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Originally posted on Deathly Dames Inc.:
Trail Creek, Indiana, 1981. 33-year-old Hilma Mariewas a beautiful brunette, living in Beverly Shores, and married to 43-year-old Paul Witte, with two incredibly loyal sons, 15-year-old Eric and 12-year-old John (Butch). Witte was a brutish man who belittled and criticized his sons. The boys were much closer to Mother Dearest. Often, their father hit them and their mother. It was not a happy household. Hilma hated her husband and she made a rather admirable attempt to poison him to death by sprinkling arsenic into his food. However the hearty Witte experienced no side effects whatever. Take that, Grizzly Adams.
Hilma approached her boysand asked them to kill their father. She told them that Witte was going to divorce her and the family would end up living in the streets. Better to just do away with him. Say what? They refused. Sure they weren’t fans of the old…
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Chicago, Illinois. You know who John Wayne Gacy was while he lived: one of the most prolific (as they call them) serial killers in American history. He was known as the Killer Clown because he dressed up as Pogo the Clown and attended children’s birthday parties and various community events. Tellingly, the sharp corners Gacy painted at the edges of his mouth are discouraged in professional clowns, so as not to scare children. Even his clown makeup was creepy. If you ever feared clowns before, you’ve got another reason now.
Gacy preyed on boys and young men. He liked them between 15 and 20. Teenagers especially appealed to him because they were utterly naive and easy to overcome physically. Gacy raped and murdered 33 young men, burying them beneath the crawl space in his house, between 1972 – 1978 before he was finally caught, convicted, and executed by lethal injection in 1994 in the state of Stateville, Illinois. No one cried over his death. Many people cheered.
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and Gacy was the perfect example of this phenomenon. It was his low self-esteem and sense of personal isolation that prevented him from establishing normal relationships with people around him. The lonelier he got, the angrier he felt. That can’t be good. His unhappiness stemmed from his early childhood. Gacy had one of the worst fathers ever to walk the earth. In spite of this, after his arrest Gacy Jr vehemently denied he hated his father. However, if he did hate the old man, he had good reason.
John Stanley Gacy was physically and verbally abusive. He took great delight in humiliating his son in front of his peers and his siblings. Although his mother, Marion Elaine Robinson, probably wasn’t blameless – she admitted to giving her 3-week-old infant son an enema, then later denied it to a reporter – he developed a close relationship with her. I liken this to the Stockholm Syndrome. Gacy probably favored his mother, the lesser of two evils, over his father as a type of hostage response to his father’s abuse. Their relationship was a source of aggravation for Gacy, who believed Mother and son conspired against him. Husband and wife argued constantly about who ran the household and how to discipline the children. Clearly, Robinson lost most of the arguments.
Gacy Sr named his son after Robinson’s favorite actor, John Wayne (I bet Wayne was tickled over that one). Gacy was a blue-collar man, a machinist and a WWI veteran. was a demanding father, especially toward his son. He was the kind of father who wanted his son to be a man’s man and he would beat it into Johnny if that was what it took and beat him he did. One of Gacy’s childhood memories was of being beaten with a leather belt by his father at the age of four for accidentally disarranging car engine components his father had assembled. First, the child shows an interest in cars, a decidedly male hobby. Then, his father beat him for it. Make up your mind, Gacy.
When he was six years old, Johnny stole a toy truck from a store. In a perfectly reasonable response, his mother made him return the toy and apologize to the owners. However, she told his father, who beat Gacy with a razor strap until he left welts. After witnessing her husband’s unending cruelty toward her son, Robinson did her best to intervene whenever Gacy Sr took out the leather belt. Gacy was very demanding of his daughters, and he disciplined them with the razor strap too. Boy or girl, when it came to corporal punishment, gender didn’t stop Gacy Sr.
Child predators recognize lonely and neglected children. They make easy targets and Johnny was no exception. At the age of nine, young Gacy was molested by a family friend, a contractor who took Johnny for rides in his truck, then fondled him. Johnny never told his father about these incidents as he was afraid his father would blame him and rightly so. One can imagine his father calling his son a “faggot” and insisting he “asked for it.” It’s fair to say he probably would have beaten Johnny for being a sexual abuse victim.
In front of his friends, Gacy ridiculed his son for being a pansy. He mocked his son for not taking part in sports with other boys, even though his son had a congenital heart condition that made it impossible for him to compete in sports. This isolated him from his schoolmates. Rather than accepting his son’s illness, Gacy mocked him even more for it, as though having a weak heart was Johnny’s fault. Eventually his scrawny boy became overweight due to his lack of physical activity, making him even more of a target for his father’s cruelty.
Johnny often suffered from blackouts due to his heart condition. His father suspected the episodes were an effort to gain sympathy and attention. On one occasion he even accused his son of faking while Johnny lay ill in a hospital bed. No matter what happened to his son, Gacy was determined to degrade him. On one occasion in 1957, Gacy’s father began shouting at Johnny for no reason, then began hitting him in front of a childhood friend. His mother tried to intervene, but occasionally, Gacy threatened his wife to turn against her if she didn’t move out of his way.
Gacy was an avid fisherman and where Johnny was concerned he didn’t spare the rod (pun). He wanted Johnny to like fishing, but his son didn’t. This enraged his father. Gacy Jr recalled, “I couldn’t get along with my father. He was overbearing. I was dumb and stupid and never would amount to anything.” Naturally, when Johnny failed to develop a talent for fishing his father beat him. Abuse and anger reigned in the Gacy household. It would become a part of Johnny’s way of life after he ran away from home and eventually established himself in the world away from his father.
As a child, Gacy was interested in more effeminate activities. He liked gardening. He made garden beds around the house, something his sister recalled was considered “the sissy thing to do.” He enjoyed baking with his mother and sisters. He probably sewed but kept that one a secret. All of his interests were decidedly feminine and that served to irritate his father even further. Johnny’s childhood friend, Barry Boschelli, recalled that his unhappy friend craved his father’s acceptance. Alas, it was not to be. Gacy insisted Johnny was going to be “one of the girls.”
Johnny didn’t thrive in the classroom either. His heart condition led to him missing a significant amount of school and as a result his grades were poor. It is possible he also suffered from a learning disability. Once again, Gacy was disappointed in his only boy.
The Boy Scouts
There is too much irony in this one. At 12, Johnny joined the Boy Scouts in an attempt to fit in with his peers. He did quite well, earning merit badges in wilderness survival and, of course, campfire cooking. Gacy was placated somewhat by this activity and his son’s successes but he wasn’t especially verbal about it.
Johnny knew he was a horse of a different safari and he desperately needed to share this secret with a friend. One day he showed Boschelli a bag with his mother’s bra and panties in it, stashed inside his bedroom closet. Naturally, Boschelli was shocked and asked him why he had stolen the garments. Johnny admitted he wanted to know how he would look as a girl. His sexual orientation and gender confusion were a constant, private concern. He languished inside, not knowing how to handle his dilemma. Although he dated girls in high school and brought them to school dances, he simply wasn’t interested in girls in a romantic sense. If anyone suspected, no one said so out loud.
When he turned 18, Johnny’s father bought him a car, with the ownership being in his father’s name until Gacy had completed the monthly payments to his father. These payments took years to complete, and naturally during this time, the vehicle came with conditions. Gacy would confiscate the keys if Johnny displeased him in some manner, which was often. On one occasion in 1962, Johnny had the wherewithal to buy an extra set of keys after his father confiscated the original keys from him. In response, his father removed the distributor cap from the car for three days. The man just couldn’t get enough of demeaning his son. In later years, Gacy Jr recalled that as a result of this incident, he felt “totally sick; drained“. In other words, he just couldn’t do it anymore.
Eventually, Johnny got a job as a mortuary attendant. Uh-oh. This couldn’t bode well. He actually slept in a cot behind the embalming room. Ick. He observed morticians embalming dead bodies and later confessed that the whole process aroused him. One night, Johnny climbed into the coffin of a deceased teenage male, embracing and caressing the body. He claimed he “experienced a sense of shock,” from the incident. It was as though he was outside of the experience and “awoke” to find himself engaged in the necrophilic act. This was the beginning of Johnny’s morbidity and his ability to separate himself mentally from his own loathsome activities. However, his own revulsion at what he had done prompted Johnny to call his mother the next day and ask whether his father would allow him to return home. Surprisingly Gacy agreed and the same day, Johnny drove back to live with his family. Didn’t see that one coming.
Eventually John married a woman named Marlynn Myers. During his courtship with Marlynn, John had his second homosexual experience. He claimed that he and a friend went out drinking after work. The young man plied him with drinks, invited John to spend the evening upon his sofa, then performed oral sex upon him while he was drunk. Eventually, Gacy and Myers had a daughter and a son. His sister Karen claimed “he was such a good father. He was very nurturing…it was just like a natural thing to him.” Photographs show a happy, chubby baby, content to sit in his father’s arms. For the first time ever, Gacy Sr. showed pride toward his son. Their relationship took a turn for the better: his son was a family man with a beautiful family. Never again would there be tension and abuse between father and son. Alas, this development had come way too late for Gacy Jr. He was irreparably damaged and held at his core an inner rage and a penchant for sexual sadism.
By the time he reached adulthood, Gacy Jr was an angry, isolated man with sadistic sexual fantasies about young boys and young men. It may be a stretch to say his depravity stemmed only from his father’s abuse, but definitely it was a highly contributing factor. Had Gacy hailed from a supportive family, there might never have been a Killer Clown. One psychiatrist claimed, “He liked to hurt people but he did it more in the sense of wanting to experiment, to see how people would react.” Another psychiatrist claimed he was attempting “to overcome this childhood sense of failure and his sexual desires and needs.”
Gacy liked to dress up as a clown and entertain children (a scary thought). He stated “you could make a fool out of yourself” without negative social consequences. It was also a chance for him to be accepted in his community. It was telling that he was at his most confident when he was in disguise. However, Gacy became a master manipulator without needing the clown costume. An intelligent man, he developed a successful construction business. In 1967, he was named “outstanding vice-president” of the Waterloo Jaycees. He became involved in community activities and was well-respected around town. Gacy was finally receiving the acceptance and approval he had craved from his peers and his family as a child.
In 1975, Gacy was appointed director of Chicago’s annual Polish Constitution Day Parade. Through his work with the parade, Gacy met First Lady Rosalynn Carter on May 6, 1978. The photograph later became an embarrassment to the United States Secret Service; Gacy can be seen wearing an “S” pin, extended to a person who receives special clearance by the Secret Service. Oopsie. .
It should come as no surprise that there was a seedier side of the Jaycees, where wife swapping, prostitution, pornography and drugs reigned. Gacy held sexual orgies with fellow Jaycees and prostitutes. Gacy regularly cheated on his wife who usually refused to indulge him in spouse swapping. When he admitted his activities to his sister Karen, her regard for him significantly diminished. She would have been even less impressed by Gacy’s insatiable lust for teenage boys.
Gacy allowed young male employees to drink alcohol in his basement. Many were given alcohol before Gacy made sexual advances, which he dismissed as a joke if the teenager rebuffed him. Perhaps he assured the teenagers he was only “clowning around.” Ba-dum ching! In August 1967, Gacy committed his first known sexual assault against 15-year-old Donald Voorhees, the son of a fellow Jaycee. Gacy lured the youth to his house, plied the boy with alcohol and persuaded him to perform oral sex. He paid the boy $50 to keep his silence.
In March 1968, the traumatized Voorhees reported to his father that Gacy had sexually assaulted him. Voorhees Sr., an Iowa state senator, informed the police and Gacy was arrested and charged with oral sodomy. Gacy vehemently denied the charges. He accused Vorhees of being a liar. Gacy confidently took a lie detector test and failed. Other teenage boys came forward with allegations of sexual abuse. At first, his fellow Jaycees rallied around him, supporting his denials but over time, the ongoing accusations turned the tide against him.
On August 30, 1968, Gacy persuaded 18-year-old Russell Schroeder, to physically attack Voorhees in an effort to discourage the boy from testifying against him. Schroeder lured Voorhees to a secluded spot, sprayed him with Mace, and beat him while shouting he was not to testify against Gacy. Vorhees bravely reported the assault to police, identifying Schroeder as his attacker, and the boy was arrested the following day. Gacy was also arrested and charged for hiring Schroeder to assault and intimidate Voorhees. Gacy just didn’t know when to quit.
Incredibly, he once claimed “I have never claimed to be an angel [hooo boy] and I have openly admitted to everything I have ever done.”
Prison and Divorce
Gacy was convicted of the sodomy charge on December 3, 1968 and sentenced to 10 years at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. Gacy wasn’t especially devastated at least not publicly. He was stoic when the sentence was handed down, even when his brutish father cried. He would serve – wait for it – 18 months of that sentence then he was released. The very day he was sentenced his wife, tired of the forced wife swapping and appalled at the sexual assault against Vorhees, petitioned for divorce. Gacy never saw his first wife or children again, lucky for them. However, Gacy made the best of a bad situation. Ever the charmer, Gacy mingled with the guards and got in good with the Warden. He became head cook in the prison and was interviewed by a reporter. Gacy kept seeking the limelight and he kept receiving it.
Gacy’s father drank himself to death, dying from cirrhosis of the liver on Christmas Day 1969. Gacy was not told that his father had died until two days after his death. Gacy broke down in tears and had to be supported back to his cell by prison staff. He believed his conviction for the sexual assault against Vorhees was what killed his father. The man who had abused and belittled him all of his life still held a strong hold over Gacy, even from the grave. Gacy requested supervised compassionate leave from prison to attend his father’s funeral, but his request was denied.
After his father’s death Gacy became enraged and he took it out on prisoners he believed were gay. Once he saw two prisoners engaged in oral sex. Gacy kicked one of the men in the face then returned to his cell. He didn’t hate homosexuals of course. He hated “his attraction to them.” It was during his hated incarceration in prison that Gacy’s loathing for his own interest toward males increased significantly.
Within one year of his release, Gacy was up to his old tricks. He sexually assaulted a 17-year-old boy. This complaint was dismissed when the youth failed to appear in court. The Iowa Parole Board wasn’t notified of this development and Gacy, slipping between the cracks in the justice system, was released from parole within one year of his release from prison. Incredible, really.
Gacy bought a house in Norwood Park Township, in Cook County. The address, 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, would be where he committed all of his known murders. In August 1971, shortly after Gacy and his mother moved into the house, he became engaged to Carole Hoff, herself a divorcee with two young daughters. He had briefly dated Hoff in high school, and she had been a friend of his younger sister. At first, the marriage was undeniably a success; they were both friends and lovers. His fiancée moved into his home soon after the couple announced their engagement. Gacy’s mother moved out of the house shortly before his wedding. In-laws. Pah.
After a time the marriage began to falter. Gacy was obsessed with teenage boys and craved sex with them. Sex with Hoff was unfulfilling and it happened less often. One afternoon in 1975, Hoff filed for divorce and left, taking their two daughters. Gacy “was like a wild beast uncaged.” Hoff’s abandonment was welcomed; it made ample opportunity for his killing spree.
As far as it is known, it was on January 2, 1972, that Gacy committed his first murder. He picked up 15-year-old Timothy Jack McCoy, a runaway, from Chicago’s Greyhound bus terminal. Gacy drove McCoy to his Cook County home with the promise that the boy could spend the night and be driven back to the station the following morning to catch the bus. Gacy claimed it was McCoy who initiated an assault on him. He claimed that McCoy stood in his bedroom doorway with a kitchen knife in his hand and attempted to stab Gacy to death. Gacy managed to straddle McCoy and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest. Later, Gacy buried him beneath the crawl space of his house. The only believable part of the story is that Gacy stabbed poor McCoy to death and buried him in the cellar. Naturally, Gacy must have raped the youth but he refused to admit to this assault. The death wasn’t planned but it afforded Gacy “the ultimate power trip.”
McCoy’s murder would be the first in a long line of rape-murders. It was the search for a missing youth that led to Gacy’s downfall. Armed with a warrant, police entered Gacy’s home, arrested him and found the foul-smelling crawl space that served as a mass grave for 33 young men and teenage boys. Some of the youth were runaways and would never be identified. Gacy’s reign of terror and torture over Chicago youth was over. Gacy seemed to take the news well. He joked happily with police as he was arrested. When asked where he was born, Gacy laughingly replied, “in a state of confusion.”
The arrest and trial were a media sensation. Although he had originally admitted freely admitted to the murders, torture and sexual assaults, he retained attorneys who pled not guilty on the basis of insanity on his behalf. It was important to Gacy that he not be considered homosexual. “I’m bisexual,” he stated in an interview and there was some truth to that. He had marital sex with two women. He had fathered children. He had participated in wife swapping with the Jaycees.
His family and friends were stunned by his admissions and guilty verdict. They realized they had never known Gacy. Karen stated “there was never that twinkle [in her mother's eye]….she said I’m a mother. How can I stop loving him?” Years later Gacy ridiculously claimed he’d been framed and that “the bodies had been planted beneath the cellar” by his employees. Until her death Robinson believed her son, as much for her own sake as for his.
For his final hours, Karen kept her brother company. She told herself “this person is not dying because they’re sick. They’re dying because someone will murder him.” Outside the prison, crowds of people cheered, “kill him! Kill him!” To be sure the man deserved his sentence but I don’t agree with making the event into a celebration. It reminds me of the gladiator spectator sport of Ancient Greece wherein captured soldiers were forced to fight each other to the death. Nasty.
After the lethal injection, Gacy’s body was brought to a hospital where a Dr. Morrison had his brain removed for study. She found no anomaly that could explain his behavior. He was simply evil. In the end, Pogo the Clown, the children’s entertainer, and John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer, paid the ultimate price for his crimes and were executed, taking their many twisted secrets and desires with them.
Originally posted on Deathly Dames Inc.:
San Diego, Scripps Ranch, May 25, 2008 – When it comes to evil where does nurture end and nature begin? By all accounts, Heather D’Aoust, 14-year-old adoptive child of 56-year-old Rebecca D’Aoust, should have been a productive, well-behaved young girl headed toward a bright future. She had a good family, with two step sisters and two loving, adoptive parents. Yet on this date, Heather decided to put a nasty plan into action. When her mother returned home from her job, ironically, as a counselor at Spreckles Elementary School, Heather was waiting for her with a claw hammer. Although her father James was home and attempted to intervene, Heather managed to hammer her mother’s skull 15 times, killing her in a virtual bloodbath. Nasty. When police arrived they discovered blood had covered the corpse, Heather, her father, the floor, and walls. It looked like a scene out of a horror film…
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Sarah Mitchell had it made. The lazy, unemployed, n’er-do-well lived with her sister, Stevie Allman, at 50th Avenue in Oakland, CA. Allman was good people. She allowed her sister to live rent-free with her for 20 years. In return, all she wanted was for Mitchell to purchase her own groceries and do her fair share of the household chores. Nice. Everyone should have a sister like Allman. Mitchell however, didn’t get it. Not only wasn’t she grateful for her sister’s generosity, she was a thief who happily stole checks from a number of her 10 siblings, including a sister named Leotta Belleville, and an inheritance check belonging to Allman. Finally, Allman reached a point where she could no longer tolerate her sister’s lies and thefts. She decided to end Mitchell’s free-loading and told her to move out. Sadly, Allman had just sounded her own death knell. Mitchell was about to lose her gravy train. That simply wouldn’t do.
One fine evening, Mitchell bludgeoned Allman while she slept. Afterwards, the ingrate dismembered her sister’s body and stuffed her into a freezer. How’s that for gratitude? Now there was the pesky body to contend with, not to mention explaining Allman’s disappearance. Of course! Arson was the age-old answer to getting oneself out of a pickle. On the night of July 1, 1997, Mitchell set Allman’s house ablaze. Naturally Mitchell wasn’t inside by the time firefighters arrived. She ran from the burning house in a blaze of glory: the bottom of her dress was on fire. The woman identified herself as Stevie Allman. 52, an unemployed secretary. She suffered first- and second-degree burns to her arms and legs. Ouch. But not as bad as Allman’s fate, I should think. She told authorities the fire was set by drug dealers she had crossed.
Fire officials had no problem believing the arson theory, since it was true. They confirmed that arson had happened to the same residence twice before the fateful night that supposedly claimed Mitchell’s life. Allman was favorably known to the Oakland Police. For over a year she video taped drug dealers doing business on her street and gave the tapes to the police. Allman, aka Mitchell, was hailed a hero. The media coverage tickled the surviving Allman. She issued two statements from her hospital bed stating it was drug dealers who had intended to murder her. For their part police vowed to apprehend those responsible and described the fire as a “cowardly act.” Governor Pete Wilson saw a vote-worthy opportunity when it appeared and he offered a $50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. I’m surprised Mitchell didn’t come forward with the information so she could receive the $50,000.00. A donation was set up for Allman to help cover her hospital costs and local contractors even offered to rebuild her home. Incredible.
Shortly after her appearance on television police received their first hint that all was not well. They were alerted that there had been two women living in the house and one of them was missing. Perhaps it was one of the drug dealers who provided the tip. Allman’s oldest sister, Belleville, told police that the woman claiming to be Allman was in reality her younger sister, Sarah Mitchell. You go, girl. The sisters had been living in the same house for twenty years and the two were often mistaken for twins as they closely resembled each other. No wonder it was relatively easy for Mitchell to establish the ruse. Still their behaviors were radically different. Allman was a quiet, reclusive soul. Mitchell indulged in drug and alcohol abuse and had been arrested for prostitution and fraud. Check out those pictures of Mitchell. Prostitution? I can only imagine what her clients looked like.
The police searched the home in order to find clues as to Allman’s whereabouts. A trained police dog came upon a charred freezer that had been sealed with duct tape and promptly sat down beside it. Uh-oh. You know what that means (no, the dog didn’t have to take a dump, you). When officers opened the freezer they uncovered the dismembered and decomposed body of Stevie Allman.”I don’t know if bizarre quite describes it,” said Capt. Peter Dunbar of the Oakland Police Department. ”This is the stuff of a Hollywood movie.” Perhaps but certainly the lead role couldn’t have been too glamorous.
Mitchell was arrested after she cashed the check for Allman’s hospital bill donations. No surprise there. When police confronted her about the murder she readily admitted to impersonating her sister. Ho-hum. No biggee. By now Mitchell had assumed Allman’s identity for two years. Mitchell’s siblings confirmed this fact when they told police that Mitchell had been stealing from them for years. She had also posed as Allman once before when Allman lived when she used her sister’s identity to cash a stolen inheritance check. There’s always one in every family isn’t there? Two in mine.
Mitchell was convicted of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of financial gain. She was spared the death penalty when the jury recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would appear the life sentence appealed to Mitchell who simply smiled during the sentencing. I hope killing her sister was worth it.
aka Brooke Reid Henson, was a girl with city smarts. Young and pretty, Reed never seemed to have enough money to spend, probably because she couldn’t and didn’t like to hold down a job. Work was such a yawn. Reed wanted money the easy way: through fraud and identity theft, and she was successful at it. Brooke Reid Henson wasn’t merely an alias; Henson was a real girl who had gone missing in 2006 from Travelers Rest, South Carolina. On July 4, 1999 Henson walked away from a house party in Travelers Rest, S.C., and was never seen again. Police feared the 20-year-old woman had been slain. Just in case authorities began to close in on her, Reed used two more aliases: Jennifer Myers, Natalie Fisher and Natalie Bowman.
Esther Reed, born March 8, 1978, to Ernie and Florence Reed. Reed’s parents separated in the early 1990s and Reed moved with Mommy Dearest to Lynnwood, Washington. Things went downhill for Florence and Reed. Reed droreedpped outreed of high school and her mother died of colon cancer soon afterward. Before her death Flo’s authority over Esther ceased. “The rest of you will be fine, but watch out for Esther,” she told Reed’s sister Edna, as she was dying. James Theriault, who taught Reed in high school, wondered if Reed was being abused, because she was so reclusive. “She had this shell,” he stated. Eventually he realized Reed was “highly intelligent“.
Even as a teen, for whatever reason, Reed wanted to erase all traces of her past, making it impossible for her family to find her. To escape from herself and her old life, she began stealing other people’s identities. Her father reported Reed as missing in 2004 after Social Security checks revealed she was alive. Creepy. Believe it or not, Reed had friends. I know, right? To throw them off her criminal trail about her continual money supply, she claimed to be a skilled chess player and that she won chess tournaments as her income.
Reed’s first assumed identity was that of Natalie Bowman, the name of the sister of an acquaintance (what?) and she enrolled in open-admission classes at Harvard Extenson School in Cambridge. The school is one of twelve degree-granting schools where students can achieve professional certificates and a liberal arts-based education for nontraditional students. If there was ever a nontraditional student it had to be Reed.
Eventually Reed’s dirty deeds began to catch up to her. Reed spent two years at Harvard then left to enroll in Columbia University. When investigators discovered the missing “Brooke Henson” was enrolled at Columbia, after they tracked Reed down she refused to admit to the ruse. Reed claimed she was Henson and that she was a domestic-violence victim who was hiding out for her safety. Reed had the audacity to agreed to a DNA test, but naturally she did what she did best: she vanished. You have to admit it’s impressive that Reed, a high-school drop-out, got herself admitted to some of the nation’s most academically prestigious schools. Meh. Why finish high school at all? Go straight from elementary school to Harvard. Why waste time?
In spite of her success as a con artist, Reed’s old anxieties never left and her fears overwhelmed her. At Columbia, she was sure that everyone was judging her. When she was called on in class, she panicked. A visit to the computer room was terrifying: what if there were no terminals, and everyone looked at her? Perhaps these fears were simply remnants of her old self in her home town, but it’s safe to say that her fraudulent existence also caused her distress. What if someone was onto her? Reed lapsed back into a terrified little girl. The farther she tried to run from herself, the more she sealed herself into a suffocating box.
Reed had already begun her light-fingered habits by October 1999 when she stole her sister’s checkbook. Nothing like family loyalty. When Reed was tracked down and appeared in court over the theft, Edna noticed Reed was now thin and “beautiful”. After the court proceedings the two sisters bickered loudly in public. Eventually Reed wrote to her sister:
“Usually there has always been something in my life that I hadn’t admitted to that I had done, so guilt was nothing new for me. Ever since I was a young kid, I have had urges of steeling. Most of the time I can overcome them. But as I got older, the things I took got bigger and the schemes I pulled to get them got worse. When I was fourteen I learned how to lock myself up in a little box and I had no idea how to unlock it..when I steel, I am able to shut off all feeling …it bothers me, but not like it should.” In other words, rehab was probably out of the question. Wonderful.
Reed achieved her physical transformation through diet pills and jogging. Released from her old life, Reed shed her layers of self-protection and in doing so, extra pounds. She insisted, “There was no reinvention. More of a re-emergence of a girl who had been hidden away.” Reed lost so much weight that she had a breast job to remove the sagging skin. It was rather fitting that Reed’s appearance morphed into something new, along with her new identities. Reed’s improved appearance must have buoyed her self-confidence with men. In the summer of 2005, through Match.com, she met a New York firefighter. “Brook” and he got together at a bar. She made it clear that all she wanted was sex. “She was not the kind of girl you would take home to meet your mother,” he once stated. Truer words were never spoken. Still Reed felt no better. She had lapsed back into that terrified, alienated little girl, as though she had never escaped that emotional box in the first place. It never occurred to her that the farther she tried to run from herself, the more she was sealing herself into that box. She was suffocating in there.
On February 2, 2008, Reed entered Room 317 at the Sleep Inn in Tinley Park, Illinois. Since she had been running from the law, her weight ballooned to 250 pounds. Her weight gain was intentional at first to hide her identity but it got out of control. She was “Jen Myers” now. The name was fictitious. Reed later claimed she couldn’t get herself out of the terrible situation she created for herself and she had to keep moving.Of course she could also have turned herself in, but that seemed to be too self-defeating. In the parking lot outside the Sleep Inn, one Officer Kevin Horbaczewski happened to pull up in his patrol car. He could hardly believe Reed was holed up inside. When he knocked, Reed simply opened the door. She handed over her Jen Myers driver’s license and he arrested her.
Eventually Reed stood trial and was convicted of three counts of fraud and one count of identity theft. She received 51 months in prison, three years of probation, and ordered to pay $125,916 in restitution. For someone as broke as Reed, that will take a long time. As of now, there is no more running and no more false identities. The con game is over.