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February 29, 2008 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Kevin Ray Underwood found guilty of first degree murder in the April 2006 killing of 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin. The jury only needed 20 minutes to decide on his guilt. Previously on Metafilter, because he linked here. How could a seemingly normal, albeit "single, bored and lonely", young man become a cannabalistic child rapist and murderer? Exhibits: The blog he kept for almost four years up until the day after the murder. A collection of misc information about Underwood, including (near the bottom) the text of an online chat he had with a friend after killing Bolin. An extremely disturbing transcript of his confession to the FBI. Video footage of the trial. Deliberations will begin Monday as to whether or not he will be sentenced to death.
posted by banishedimmortal (150 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
(just by way of warning: the "transcript" link is a 25 Mb pdf file and might take a little while to download)
posted by jason's_planet at 7:10 PM on February 29, 2008


Reading the transcript, you learn that he claims he was sexually frustrated and that his primary motivation was to have sex with someone. I find it at once amazing and horrifying that apparently in all his sexual frustration, he never considered getting a prostitute. He planned to kidnap and kill a kid but never came to the conclusion "Why don't I just get a hooker?" I wonder if he had, would the little girl still be alive today.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:40 PM on February 29, 2008


Good.

SubSpecies23 was quite the talk of Xday 2006, the Church of the SubGenius' end of the world drill. Interesting to watch the reaction of folks to finding out someone who'd vaguely drifted in and out of Dobbs' path was a kid-killer, considering that a stated goal of the Church is to wipe out 99.9% of humanity.
posted by waraw at 7:47 PM on February 29, 2008


There was a spot in there where he started talking about how he'd never actually kill anyone. He backpedaled afterwards, and clarified that he'd never expected to kill anyone — but that wasn't the way he put it the first time. It sounds like there's a lot of cognitive dissonance going on in there right now, and clear, rational thought might be a bit much to ask from the guy.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:49 PM on February 29, 2008


Oh brrr. I remember this clearly - I was one of several Mefites in his blogroll. Made me feel completely different about random linkage from blogs for a long time afterwards. As creeped out yet fascinated as I am by this - I can not imagine keeping a daily blog about stuff like this. Crime blogging is a really strange genre...
posted by batgrlHG at 7:56 PM on February 29, 2008


The FBI transcript says he was a Kingdom of Loathing player. Huh.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 8:01 PM on February 29, 2008


Pastabagel writes "I find it at once amazing and horrifying that apparently in all his sexual frustration, he never considered getting a prostitute."

He said the age and gender didn't matter. He had considered a very young boy, like 5 years old. I get the idea the interest in children was mostly utilitarian, because he could easily overpower a child. He was sexually frustrated, but that's not even close to what was really wrong with the guy. He had an interest in cannibalism, seemingly his primary motivation for this act. It brought him sexual arousal, but that almost seems secondary. He also took some sort of medication, which seemed to precipitate his odd fixations. Sounds like the guy had some serious mental illness that crept up on him. Not that that would excuse his actions, but it definitely sounds like his life was relatively normal up until recently, if lonely and anti-social.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:16 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought I'd lost the ability to be badly emotionally affected by crime, ya know? I mean, we're saturated in it, gigs of it, news 24 hours and this sort of horrorshow stuff all the damn time. If you respond the way your nature intends...with the appropriate sort of horror and sadness with every crime...you'd go freaking nuts. So we cope with it, maybe gloss over it, ignore the worst of it, can't let it sink in. We're American. It's what we do.

But this, holy crap.

Why the fuck did I read that transcript? I got as far as his victim apologizing to him when he hit her over the head during his initial attack. Her initial reaction was, I'm sorry. This terrified girl, she's just been bashed over the head, she's about to be killed, and she screams "I'm sorry"? I can't read any further than that. I can't know the details. I'd not be able to sleep.

I don't, you know, I don't get too affected by this stuff, but I saw that and I stopped breathing. How do FBI agents deal with that for a living? Whatever they are paid, it isn't enough.

I understand the impulse for revenge. I'm OK with that impulse right now.
posted by blixco at 8:16 PM on February 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


He's also a japanophile. Why doesn't that surprise me?
posted by cazoo at 8:31 PM on February 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why the fuck did I read that transcript?

Yup. I certainly won't be reading it, or following any of the links. I don't see any need for any of us to put ourselves through that - especially when it's not, in the end, people like this who are at all most likely to hurt us. The threat of the lone pyscho pales in comparison to all the mundane horrors that are killing more people and, now and again, breeding more psychos.

Delving in to the details of cases like this is tantamount to snuff at worst, and akin to focusing a microscope on one bullet hole in a massacre, while ignoring the chain gun behind you, at best.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:32 PM on February 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I got as far as his victim apologizing to him when he hit her over the head during his initial attack.

That was a shocking moment. I read that and almost stopped to post it here, but decided that if anyone wanted to read that sort of detail they would wade through the transcript themselves. (that was my personal take on it, I don't begrudge you posting it).

I understand the impulse for revenge.

Wow, I had exactly the opposite reaction. He's no longer a person in my eyes -- he's become the grizzly, the tiger, or the dog that we need to put down because he's become a hazard to humans. I'd put a bullet through his head in a second, but it wouldn't be anything so personal as revenge.

I'm sure I'll feel more forgiving after I've gotten over the shock of reading that transcript, but at the moment I'm amazed that he didn't die in a jailhouse "accident".
posted by tkolar at 8:41 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The threat of the lone pyscho pales in comparison

The boogeyman has existed in all human cultures as far back as anyone has been telling stories. Grendel came in the night and stole men to eat -- Hansel was force fed sweets to fatten him up until Gretel tricked the witch into the oven.

This man is an ancient nightmare come to life.
posted by tkolar at 8:56 PM on February 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


« Older Hungry? Arteries not quite plugged enough? Behold,...

Ewwww, irony, sometimes you gross me out.

Yeah, I'm not reading this transcript. I just know it's gonna bother me too much. What I really want to know is...why the HELL is his blog still up there?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:00 PM on February 29, 2008


Thanks for the heads up on the transcript, don't think I can read that.
The blog you'll find totally, deeply normal. Or at least I didn't see anything that was much out of the ordinary blogwise.
posted by batgrlHG at 9:05 PM on February 29, 2008


About the transcript: Please do beware.

To put it in perspective, I had a good laugh on Wednesday at the horrible overkill of a puppy being eaten by a python *in front of the family kids*. So sick it's funny.

In contrast, I'm viscerally upset after reading that transcript.
posted by tkolar at 9:12 PM on February 29, 2008


Yikes! He hints that it was the medication for anxiety (perhaps Xanax? I've seen this drug really mess people up) that caused his fantasies to come to life--that he was a Bhuddist and hated stepping on bugs, but then he calmly describes his plans for beheading and eating the body and talks about all the 'woman on a spit' porno that he's had on his computer and it is clear that he's had these thoughts for years. Maybe the drug just made it easier. Some people, no matter how shy, should be allowed to have their inhibitions reduced!

There are web sites for people who like this stuff??? Maybe the Overby/Maag FBI guys should check this out and avoid a few
posted by eye of newt at 9:25 PM on February 29, 2008


...avoid a few more cases like this.

oops
posted by eye of newt at 9:27 PM on February 29, 2008


There are web sites for people who like this stuff??? Maybe the Overby/Maag FBI guys should check this out

Sure, because that couldn't possibly go horribly horribly wrong somehow.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:37 PM on February 29, 2008


eye of newt: Yikes! He hints that it was the medication for anxiety (perhaps Xanax? I've seen this drug really mess people up)

The first link above says it was Lexapro.

Anyway, it's very clear from the transcript that he was grasping at straws by offering that as an excuse -- he mentions a couple of things that had changed since he last went on the medication (a month or so before the murder) but at several other points says that he's been having these fantasies for years to some extent.

It's so fucked up how rational he seems in explaining the whole thing though -- they must have been interrogating him when he was exhausted (and indeed he says he is exhausted a number of times in the transcript, and the interrogation ends with him repeatedly vomiting) because his candour is unsettling to say the least.
posted by loiseau at 9:55 PM on February 29, 2008


Maybe this is a tiny point, but the chat transcript (?) in the "collected" link does not read right to me. It seems heavily edited or false somehow. The syntax, the word choices, the lack of typographic errors.

Where did that IM chat come from? This is not explained.
posted by rokusan at 10:04 PM on February 29, 2008


For all its horror, the transcript is really interesting, on a technical level.

Just sorta wish I wasn't listening to Salvation by Josh Haden while I was reading it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:25 PM on February 29, 2008


How could a seemingly normal, albeit "single, bored and lonely", young man become a cannabalistic child rapist and murderer?

Well, I could have told you before it happened. It's obvious. He has three names. Henry Lee Lucas. John Wayne Gacy. Mark David Chapman. Billy Ray Cyrus. Three names are trouble, man.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:14 PM on February 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Don't read the transcript. :-(

I'm pretty well against the death penalty but I think this guy's going to get it and that's a good thing. It's hard to be angry with such a... creature but the world's better off without him. As Robert Heinlein pointed out in Starship Troopers, if you really cured him then he'd have to kill himself from guilt.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:59 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


So this is what it sounds like when doves cry.
posted by dhammond at 12:16 AM on March 1, 2008


I kinda feel bad for him. I don't know how it's so easy for you people to condemn him as a "creature" when it's pretty clear that he was just a normal guy until his isolation started destroying his sense of perspective.
posted by nasreddin at 12:51 AM on March 1, 2008


I'm another guy desensitized to violence. Everyone's ogrish.com fare was a sometimes daily part of my job training. I'm sure some of you have it even worse and are post-mortem pathologists or what have you.

But I really had to kinda blink a couple times when I got to the "I'm sorry" part. Real life is often so much more terrifying than fiction.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:19 AM on March 1, 2008


I'm really relieved that other people posted "spoilers" about the "I'm sorry" part before I read the transcript, because that shit would've wrecked me if I hadn't been somewhat prepared for it.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:24 AM on March 1, 2008


I don't know how it's so easy for you people to condemn him as a "creature" when it's pretty clear that he was just a normal guy until his isolation started destroying his sense of perspective.

It makes it easier to rationalize and fit into a neat little compartment. They do it precisely because it is easy. "GRAAH INHUMAN MONSTER RAARRH" is much easier to deal with than a by all accounts normal guy with no apparent crippling mental disorders who was socially isolated and just snapped one day. That could happen to anyone, and it's uncomfortable to contemplate, so let's just make him a monster, a ticking time bomb that was fucked up all along.

Apparently he liked They Might Be Giants. Maybe that had something to do with it. Maybe he woke up one day and was like "Holy shit! I actually enjoy They Might Be Giants!", flew into a cannibalistic psychotic break, and made a little birdhouse in someone's skull. God, I hate that band so much it kinda makes me feel like killing someone too.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:03 AM on March 1, 2008 [8 favorites]


Actually, that's exactly why the whole thing freaks me out.

He played Kingdom of Loathing. I play Kingdom of Loathing. Hell, my wife plays Kingdom of Loathing.

He likes They Might Be Giants. Hey, I like They Might Be Giants.

He had an anti-Bush and a "federal government is incompetent" bumper stickers on his car. If I did bumper stickers, I could see having those on my car.

And suddenly, he goes nuts-- in a horribly coherent way.

GAH! Could this happen to me?

But yeah, the "I'm sorry" did really get to me. He does describe the whole thing in a coherent way, but it was odd that he didn't see this poor kid as a person. There's something horribly un-human about that.
posted by gregvr at 4:01 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


For all its horror, the transcript is really interesting, on a technical level.

Can you explain Alvy?

(Not a shred of snark, btw)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:33 AM on March 1, 2008


It makes it easier to process when we say to ourselves that someone like this is inhuman, a monster. But saw that he was human before, and it's important to remember that. This terrible thing, many terrible things, are done by humans. People who really aren't that much different from us, until something snaps them sideways.

Not to say that he deserves sympathy because of his humanity, absolutely the hell not. But to not recognize that there might be monsters inside any of us that sometimes must be reckoned with, must be tamed or destroyed, is to risk being devoured.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:37 AM on March 1, 2008


Underwood's contemplative tone helps demonstrate Hannah Arendt's concept of the banality of evil. Should we dismiss Underwood as an equivalent to a rabid dog, or a stain that must be removed for everyone else's convenience, all we'd truly accomplish is our own rationalizing of cold brutality.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:00 AM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Her initial reaction was, I'm sorry.

Nick Cave, O'Malley's Bar:

I shot Richard Holmes in the stomach
And gingerly he sat down
And he whispered weirdly, "No offense"
And then lay upon the ground

There was another story about a shooting in Australia, in a MacDonald's I believe, where the victim apologized after being shot.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:06 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction must make sense. And I think that's where religion comes in... a desperate attempt to ascribe meaning to the essential chaos of existence.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:08 AM on March 1, 2008


There was another story about a shooting in Australia, in a MacDonald's I believe, where the victim apologized after being shot.

Not to mention...

"My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week," Whittington said.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:26 AM on March 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty well against the death penalty but I think this guy's going to get it and that's a good thing

No, it's not. This guy is a human being. He deserves compassion and pity and our best attempts to help him understand why what he did was wrong. Yes, it's almost certain that he isn't capable of understanding that, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

And yes, of course, he should be locked away from society, both as punishment and for the safety of the community.

By the way, whoever it was who said they wouldn't mind if he suffered a 'jailhouse accident'? You do know that you're supporting cold-blooded murder, yes? Isn't there a little cognitive dissonance going on there?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:36 AM on March 1, 2008 [10 favorites]




By the way, whoever it was who said they wouldn't mind if he suffered a 'jailhouse accident'? You do know that you're supporting cold-blooded murder, yes? Isn't there a little cognitive dissonance going on there?


Nah, dnab, you're forgetting that we only care if children, doe-eyed white maidens, and sweet kindly old men are murdered. Just like that brand of environmentalism that only saves the cuddlier of endangered species. Instinctive hatred and revulsion totally justifies cruelty.
posted by nasreddin at 6:42 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


My bad, nasreddin.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:56 AM on March 1, 2008


The really terrifying thing about this story is some posters' unwillingness to categorize him as a monster, a useless thing, a speck of cancer in the body of humanity. Banality of evil? Bullshit. The day that I am capable of these acts, and perform them, is the day that I am dead and don't yet know it; I would hope that you would have the decency to destroy me because I would have been long gone already.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:57 AM on March 1, 2008 [13 favorites]


That's really a very sad perspective, Optimus.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:01 AM on March 1, 2008


No, it's not. This guy is a human being. He deserves compassion and pity and our best attempts to help him understand why what he did was wrong.

Well, to what fucking avail? I'm sorry, but this is just laughable. What, really, does one do with one's life after one rapes and kills a child? Game over, man...game over! There are acts so catastrophic that there is no possible way back from them. For the victim, certainly, and for the perpetrator, too. I mean, really, in the most Utopian scenario you can imagine, where do you see a fully recovered rapist and murderer of a child doing with himself in a decade? Maybe he'll settle down, have some kids? If he does come to understand what he's done, execution is the kindest thing we could do for him.

I am squeamish about the death penalty when there is the slightest possibility that the accused could be innocent; that doesn't seem to be the case here. Some abstract principle about how killing is always wrong...no, I'm sorry. Crazy talk.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:06 AM on March 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


In the earlier thread he mentions his fading mental capacities. If he does die, not to sound like a Victorian doctor, but I'd like to see the autopsy results for his brain. Maybe there's a tumor or something. Or maybe there's a virus going around that turns people into killers.
posted by mecran01 at 7:30 AM on March 1, 2008


He is us. Learning and understanding that is the only good thing that can come from all of this. Who could ever do such a thing? We could.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:41 AM on March 1, 2008 [5 favorites]



Well, to what fucking avail? I'm sorry, but this is just laughable. What, really, does one do with one's life after one rapes and kills a child? Game over, man...game over! There are acts so catastrophic that there is no possible way back from them. For the victim, certainly, and for the perpetrator, too. I mean, really, in the most Utopian scenario you can imagine, where do you see a fully recovered rapist and murderer of a child doing with himself in a decade? Maybe he'll settle down, have some kids? If he does come to understand what he's done, execution is the kindest thing we could do for him.


I find it rather perverse that you imagine yourself to be sitting in judgment on the permissibility of someone's life. Why should your arbitrary criteria for a successful life determine whether someone "deserves to live"? You're doing a lot of frothing, not a lot of thinking.
posted by nasreddin at 7:43 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm against the death penalty in all cases, and, while I certainly agree the human race would be better off without this horrible, evil man in it, I also think that once you start making exceptions in your principles you weaken them.

I doubt this guy will ever, no matter how much treatment he has, be able to re-enter society. But maybe psychologists can learn from him what happened to make him snap, to make him do such inhuman things, and maybe help stop others from doing the same or similar things. Maybe not, but it's worth a shot.

Of course, there's also the very real probability that he will be killed in prison. As I understand it, men who rape and/or murder kids tend to be targeted the moment they arrive.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:46 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The really terrifying thing about this story is some posters' unwillingness to categorize him as a monster, a useless thing, a speck of cancer in the body of humanity. Banality of evil? Bullshit.

And where do we draw the line? Why? Is someone who murders once more or less deserving of death than a serial rapist, for example? It could quite reasonably be argued that rapists have more long-term effects than murderers, and yet you don't see rapists in the USA sentenced to death.

I mean, really, in the most Utopian scenario you can imagine, where do you see a fully recovered rapist and murderer of a child doing with himself in a decade? Maybe he'll settle down, have some kids?

No, he should remain in jail as per the law. Yes, blah blah blah, the death penalty is the law. But I have never been able to wrap my head around the concept of killing people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong.

Killing other human beings, as far as I'm concerned, is acceptable only under a very few conditions:

1) Assisted suicide in cases of e.g. terminal illness. Obviously not applicable here.
2) Self-defence, which is admittedly pretty sticky, and really killing your attacker(s) should be the last resort. Again, not applicable here.
3) To prevent a greater wrong, e.g., the USA's involvement in WWII (which comes pretty broadly under the concept of self-defence anyway). And again, not applicable here; he can be prevented from doing any further wrong by locking him up.

If he does come to understand what he's done, execution is the kindest thing we could do for him.

So.. I'm missing something here. We should execute him now because we must have our vengeance, but we're actually being kind, lest he come to a full understanding of his actions?

That doesn't make any sense. In fact, if punishment is the point of sentencing someone to death, isn't the punishment more effective if he's kept alive and made to understand his crimes?

That's sort of the problem with the American justice system (and many others, but that's the one that's being discussed here): the focus is on vengeance and retribution, when the focus should be on rehabilitation as well as punishment. Parents: is simply sending your child to their room when they have misbehaved particularly effective? Or is it more useful to send them to their room, and also ensure that they understand why what they did was wrong?

I'm pretty certain that any intelligent person will see which response is more effective. So why do we focus so severely on sending criminals to their rooms?

I doubt this guy will ever, no matter how much treatment he has, be able to re-enter society. But maybe psychologists can learn from him what happened to make him snap, to make him do such inhuman things, and maybe help stop others from doing the same or similar things. Maybe not, but it's worth a shot.

Precisely. The problem is, it's pretty well known what causes things like this to happen: abuse as a child, isolation, lack of support network.

The thing is, when stuff like this happens, sometimes it's totally random. But for the most part, I think that it's because we as a society have failed. We have failed to provide stable and loving families (I categorically do not mean, necessarily, the 1 mum/1 dad/2.5 kids thing). We have failed to educate children. We have failed to eradicate abuse of children. We have failed to see when someone is slipping and we have failed to reach out and help them back up. When we see these horrific rapes and murders and abuses, we have failed as families, as communities, and as a society to look at our most troubled and not only say "How can I help you," but to realize that there but for the grace of God* go we.

That is why we call these people monsters. That is why we try to compartmentalize them into The Other, because then we can avoid the horrifying truth that otherwise normal people do spectacularly awful things to each other every day. We don't even have to Godwin the thread--take a look at what is happening right now in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Is everyone involved a monster? Is everyone involved unremittingly evil? Of course not; such distinctions are simplistic and only serve to cloud the issue, not resolve it.

Of course, there's also the very real probability that he will be killed in prison. As I understand it, men who rape and/or murder kids tend to be targeted the moment they arrive.


That's another problem that needs to be addressed. Vigilante 'justice' is a nonsense, whether it occurs inside prison or outside.

* God/luck/family/whatever you would like to fill in there
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:27 AM on March 1, 2008 [26 favorites]


Reading all these comments asking "How could such a seemingly normal guy do something like this?", I am reminded of a Salon interview with the author of a book called, "We Have to Talk About Kevin", which was a novel about the mother of a kid who went on a shooting rampage in his school. The author researched the Columbine massacre and other such happenings, and said there came a point at which she had to stop doing research. There are no predictors for sociopathic or psychopathic behaviours. You can't blame it on childhood trauma or abuse because there are so many kids who grow up with that who don't become sociopathic or pyschopathic, and others who have experienced quite a normal childhood who do.

I think all we can do is take better care of each other, to be on the alert for signs of trouble in those around us, to make sure that mental health care is widely available and accessible, and to thank whatever powers that may be that true sociopathic and psychopathic behaviour is rare.
posted by orange swan at 8:32 AM on March 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


So here's where the system steps in and says:

You don't have to make the decision about his life or death.

A judge decides what will happen to him.

And that judge has to take all of his training, all of his experience, and all of the evidence, as well as the jury of peers and their point of view, and he has to meditate on the ultimate outcome.

Should this guy get killed?

Does he deserve it? That's not really the question. Of course he deserves a severe punishment. And we always claim that the death penalty is not revenge. It is intended to be an example, a warning to others. A warning to you.

To me.

Does this guy merit becoming a warning? Is what he did so horrendous that his life has to end? Would his death serve society?

And looking only at the system and the standards, using only the example of the others in his state (and in the country) who have been killed as part of their sentence, I'd say yes. Just glancing at the stats and the facts, yes.

And if I were the judge, I would say, yes. He'd be a fine example about what consequences come from evil actions. But I am speaking from the gut, and not from the head, not from the facts and trivialities of law. I am affected by his victim. I am affected by the facts of what he did, of who he is, and what he became. I am weak enough, human enough to be miserable at the thought of that little girl frantically apologizing for being hurt, then smothered, then killed, her body raped. I am animal enough to want her attacker as dead as painfully as possible. That is rash, and improper. But I am not the judge.

Is the judge an elected or an appointed position? If so, I can say with some certainty that the desire of the community will enter directly into the decision, whether you like it or not.

But it is certainly worthy of both discussion and deep, deep examination of the goals one ascribes to their society. It would be my hope that we could evolve past the eye for an eye strategies, but some actions are impossible for me to forgive. Impossible, for me.
posted by blixco at 8:39 AM on March 1, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy: Give me a break. tkolar had just read a graphic account of the rape and murder of a little girl. Perhaps you are so enlightened as to be unaffected by such things, but I'd imagine, having been alive on the planet earth for some time, that you may be aware that people become outraged over tortured children. You can muster compassion for the murderer, but not for someone angry over the murder?
posted by Doug at 8:42 AM on March 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


Of course, there's also the very real probability that he will be killed in prison. As I understand it, men who rape and/or murder kids tend to be targeted the moment they arrive.

Can we please put an end to this meme? Prison inmates are not noble savages imbued with a sense of frontier justice, OK? This only happens on television and in the movies. Prisoners target other prisoners because they ARE predators, not because they dislike predators. Pedophiles and the like are targeted, when/if they're targeted more frequently, because they tend to be less likely to be able to fight back then your average Mexican Mafia member doing 15 years for armed robbery.

On the other hand, I would like to commend everyone for not making any prison rape jokes. I figured there'd at least have been one "hurr durr institutionalized torture is hilarious and anal sex is emasculating!" crack by now, but I suppose Metafilter is populated by higher forms of life than most forums.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:52 AM on March 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


dirtynumbangelboy: Give me a break. tkolar had just read a graphic account of the rape and murder of a little girl. Perhaps you are so enlightened as to be unaffected by such things, but I'd imagine, having been alive on the planet earth for some time, that you may be aware that people become outraged over tortured children. You can muster compassion for the murderer, but not for someone angry over the murder?

That someone is upset does not make their howls for blood out of bounds as a discussion topic.
posted by nasreddin at 8:52 AM on March 1, 2008


Um, Doug, not really sure where you're coming from there. Outrage over tortured children is a good thing; I suggest that anyone who isn't outraged over torture in general and torture of children in particular is someone who, to be charitable, needs some lessons in comprehending basic humanity.

I never said that I didn't have any compassion for tkolar, so that's a bit of a strawman there. And, uh, tkolar himself said he wouldn't feel like that later, which only serves to bolster my point that we shouldn't be sentencing people to death based on visceral reactions to their crimes.

So, ummm.. yeah. Not so sure where your anger and scathing sarcasm came from, but I'd suggest switching to decaf.

I figured there'd at least have been one "hurr durr institutionalized torture is hilarious and anal sex is emasculating!" crack by now,

Actually I'm kind of surprised about that too.

but I suppose Metafilter is populated by higher forms of life than most forums.

Inasmuch as one could consider, say, acidophilus a higher form of life than, hmm, botulinum (or whatever the bacteria that causes botulism is called). There tends to be a lot of hurf durf buttsecks around here, which I think is a) incredibly offensive, and b) highly indicative of exactly how deeply ingrained homophobic attitudes are, but this is neither the time nor the place to get into it. (Seriously, please don't let that turn into a derail. Not intended as such).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:55 AM on March 1, 2008


Howls for blood? Did you actually even read what was written? "but at the moment I'm amazed that he didn't die in a jailhouse "accident" Is that a howl for blood? Come on.

Anyway, I believe my "scathing sarcasm" comes from the fact that dirtynumbangelboy's righteousness seems a bit pre-packaged, and not wholly appropriate to the situation. I mean, you certainly did not say you didn't have compassion for tkolar. That would be an odd thing to say. But you equated his comment to calling for "cold-blooded murder," which seemed a bit out of line to me. If I'm out of line, I apologize. I'll try this decaf of which you speak.

No, he should remain in jail as per the law. Yes, blah blah blah, the death penalty is the law. But I have never been able to wrap my head around the concept of killing people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong.

I'm not for the death penalty, but this is a pretty weak argument. If someone kidnaps and holds captive another person, society's response is to, essentially, kidnap and hold the offender captive. And yet, people seem pretty clear on the fact that kidnapping is wrong.

Parents: is simply sending your child to their room when they have misbehaved particularly effective? Or is it more useful to send them to their room, and also ensure that they understand why what they did was wrong?

So you're under the impression that Underwood didn't understand that what he did was wrong? It seems pretty clear to me that he knew why his actions were wrong. We all do bad things, to varying degrees, and I don't think the explanation is that we didn't know that it was wrong to do them.
posted by Doug at 9:08 AM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


It makes it easier to rationalize and fit into a neat little compartment. They do it precisely because it is easy. "GRAAH INHUMAN MONSTER RAARRH" is much easier to deal with than a by all accounts normal guy with no apparent crippling mental disorders who was socially isolated and just snapped one day. That could happen to anyone, and it's uncomfortable to contemplate, so let's just make him a monster, a ticking time bomb that was fucked up all along.

Apparently he liked They Might Be Giants. Maybe that had something to do with it. Maybe he woke up one day and was like "Holy shit! I actually enjoy They Might Be Giants!", flew into a cannibalistic psychotic break, and made a little birdhouse in someone's skull. God, I hate that band so much it kinda makes me feel like killing someone too.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:03 AM on March 1 [3 favorites +] [!]


This line of logic is just as bad as what you purport to be refuting.

This was absolutely, 100% not a "normal guy...who was socially isolated and just snapped one day." You may want to read the transcript. Not only is this someone who admits he spends his waking hours playing a video game and eating excessively (okay, we can chalk this up to run-of-the-mill social isolation, sure, though it's definitely already pointing to a chemical imbalance), but he also admits that he's been having these sorts of fantasies for years. Yes, he waffles, but he admits that he's had cannibalistic porn, children in swimwear and gruesome crime scene photos on his hard drive for years and that he looks at this pornography regularly.

He talks about the one and only time he had sexual intercourse; on his blog you get some insight into a woman he didn't really know that he was 'in love with'--a woman he had spent a few hours with once in a 5 year period. The porn is clearly the most compelling aspect of the case, but this is NOT a 'normal guy'. Normal people don't hole themselves up in an apartment unless they're forced to work or *drop off their laundry with their mother*. The chat transcript also shows a man who is more concerned about his oncoming implication in a murder than any kind of emotion. You won't find a bit of remorse in the entire thing--more disturbing is simply the fact that he got online at all to talk to an acquaintance while the little girl's corpse was in the bathroom. He then brings the subject up, apparently to ease his mind a little, but he doesn't pretend to be worried about the child when the friend repeatedly makes statement of grief.

This isn't some guy that just 'snapped'. This was bubbling below the surface for a long, long time and it erupted when the timing was right and when the fantasy got too good to keep at bay.

What does that make this guy? I think it makes him more like a monster than a human being, if only because his sexual fantasies involve murder and human-flesh consumption. I accept that fantasies are fantasies, but fantasies like that are IMHO pointing at some serious, serious problems and a serious disconnect between the fantasizer and the rest of the human race. It's also troubling that it had little to do with this particular little girl (who reminded him of his baby sister)...he would have taken anyone. 5 year old boys, 10 year old girls, attractive 20-somethings. It's like it didn't really matter who it was--identity of the victim wasn't important. It's almost like he put 'humans' into one big group and he'd take whoever he could get. I find that more chilling than someone with a pre-pubescent girl fetish (or something similarly specific).

I'm sorry, I just find it ridiculous to say that someone who clearly exhibited sociopathic behaviors for a period of time is a 'normal guy' who 'snapped'. This is not a killing of passion. There are plenty of cases of normal people snapping--women who run over their adulterous husbands, abusive boyfriends who beat their girlfriends to death. This guy does not belong in this group.

[I have read up on a lot of serial killers for fun over the years on crimelibrary.com, so while no expert, this is a subject that interests me and something I feel slightly qualified to talk about.]
posted by nonmerci at 9:09 AM on March 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


There tends to be a lot of hurf durf buttsecks around here, which I think is a) incredibly offensive, and b) highly indicative of exactly how deeply ingrained homophobic attitudes are

Yeah, but I bet if you looked on, say, Drew Curtis' FARK by Drew Curtis, it's probably a 100 post thread and 25 of them involve some high-larious combination of "Bubba" and "bitch". See, because not only is it acceptable that we have a prison system where inmates are brutalized and murdered (FOR GREAT JUSTICE!), it's FUNNY. Eh, what can you do.

As an aside, for the longest time I thought your handle was "dirty numb bagel boy".
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:18 AM on March 1, 2008


It's difficult for me to see this guy as evil. Just a poor sad fool. But then often these people who do horrific things become in the media objects of fascination whose motivations we try to understand and they take on the shine of celebrity, and he can't hate them with any of the certainty that we hate the driver who cuts us off in traffic.

You know that voice in the back of your head that says "jump" when you walk across a bridge? This guy jumped. He thought of himself as a good, reasonably intelligent person, a mama's boy, but could find no useful place for himself in society. Maybe he thought: why have I no friends, no girlfriend, no role of importance, why am I such a nothing? And maybe he concluded it was because he has something rotten inside himself, and he started to obsess on finding that rot. It's not hard to find when you start looking for it, we're all capable of amazing cruelty. It seems to me that the little girl was a bystander to a fight within himself, a war between being a monster he thought he could be and being a nothing. As a monster he's a terrible hack, never carrying out the acts he told himself he wanted, never truly believing in his fantasies. Maybe they all start as inept amateurs, but the murderer here hardly seems like the type who spent an adolescent apprenticeship torturing animals. He jumped, because he thought it was the way to become his truer self, but halfway down he's saying "oh shit, that was stupid". Poor sad fool, ruining lives for nothing.
posted by TimTypeZed at 9:20 AM on March 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


dirtynumangelboy writes...
And, uh, tkolar himself said he wouldn't feel like that later,

...And having slept on it, I'm in fact much less certain that I could put a bullet through his brain without thinking twice about it.

You also wrote...
He deserves compassion and pity and our best attempts to help him understand why what he did was wrong.

He states quite clearly in the transcript that he knows what he did was wrong, knew it was wrong before he did it, while he was doing it, and after he did it. He did it anyways.

That's a problem when considering what to do with him next. There's nothing about his outward appearance or day to day behavior that you can look at and say "when that stops, we'll know he's cured". I can't conceive of any circumstances under which letting him live unsupervised would be acceptable.

And I have to admit, the idea that some parole board somewhere will convince themselves that he's cured terrifies me.
posted by tkolar at 9:25 AM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Good things this guy didn't read MetaFilter.
posted by mosch at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wait, TimTypeZed, you have a voice that tells you to jump when you cross a bridge?

Also, your last sentence....ruining lives for nothing implies that killing the victim, had he not gone all "Oh shit that was stupid" would have been for something. I mean, are you saying that his crime was that he was not self-actualizing? He didn't commit?

Man. You stay on that side of the room where we can keep an eye on you.
posted by blixco at 9:27 AM on March 1, 2008


Maybe they all start as inept amateurs, but the murderer here hardly seems like the type who spent an adolescent apprenticeship torturing animals. He jumped, because he thought it was the way to become his truer self, but halfway down he's saying "oh shit, that was stupid". Poor sad fool, ruining lives for nothing.


I don't know if I can agree with your analogy. The voice that says "jump" seems to me to be more related to a strange form of suicidal ideation--I know it comes to me all the time. Not that I want to die, quite on the contrary, but it seems natural (perhaps natural to a certain subset of people, I have no idea) to contemplate...after all, it's not like thinking "What if I pushed this lady in front of the bus?", it's "What if I walked out in front of this bus?" Pretty fundamental difference.

However, I do think your point is interesting about his childhood's seeming lack of sociopathic behavior. It's like he's...a late-bloomer. I would add that we don't know much about how he grew up, so it's very possible that there *was* something a little off about him. The way he talks about his absolutely crippling depression and social anxiety are surely pointing at a pretty gaping problem, though whether they're related to or fostered his anti-social behavior...well, it's an interesting question.

Lastly, he seems to have more remorse about how unprepared he was and how badly he failed. He mentions being upset about the way he blood coagulated and other messy and horrific details, but that coupled with his calm and collected chat conversation and the fact that he pretended to be concerned to save face for his neighbors during the search point at someone more calculating than we think, or at least more disconnected.
posted by nonmerci at 9:31 AM on March 1, 2008


nonmerci wrote...
You won't find a bit of remorse in the entire thing

He says he's sorry and that he'd take it back if he could several times in the transcript.

--more disturbing is simply the fact that he got online at all to talk to an acquaintance while the little girl's corpse was in the bathroom.

He does mention "not wanting to have to deal with it" as a reason for going on-line. It's not clear however, if the "it" was "having murdered a child" or "the logistical difficulties of cutting off a head."
posted by tkolar at 9:33 AM on March 1, 2008


I also got as far as the victim apology... absolutely horrible.

I was jumped once, attacked across the street from my apartment. A guy got out of a truck and confronted my friend and I - he hit my friend in the side of his head and my friend was knocked out instantly.

I immediately realized I was going to be attacked so I started to put my hands up. I said - "Whoa - whoa - wait wait wait wait" but the guy started pounding me. When I got to my knees he started kicking me in the head.

The only thing I remember from that moment - when he was kicking my head - was trying to say, "I'm sorry - man - Wait, I'm sorry - I'm sorry" through a half dozen broken teeth.

Finally, thank God, some friends came running out of a nearby house and shouting. The guy never got my wallet or anything, just jumped back into the truck and drove off.

I woke up in the hospital with some interesting stitches all over my head (which was swollen like a melon). I realized I was going to need new teeth, as well. I talked to a chaplain - he asked me what happened - we talked about it. I told him how I had kept apologizing to the guy. The chaplain said that was a normal response - maybe, in my world, a person would only resort to such violence if I had done something impossibly, unforgivably offensive, and I was trying to apologize for it.

I dunno. But, yeah, got to that part and realized how powerless she must have felt before closing it.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:33 AM on March 1, 2008 [11 favorites]


For all its horror, the transcript is really interesting, on a technical level.
>Can you explain Alvy?


Sorry, last night in bed I realized I should have been more clear that I meant the interrogation itself; I've read a few transcripts, but never one this extensive involving a crime this severe.
Here's a post about the Reid interview technique.

I have read up on a lot of serial killers for fun over the years on crimelibrary.com...
*Cough*

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:35 AM on March 1, 2008


nonmerci wrote...
You won't find a bit of remorse in the entire thing

He says he's sorry and that he'd take it back if he could several times in the transcript.


I guess it just...didn't ring true with me. He seems sorry because he knows it's wrong, but he went through with everything even amidst all of the difficulties he encountered. I don't know.
posted by nonmerci at 9:37 AM on March 1, 2008


Good things this guy didn't read [scarabic's post on body disposal].

I hate to say it, but having read this transcript I can now point to several places where scarabic's plan would have execution issues.
posted by tkolar at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2008


"I find it at once amazing and horrifying that apparently in all his sexual frustration, he never considered getting a prostitute."

The chances of his getting caught up in some Craigslist prostitution sting was probably a heck of a lot higher. or, he couldn't afford the $800+ that he'd have to blow in a Nevada whorehouse. Perhaps all of the hookers were driven off the streets and he didn't know where to go?

Or, he's just fucking insane. That's my vote. Most guys are sexually frustrated, but to attack & kill a kid is just crazy.
posted by drstein at 9:46 AM on March 1, 2008


The thing is, when stuff like this happens, sometimes it's totally random. But for the most part, I think that it's because we as a society have failed. We have failed to provide stable and loving families (I categorically do not mean, necessarily, the 1 mum/1 dad/2.5 kids thing). We have failed to educate children. We have failed to eradicate abuse of children. We have failed to see when someone is slipping and we have failed to reach out and help them back up. When we see these horrific rapes and murders and abuses, we have failed as families, as communities, and as a society to look at our most troubled and not only say "How can I help you," but to realize that there but for the grace of God* go we.

That's a noble sentiment, but I'm afraid I think it's horseshit, basically. Even exempting cases where the behavior doesn't seem to have any kind of upbringing component -- Jeffrey Dahmer, for instance, seemed to have grown up in a perfectly normal and loving family -- the number of adults who were once abused children, and certainly poorly educated children (!), is so staggering that for these factors to lead to horrific violence of this sort in any statistically significant fashion would mean, more or less, that we were surrounded by child-raping cannibals all the time. We are not. And anyway, let's not bullshit here: You really think that society is even as accountable as -- much less more accountable than -- this person is for the acts that he committed? Preposterous. "The devil made me do it!" is about as valid a defense. What a pantsload.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:26 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, kittens.. I think you might want to try the decaf as well.

At what point did I absolve this guy--or, indeed, any rapist or murderer or what-have-you--of responsibility? At what point did I say the only culpable party is society, and that the perpetrator is blameless?

Oh, right... I didn't! Please stop exaggerating what I'm saying, and actually respond to the points I've raised, as opposed to your strawmen. When you do so, I'll be happy to continue this conversation.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:36 AM on March 1, 2008


Ugh. I'm starting to think maybe pyramid termite had a point about you, my friend. I think I'll be perfectly happy not to continue this conversation.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:45 AM on March 1, 2008


I seem to have missed something here. You're blowing things I'm saying out of proportion, you're setting up strawmen.. and somehow I'm the badguy?

Whoa.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:46 AM on March 1, 2008


I don't know how it's so easy for you people to condemn him as a "creature" when it's pretty clear that he was just a normal guy until his isolation started destroying his sense of perspective.

This guy wasn't "normal". He was a freak from adolescence and from the transcript it's pretty clear why he was socially isolated: inappropriate fantasies, inappropriate behaviour towards women, lack of empathy, bravado combined with appeasement of those perceived as more powerful, lack of self-awareness, pathological lying, predatory beahviour towards those around him up to light stalking. The kid tells him that she'll be in trouble for talking to him or going into his apartment so it's clear she's been told to stay away from him. Dude was c.r.a.z.y. If you want to spend time around young men with no affect that give you the creeps in the hopes you can make them more like you, go for it. I prefer to stay the fuck away from people like that and I think I represent the majority opinion here.

I don't believe in good or evil. I don't believe in God or in punishing insane people or trying to force someone to adopt my moral code. I think all that is a waste of time. However I also don't see the point in trying to rehabilitate someone like this. They are broken and, alive, are a continuing danger to others.
posted by fshgrl at 10:55 AM on March 1, 2008


I seem to have missed something here. You're blowing things I'm saying out of proportion, you're setting up strawmen.. and somehow I'm the badguy?

Whoa yourself. You said these things happen "because we as a society have failed." There is no room for ambiguity in that statement! Somehow you've shifted responsibility for this crime over to you and me, and not onto the person who actually committed the crime, where, you know, it kind of belongs. No strawmen. Nothing blown out of proportion. Me, quoting you. Directly. You evidently believe this to be true; I believe, therefore, that you're a nut, or that you're trolling. In either case, lest this become about yourself and me, rather than about the actual subject of the thread, I'm gonna go on with my day; if you feel the need to keep this going, feel free to MeMail.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:10 AM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


However I also don't see the point in trying to rehabilitate someone like this. They are broken and, alive, are a continuing danger to others.
Good thing we have you around to decide who's broken or not.

What an idea: the destruction of a human life can be validated by some sort of twisted utilitarian calculus. Repulsive. No matter how much you hide behind "we," "our society," or any other convenient facade, you will still have to face the fact that your willing acquiescence allows the State to commit murders equally horrific.
posted by nasreddin at 11:39 AM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


you will still have to face the fact that your willing acquiescence allows the State to commit murders

I have no problem facing that. I don't actually support the death penalty in general because it is not applied equally and because of human fallibility. I have no problem with the actual killing part when it involves someone like this though.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 AM on March 1, 2008



What an idea: the destruction of a human life can be validated by some sort of twisted utilitarian calculus.


You and I both make this validation every day. For the cost of our internet connections we could be keeping several children from starving to death in sub-saharan Africa. But we choose not to.

I realize there's a big difference between letting unknown strangers halfway around the world die by our inaction and actively seeking to kill someone specific close to home, but to deny that we have limits to how much we value a human life is self-serving folly.

The only reason I'm not certain of the death penalty is that I know that a) it often costs more to handle the appeals process than to just keep someone in prison and b) more importantly, the money saved by killing the person would almost certainly not be used to save the lives of others. In fact, it would probably be used to buy a cruise missile.
posted by tkolar at 12:02 PM on March 1, 2008


Sorry, last night in bed I realized I should have been more clear that I meant the interrogation itself; I've read a few transcripts, but never one this extensive involving a crime this severe.
Here's a post about the Reid interview technique.

I have read up on a lot of serial killers for fun over the years on crimelibrary.com...
*Cough*


Thanks for that response - and the links, Alvy. A
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:21 PM on March 1, 2008



I realize there's a big difference between letting unknown strangers halfway around the world die by our inaction and actively seeking to kill someone specific close to home, but to deny that we have limits to how much we value a human life is self-serving folly.


Granted, and well put.

But I think the precise argumentative move you're making--that there's a parallelism, though maybe not an identity, between sustaining the life of someone innocent and killing someone guilty--reveals what, for me, is the most troubling thing.

I think human life and immediate community comes before, must come before, any secondary structure like "society" or the State. In an atomistic, "state of nature" kind of world, it would be silly to claim that anyone had anything like a moral obligation to keep faraway people alive, just as it would be difficult to find some faceless entity to assume the moral burden of killing them. The creation of society (at least, a society as total and all-encompassing as ours) naturally changes that dynamic: all of a sudden, we have an intermediate structure to do the killing and the saving for us (though we're vain and we like to take credit for the latter). Obviously, that implies a particular investment of moral authority in that structure.

That's not an inescapable choice, and it can and should be resisted. Someone who related to people she knew personally with the same utilitarian attitude many people in this thread are displaying would be regarded as a cold-hearted sociopath. In your daily life--not you specifically, tkolar--if you encountered someone on the verge of death, you would probably feel obligated to help them--and if you were being attacked you would, willingly or not, kill in self-defense. But you wouldn't (I hope) evaluate these in terms of probable return on investment or anything like that. (When you refuse money to a beggar, you might justify it based on his spending it on crack, but I bet you sense deep down that it's not the real reason).

But when you willingly participate in these calculations in a context separate from your personal life, as in this thread, somehow that natural morality is replaced by something much more robotic: quotient of orphans saved, probability of rehabilitation, abstract "usefulness." This is a way of giving your enthusiastic assent to a system that is founded on arbitrarily disposing of whatever human life it deems necessary, on a calculus that you would find terrifying if it were more immediate. That's why I throw around such angry words about this. We can't avoid giving some kind of assent if we want to survive today, but it's our obligation to think critically about the degree of acquiescence.
posted by nasreddin at 12:48 PM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


But when you willingly participate in these calculations in a context separate from your personal life, as in this thread, somehow that natural morality is replaced by something much more robotic

God forbid anyone should discuss things philosophically or hypothetically.
posted by fshgrl at 1:09 PM on March 1, 2008


They are broken and, alive, are a continuing danger to others.

I'm not sure I understand how keeping someone in jail for their entire life makes them a danger to others.

I have no problem with the actual killing part when it involves someone like this though.

Where is the line? Where do you decide that this person must die, while that person may live?

This guy wasn't "normal". He was a freak from adolescence

[...]

I prefer to stay the fuck away from people like that and I think I represent the majority opinion here.


And that, in a nutshell, is precisely how we as a society failed this man. What if people hadn't just "stay[ed] the fuck away"? What if, instead of simply forbidding people to get in touch with him, he had been included in his community? What if we all took a moment to care, rather than being so terrified of The Other that we push them away?

We see it over and over and over again: people who have been outcast, pushed aside, isolated coming back with guns and knives and all the horror that entails. We ostracize the weirdos, we ignore the socially awkward, and yet we're surprised when they snap (whether suddenly or over time) and take their revenge.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:12 PM on March 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


God forbid anyone should discuss things philosophically or hypothetically.

Uh-huh, that's it, you took the words right out of my mouth.
posted by nasreddin at 1:21 PM on March 1, 2008


We ostracize the weirdos, we ignore the socially awkward, and yet we're surprised when they snap (whether suddenly or over time) and take their revenge.

I'm a scientist, most of the people I know are socially awkward, even downright weird. But they're not obviously creepy, mentally deviant or dangerous. I think most normal humans can tell the difference and you're not going to convinve them to spend time around the latter in the hope their good natures will rub off. Especially women.
posted by fshgrl at 1:27 PM on March 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think there's not much point trying to talk to you any further, fshgrl.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:32 PM on March 1, 2008


The kid tells him that she'll be in trouble for talking to him or going into his apartment so it's clear she's been told to stay away from him. Dude was c.r.a.z.y.

Did I miss something, or is that a leap in logic? Reading the transcript, I assumed she felt that she wasn't supposed to be going into other people's apartments in general, which isn't at all weird since she's, you know, ten.

However, I do agree that the idea that he was normal up until the day that he just "snapped" and killed the girl is quite naive.
posted by the other side at 2:00 PM on March 1, 2008


The transcript is strangely touching, through all my shock. Yes, the moment when the little girl cries out, "I'm sorry!" as she is being killed is haunting. He says, himself, that he was haunted by that, and I believe him, because he didn't go through with the cannibalism in the end, couldn't face the horrific reality of all the blood and the mess.

Yet he was physically excited when he choked her, and that freaks me out. He seemed very cold, asking to help in the search, evincing concern but not too much concern (so he wouldn't appear creepy!). But after confessing what he did to her, he couldn't stop throwing up...Bizarre, chilling and tragic.
posted by misha at 2:47 PM on March 1, 2008


I mean, are you saying that his crime was that he was not self-actualizing? He didn't commit?

No. I'm searching for reasons why a person who, as he says in the interview transcript, considered himself towards Buddhist in his thinking, who wouldn't harm a fly, slaughters a ten year old. Thinking of him as a monster doesn't work for me, it seems too cartoony, so instead I see him as yet another stupid human, striving to make good on some incredibly bad idea.

This afternoon I saw No Country for Old Men, yet another cultural product that presents murder as sport. Even if no one else can, at least the people willing to take the lives of others should be able to believe in what they do, so we expect our murderers to be driven and passionate - and, for bonus points, to have quirky habits and methodologies - not to be as half-hearted and confused as this murderer is.

I'm also a shy, socially isolated person, so it's this aspect of this murderer's life that interested me in this story. I think of people like this as people who are stuck inside their heads, always questioning their actions, desirous of a certainty that usually escapes them. From knowing other such people both online and in life, and knowing myself, I believe many are compulsively seeking answers for why they feel they can't fit in to the world around them. I know that I sometimes have inappropriate random thoughts, I think most people do, and if I chose to focus on them instead of letting them slide I could believe myself a very bad person indeed. This man wanted to believe he was broken inside, and found the most wrong thing he could think of to fixate upon, being a cannibal.

But I don't know this person, don't really know what happened outside of the posted transcript here and a couple stories I read when it first happened, so my speculation isn't any more valid than saying he must have been abused as a child or that porn and video games corrupted his mind. It's just the way I explain such a terrible action to myself. Maybe the way I choose to see him as a fellow human rather than as something as abstract as evil.

None of which aims to speak to what his punishment should be. The deed is done, her family and his family are certainly heartbroken, thousands of hours of community resources will have been dedicated to this wasteful action, and killing him won't make anything any better for anyone, except maybe himself. But if that's the way the community he lives in deals with such matters, so be it. I'm not going to tell people who lost a child for no reason that they're wrong to want that kind of vengeance.
posted by TimTypeZed at 4:08 PM on March 1, 2008


This afternoon I saw No Country for Old Men, yet another cultural product that presents murder as sport.

I didn't get that take on the movie at all. The chief complaint of the sheriff in the movie is that people are crazy in entirely new ways that are beyond him to fathom, and that's why these murders happen. The take of his father is that people have always been crazy, and you can never understand crazy people anyway, you just do the best you can while you can.

And I don't agree that Underwood chose cannibalism because he "wanted to believe he was broken inside." None of us really knows why he did, of course, but much of what we come to fantasize about is rooted in things we saw or experienced in childhood, even occurrences that seem meaningless at the time.

His excitement from overpowering the little girl probably comes from this being one of the few times he felt utterly in control, because he really didn't have a grip on his life at all. He lived in his parents' house and had a dead-end job for far too long, sunk deep into depression. When he moved out, it just made his loneliness all the more oppressive. Maybe, if he had taken medication earlier, certainly if he had found someone he could really connect with and talk to, he would have been a different person. It's sad that all he will really get from our prison system, if he doesn't end up with the death penalty, is lessons in how to become a better criminal, rather than the therapy he needs.

And it's absolutely tragic that this poor little girl was brutally murdered to fill an emptiness that had nothing, whatever, to do with her.
posted by misha at 4:32 PM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I noticed that he said that when he was standing behind her, before he hit her, there was an inner conflict going on. The interviewer asked if he was struggling between right and wrong and he said no, he was worried about getting caught.

He also said that, after the first blow over the head with the board, he wished he hadn't started it, but knew he'd be in trouble if he stopped, so he carried on and killed her.

This reminded me of something I was told once by a man whose father had taken part in a double murder, an Essex gang killing. They'd only intended to scare this one guy, but the beating went too far and he died, so they had no option but to kill his friend who was with him. If the first guy had lived, the friend would have just taken him to A&E (the ER), because he knew the beating was due, but once the guy died, the friend couldn't be allowed to live. Once it had got past a certain point, it had to continue to the end.

So at any time up to the first blow to the head, Underwood could have stopped it, but his struggle wasn't about whether killing her was right or wrong, but whether or not he thought he could get away with it.

In the story I was told - which is true - the guy's father was tried for the murders at the Old Bailey but was acquitted because the bodies were never found.
posted by essexjan at 5:57 PM on March 1, 2008


As usual I'm reminded of the Solzhenitsyn quote
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
posted by dawson at 6:30 PM on March 1, 2008 [16 favorites]


We see it over and over and over again: people who have been outcast, pushed aside, isolated coming back with guns and knives and all the horror that entails.

There's a huge difference between being outcast and being introverted. I didn't see anything about this guy being taunted or "pushed aside" or anything of the sort.

He apparently had a good relationship with his dad (who got him his job at the grocery store) and his mom (who did his laundry for him). He talked to people online. What would you have liked society to do for him? How would he have appeared abnormal to his coworkers?

That is why we try to compartmentalize them into The Other, because then we can avoid the horrifying truth that otherwise normal people do spectacularly awful things to each other every day.

People do do terrible things all the time, and you say it's because society failed or parents failed or educators failed or because we didn't ~"reach our hands out to catch those who are falling". Of course, you don't say educators fail because society failed them, you blame the educators and the bad parents. For some arbitrary reason, the buck stops not at the killer, but at the killer's parents who didn't show enough love. Society is not some amorphous idea, it's the collective actions of individuals. Let's blame parents for bad parenting, educators for bad education and we blame those who kill, then rape, children for the killing and raping of children. Not completely of course, since there are obviously other reasons for actions that are done, but the majority of the blame can only lie fairly with the perpetrator.

Underwood deserves to be understood and to be loved in the way we love our fellow man. One thing he does not deserve, however, is compassion. He does not deserve to have his pain alleviated. His punishment, whatever it is, will never reach the pain he caused the girl and the pain he caused her family.

Murder is part of human nature. We can blame parents all we want, but some children of the best parents will kill and some children of the worst will turn out fine. In all but the most extreme of cases, individuals can choose to make the world a better place or a worse place. Parent choose this, educators choose this and Underwood chose this. Like someone said above, there actions any one of us can take that basically mean "Game Over".
posted by null terminated at 6:59 PM on March 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


All this would have been avoided if he would have had a BJ every now and then.
posted by Senator at 8:51 PM on March 1, 2008


The real tragedy here is the lameness of his blog. If you're going to be a cannabilistic psycho child killer and least have some goddamn panache.

(No, I'm not clicking on the transcript 'cause then I'd be too sad to joke about it)
posted by Justinian at 10:13 PM on March 1, 2008


Jeez, the indignity of being murdered by a loser who couldn't even properly rape your corpse, and then tells the investigating officers how homely you were. He steals her life and her dignity as the victim of a sex crime (read: an object of a sick desire), then worries that Kingdom of Loathing might get a bad rap if people know he played it. What an utter creep.
posted by Scram at 12:13 AM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


For some arbitrary reason, the buck stops not at the killer, but at the killer's parents who didn't show enough love.


You know, I'm getting sick and fucking tired of this. Even when I state my opinion in the clearest terms possible, people around here insist on twisting it. At no point did I say that he holds no culpability. At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his. Why do people around here insist on putting words in my mouth that I have not spoken?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:25 AM on March 2, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy - I seem to have missed something here. You're blowing things out of proportion, you're placing a large part of the blame on nebulous concepts like society.. and somehow we're the badguys?

Whoa. I think you might want to try the decaf as well.
posted by foot at 8:37 AM on March 2, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy: I was specifically referring to this:

Precisely. The problem is, it's pretty well known what causes things like this to happen: abuse as a child, isolation, lack of support network.

The thing is, when stuff like this happens, sometimes it's totally random. But for the most part, I think that it's because we as a society have failed.


Saying "this happens...because we as a society have failed" and listing specific things that "causes things like this to happen" is saying action X is caused by action Y. It's very clear to me what causes this to happen: Underwood. The fact that you never mention him as responsible for this and say society caused this atrocity makes is pretty clear where you believe the majority of the blame lies.

At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his.

Yes, that is precisely the fucking point.

At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his.
At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his.
At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his.
At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his.

That speaks for itself.
posted by null terminated at 9:05 AM on March 2, 2008


I think dnub meant "isn't" but wrote "is". At least I would hope so.
posted by Justinian at 10:50 AM on March 2, 2008


Yeah, that was my impression also.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:18 AM on March 2, 2008


null terminated, it was a fucking typo.

The fact that you never mention him as responsible for this and say society caused this atrocity makes is pretty clear where you believe the majority of the blame lies.

The only response to that is what I have already said:

"At what point did I absolve this guy--or, indeed, any rapist or murderer or what-have-you--of responsibility? At what point did I say the only culpable party is society, and that the perpetrator is blameless?"

Here's an exercise for you: respond to what I have actually said, and not to the words you're putting in my mouth.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:43 AM on March 2, 2008


Also, I fail to see how this:

"The thing is, when stuff like this happens, sometimes it's totally random. But for the most part, I think that it's because we as a society have failed."

is difficult to understand.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:46 AM on March 2, 2008


The fact that you never mention him as responsible for this

I said he wasn't responsible where, exactly? No, I mean it--show me where I said he wasn't responsible or STFU and stop putting words in my mouth.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:48 AM on March 2, 2008


He did respond to what you said. He quoted and responded to you twice even ignoring the typo (which you can't blame him for,) where you say that we know what causes this, and that, in most cases like this, society has failed the murder or rapist in someway.

The point is, we don't know what causes someone, precisely, to do these things, beyond their personal defects and disorders. Often times there are similar events in the past for people like these, but not all the time, and there are so many more people who have similar pasts that do not have such desires, or perform such heinous actions. In fact, in this case, I can't see how society has failed, in any capacity, and I certainly can't see how society is to blame in any capacity in most cases like this. He made a choice, and seems only to care about the consequences on him. In what way does he deserve my pity? Why does society owe such behavior to him, and not his victim?
posted by Snyder at 11:54 AM on March 2, 2008


In what way does he deserve my pity?

Because he is clearly broken. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be punished, that doesn't mean he shouldn't be locked up for the rest of his life. But he does deserve pity.

Why does society owe such behavior to him, and not his victim?


Another person who likes putting words in my mouth. I said that where, exactly?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:58 AM on March 2, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy: I can't tell if you're fucking with me or just an idiot.

This is not difficult to understand. Let's go through it.

At no point did I say that he holds no culpability.

I never assert this. You blame society explicitly but only blame him implicitly. This leads me to believe you blame society more than you blame him. If I'm wrong, then next time I'd be happy to give the opinions you don't mention more merit than the ones you actually write out.

--------------------

me: The fact that you never mention him as responsible for this

you: I said he wasn't responsible where, exactly? No, I mean it--show me where I said he wasn't responsible or STFU and stop putting words in my mouth.


Above, I make the accurate claim that you "never mention him as responsible for this". You respond by asking me to show you where you said he was not responsible. This is not at all what I'm saying. I never claimed anywhere that you said he was not responsible, I claimed that you did not say he was responsible. There's a huge difference between these two things, and one you don't seem to understand.


----------------------------

You know, I'm getting sick and fucking tired of this. Even when I state my opinion in the clearest terms possible, people around here insist on twisting it.

It would be a tad fucking clearer if you fucking didn't write things ("At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his") that mean the exact opposite of what you claim you mean.
posted by null terminated at 12:04 PM on March 2, 2008


Because he is clearly broken. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be punished, that doesn't mean he shouldn't be locked up for the rest of his life. But he does deserve pity.

You don't deserve pity for murdering someone and raping their corpse. Period.

You didn't say it, but when you make no mention of the victim, and seem to get angrier at people you're talking too then the actual murder and rapist of Jamie Bolin, and belabor the point of how victimized by society the murderer and rapist is, then, and condemn society as failing when "we" somehow fail to stop him, as opposed to protecting Jamie Bolin, then yes, I read between the lines that you're more interested in showing compassion to a murder and rapist than his victim.
posted by Snyder at 12:06 PM on March 2, 2008


flameout?
posted by Justinian at 12:09 PM on March 2, 2008


"At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his"

It was not an obvious type because it was correct. Until that point, you had not said the ultimate responsibility was his. I took this to mean that you had done this deliberately.
posted by null terminated at 12:10 PM on March 2, 2008


You didn't say it

That's better.

but when you make no mention of the victim

Because the thread is about the criminal, and I should think it would be moderately obvious to someone with a higher IQ than your average ball of lint that sympathy and compassion for the victim of a horrific crime like this is taken as read. Especially when I said:

"I suggest that anyone who isn't outraged over torture in general and torture of children in particular is someone who, to be charitable, needs some lessons in comprehending basic humanity."

and seem to get angrier at people you're talking too then the actual murder and rapist of Jamie Bolin,

Yeah, I'm funny that way; I tend to get pissed off when people deliberately put words in my mouth and ignore what I'm actually saying. Strange, huh?

and belabor the point of how victimized by society the murderer and rapist is, then

I didn't say victimized, I said failed. There is a difference.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:20 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


If everyone you're arguing with is putting words in your mouth (nice way to assume bad intent on everyone arguing with you, by the way,) maybe you should write more clearly, and not blame people for reading your posts as written.
posted by Snyder at 12:23 PM on March 2, 2008


Snyder, when people are saying that I have said things that I categorically have not said, exactly whose fault is it? Especially when I have pointed out, over and over and over and fucking over again that I did not say them?

Oh, right. It's my fault.. for.. umm.. something? Yeah, no.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:25 PM on March 2, 2008


I didn't say victimized, I said failed. There is a difference.

A very small one, and more of a distinction at that. Your statements about society failing him weren't about how he fell through the cracks, or somesuch, but that we were terrified of him, did not care about him, that we did not include him in the community, and that he was pushed away and an outcast. All are actions with intent, not simply a matter of ignorance or accident on "society's" part.
posted by Snyder at 12:28 PM on March 2, 2008


Your statements about society failing him weren't about how he fell through the cracks, or somesuch,

Really?

"We have failed to see when someone is slipping and we have failed to reach out and help them back up"

But I guess I was just being obtuse there, too. Man, it really is my fault that people are choosing to misunderstand what I write.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:32 PM on March 2, 2008


But, y'know, whatever. Y'all are choosing to read a whole lot of stuff into what I say that I don't actually put there. Says a lot more about you than it does about me, so why don't you just keep on doing that. I'm outta here.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:33 PM on March 2, 2008


Snyder, when people are saying that I have said things that I categorically have not said, exactly whose fault is it? Especially when I have pointed out, over and over and over and fucking over again that I did not say them?

Oh, right. It's my fault.. for.. umm.. something? Yeah, no.


Because it's true. This:

"At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his."

Is true. You never did say that the ultimate responsibility was his. I assumed, like null terminated that you had meant to do this deliberately. You can't yell at and insult people for "putting words in your mouth," and then yell at and insult people for reading what you wrote, literally. I understand it was a typo, but it's not the readers fault for not understanding that, especially when the typo is correct.

You have put a great deal of emphasis on the role of society's failures in this case, and most cases like this (where your specific list of failures is factually incorrect,) blame that people see as absurd. No one is outing words in your mouth.
posted by Snyder at 12:35 PM on March 2, 2008


Really?

"We have failed to see when someone is slipping and we have failed to reach out and help them back up"

But I guess I was just being obtuse there, too. Man, it really is my fault that people are choosing to misunderstand what I write.


Whatever. One sentence against a bunch I chose to reference. You don't want words in your mouth? Then don't assume we're psychic and can ascertain your meaning from your contradicting statements. Everything I mentioned were your words, and they all imply a victim and victimization. You either don't care what you write, and therefore write sloppily, or you're more interested in playing the victim where everyone is ganging up on you to put words in your mouth. Probably both. Hell, maybe give some of your vaunted pity and compassion to the people who you think are harming you here, the pity and compassion you feel for a murderer and rapist, or maybe try communicating instead of using this thread as a way to play victim. But whatever, take your ball and go home, instead of posting over and over again how people are twisting your words and getting pissy that people disagree with you.
posted by Snyder at 12:43 PM on March 2, 2008


Oh, and way to derail the discussion. Nice going, champ.
posted by Snyder at 12:43 PM on March 2, 2008


To try and rerail this:

I sometimes wonder, when reading about cases like this, that mandatory, or at least more commonplace psychological testing among young people should exist. Something like how it's assumed that you should see a doctor at least every 6 months, maybe see a psychiatrist or other mental health professional on a similar basis. Maybe reducing the stigma of mental problems might bring this about, or bringing this about might reduce the stigma. My idea here is catch warning signs of personality disorders before they can fester, or at least bring awareness of such signs, and treatment of such, to the general public.
posted by Snyder at 12:50 PM on March 2, 2008


The problem, Snyder, is that people aren't killers until they've, you know, killed.

When I was in Grade 8, I was a loner. I didn't like most people, in fact I harboured a lot of rage towards most people. I was into firearms, and regularly attending a shooting range to practise. I kept to myself. I even wore a black trench coat (seriously, and this was back in the 80s, long before Columbine).

Finally, if all that isn't enough, I wrote a story in which the central protagonist slaughtered all the students in my class one-by-one in ways roughly matching their personality. I handed this story in to my writing class. It came back to me with a grade. Other than that, nothing happened.

Good thing too, because I never killed anyone. I never even started a fistfight or yelled at anybody.

So - you never know.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:26 PM on March 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


null terminated wrote:
I never assert this. You blame society explicitly but only blame him implicitly. This leads me to believe you blame society more than you blame him. If I'm wrong, then next time I'd be happy to give the opinions you don't mention more merit than the ones you actually write out.

If I were dirtynumbangelboy, I wouldn't feel the need to state the obvious. Obviously a person who kills is responsible for killing. Period. No matter what. So why waste space stating it?

Both null terminated and Snyder are obviously fucking morons because they think that someone would waste their time writing a post saying this:

You know, I'm getting sick and fucking tired of this. Even when I state my opinion in the clearest terms possible, people around here insist on twisting it. At no point did I say that he holds no culpability. At no point did I say that the ultimate responsibility is his. Why do people around here insist on putting words in my mouth that I have not spoken?


in response to this:


For some arbitrary reason, the buck stops not at the killer, but at the killer's parents who didn't show enough love.


if they didn't disagree with the statement.

It was an obvious typo to me, at least, but maybe that's because I had actually read and understood dirtynumbangelboy's point of view. One contradiction that's is pretty obviously just a missing "not" is pretty easy to dismiss when you aren't taking pains to force someone's words into a box that fits your preconceived notions. Of course, if you ascribe bad motives to people, it makes it much harder to follow what they're writing, even in the face of typos.
posted by wierdo at 4:24 PM on March 2, 2008 [8 favorites]


stinkycheese: I suppose fadish scare-tactics might substitute for actual diagnoses of personality disorders, or other mental health problems, in my idea but I think there are ways to detect such disorders before they lead to murder. Things like animal torture, and such. The idea is not to treat them like pre-murders, but to give them psychiatric therapy that might help them, and prevent potential murder. I do not know if it possible to treat such personality disorders at such a young age, or even reliably diagnose them. Obviously, you can't always detect when someone will grow up to commit such a heinous act, and I'd rather not make pariahs of loner or oddball kids, but it might help, and perhaps help some kids that sometimes felt extremely isolated and depressed, who did not have the vocabulary to express their feelings, or the courage to do so in other circumstances.
posted by Snyder at 10:16 PM on March 2, 2008


perhaps help some kids that sometimes felt extremely isolated and depressed, who did not have the vocabulary to express their feelings, or the courage to do so in other circumstances.

To be clearer, I see this as an additional benefit, to a different set of kids, then ones who have a personality disorder that would lead them to murder or rape. They are not the same set.
posted by Snyder at 10:19 PM on March 2, 2008


The idea is not to treat them like pre-murders, but to give them psychiatric therapy that might help them, and prevent potential murder.

There's an emerging consensus among child forensic psychiatrists/psychologists that these things aren't monocausal -- a simple product of mental illness -- but tend to be multifactorial. Common factors are believed to be genetic, brain damage, childhood trauma and abuse, etc. Any one on it's own might not be enough, but put together they can combine to produce a personality that looks as close to a picture of evil as our worst stereotypes can conjure.

And the worst of these kids really aren't responsive to treatment at all. The damage has already been done by this point, and by now they're just wired differently to you and me. The people who work with them don't really 'blame' them, per se. Insofar as they're no more to blame for being that way than you or I are for having red hair instead of brown or blonde. But they aren't treatable, and some of the most liberal, caring, reasonable child psychiatrists out there, people who have devoted their lives to working with these kids, believe that a policy of containment is best, both for their own good, and for the safety of those around them. Not that the law allows such a thing, and that's correct as well -- we can't go locking people up because they might commit a heinious crime. But it is increasingly possible to predict who those children are likely to be.

These are your future Hitlers, your Pol Pots, your Jeffrey Dahmers. Sometimes parenting is to blame, sometimes it isnt. Sometimes society -- in the form of environment -- has a role in shaping this, and sometimes it doesn't.

Personally, I'm not a death penalty supporter, so I'm not advocating the death penalty. And this isn't my conclusion above -- simply what I've read and heard from people working in this area.

He's also a japanophile. Why doesn't that surprise me?

He's also an American. Why doesn't that surprise me?

That's sort of the problem with the American justice system (and many others, but that's the one that's being discussed here): the focus is on vengeance and retribution, when the focus should be on rehabilitation as well as punishment.

Criminal justice systems always have a multiplicity of purposes. Vengeance and retribution -- the old 'eye for an eye' are part of that. Physical containment for the protection of the community is another part. Rehabilitation is also a part, but it's probably the least important part because we've never been able to figure out a way to do it with any degree of reliability. For every Jimmy Boyle that's a success story when he walks off the wings of the Barlinnie Special Unit, you're going to get another ten or twenty people who continue to take the piss. At some point, you have to ask at which stage the costs no longer justify the outcomes. Fortunately, I'm not tasked with making those decisions about what proportion of my available resources I'm going to put into protecting the public, and what proportion will go into rehabilitation, because it's a very unpopular choice, and money spent on X is money that's no longer available for Y. It's hard to justify to the deserving poor why you can't afford to give them help with their housing costs or child care costs, when you're spending a shitload of money on something that's seen as mollycoddling murderers.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:41 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


i have no idea why this creep did these things or who's responsible. i don't think it matters.

i'm an atheist. i believe in neither good nor evil, in the sense that the boundary between them exists according to some universal truth. i don't even believe in the sanctity of life. i have my own moral code built up through the influences of the people around me, the experience empathy for those who suffer (especially at my own hand) and the agency of my own conscience.

i'd prefer that my government do nothing that i wouldn't do with my own two hands. wars of agression? no fucking way. perform an abortion? if i was qualified (and the experience of becoming qualified didn't change my mind), sure. kill in self defence? sure. but what if, rather than killing in self defence, a threat could be neutralized without further violence?

doug's fallacious attempt to create a moral equivalence between imprisonment and kidnapping needs to be called out here. imprisonment is the most humane way we know to protect ourselves from predators. there's no rehabilitation, here. there's no atonement, there's no penance, there's no punishment. it's about protecting ourselves. of course, simply killing the bugger would be the safest option, but under no circumstances would i, personally, kill a man who posed no further threat to myself or others. a response needs to be proportional to the threat.

the damage this creep did is done. the little girl can't be brought back. all we can do now is contain the bastard that killed her, try to figure out why he did it and try to prevent the same thing from happening in the future.
posted by klanawa at 2:17 AM on March 3, 2008


I'm way late to this thread, but if anyone is still reading, I highly, highly recommend the book The Shrine of Jeffery Dahmer for a glimpse into a mind that has given itself up to disease (it's far better than the penned-by-a-serial-killer Gates of Janus). Brian Masters does a, uh, masterful job of making clear just how pathetic serial killers are. You feel pity for Dahmer, not because society failed him or any such thing, but because he trapped himself in a hell of his own creation. The only other true crime book I can compare it to is In Cold Blood.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:38 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just want to note here that dirtynumbangelboy has closed his account after posting to Metatalk in response to this thread. mathowie has closed the Meta thread because, with a closed account, dnab has no means of response.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:21 AM on March 3, 2008


Just a quick observation: I suspect some people in this thread are projecting their own experience of isolation and mistreatment onto this guy, and feeling sympathy because they feel bad for themselves. But there's a fundamental, three-standard-deviation-level difference between you and him. Give him your sympathy for having a tough life, but don't extend that to his raping, murdering, and wanting to eat a 10-year-old. There's some other miswired neuron in that brain of his, and that made all the difference -- not society, not the people who made fun of him, or shunned him, or sexually rejected him.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:42 AM on March 3, 2008


flameout?
posted by Justinian at 12:09 PM on March 2 [+] [!]


Wow, I called it.
posted by Justinian at 9:06 AM on March 3, 2008


I'm not surprised, he really got attacked here. He obviously has a history of flying off the handle, but I found his treatment in this thread to be a bit over the top.
posted by agregoli at 9:13 AM on March 3, 2008


Personally, I don't think this thread was a high point for either side.
posted by Justinian at 9:23 AM on March 3, 2008


Yeah, but the now-deleted comment from tkolar that dnab references in his MeTa was over the line. If tkolar doesn't get a timeout for that something's wrong with the moderation.
posted by mediareport at 9:29 AM on March 3, 2008


Ah, I missed the comment. It was already deleted.
posted by Justinian at 9:33 AM on March 3, 2008


It was directly below the flameout prediction you're now so proud of, and a direct "let's hope so" sort of response, as I recall. Not sure how you could have missed it.
posted by mediareport at 9:42 AM on March 3, 2008


but I found his treatment in this thread to be a bit over the top.

Seriously.

When someone tells you that you're misreading them, calm the fuck down and either give them a chance to re-express themselves or go back and try to re-read what was said in a different way from the reading that you've been told is a mistaken one. In either case, drop the mistaken reading. Not doing so *is* bad intent, as is writing off as a derail someone's frustration at that bad intent.
posted by CKmtl at 9:48 AM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


After I posted I didn't check the thread again a little while ago.
posted by Justinian at 10:13 AM on March 3, 2008


UNTIL. UNTIL a little while ago.
posted by Justinian at 10:14 AM on March 3, 2008


There is a lot of anger, I believe, spilling over into this thread from the one in which konolia closed her account after being hounded by dnab, which might explain tkolar's response to dnab.
posted by misha at 11:40 AM on March 3, 2008


I was initially responding to dirtynumbangelboy comments about the cause of this incident. He assigns the cause (in most cases) to society:

The thing is, when stuff like this happens, sometimes it's totally random. But for the most part, I think that it's because we as a society have failed.

He mentions society as a cause, and he does not mention Underwood as a cause. Instead of assuming this meant Underwood was not at all responsible for this, I assumed he meant society was responsible and Underwood was responsible. I respond by saying "but the majority of the blame can only lie fairly with the perpetrator". At this point I was not sure what percentage of blame dirtynumbangelboy assigned to Underwood, but I was hoping we could talk more about it.

He responds with:
You know, I'm getting sick and fucking tired of this. Even when I state my opinion in the clearest terms possible, people around here insist on twisting it. At no point did I say that he holds no culpability....Why do people around here insist on putting words in my mouth that I have not spoken?

I never said that dirtynumbangelboy said he holds no culpability. Ironically dirtynumbangelboy is misrepresenting what I've said to accuse me of misrepresenting what he said.

----
This exchange is the best example of why this is frustrating:

The fact that you never mention him as responsible for this

I said he wasn't responsible where, exactly? No, I mean it--show me where I said he wasn't responsible or STFU and stop putting words in my mouth.


dirtynumbangelboy doesn't seem to understand the difference between not saying something is true and saying something is not true. He misinterprets what I've said and takes it as a personal insult.

I was not trying to attack dirtynumbangelboy personally (until he began accusing me of purposely misrepresenting him). I agree with him that branding murderers as "the other" ignores serious mental health issues and does more societal harm than good.
posted by null terminated at 12:46 PM on March 3, 2008


which might explain tkolar's response to dnab.

Actually my only response to dnab in this thread was here.

Last night I was skimming through the rest of the thread being annoyed by but not paying particular attention to the dnab, null terminated, Snyder derail. When Justinian suggested that the derail might turn into a flame out, I responded enthusiastically without really knowing or caring which one of the three he expected to flame out. I was just adding a general "rah-rah, yay flameout, page languagehat" comment to the situation.

However, on reflection cheering on flameouts is something that should be kept to the grey, as should something like this very comment and as should have been a good portion of this conversation up until now.
posted by tkolar at 12:56 PM on March 3, 2008


I never said that dirtynumbangelboy said he holds no culpability. Ironically dirtynumbangelboy is misrepresenting what I've said to accuse me of misrepresenting what he said.

If you go back, you'll notice that the part that he quotes before his "I'm getting sick and fucking tired of this" is:

For some arbitrary reason, the buck stops not at the killer, but at the killer's parents who didn't show enough love.

That's what it seems he took as a misrepresentation of what he was saying. Because "the buck stopping at" is not a phrase that connotes partial contributory (however hazy it is) responsibility. It connotes full responsibility. As in "passing the buck"; saying "it's Y's fault, not X's".
posted by CKmtl at 1:10 PM on March 3, 2008


I was just adding a general "rah-rah, yay flameout, page languagehat" comment to the situation.

Actually, it was a specific "I'll be glad to see this guy go" comment. Glad to see you've now realized it was inappropriate.
posted by mediareport at 1:59 PM on March 3, 2008


Actually, it was a specific "I'll be glad to see this guy go" comment.

Incorrect. The mods have deleted it unfortunately, but what it said was (Sorry mods, you can delete this comment too)

----------------------
Justinian wrote...
Flameout?

We should be so lucky.
-----------------------
posted by tkolar at 2:23 PM on March 3, 2008


I can see the spirit you intended it with, tkolar, but it obviously can be taken the other way too - we all know which way dnab took it.
posted by agregoli at 2:29 PM on March 3, 2008


I can see the spirit you intended it with, tkolar, but it obviously can be taken the other way too - we all know which way dnab took it.

Unfortunately, yes. I don't particularly like being the trigger for him quitting the site.

And I *was* encouraging a flameout, jokingly or not.
posted by tkolar at 2:46 PM on March 3, 2008


I wouldn't worry too much about it. dnab has been angry with Metafilter for a long time now. And with the ferocity he usually posted with, I can't say that he was a positive influence for the site.
posted by agregoli at 2:49 PM on March 3, 2008


Wow. Just wow. dirtynumbangelboy posts a very intelligent, sober comment that amounts to "Hey maybe there is some benefit that can be derived from not killing the guy" and this turns into a lynching. We make films and buy music idolizing the ganstas and mafiosi whose killing is "not personal, it's just business", but we put to death the mentally ill, lest the "get off on the insanity defense". As if the notion of insanity was a clever loophole created by lawyers to annoy the law-abiding.

This guy not get the death penalty. He is sick, broken, whatever word you want to use. Read the transcript. Read how he wished she would have just left his apartment before he did anything stupid. Read how he kept putting down and picking up his bludgeon. Read how after the first swing connected, he realized he fucked up.

These people need to be studied, because there is much to be learned from them. In the past, mental patients with violent, homicidal fantasies were studied, revealing that many shared a pattern of pyromania, animal abuse and bedwetting. Later, those same three elements, collectively referred to as the homicidal triad, were found to be common characteristics among many serial killers and sociopathic rapists and murders.

But the world is different and kids perhaps don't play with matches or animals as much as they spend time pursuing strange interests on the internet. He's a japanophile, so are a lot of people. He was interested in cannibalistic sex. Well, judging by the number of movies with the word "cannibal" in the title, I would guess that a lot of people would have some interest in that as well. He had a passing interest in child porn. It seems not entirely uncommon these days. But I wonder how many people share all three interests?

He needs to be imprisoned and interviewed for all eternity by countless psychologists and criminologists to find the earlier precursors, the things we can look for in younger children to know that something is wrong, and to intervene.

But on the subject of the death penalty, dnab and nasreddin are right, in my opinion. If he is a monster, if he is insane, then of course he doesn't deserve the death penalty. In the legal and moral sense, he is not responsible, he was compelled to do it, the way an addict is compelled to pursue another fix.

The best exposition I have ever heard on the subject of the insanity defense is found in the film M. The climax of the film is a scene in which a killer, played by Peter Lorre, who preyed on children is put on trial by a mob of criminals (his crimes brought so much police attention that it interfered with their livelihood). Peter Lorre argues in his defense that he is mad, and that his madness compels him to do this. Killing the children settles his mind, if only briefly. But he then questions their right to try him. They are not mad, but choose to kill and steal anyway. Who is the more responsible, the more guilty, the one whose madness drives him to kill, or the one who chooses to kill for profit?

I have read every supreme court opinion, concurrence and dissent in every insanity defense case, and there is no better summary of the philosophical question than that scene. What is the purpose of the law? To punish wrong choices? To isolate the threatening element? To rehabilitate? To avenge?

That scene was written in 1931. In Germany. Six years later the mob of criminals would take over the country, and history would prove that Fritz Lang was right, the criminals who choose to kill are worse than the crazed lunatics. And here we are 77 years later having the same conversation. He's a monster, he should have controlled himself, we could all end up like that, we could never end up like that.

That dnab felt he was thrown to the wolves in this thread makes me wonder if most of society is sitting with Fritz Lang's mob, quick to render judgment over a man's sickness. We all have the benefit of emotional distance - we don't know the killer or the victim. But why don't we take advantage of this distance to be magnanimous and merciful? Why instead do some many stand ready to throw the switch? Isn't wishing someone dead the same as wishing to kill them?

Be wary of giving the state the power to kill your fellow man, because your fellow man might be giving the state the same power to kill you.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:55 PM on March 3, 2008 [8 favorites]


Be wary of giving the state the power to kill your fellow man, because your fellow man might be giving the state the same power to kill you.

That sentiment is illustrated quite well (by another case in Oklahoma, no less) in this book. Of course, those fellows didn't actually commit the crime, but one of them was quite insane, far more so than Underwood, yet still managed to get sentenced to death.
posted by wierdo at 3:04 PM on March 3, 2008


I can't say that he was a positive influence for the site

What a disgusting thing to say.

I went around with him on tactics a few times, but the absence of one of MeFi's few intelligent, openly gay members is definitely a negative, regardless of the ferocity with which he sometimes posted.
posted by mediareport at 6:10 PM on March 3, 2008


Pastabagel wrote..
And here we are 77 years later having the same conversation. He's a monster, he should have controlled himself, we could all end up like that, we could never end up like that.

This conversation started a long time before that. It endures precisely because there *is* no clear answer -- in fact, this question really reduces to that perennial favorite: to what extent does free will exist?

If you believe in absolute free will then even madmen are absolutely responsible for what they do. If you believe in no free will then no one is responsible. Most people believe something between the two.
posted by tkolar at 7:29 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


But on the subject of the death penalty, dnab and nasreddin are right, in my opinion. If he is a monster, if he is insane, then of course he doesn't deserve the death penalty. In the legal and moral sense, he is not responsible, he was compelled to do it, the way an addict is compelled to pursue another fix.

I don't support the death penalty for anybody, ever. But I disagree with just about everything else in this post and the positions of those who argue d against it in this thread.

As I've said earlier, I think we *do* pretty much know as much as we need to know about these people. They aren't 'insane' in the forensic sense. They understand what it is that they're doing, and they know that it's wrong. They know what the consequences of their actions are likely to be, both for themselves, and for their victims. They simply don't care. Their desire for self-gratification overrides the right of a child not to be terrorized, raped and murdered.

And when you say they can't help who they are, that's true, but it only goes so far. It's easy not to rape and murder if you've never had the urge to. It's a lot harder when the desire to do so is intrusive and occupies all of your waking thoughts. Nevertheless, if the urge is accompanied by a set of moral values that precludes the hurting of others in order to gratify yourself, then you won't actually act on those impulses. Lots of men are sexually attracted to post-pubescent teenagers, but they don't act on that attraction. Similarly, lots of gay men are sexually inactive because their church forbids them from acting on that desire.

As tkolar implies, we're neither wholly determined, nor wholly free. Which makes not acting in an antisocial fashion harder for some people, but doesn't excuse them from the obligation to do so.

Re: dnab

What a disgusting thing to say.

I liked dnab, and recall taking his side in arguments where it was just the pair of us against the world. (IIRC, they were extremely contentious issues in which we were taking a heretical view too) But I don't think this was disgusting at all. Unless you're aware of his longer history, most of what we've seen of dnab lately has been his flying off the handle in response to very minor provocation. If a site newbie behaved in the same manner, he'd be getting his ass spanked by everybody, but dnab's history got him a pass in that regard.

And I think that exemplifies what happened in this thread. He posts a provocative and contentious statement. Some people take issue with him, and rather than seeking to refine or explicate his position, he immediately flies off the handle and zips into victim mode.

Now, I've got a very soft heart towards people who take extremely unpopular positions and feel extremely passionate about them. But you know, if you're going to do that in public fora, then you'd better develop a pretty thick skin. dnab never seemed to manage to do that. So while I liked him and all, I can see why someone would think he wasn't good for the site. More importantly though, is that -- as with konolia and thehmsbeagle too, -- the site really didn't seem to be very good for him.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:38 AM on March 4, 2008


I can't say that he was a positive influence for the site

What a disgusting thing to say.


Uh, sorry? It's not like I wanted him gone cause he was gay or anything, which is what your post insinuates. From what I've seen of him lately (I have no idea how long he's been around the site), he frequently posted rude and inflammatory things when upset, and a much calmer approach to discourse would have, you know, resulted in some.
posted by agregoli at 6:33 AM on March 4, 2008


It's a lot harder when the desire to do so is intrusive and occupies all of your waking thoughts. Nevertheless, if the urge is accompanied by a set of moral values that precludes the hurting of others in order to gratify yourself, then you won't actually act on those impulses.

This isn't what is happening. It isn't a desire, it is a compulsion, and morality has nothing to do with it. Studies after studies have shown that people will quickly and easily discard their moral code to conform their behavior to an authority or a social group- not over a period of time, but over the course of a few minutes.

More importantly, a sociopath by definition disregards the moral code - they can't integrate that into their personality for some reason. They know intellectualy that they what they are compelled to do is wrong, but that doesn't affect the compulsion, and the set of moral values doesn't enter into it. Every serial killer knew killing was wrong, but those that were mentally ill felt they had to do it. The compulsion is very often a survival instinct - they act violently to protect themselves, or to save themselves from hurt. If that sounds irrational or illogical, that's because it is. That's the point.

But imagine if someone broke into your house in the middle of the night, do you think you could muster up a bit of violence towards them? The psychopath or the sociopath is doing the same thing, but they see themselves as under attack all the time. The point is not that most people keep themselves under control - the world isn't full of repressed would-be homicidal maniacs. It's full of people who may or may not want certain things but don't feel compelled toward them in any case. It is not a question of free will, if the mind of a sociopath is not structured the same as yours, the point is nonsensical. For example, if you hear the voice of God telling to kill someone, and you believe that it is actually God's voice, would you really ignore him because it's against the law? Ask Abraham.

And what we know about human psychology is analogous to the state of 18th century medicine. To wit:

Lots of men are sexually attracted to post-pubescent teenagers, but they don't act on that attraction. Similarly, lots of gay men are sexually inactive because their church forbids them from acting on that desire.

What you are describing amounts to repression. People have the emotional wherewithal to repress so emotions some of the time, but they aren't repressed forever, and worse, the repression results in strange behavior in other respects, short tempers, difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships, etc. For example, in my comment above, I mentioned the homicidal triad. The reason that children who wet the bed, hurt animals, and habitually start fires is not because they want to do those things specifically, it is because they are trying to assert control over some very power, and usually harmful and violent force in their lives, which is usually some other person.

Your reaction might be to say that they should simply fight back against this violent person, but you may as well ask, as others have in this thread, why so many victims of violence apologize to their attackers during the attack. People make themselves appear weaker and more defenseless to their attackers as a survival mechanism, top make it obvious they have been defeated, so the attack will end. Watch mammals fighting in the wild, particularly dogs and wolves. The loser will often roll onto his back and present his vulnerable underbelly to the attacker. This is how the winner knows he has won, and the fight is over.

In humans, the violent attack on children doesn't end because the attacker is himself irrational - why else attack a kid habitually? So the child, the victim, develops a psychology that is irrational to complement the attackers irrationality. But the mind wants to find someway to control what it can't so it tries to master destructive forces (pyromania) and models attacker behavior (hurting animals) in an attempt to understand it. The bed-wetting is simply an expression of fear and terror, expressed when the conscious mind, the part of the mind attempting to control everything, is least in control.

When this child grows up, their mind actually matures. They reintegrate the aspects of fear and control into rage and the power dynamic into sex which is targeted against people as violence and rape.

Here we have someone who for some reason developed an sexual interest in both children and cannibalism. As rare as each is seperately, it is highly unusual to pair the two. You don't think it's important to know what drives someone to that, or what early experiences imprint that?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:06 AM on March 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


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