23 April 2018
Born or Made
In the United State, very bad malevolent atrocities are taking place, like murder, mass murder, genocide, etc. After hearing about some of these evil events, it makes you wonder why someone would do such a thing? This spurs the question of nurture versus nature. Are murderers born evil or made evil? The answer to this question is that murderers are made evil due to events in their life that severely affected them in some way; whether it be from physical or psychological abuse, or the culture and society they were raised in. If we are able to find out what causes murderers to commit this horrendous acts, we may be able to reduce the amount of evil occurrences that take place. Throughout this essay we will discuss the concept of evil, multiple murder cases, and what caused the murderers to commit their crimes in order to determine if murderers are born evil or made evil.
In today’s modern world, there are two concepts of evil: natural evil and moral evil. “Natural evils are bad states of affairs which do not result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents”(Calder). Some examples include tornados, stubbed toe, and headaches. “Moral evils do result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents” (Calder). Examples of this include murdering, stealing, and cheating. For this paper, we will be specifically focusing on moral evils. But what is evil? A person can determine a action to be “evil” based off of many different factors like the reasoning behind the action, the way the action was carried out, the motivation, and what they do after the action. The only problem is that what may seem to be evil to one person may not be evil to another, and therefore it is hard to define “evil”. Eve Garrard says “evil acts are not just very bad or wrongful acts, but rather ones possessing some specially horrific quality” (Garrard 321). This helps to give us a better idea of what an evil is because an evil act is not just a very bad action, it is a action of a worst or more severe degree that can make us feel horrified, morally disgusted, aghast, etc. “We identify this subset of wrongful acts because its members have something in common (namely, that they are all performed by agents who are silencing reasons of the greatest importance against acting), and they provoke such horror in us because of the terrible deformation of practical reason which this silencing constitutes” (Garrard 334).
The first murderer we will be discussing is John Wayne Gacy, later becoming known as “Pogo the Clown” (Taylor). To everyone who met him, John Wayne Gacy seemed a friendly and outgoing man. He had a wife and two step daughters,was widely respected in the community, charming, and easy to get along with. Gacy also was a self made businessman who started his own contracting company PDM Contractors as well as the Democratic Party precinct captain for his community. When Gacy was not working, he would usually spend his time hosting street parties for his friends and neighbors. He was the prime example of the hardworking American family man, until December 22, 1978. On this date Cook County Police Department began to unfold the horrors that John Wayne Gacy committed. It was later found that Gacy murdered and sexually assaulted at least thirty-two young men, most of which were buried under his house and scattered around his property. He would often pose as a clown and trick his victims into putting on handcuffs for a magic trick, then the evil and monstrous acts would follow. On February 6, 1998, at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building in downtown Chicago, John Wayne Gacy was found guilty of the deaths of thirty-two young men and he received the death penalty on May 9, 1994.
The question in the case, as in most murder cases, is why would John Wayne Gacy commit these horrible atrocities? During the trial, it was brought to light that Gacy and his siblings were victims of their alcoholic and abusive father. Throughout Gacy’s entire childhood he was physically beaten by his father, which left not only physical scars but psychological scars as well. “For example, adults with histories of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse are at increased risk for developing depression anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and internalizing disorders in general” (Sachs-Ericsson 490). This may be one reason why he committed these evil actions. Another reason is that throughout his entire life he suffered great turmoil over his sexuality. Due to the abusive relationship with his father and the oppression and rejection of his homosexual tendencies he took his anger out on young men that he could subdue. On the other hand, during Gacy’s trial his defense claimed that ” Thomas Eliseo found Gacy to be extremely intelligent but believed that he suffered from borderline schizophrenia. Other medical experts who testified gave similar testimony, reciting a litany of schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder and antisocial behavior” (Taylor). Is this the result of his father’s abuse or is it a disorder he was born with?
The next murderer we will be discussing is Charles Manson. Charles Manson had a tough childhood growing up. He was born to Kathleen Maddox on November 12, 1934, who was a sixteen year-old girl that was a prostitute and alcoholic. Later on she married William Manson, but the marriage was short-lived and Charles was sent to a boys school. After running away from school, Manson spent most of his teenage years living on the streets and providing for himself by committing petty crimes. Eventually the law caught up to Manson and he was sent to prison where he would spend the better half of his young adulthood. After getting out of prison Charles Manson started a cult that became known as “The Family” due to the lack of his own. The cult grow to roughly around 100 members who shared the same values and beliefs of religion and lifestyle as Manson did. On the nights of August 9-10, 1969, Manson and four of his most trusted followers broke into the houses of Sharon Tate and Leon LaBianca, where they murdered a total of 6 people. It is believed that the Manson Family carried out a total of 35 killings but the only cases that Charles and his four most loyal followers were tried for were the Tate and LaBianca murders. Manson was then convicted of first-degree murder for the planning and ordering of the deaths of the Tate and LaBianca victims on January 25,1971. He received a sentence of the death penalty but do to the invalidation of death penalties by California, he instead received a life sentence without possibility of parole.
There were many different motivations behind the evil actions that Manson and his followers inflicted on the victims of the Tate and LaBianca case that were discussed during the trials. The most apparent was that Manson’s obsessive self image, insanity and faith in Armageddon were influences that drove not only him but his followers down a trail of self destruction. Manson trusted that he was the new Messiah, and that after an “nuclear attack” he and his followers would be spared by stowing away in a hidden world under the barren landscape of the Mojave desert. His prophetic dreams incorporated a conviction that the race war would bring about a Armageddon like world in which his “Family” were the rulers of. This motivation may of been the direct result of his childhood neglect, “Abusive and neglectful childhood experiences differ from event-related traumatic experiences in adulthood in that their psychological impact tends to be more extensive on the still developing personality. In this way, the psychological impact of abusive and neglectful experiences in childhood may often be lifelong”(Davies 83) . Charles Manson obviously suffered from insanity but was this from his loveless and neglectful childhood or was Charles genetically bound to be insane which led to his evil actions?
The next murderer we will be discussing, well actually the next murderers we will be discussing are the Menendez brothers. Erik and Lyle Menendez were two young men from Beverly Hills, California that seemed like they had everything they can ever want. They both were financially stable due to their family’s wealth and both were attending or planning to attend college. The brothers had their whole lives planned out ahead of them, or so it had seemed. On August 20, 1989, the Menendez brothers entered into the their home and murdered their parents by shooting them with shotguns. At first, Erik and Lyle were not considered suspects in the murder case of their parents due to their alibis. In the months that followed, the two brothers spent millions of their inheritance money. Erik did not pursue his plans of attending college, instead he hired a professional tennis coach to become a pro. Lyle went back to Princeton but did not attend any classes, instead he started a investment business known as Menendez Investment Enterprises and then later started a restaurant. Due to the rapid and wasteful spending of their inheritance suspicions were raised about the roles that Lyle and Erik played in the murder of their parents. Eventually, Erik confessed to his psychologists about their involvement in the murder of their parents Soon afterwards, the two brothers were put on trial and on July 2, 1996, were sentenced life in prison without possibility of parole.
Later on in the trial, the motivation behind the murdering of their parents was brought to light. Sexual abuse. The brothers claimed that throughout their entire childhood their father, Jose Menendez, sexually abused them; while their mother, Kitty Menendez, sat idly by and became a alcoholic. Also the two brothers were convinced that if they exposed the truth to the public that their father would have them killed. Is it possible that this was a result of their childhood abuse? Stephen Davies says “Long term neurobiological effects of psychological trauma include anatomical changes in the hippocampal areas of the cortex, changed neurophysiological reactions leading to cognitive impairment, and difficulties with temporal orientation and judgment” (Davies 830). Did the childhood abuse hinder their judgement so much to where they thought their own father would kill them or were the Menendez brothers making the story up to justify their greed?
The final murderer we will be discussing is Edmund Kemper. Growing up, Kemper had a troubling childhood. His parents were divorced so he was forced to live with his alcoholic mother and two sisters. Kemper’s mother was very harsh on him, showing less love for him than his two sisters, for example Kemper’s mother made him live in the basement at the age of ten due to the fear of him harming his sisters; in return, Kemper blamed his mother for all of his problems. Soon after he was sent to live with his grandparents. This is where he committed his first evil atrocities at the age of fifteen. Kemper finally released his rage on his grandparents by shooting and killing them with a rifle, he then turned himself in and was given to the California Youth Authority where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia he was transported to Atascadero State Hospital. A few years after being released at the age of twenty-one, Kemper began to pick up female hitchhikers but instead of dropping them off he would murder them and then dismembered their bodies. Often times he would decapitate them and place their heads in this freezer or some place. During October 1973, Kemper was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder including his own mothers. Kemper was then given a sentence of eight concurrent life sentences, which he is still serving today.
During the trial, Edmund Kemper had two parts to his defense. The first part that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and therefore was incompetent of the magnitude of his crimes. The other part of the defense was that his mother psychologically abused him by showing him little compassion as a child and often was left in isolation. The question is was Edmund born with this condition or was it from the neglect and psychological abuse he suffered as a child? In a study of Interpersonal sensitivity and the effects of child abuse, it was found that “child abuse and affective temperaments affect depressive symptoms partly through interpersonal sensitivity. Interpersonal sensitivity may have a major role in forming the link between abuse, affective temperaments, and depression” (Otsuka 53).
In all four cases: John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, the Menendez brothers, and Edmund Kemper, all commited the horrendous and evil acts but also had another connection. They were all abused as children. John Wayne Gacy was physically abused by his father. Charles Manson was psychologically abused by his mother. The Menendez brother, Erik and Lyle, were sexually abused by their father and neglected by their mother. Edmund Kemper was psychologically abused by his mother. It is difficult, if not impossible to determine if they were not abused would they of committed these murderers? But due to the research and multiple sources based off the physical and psychological effects of child abuse