Thursday, 28 May 2015

Albert Dyer - Child Killer

We know that profiling came to the fore with the Thomas Harris novels (and subsequent films) "Silence of the Lambs" & "Red Dragon."  But it has reared it`s head occasionally, going as far back as the "Jack the Ripper" murders - a doctor drew up a profile of what he believed the killer was like - and famously, in the hunt for the mad bomber George Metetsky.  But it did come up before the mad bomber case, in the late 1930`s.  This was courtesy of Psychiatrist Dr Joseph de River.  He was called in by Eugene Williams, Chief of Investigation for the D.A.`s Office to give an indication of what sort of perpetrator they were looking for.  Three very young girls had been brutally murdered in the town of Inglewood, California.  It was late in June 1937 that Jeanette Stephens, aged eight, and sisters Melba Everett, aged nine and Madeline, seven, went missing from Centinela Park.  Over a couple of days, huge search parties scoured the areas around Inglewood, but the grim discovery was made by a small team scouts searching Baldwin Hills, a couple of miles away.  All the children had been strangled with rope around their necks.  Sexual assault was also suspected.  When everybody had been alerted and the searchers gathered near the crime scene, one man seemed to act a little strangely.  He shouted at people who were smoking, to show "some respect for the deceased" and then went to the crime scene, demanding to help remove the bodies.  His name was Albert Dyer aged 32.

    Numerous investigators were drafted in to assist in the hunt for the killer as there was outrage in the town and talk of lynching the killer when his identity was known.  Eugene Williams consulted Dr de River, hoping for a profile of whoever was responsible.  He had viewed the crime scene, studied all the crime scene photographs, attended the morgue and then retired to make an assessment.  His profile read; one man, paedophile, early 20`s, been arrested before annoying children, a very curious sadist, thorough and now possibly remorseful.  May be religious, spectacular and had planned his killings.  He believed the girls knew their killer.  Nobody had seen them with anybody.  Police had no clues at all.  They hit a wall.  Then, as many cases through the years have proved, the killer injects himself into the investigation.  Dyer had taken to keeping a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about the case.  He had told his wife that it was a dedication to the victims.  He also told her that he knew them through working as a school crossing guide.

    Days after the girls were found, Dyer went into the Police Station saying he had been told they wanted to speak to him.  Lieutenant Sanderson told him that they routinely spoke to everybody who knew them.  Dyer gave an alibi of his movements and then left.  He was being observed by Dr de River.  The Doctor told Chief Williams that Dyer was the man. The Chief said he was wrong as Dyer`s alibi checked out.  Dr de River insisted that they were to be 100% certain before they ruled him out.  Rechecking his alibi, it was soon found to be inconsistent and was so arrested.  He was transferred to a major jail to avoid a lynch mob that had formed.  His interrogation revealed more inconsistencies, but he continually denied murder.  The detectives threatened to take him back to Inglewood and explain to the mob why his alibi was now completely falling to pieces.  Fearing being lynched, he confessed.  His motive was sexual.  He even raped the dead body of one victim.  Tried and convicted, he was sentenced to death.  He retracted his confession and his defence tried to state he was mentally incompetent.  One juror held out for acquittal, but was told that the Judge believed Dyer was guilty, so he voted for conviction.  The Los Angeles Times made a scathing attack on Dyer, declaring he should die for his crime.  Dyer was hanged at San Quentin on September 16th 1938.  One more killer hung after Dyer, then the prison switched to using the Gas Chamber.

    Was  Dyer guilty?  No doubt in my mind - there I go with my "trouble stirring guesswork!" - but Dr de River was correct on a number of points.  Dyer planned it.  When the girls headed for the hills, he kept ahead and out of sight.  He admitted praying for forgiveness after killing them.  His actions at the crime scene were what Freud called "Undoing," actions done to alleviate the gravity of the crime, a display of remorse.  Plus, he knew the girls, they knew him.  Clothesline matching the murder weapons were found at his home, and under one of the bodies was a chemists bag belonging to the store where Dyer had made recent purchases.  Case closed?