One summer night in 1987, I was sitting in the Espresso Roma Café in Santa Barbara with a friend of mine and his teenage-runaway girlfriend. She was frying on acid, which she did fairly often, and I decided to have some fun. The first thing I did was to fashion a voodoo doll from a paper napkin. Then I reached across the table, plucked out one of her hairs, and wrapped it around the doll. While making sure she was watching me, I took my butter knife and stabbed it through the doll’s chest. The way she clutched herself and screamed, it was as if I had impaled her heart for real.
Yes, I could be a complete shit back then. However, I don’t do stuff like that anymore. I’m over it. Acid heads who are prone to suggestion (which is to say pretty much all of them) have little to fear from the likes of me. I’m a nice guy now, more or less.
Now if I can mellow with age, it stands to reason that far worse people than myself can as well. This holds true even in the case of serial killers, who are about as far worse as far worse can be. Two examples that immediately come to mind are Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer. Whether these individuals experienced some sort of moral awakening or if they simply got bored will probably never be known. What is clear is that they walked away from their life of evil deeds before the law could catch up with them.
Of course, this means these murderers are able to evade punishment. Not a popular outcome in general and especially not for friends and family. It’s hard enough losing someone to an illness or an accident without having to think about some hatchet-wielding lunatic as the cause of it all.
And then there are the homicide detectives who get a detailed look at a serial killer’s handiwork. What they see is not a neat little bullet hole in the forehead like one finds watching shows from TV’s golden age where there was plenty of violence but no blood to speak of. Instead, they are treated to raped eye sockets, intestines ripped out and knotted around throats like neckties, and faces cut off with surgical precision only to be unceremoniously reattached inside out. And let’s not forget the vagina mutilators whose variations on misogyny-as-performance-art could fill volumes.
Those who work these crime are not interested in the perpetrator turning over a new leaf. The want that person out of circulation and for justice to be swift and uncompromising. Most of us share this view.
The problem is that sort of justice no longer exists in the American judicial system. The right to appeal makes an April hanging for a March murder impossible. This is not necessarily a bad thing as our courts have been known to convict the wrong person. What is galling is someone like Ted Bundy who is as guilty as they come, living off taxpayer money for close to a decade before getting strapped to the hot seat.
OK, Bundy was never going to stop killing. Even on death row he wasn’t able to come to terms with what he had done, preferring to blame his actions on the influence of porn.
So in Ted’s case, it was probably money well spent. But for a killer who stops killing and never gets caught, I can’t help but think that all those dollars that don’t have to be spent on a trial and incarceration may actually go to something worthwhile. Then again, it’ll probably get pissed away on some pork-barrel project so the hell with it. Spare no expense. Track them down and hang ’em high. The government is good at that, at least the sparing no expense part.