You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy.
The Mass Murderer.
The man in the Sumner County jail is now accused of murdering 8 people.
His mug shot is not all that different than the million or so other mug shots I’ve seen in my career.
8 people killed.
I stare into his eyes and wonder what’s behind those dark brown pupils.
Is there a void where his sensibilities should be?
Is his brain broken, replaced with a crusty membrane of craziness that makes wrong seem right?
What would possess someone to bludgeon 8 people to death.
I’ve covered countless murderers.
Killing a human with a gun is cold and calculating.
Killing someone with a hatchet is personal. It’s a contact sport from the primordial cauldron of ferocity.
You have to swing with all your might and scream like a possessed demon while delivering the death blow.
With a gun, you pull a trigger, you hear a bang and a body hits the floor.
It’s explosive for a moment. But in the end, it’s final and quick. Compared to an ax strike, it’s a scalpel in an operating suite.
Bludgeoning multiple people in the confined, sweaty space of a refrigerator box with a sharp ax? That’s diabolical. Each swing is a step back on the evolutionary scale, to a time of barbaric medieval savagery where you hear death, you taste death. The blood of your victim sprays across your face like a dragon spitting finality.
The last gasp of each victim is expectorated upon the killer, as their head cracks like a ceramic bowl blowing apart in a batting cage.
Authorities have been tight lipped about this case which promises in the end to be the most brutal mass murder in recent state history.
The coroners report doesn’t say much. But what it does say is really all it needs to say.
BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA. SHARP FORCE TRAUMA!
Those words are very precise and mean the cause of death was explosive.
I don’t know how each victim died, but it makes me think of cows being lead to slaughter.
Everything is normal, then WHACK! And then the blackness of nothingness forever.
I will come to learn that the killer is mentally disturbed. I will talk to half a dozen people and everyone of them describes him as a horrible person who terrorized the community since he was a child.
Every resident tells me that for 25 years, the killer has lived in this quiet bucolic community, and for most of those years, he has stolen, harmed, threatened, hurt, terrorized.
As I listen to these residents, surrounded by rolling green hills and the sounds of crickets chirping, I can only think that this community, with one road in and out, was something of an incubator for horror.
8 people dead.
It’s hard to imagine that one man can be responsible for the termination of eight people’s lives. 8 dreams. 8 hopes. 8 futures.
No more Christmas. No more birthday. No more graduations, grandchildren, old age.
This heinous story is a septic tank overflowing.
It is everything wrong with humanity, the justice system, mental health.
This atrocity begins in late April.
It’s a Sunday afternoon and family members arrive at the little trailer in the woods. They are looking for loved ones they have not heard from in a while.
That’s unusual. No calls. No emails. Silence.
So the family members come to the little rusty trailer on the bluff and they push open the door.
There is a stench emanating from within. An odor that signals death to the living.
The woman screams as she covers her mouth in disbelief.
It must be overwhelming. It must be what it’s like when a tomb is opened after a prolonged period of time. The stench and rotting flesh of decomposing human boils over. In the heat of a Sunday afternoon, it will fill the nostrils of the unprepared. It is like a cold hand that reaches into your soul and squeezes your heart just enough to know that all is wrong with the world.
I will be told later that CSI units wearing boots and respirators will remove evidence in sealed buckets.
The thought of people reduced to a gooey, gelatinous substance that will only be identifiable under a microscope, immediately comes to mind.
The horrified woman runs through the neighbors yard, away from the trailer of death.
She is tearful, frantic, as she bangs on the neighbor’s door.
They’re all dead! They’re all dead!, she screams collapsing on the man’s porch.
The man doesn’t know what the hell she is talking about, but he knows to call 911 and brace himself for a memory that few of us will ever know.
Emergency responders arrive. Crime tape goes up. The roads are sealed off.
Blue lights flash across the darkness, illuminating tree limbs and moments in time in a paralyzing incandescent flash.
News crews are kept way back as the sun slides behind the hills and the darkness of night fills the landscape, transforming this scene into something from a Wes Craven film.
Before the 10 O’clock news, The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation holds a press conference.
They will say little except the suspect was found in the woods, and a SWAT member shot him.
He was wounded and taken to an area hospital.
They say that four bodies have been discovered inside the decrepit trailer. They will not say much else.
By the next afternoon, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation qualifies its initial press briefing.
Crime Scene Investigators working through the night make more horrific discoveries. As they sift through the stew of fermenting DNA, they locate 2 more bodies.
Now the death toll is 6 inside the trailer.
Think about it. The initial crime scene is so unsettled, so foul, trained experts couldn’t tell how many people were dead until they probed deeper into the decaying flesh.
In 24 hours, the death toll increases 50%
Then a 7th victim is discovered. She is a senior citizen who lives in a home nearby. She too is found bludgeoned to death. Authorities say the woman has no connection to the family other than she was a robbery victim that the murderer decided to kill.
I go to the community the next day.
By this time, we have learned that 6 of the people in the trailer are either related to the murderer, or they knew one another.
Authorities say the psychopath recuperating at a local hospital killed his mother and father and close relatives. He is also accused of killing people close to the family and a 12 year old girl.
Were they all in the house at the same time? Did he kill them one by one and then stash the bodies as more unsuspecting relatives came to meet their final, foreboding doom?
Authorities will not say.
The medical examiner will only say all the people died by Blunt Force Trauma.
I talk to a woman who lives next door.
She is a large woman, not in good health. still she sits on her porch, one part quiet place, one part ashtray. She smokes one cigarette after the next. She has a raspy voice, as she wheezes to breathe.
She will tell me she is a grandmother now. She moved from Chicago to get away from crazy city life.
The irony is not lost on her.
She moved to this bucolic place on the globe where GPS spins incessantly while it screams “recalculating.”
On a sunny day, dogs roam loose and birds chirp. But there was also an evil that lurked around the every turn.
She shows me a video she shot the day the bodies were discovered.
The video looks like it was shot in Vietnam during a napalm attack. There are leaves and branches and hurky jerky camera movements that make focusing on the screams beyond the tree line impossible to see.
So I concentrate on the screams. “I’m Gonna Kill you Mother,” a loud angry man seems to be yelling.
“That’s them people being murdered,” the woman will tell me between drags on an unfiltered cigarette.
“He was killing them and they was pleading for their lives,” she will say fidgeting. The wicker yard furniture she is sitting on strains under the weight.
It turns out the woman didn’t document the murder, but she did document that horrific moment as family members were discovering the bodies of their loved ones.
The wails were screams of unbelievable loss and sense of finality.
As we talk on her porch, she tells me horror stories about the man who terrorized this community.
She recalls the man standing in her yard one evening. Rain was pouring down and the man was high on drugs.
“I’m going to kill you,” he screamed at her, illuminated in the darkness by a single 60 watt light bulb dangling from the side of a broken down trailer.
He was standing in the rain, drenched, demented, illuminated by a single filament of light.
In this visage, she saw the evil, she knew the end was near.
The Chicago transplant with the nervous tick and propensity for nicotine took the psychopath’s threats seriously.
“I didn’t sleep that night. I stayed up reading a book,” she says lighting the 3rd cigarette during this one interview.
“I smelled smoke coming from my bedroom. I ran out back and I saw him and I screamed at him, what are you doing?”
The woman becomes more animated as she describes seeing a pile of garbage in the crawl space under her trailer.
“It was just catching fire,” she would say.
She says the man had dragged diapers and garbage and items from his home and set them ablaze under her trailer.
“Right above is my bedroom,” she says. “He was trying to burn me alive.”
“Are you crazy?,” she screamed as she began pulling the fire apart with her bare hands.
That’s when she says, the maniacal fiend, drenched with rain and soot, throws her down in the mud and begins beating her with his fists.
“He had a gun in his hand,” she will tell the detectives later. “The kind you put bullets into.”
When she screams for help, the madman runs into the darkness.
The now 60 year old grandma calls 911 and deputies descend on the tiny community.
The madman is quickly arrested. The clues are obvious. He doesn’t even try to lie.
Once mirandized, police ask the man what he has to say for himself.
“When I get out, I’m going to come back and finish the job.”
I’ve read a lot of police reports. You never see that sentence.
This man was certifiable. I could see it in one sentence. I knew it in the 3 cigarettes it took for the victim to tell me her tale.
How could a judicial system not see this?
The man who proclaimed he would kill the woman and then admitted to setting her trailer on fire and then beat her with a pistol was sentenced to 10 years for aggravated arson. He was sentenced to 6 years for the assault. The 2 sentences ran concurrently.
The mass murderer to be served only 15 months on the condition he take drug counseling courses and get mental help.
He did neither.
He was sentenced to 120 months in prison. He did 15 months in the county jail.
That’s just enough time for the demons that fill his head to stir his brain ever so slightly. The evil that lurks in the darkness of a place that few of us can see, told him to wait and remain patient, then exact revenge on every living thing.
And after 15 months, in a moment that everyone in the community could have predicted, the bad seed, the drug addict, the thief, the miscreant was released.
He was flushed out of the system, another name, another number. He was suddenly loose, back in a community where his head was now filled with the voice of demons telling him to cleanse the wicked and impure.
I can see that this murderers DNA is stained.
As we drive up and down the block in our marked news units, kin folk to the mass murderer, people who have not yet killed and who should be mourning their dead relatives, chase us.
They are like wild dogs, rushing through high grass away from trailers and front yards of squalor.
They have fists raised and they shout at us to get the F out of their neighborhood.
It is an apocalyptic scene where zombies roam the Earth and good people are chased with pick forks and fire.
One news crew reports that the killer’s brother began banging on the side of their news car as they attempted to get an interview.
There is a piece of the genetic code missing here.
There is something off here. Something’s not normal.
The family members have a gravitational pull toward mental impairment and reality distortion.
2 weeks after the mass murder, the authorities corroborate rumors that have been filling my voice mail and in box for a week.
THERE’S AN 8TH VICTIM
Late Friday, authorities released documents that show an 8th body, of a man who lives in the neighborhood, who had been missing for several days, was just located.
Authorities now say the 8th victim was savagely beaten, his head found 25 yards from where his body was located.
HIS BODY AND HIS HEAD WERE 25 YARDS FROME ONE ANOTHER!
Again, I’ve read a million police reports, and you don’t get this sentence very often.
The arrest affidavits are clinical in the technical, investigative jargon used to describe the atrocity of this crime.
One neighborhood. Eight People Slaughtered. One Decapitation.
And all allegedly at the hands of one maniacal, fiendish psychopath.
I have only seen his mug shot, but it is easy for me to imagine that his head is filled with the bile of Satan. His thoughts are a cancerous choking evil, constantly instructing him to dismember and maim, wielding only a primordial instrument of death.
Why did the man succumb to the darkness?
We may never know.
How could he reach back and swing an ax with such brutal force, knowing that the intended target was the head of his own mother?
The question has no answer in the world of the sane.
The questions continue to swirl around this little community.
Why did the court system let a man sentenced to 120 months in jail out after only 15 months?
The prosecutor will say hindsight is 20/20.
The answer seems weak.
8 people are dead.
Families are destroyed.
The next door neighbor whose home was set ablaze has been a nervous wreck for weeks.
“It’s sad,” she will tell me, lighting up yet another cigarette. “But now I’m safe. Now, he cannot hurt me any more.”
8 people are dead. And now she is safe.
It seems that Satan has won.