Sadistically preying on young women and girls in South Carolina from 1969 to 1975, Donald Henry Gaskins was driven to kill by what he called a “bothersomeness,” an internal urge that could only be satisfied through rape, torture and murder.
Born: March 13, 1933, Florence County, South Carolina
Died: September 6th, 1991, Broad River Correctional Institution, South Carolina
M.O.: Targeted young female hitchhikers on the highway and took them to a secluded location where he raped, tortured and killed them; torture included breaking bones, cutting, mutilation, biting and sometimes, but not usually, cannibalism; common methods of killing included drowning and blunt force trauma
Signature: He prolonged each killing for as much as possible, feeling power and pleasure from causing suffering
Victim Count: Indicted for 10; claimed close to 200
Best known for: His nickname “Pee Wee” and autobiography Final Truth: The Autobiography of a Serial Killer
“I came to call it my…bothersomeness. It felt like a ball of molten lead… rolling around my guts…up my spine…into my head.”
“The bothersomeness was getting worse. It was making me ache. All over my body. My back…all the way down into my groin. The mere sight of a woman enraged these feelings…made them pulsate and grate in the pit of my stomach…”
Donald Henry Gaskins grew up in an impoverished neighborhood and was largely unsupervised by his alcoholic mother Molly Parrott. Early on, he developed a dysfunctional view towards sex. When he wasn’t left to his own devices, Molly and her various lovers sexually and physically abused Donald. It didn’t take long for Gaskins to perpetuate the violence and abuse he experienced at home. By the age eleven, Gaskins had already robbed gas stations, stripped cars for spare cash, slept with prostitutes and participated in the gang-rape of a friend’s younger sister.
However, it was assaulting a girl with a hand-ax during a botched house burglary that landed him in reform school. There, he found himself at the very bottom of the food chain. Gang-raped and “owned” by the Boss Boy, Gaskins’ various traumatic experiences at the reformatory instilled in him a need to dominate and be feared by others, even when he was a free man. Inmates respected him and most of his neighbors knew he wasn’t a man to be trifled with. Wherever Gaskins was, he needed to have complete control and mastery over his environment.
Unsurprisingly, Gaskins was an angry man, and most often, that anger was directed toward women. The love-hate relationship he had with them manifested in his female victims and the five underage girls he married and quickly abandoned. After raping, torturing and murdering his first victim for the sake of pleasure, Gaskins found relief from the “bothersomeness” he felt and wanted more. The act of killing developed into a compulsion, and soon he was averaging about one, what he called “coastal”, or recreational kill every four to six weeks.
In his autobiography, Gaskins separates his recreational kills from his “serious murders.” For the latter, he usually dispatched people he knew in retaliation to blackmail or mockery. Other times, he killed for money. His career as a serial killer ended when he mistakenly trusted an accomplice with his secrets, thinking him too dim-witted, feeble-willed and scared to rat him out for his crimes. Unfortunately for Gaskins, Walter Neeley’s guilty conscience and fear of God trumped whatever hold of terror the serial killer had on him, and he went to the police. Gaskins was subsequently arrested and sentenced to death. While on death row, Gaskins murdered a fellow inmate for money and dictated his autobiography to co-author Wilton Earle.
At the end, Gaskins feared death and slit his wrists non-lethally to force officials to hospitalize him and prolong his life. Instead, they patched him up and sent him to the electric chair.