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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.
Sells has been the subject of various documentaries and academic papers for 20-odd years. In the 1970s Sells was one of the most prolific serial killers in America. Robert Hare, a former criminal profiler for the FBI has ranked Sells at the highest level of “evil” on his Psychopathy Checklist, being 22. Sells’ sadistic crimes knew no boundaries where his victims were concerned. He slaughtered infants, children, teenagers, adults and the elderly. He used knives, garrotes, a baseball bat, and guns. He used the bat on a woman who bumped into him on the street and neglected to apologize. He raped and ravaged innocent people simply because he could. All Sells needed was opportunity and his victim’s fates were horribly sealed.
Sells and his fraternal sister, Tammy Lynn were born June 28, 1964 in Kingsport Tennesse. His mother had two boys before Sells and three more would follow. Guess Nina Sells never heard of birth control. The question of paternity followed Sells, although an insurance agent named William Sells was listed as his father on birth documents. However it was more likely that a used car salesman named Joe Lovins was his real father. Lovins bailed Sells out of a financial debt, and in return, Sells agreed to claim the children as his own in an insurance scam. I’d love to see that family reunion. At 18 months old Tammy Lynn died of meningitis. At the age of five, Sells was sent to live with Nina’s aunt, Bonnie Walpole, Since Nina Sells seldom visited her son, Walpole offered to adopt him. Furious at the suggestion, Nina retrieved her son, an unfortunate development for the little boy.
At the age of eight, a man named Clark Willis began grooming Sells for a sexual relationship. Nina allowed her son to spend time with him. He took little Sells on day trips, and lavished gifts and cash on the child. Nina was happy to have Sells out of her hair and she allowed Sells to sleep at Willis’ home with increasing frequency. The man would later be identified as a pedophile who molested boys, including Sells, for years before he was caught.
Nina disciplined Sells in a brutal manner. She used coat hangers and belts to beat him for any reason. It took little provocation to enrage her and only seldom did Granny and Grandpa intervene. Nina’s neglect extended to other aspects of Sells’ life. He drank alcohol with his grandpa at age 7. He smoked ditch-weed marijuana at age 10. He crawled into bed naked with his grandma at age 13, and he was forced to undergo a mental examination when he tried to rape Nina. By age 14 Nina threw her son out of the house and he began the life of a drifter, train-hopping and stealing as a way of life. Sells would remain a drifter for the following 20 years as he committed a string of hate-filled, brutal serial murders. Eventually the press dubbed him the “Cross-Country Killer.”
Sells killed “with no apparent motive and no common pattern,” making it very difficult for police to realize that the multitude of “coast to coast” murders were committed by one man, or even that the killings were related. Sells was a sexual predator. Many of his crimes included rape and sexual mutilation, and most of his murders began as sexual assaults. Sells’ sexual predatory urges intensified over time, as adolescent girls and petite women became his victims. Sells was a sexual psychopath who raped and murdered women and girls.
From 1978 to 1999, Sells crisscrossed the country by hopping freight cars, hitching rides
or stealing cars. He spent time in half the states in the union, begging or working as a carny, barber, mechanic and laborer. Sells raped and stabbed a pregnant woman to death, and in so doing, caused the woman to go into labour. Even as she lay dying, she was giving birth to her infant. Sells also killed the child. Later in interviews, Sells claimed he killed children because he “didn’t want them to go through what I went through,” referring to his traumatic childhood. His perspective, as a psychopath, makes sense: the egocentric psychopath is centered only on himself, unable to conceive of others as anything other than his/her extension. However the psychopath is unable to feel true empathy for his victim, making Sells’ claim of concern for his child victims a mere ruse.
Upon his arrest 20 years after his killing spree began, Sells happily confessed to the murders, occasionally fabricating killings that never happened. In videotaped confessions, Sells displayed no remorse and seemed quite pleased with himself as he demonstrated to police how he entered victim’s residences. After several years in prison Sells presented a very different facade to Stefan Goquoight, a world-renowned expert on serial killers. During his interview with Sells, the serial killer weeps, “I can’t get rid of [the killings] they’re in my head.” He tells Goquoight that the faces of the victims come back to him. “The faces, the screams, the terror, the pain, the smells, the sight of blood. I’ve done some real bad things and I live with it every day.”
Yet moments later he places blame on his victims: “if you have a hotel room and you leave the door wide open and someone walks in and steals your camera, is that your fault too?” Sells explains his morbid logic using the example of a murder of a young woman he committed in an unkempt park in Kentucky. “If there hadn’t been that opportunity then I wouldn’t have took it but there was the opportunity and I seen it and I took it.” Had the town’s mayor cut down the park’s bushes, “there would have been no hiding place for him.” The mayor will most definitely have to address the issue in his next campaign. When asked about the number of victims he claimed his response has typically been “I didn’t make a notch on my gun belt like they did in the Old West. I figure 5 or 6 a year for 20 years. Multiply that up.”
Sells claims he did his first killing at 15. It was a 7-year-old boy. “It was like a shot of dope. It’s like a heroin addict when you do that first shot, you want another one and another one.” He spoke of that “rush”, the same feeling as if he had been using “dope” to a number of interviewers. Goquoight later stated that even with a window between himself and Sells, he sensed Sells was tightly wound and “ready to go off any minute.“
By 1987 Sells was, in fact, a heavy drinker and drug-user. He preferred heroin but he took just about any drug he could ingest or inhale—crank, coke, acid, meth. He worked a few days or stole something of value, then used his earnings to buy drugs and get high. He was often in a daze although this certainly didn’t account for the murders. It was a 10-year-old little girl named Krystal Surles who brought him down. Sells’ botched attempt to murder Krystal by slitting her throat. The child survived and was able to identify him from a line-up.
Psychologist Dr. Frederick Gary Mears eventually presented court testimony for the State wherein he stated:
- (1) Sells was “off the scale” in terms of the likelihood of future violence
- (2) His last murder victim, Kaylene Harris, 13, autopsy revealed postmortem wounds consistent with intentional mutilation
- (3) the nature of Kaylene’s non-fatal wounds suggested Sells derived pleasure from the murder
- (4) Sells qualified as an antisocial personality
- (5) Sells displayed a cavalier attitude during his videotaped confessions
- (6) his narrative re-enactment indicated a lack of emotion and indifference to death
- (7) Sells displayed no remorse for Kaylene;s murder
- (8) past behavior is the best predictor for future conduct
- (9) Sells’s criminal history demonstrated an escalation in violence over several years
Sells feigns remorse during his interview with Goqouight, attempting but unable to shed tears as he discusses his victims. His flat, pale blue eyes remain dry. His pity, if there is any, is for himself. Sells was put to death in Livingston Prison, Texas by the state of Texas in 2014.
Is it true that the brain of a killer is somehow neurologically different than that of non-offenders? Much speculation is ongoing about this hypothesis. Crime historians, forensic psychiatrists and neurologists are among the many professionals who investigate possible malfunctions in the killer’s brain. Comparisons between a random human brain of a non-offender and that of serial and spree killers have been made by several experts. Dr Roy Baumeister, a professor at Florida State University, doesn’t believe the brain’s anatomy is quite so cut and dried. He traces evil and fury, two common traits in pathological killers, to social rejection and isolation, particularly people who have been rejected for years by their peers. “What happens to rejected people is their emotions shut down. Most of the people who have committed most newsworthy crimes… have felt rejected and excluded by multiple people.” Baumeister believes this ongoing rejection changes people physically and emotionally, to the point where their ability to experience pain is considerably diminished. “Most people deal with [rejection]m in a more productive manner but for some people it leads to an outburst of violence.” The resulting brain anatomy changes, the endless rejection changes neural pathways and the brain doesn’t develop like most other people’s.
Baumeister has administered a simple (not sadistic) pain threshold test to (willing) subjects. A metal device pressed down on a finger until the subject indicated first mild then moderate and finally significant pain. At that point, Baumeister gave the false information to the subject that the results proved by the person’s mid-20’s s/he would become a social reject with few friends. After this gorgeous information, the subject was again tested and egad! the results showed a much higher pain tolerance. What the…? Baumeister’s theory suggested that it was not only the emotional but the physical ability to feel pain become “impaired” by the mention or reality of social rejection. Creepy. Sort of a fuck-you response to the world, if I may be so bold. Worst, the subject’s pain tolerance could lead to a failure to recognize and thereby empathize with other people’s suffering. Empathy prevents people from committing cruel acts against others.
David Burkowitz – Son of Sam – The Criminal Face of Social Rejection As a young adult, Burkowitz, an adopted boy, traced his birth mother after his stepmother died. He discovered his birth mother had kept a daughter but gave him away. He had no friends and had never had a girlfriend. One year after discovering what he viewed as his mother’s betrayal, Burkowitz went on a shooting rampage, The murderous rampage lasted 19 months and claimed 6 victims. The media and police attention was intoxicating for the man who had previously known nothing but rejection and isolation.
Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California believes brutality may be the result of a malfunction in a class of cells called mirror neurons. The latter are essential building blocks for socially acceptable behavior. The cells affect one’s ability to read and interpret other people’s emotions. Iacoboni gives the example that if mirror neurons are highly active in the brain, a facial expression would indicate distress. In healthy people the same neurons fire when a person observes distress in others. The inability to emphasize with these expressions and other pain signals in people makes violence more likely.Mirror neurons begin in the lobe of the brain that is responsible for muscle movement. The mirror neurons then sent emotional messages to another lobe of the brain that interprets the facial expression. This may be what makes empathy possible.
Iacoboni experimented with autistic children. Autism is a neurological syndrome that, along with many symptoms, presents the inability to respond in an appropriate social and emotional manner to various stimuli. Functional MRI scans revealed an impaired ability to mimic the emotions displayed in photographs of subject’s faces. Mildly autistic children easily identified pictures with various emotions, however the more severe the autism, the less successful the results. The results suggest that autistic children are less likely than non-autistic children to display empathy, although this isn’t to suggest that autistic children are prone to excessive violence. Working with children who are mildly to severely autistic children displays a wide range of social and intellectual abilities. Some of the autistic children I have worked with are highly intelligent but their emotional affect is impaired. These children are uninterested in social interaction and are quite content to work and play alone. Severely autistic children in my experience tend to interact more with adults, as limited as the interaction may be but this may also be due to a lack of opportunity to socialize with other children, along with a lack of interest in socializing with peers.
Robert D. Hare – FBI profiler believes it is a combination of both social rejection and physical impairment in the brain that may lead to violent behavior. What’s more, mental illness “is the key factor behind delusional killers who then lash out against a false reality.” However Hare is quick to mention that this combination is very rare even in killers. A prime example is Andrea Yates, the paranoid schizophrenic who drowned her five children in a bathtub when voices told her they were Satan’s spawn. At the time of the murders Yates may or may not have been taking prescribed medication for her illness. However Hare has also observed pathological killers who rely on their intellect to commit crime and avoid responsibility for it for some time. Diane Downs, the mother of three who shot her children, killing one, is an example of a subject Hare believed fit this profile. Hare describes her as “scheming” and “deceitful” and fully aware of the implications of her actions.
It is quite possibly that Yates’ brain, like some of those of mentally ill criminals, Dr Paul Thompson, a researcher at the University of California experimented with 12 schizophrenics over a 5-year period, taking MRIs to compare their brains with ordinary brains. Patients lost 5% of their brain tissue in the first year after diagnosis. Two years later there was “a massive avalanche of brain tissue loss that ends up at the front of the brain.” The frontal lobes of the brain are responsible for reasoning and other high functioning. After 5 years, brain tissue loss added up to 1/4 of brain due to schizophrenia. However the majority of schizophrenics are not violent, and if anything, may be more of a threat to themselves than anyone around them. It may be that in some schizophrenic individuals there is an impulse that makes them capable of violent acts and incapable of self-control.
Robert Shug is a researcher in the Psychology Department of the University of Southern California. He theorizes that the minority of violent schizophrenics, co-morbid with anti-social disorder, are prone to violent behaviour. Focusing on the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, Shug attempts to prove a deficit in this area. His experiment resulted in an impaired ability to respond to various sounds in the environment, such as an infant’s cry. They are at a dual risk for acting out in a violent manner.
Dr Randy Larson, at Washington University in St Louis, believes that jealous in men and women, a common trait in “love-triangle” murders believes “jealousy is a hard-wired emotion“, and “a direct line to the autonomic nervous system.” The latter initiates the “flight or fight response” in humans. Larson discovered that women registered a higher emotional response to the prospect of a romantic partner falling in love with someone else and men registered a higher response to the prospect of a romantic partner having sex with someone else. Criminal cases seem to bear out Larson’s findings.
Men and women mate for the same reasons: to pass genes to the next generation. Throughout history, men weren’t certain whose child his partner birthed, whereas women were obviously privy to this information. It might be that a primitive instinct in men to raise only their own offspring and no one else’s might trigger more anger about a sexual betrayal than that of emotional intimacy.
There appears to be much further work needed in this area if researchers are to make significant conclusions in the analysis of the criminal brain and violent crime. But MRI scans, the use of electrodes and other technology are of assistance in this area, as is the dedication of experts in the field.
There don’t seem to be a lot of door-to-door salesman these days and that’s probably a good thing. It was always recommended to women home alone not to allow a salesman access to the home and thereby to themselves. In this sad account, a grandmother appears to have done just that and paid for it with her life.
Barrie, Ontario is a sleepy suburb in southern Ontario, a good 90-minute drive from Toronto, my current place of residence. Barrie, a place I often visit for various reasons, and Toronto couldn’t be more different. You’d expect this type of murder might take place in a city with 3 million people. Barrie has a population of about 130,000, not the ripest hunting ground for a killer, but Clare Spiers thought otherwise. Massumeh Mimi Khonsari, a relatively youthful grandmother at the age of 61, and wife of the late prominent Barrie surgeon Homa Khonsari, had the misfortune to be at home babysitting her precious 11-month-old granddaughter and opened the door after Spiers rang the doorbell. No one knows how it was that Spiers, peddling windows and home renovations, forced his way into her home then managed to force Khonsari into her own car with the baby in her arms. Other residents of the leafy Shanty Bay Rd. area had turned him away from their homes. They felt uncomfortable with the way Spiers tried to push his way into their homes. Police speculated Spiers threatened the baby’s life if Khonsari didn’t comply with his commands. Placing herself at great risk, Khonsari would rather die for the child than let Spiers hurt her. It all rather reminds me of a sadistic version of Little Red Riding Hood, except the odious character of the wolf is triumphant in the end.
Spiers was born and raised in Orillia a half hour drive north of Barrie. From an early age no one wanted Spiers: he was farmed out to foster homes and reform schools since the age of 8 or 9. Many children endure horrors in foster homes; sexual and physical abuse, seldom being fed or bathed. It is quite possible that Spiers survived a number of dreadful homes although there may have been a few good ones in his history. Either way, his unhappy childhood simply cannot excuse the atrocities he committed against Khonsari. Incredibly, Spiers had already acquired thirty-four convictions in Canada and the U.S. before the murder. Somehow he was hired as a door-to-door salesman by a Barrie company and unleashed on an unsuspecting public.
Some of Spiers’ charges included robberies, B&E, rape, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and a prison break. Yet time and again a parole board deemed Spiers fit to re-enter society as a free citizen. In 1985, he committed a carjacking in New York against an elderly woman. She saved her own life when she jumped out of the moving vehicle. What’s a few bruises and scrapes compared to a murder? In 1988, at JFK Airport, he forced a woman into a remote area of the airport terminal where he raped her. Spiers was arrested and sentenced to six to 12 years. Eleven years later in 1999, he forced a Toronto prostitute to go with him to a construction site where he struck her repeatedly about the head with a rock. Ouch. Her injuries required 40 stitches and staples to close. Spiers received only three years for aggravated assault. Seriously. Three years and he could have killed the woman. Spiers committed increasingly violent crimes mere months or weeks after he was released from prison. Somehow there was a lack of communication among police forces in Canada and the U.S. In both countries, Spiers’ sentences were an insult to his victims’ pain and suffering. Somehow he kept securing a release from prison even after an ongoing string of violent crimes committed against women.
Khonsari, Homa and their three sons immigrated to Canada from Iran. Her husband, was chief of surgery at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie. On that horrible May day, Dr. Khonsari had just left the house to play a round of golf after spending the morning at the hospital. Mrs. Khonsari was excited about having her granddaughter, Maya, for a sleepover that night. Mrs. Khonsari and Maya didn’t have very long to enjoy one another’s company. They were abducted from Garrett Cres. at 2:40 p.m. that afternoon. A contractor happened to call the house as Spiers entered and threatened Khonsari. Khonsari told him someone was trying to get into her car with her granddaughter. The contractor heard “a loud scuffling noise” before the line then went dead. Right away, he phoned both Dr. Khonsari and Barrie police. Alas, the well-intended call was in vain.
Mimi and Maya Khonsari were forced into a blue Audi to a wooded area in Oro-Medonte Township. A school bus driver noticed what appeared to be a “commotion” on the passenger side. Alas, the driver failed to intervene or to contact his home base. The Audi turned off on a concession road. In a quiet, wooded area, Mimi Khonsari was strangled with a piece of binder twine then, while still alive, she was stabbed repeatedly, her neck sliced open. “She was essentially murdered twice,” the coroner testified. Spiers then left Khonsari where she lay and drove away with Maya in the car. Spiers drove to the Bayfield Mall in Barrie. Two women saw him get out of the Audi, leaving a young child in the car. He headed to a coffee shop where he smoked and paced the sidewalk without entering the shop. When Spiers noticed the women staring at him and the infant he drove away.
Spiers parked behind an apartment building, placed Maya on the floor of the Audi and tossed away the keys. He left Maya unharmed, called a cab and went to the Rooster’s Bar. He paid the cab driver with money from Mimi Khonsari’s purse, A neighbour, Allison Miller, commented, “somewhere deep inside him he had enough decency not to harm that baby.” Khonsari’s body was found at 8:30 that night and Spiers was arrested on June 19, 2004, in Prince Edward Island on a Canada-wide warrant for breach of probation. It was not yet discovered that he had murdered Khonsari. He had flown to the east coast province to see his newborn twins. Sweet God. Twins. Hopefully the woman who was in an intimate relationship with Spiers will prove to be a considerably better role model, and won’t unleash two more Spiers’ in the world.
On Dec. 13 that year Spiers was charged with Mimi Khonsari’s murder. The murder weapon was never recovered. No motive was ever offered but then again no motive was needed. Spiers was a psychopath and a sadist who attacked lone women with no means of defense. He simply was and is a savage killer. What motive was needed? In 2007, three years after Khonsari’s murder, a jury found Spiers guilty of first degree murder. However, the Ontario Court of Appeal tossed out the verdict after learning the prosecution had improperly”vetted” the jury. In this case, the Crown checked into the personal backgrounds of jurors before they were selected for trial. The intention was to weed out jurors with alcohol or mental health problems, or those who were considered “disreputable.” The higher court said the Crown had no bad intentions in the process but the Crown’s actions “tainted” justice. Most definitely I am inclined to agree. Weed out people with mental illness or alcohol addiction? Sounds like a slippery slope into George Orwell’s 1984 to me. As a result of the Crown’s carelessness, it would take another 7 years before Spiers would go on trial for Khonsari’s murder,
Ten years after Khonsari’s murder, Spiers was finally convicted to life in prison for the second degree murder of Mimi Khonsari. Rather than bear the expense of another trial, the Crown agreed to allow Spiers to plead guilty to the lesser charge. Justice Ian Nordheimer offered Spiers the chance of parole after serving only 7 years in 2021. Seriously. Has Ontario learned nothing from the ongoing release of this prisoner? Nordheimer defended his decision by stating that offering parole as early as 2021 didn’t guarantee Spiers would actually be granted parole. Well, isn’t that a huge relief (roll eyes in head).That means in 7 more years, the Khonsari family will once again re-open deep wounds as they attend Spiers’ parole hearing. Should there be more than one parole hearing (one hopes), the family will have to continue their ongoing fight to maintain justice and keep Spiers behind bars where he belongs, for the murder of Mimi Khonsari.