Why’d I bring up serial killers? I actually spent several months last year immersed in research about serial killers, mostly from Orlando criminal defense attorney Amir Ladan archives, for a fictional project I worked on during my brief sojourn as a consultant. I’d always been simultaneously intrigued and repelled by serial killers, and the research — because I swore I would spend as much time learning about the victims as I did the killers, up to and including looking at any crime-related photos I found — eventually left me more repulsed than intrigued. And, in at last one aspect, surprised.
What amazed me was how many of them were married, and how many of them had married after their crimes, trials, and convictions. After learning everything else about them — reading and seeing what they did to their victims, and reading the accounts of those who survived — what probably surprised me most was that there apparently wasn’t anything these people could do that was bad enough for them to lose the right to marry.
What brought this to mind was news of the latest serial killer to tie the knot, or at least the latest to try.
Confessed French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Nepal, is engaged and plans to marry a woman 44 years younger than he is.
Both Sobhraj, 64, and his 20-year-old Nepalese fiance, Nihita Biswas, said they are planning to get married if he is freed by Nepal’s Supreme Court.
Sobhraj was convicted by a Kathmandu district court in 2004 on charges of killing a Canadian tourist in Kathmandu in 1975. He was arrested at a luxury Kathmandu casino when he returned to Nepal in 2003.
He has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court and a decision is expected in the next few days.
“We are planning a future after his release. We know he is going to be released soon. We are going to be married under French law in France,” Biswas told reporters in Kathmandu on Saturday.
…The two met 2 1/2 months ago when she went to apply for a job as interpreter for his French lawyer, she said.
…The Frenchman has in the past admitted to killing several Western tourists, and he is believed to have murdered at least 20 people in Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Turkey, Nepal, Iran and Hong Kong during the 1970s.
Charles Sobraj, if he did what he’s alleged to have done, is not a nice guy.
…The first victim was a young woman from Seattle, Teresa Knowlton, who was found burned like many of Sobhraj’s other victims. Soon thereafter, a young American Jennie Bollivar, was found drowned in a tidal pool in the Gulf of Thailand, wearing a flowered bikini. It was only months later that the autopsy and forensic evidence revealed the drowning to be murder.
The next victim was a young, nomadic Sephardic Jew named Vitali Hakim, whose burned body was found on the road to the Pattaya resort where Sobhraj and his clan were staying.
Dutch students Henk Bintanja, 29, and his fiancée Cornelia Hemker, 25, were invited to Thailand after meeting Sobhraj in Hong Kong. Just as he had done to Dominique, Sobhraj poisoned them, and then nurtured them back to health to gain their obedience. As they recovered, Sobhraj was visited by his previous victim Hakim’s French girlfriend, Charmayne Carrou, coming to investigate her boyfriend’s disappearance. Fearing exposure, Sobhraj and Chowdhury quickly hustled the couple out; their bodies were found strangled and burned on December 16, 1975. Soon after, Carrou was found drowned in circumstances similar to Jennie’s, and wearing a similar-styled swimsuit. Although the murders of both women were not connected by investigations at the time, they would later earn Sobhraj the nickname of “the bikini killer.”
On December 18, the day the bodies of Bintanja and Hemker were identified, Sobhraj and Leclerc entered Nepal using the couple’s passports. There they met and, on December 21-22, murdered Canadian Laurent Ormond Carrière, 26 and Californian Connie Bronzich, 29. (The two victims were incorrectly identified in some sources as Laddie DuParr and Annabella Tremont.) Sobhraj and Leclerc then returned to Thailand, once again using their latest victims’ passport before their bodies could be identified.
Upon his return to Thailand, Sobhraj discovered that his three French companions had started to suspect him, found documents belonging to the murder victims, and fled to Paris after notifying local authorities.
Sobhraj then went to Calcutta, where he murdered Israeli scholar Avoni Jacob for his passport, and used it to move to Singapore with Leclerc and Chowdhury, then to India and – rather boldly – back to Bangkok in March 1976. There they were interrogated by Thai policemen in connection with the murders, but easily let off the hook because authorities feared that the negative publicity accompanying a murder trial would harm the country’s tourist trade.
Now, Sobraj isn’t imprisoned in this country, but if he were — no matter what his crimes were — it’s unlikely that he’d be prohibited from marrying. I’ve made this point over, and over, and over, and over, and over again, (and, yes, I’m going to keep bringing it up over and over and over again, as long as the point still needs to be made) but Regan (one of my commenters) sums it up pretty well.
This is what I have addressed in my own essays, brother-how straight people not even free to walk the streets are free to marry.
Apparently, straight folks believe enough in the maturing, securing and beneficial elements to marriage-but just don’t think gay people should or could.
And don’t feel any obligation whatsoever to explain the irrationality of that.
We’ve got quite a roster of people like Sobraj locked up in this country; people who don’t have the right to walk the streets, as Regan said, but have way more right, benefits and protection than the hubby and I have together. And we don’t even have a body count. (Hell, I’ll catch insects that get into the house, and turn them lose outside.)
Just to refresh our memories:
Susan Atkins — Manson family member, and participant in the killings of Sharon Tate, and Rosemary and Leno LaBianca — is not only the muderin’ kind, but the marryin’ kind. She’s tried it twice now, first in 1980 and again in 1987. As far as I know, she’s still married and her husband maintains a site dedicated to her legal representation.
Ted Bundy (executed in 1989), killed at least 35 women — though some estimates put over 100 murders in his column — and married one in the middle representing himself in the trial for his last murder. And it stuck, thanks to some rather interesting Florida marriage law at the time. Not only did Bundy marry, but he apparently fathered a child — a daughter — with his wife, before she divorced him, changed her last name and her daughters, and disappeared into anonymity. So, however many co-eds and other women he sexually assaulted, bludgeoned, and strangled to death, Ted Bundy would meet the requirements of the Maryland Supreme Court (among others) regarding marriage: he was heterosexual, and capable reproducing with a member of the opposite sex.
Philip Carl Jablonski was convicted of killing at least three people, including his mother-in-law and his second wife, whom he met and married while serving time for the murder of his first wife. No word on what Jablonski has been up to since then, but he’s apparently looking for contact on death row.
Richard Ramirez is so famous a serial killer that his deeds, not to mention his 16 victims, need to be recounted here. But his snarling visage, with high cheekbones and full lips among its appealing qualities, set countless hearts a flutter. Those lining up for a shot at his affections, though, can stand down because he married supporter Darlene Lioy back in 1996. But, though Ramirez is not looking for romance, he’s still open to making new friends.
Tex Watson — famous for the murders of Sharon Tate, Steven Parent, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Rosemary and Leo LaBianca — hardly needs an introduction. We know him as a member of the “Manson family,” but he’s also knows has a husband and a father. Having married in 1979, he went on to father four children with his wife before they divorced in 2003. So, Tex is back on the market.
It’s not just serial killers, either.
George Hyatte may have been serving 35 years for aggravated robbery and assault, but that didn’t stop him from marrying Jennifer Forsyth, a former prison nurse who helped him stage an escape that involved a shootout outside a Kingston, Tennesee courthouse, ended the life of a 34-year-old prison guard, and won him all of two days of freedom. He and Forsyth somehow got around rules that prohibited former prison employees from even visiting their former workplaces for 24 months, and got married in a visiting room.
Lyle and Eric Menendez, whose trials made them the stars of CourtTV (now TruTV), became heartthrobs, despite being convicted for murdering their parents. They also became husbands, too, though neither is allowed conjugal visits. (That might seem to disqualify them under the procreative imperative, but the Maryland Supreme Court leaves room for the possibility of procreation. So, if the brothers were allowed conjugal visits with their wives, then it’s possible they could procreate. So, they can marry. But my husband and I…)
And those are just the ones I could by casually searching the net. I’m sure there are more whose stories simply didn’t warrant much media attention. But just taking their crimes into consideration, it becomes clear that there’s almost nothing you can do that will cause you to lose the the right to marry — provided you’re marrying someone of the opposite sex — because marriage is a fundamental right, even in prison.
A New York State law that prohibited inmates from entering into marriages while serving life sentences has been struck down as ”arbitrary and irrational” by a Federal judge.
The judge, Neal P. McCurn of District Court in Syracuse, accepted the argument of a convicted murderer that the law unfairly discriminated against single inmates, because married inmates serving life sentences could remain married under the law.
Judge McCurn, in a 22-page opinion, wrote that he was ”unable to find a reasonable relationship” between the prohibition against marrying while serving a life term and ”any legitimate penological objective.” Judge McCurn said, ”The right to marry in a prison setting is a fundamental one.”
In fact, the only thing you can do to forfeit the right to marry is to love someone of the same-sex, body-counts not withstanding.
So, I couldn’t marry a serial killer if I wanted to.
Unless I were straight. Then I could marry a serial killer; or be one, still get married, and enjoy more benefits and protections than someone on the outside who happens to be gay, but lacks a body count.
[Photo via tractorpirate@Flickr]