Serial Killer


The Summer of 1979.  I lived in a small town just north of Indianapolis, called Indianola.  Many of the people in this town had lived in Indianola most of their lives.  My family had resided on the same street since before I was born - a tree-lined boulevard with large lots, most of the homes set back at angles from the street.  At age 21, I had known every neighbor on our block for years.

It was a typical Indiana summer – hot and humid – with frequent nighttime thunderstorms. What made this summer unique, and uniquely frightening, was the presence of a vicious serial killer.  Details about the murders were sketchy, and much of what people “knew” was likely random speculation.  Still, the local press was pretty dogged and we knew the police had confirmed five murders since the beginning of the year.  Most of us figured there were more. Many more.

What gave me chills were the killer’s methods. First, he used a knife.  Not a kitchen knife, but one of those beastly, foot-long, hunting knives used to skin a deer.  It was apparent the killer rarely completed the job with one stab. He liked to toy with his victims, often inflicting painful flesh wounds before finishing the job. I had heard that some of the victims had died of heart attacks before the killer got around to finishing the job, perhaps mercifully.

The media had dubbed the killer “The Light Stalker”.  It seemed the killer liked to overpower victims in the dark, and to make it worse, he would control the lights, so that the potential victim would become agitated trying to find a working light source. Then, just before stabbing the victim, he would switch on a light so that the victim could see his face. Likely this effect added to the psychological torture. Pretty sick.

Many of these details came from an assault on a woman who managed to survive her wounds. She told the police that she had enough knowledge about the legend that when she couldn’t find a working light upon entering her house, it occurred to her it might be the Light Stalker. Still, she chose to disregard her fears, instead telling herself she was silly to think this; that surely the power was out. When a table lamp suddenly switched on behind her, she knew he was there. She tried to run, but at this point was so terrified her feet became glued to the floor.  All the evening news stations ran the same footage, her lying in her hospital bed, head wrapped in gauze and her eyes swollen shut. She described how she had learned somewhere if you are ever attacked by a wild animal, to let yourself go completely limp and play dead, which she did by falling to the floor after he sliced open her scalp and stabbed her in the belly. She said she went lifeless, hoping he would stop the assault, but how she managed to stay still with multiple stab wounds is beyond me. Listening to her description on the news was horrifying. She said it was the worst moment of her life.  I can only imagine.

At age 21, I still lived at home with my Mother, Stepdad and younger sister, Elizabeth. I was studying biology at the local university, with some vague hopes of attending Veterinary School. For income, I worked as a waiter in a diner near the freeway. Because I was 21, I could legally serve the customers cocktails – mostly beer and wine.  I am pretty sure serving alcohol improved the tips and on some evenings, I came home with over $100 in my pocket. Not bad for someone with questionable ambition at this point in his life.





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