximately two-thirds of Washington’s inmates would have qualified under this petition, including 470 people serving a life sentence without parole, and 5,272 people serving a sentence for serious offenses, including crimes such as murder, rape and child molestation. This included 71-year-old Gary Ridgway, a serial killer responsible for the rape and murder of 49 women and girls; his youngest victim, 14-year-old Wendy Stephens, was not identified until January 2021. If not for the Supreme Court’s narrow 5-4 vote against the petition, a man serving 48 consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole and one life sentence could have been back on the streets. (Since the petition failed, we don’t know if he would have.)

There have been so many senseless and undeserved tragedies over the past year: Heroes losing their lives trying to save others, the wisdom of community leaders forever lost, cherished family and friends forever missed. We will all rejoice when this is over. Neither am I arguing that vulnerable people trapped in difficult circumstances – even of their own making — deserve what they get.

But I do find some small consolation in the thought that five serial killers who caused so much pain and suffering might have to account for their actions just a little bit sooner. Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”


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