To get sentenced to death row in the United States, someone usually must commit some particularly disturbing crimes. But even among the almost 2,600 condemned inmates in this country on death row (as of July 2019), there is a subset of horrifying criminals who have gone way beyond what is considered typical criminal behavior.
Charles Manson, Richard ("The Night Stalker") Ramirez, and John Wayne Gacy Jr. are all well known to most Americans. However, there are many horrifying death row inmates who, after the initial local attention paid to their crimes died down, remain unknown to most Americans. Here are some creepy death row inhabitants that are currently well under the radar.
Andre Thomas, The Murderer Who Blinded Himself
In 2005, in rural northeastern Texas, Andre Thomas, then in his early 20s, was convicted of the murder of his ex-wife and two young children and was sentenced to death. Killing his victims with separate knives, he claimed he did not want to contaminate their blood and "allow the demons inside of them to live." While his behavior was horrific and bizarre, what distinguishes Thomas is what he did next.
After being taken into custody, he removed one of his own eyes. Despite this self-mutilation and the opinions of several psychologists who thought he suffered from schizophrenia, he was ruled to be sane enough to stand trial - one doctor said his act was the result of psychosis from substance abuse, not mental illness. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005. Three years later, in 2008, after failing to commit suicide, he removed his other eye and ate it, inducing total blindness. His appeals currently ride on a debate about Thomas's mental fitness to be executed.
Technically, he is not on death row - he has been relocated to the criminal psychiatric ward of the Texas prison system - but he still faces a death sentence, which is being appealed.
John Edward Robinson, The Slavemaster
John Robinson has a lengthy record of criminal behavior dating back to embezzlement in 1967 for stealing from a doctor while employed as a lab technician. Throughout the '70s, he continued to engage in white-collar crime in Kansas City while also attempting to create the image of a solid community and family-oriented person. Despite repeated crimes, he was usually given brief sentences or probation.
In the early '80s, Robinson also became interested in more deviant behaviors, involving himself in sadomasochistic affairs and the sexual torture of others. In 1984, he hired a young woman - a recent high school graduate - and told her family that she would be sent out of town for training. She disappeared without a trace, and Robinson told police he knew nothing about her whereabouts. Her parents received a typewritten, signed letter stating she was fine but did not want to see her family. The investigation was dropped.
In 1985, Robinson befriended a struggling young single mother in a charity scam, promising her a job and housing in Chicago. She accepted the offer and disappeared. Within weeks, he told his brother and his wife that he knew of a child they could adopt without a lot of red tape, because her mother had "committed suicide." The baby belonged to the woman that Robinson had tricked. She was shipped to Robinson's brother with some official-looking adoption documents for a fee of $5,500.
Robinson employed and another woman disappeared in 1987, shortly before being sent back to prison for six years on fraud charges and parole violations. While in jail, he conned the prison librarian, Beverly Bonner, to divorce her husband and move to Kansas City to work for him upon his release. Once Robinson got Beverly's mother to start sending the woman's alimony checks to a post office box he had access to, Bonner disappeared.
Around this time, Robinson posted and responded to personal ads for S&M relationships in a local alt-weekly, all while continuing to appear as a loyal husband and father. By the early 1990s, Robinson had discovered the internet, participating in sadomasochistic chat rooms using the handle "Slavemaster." He lured several women into his orbit, and they all subsequently disappeared, including a Polish college student who signed a 115-item slave contract that gave Robinson complete control of both her and her finances. She disappeared in 1999.
In June of 2000, Robinson was charged with sexual battery and theft for his interactions with some of his internet victims. Police got search warrants for his home, storage facility, and land, where they discovered two bodies inside metal drums and plenty of evidence tying him to victims. At another storage facility in Missouri, police turned up three more female bodies in barrels - all of these victims died by blunt force trauma.
In 2002, Robinson was convicted for multiple murders and sentenced to death in Kansas in January 2003. He was tried again in Missouri, where he had also committed crimes, and pleaded guilty to five murders in order to avoid a death sentence there. Officially, he is tied to eight deaths; unofficially, law enforcement believes he has murdered many other victims.
Robinson awaits execution in Kansas but is appealing his death sentence.
John Famalaro, The Ice Box Killer
On June 2, 1991, 23-year-old Denise Huber attended a Morrissey concert in Los Angeles. She was last seen by friends when she left a Long Beach bar in the early morning, intent on driving to her parents' home, where she also lived. The next morning, her parents discovered that she had not come home, and they notified police. A friend found Denise's disabled car on a nearby Orange County freeway, the battery drained by emergency flashers that were activated the night before. For three years, police and her parents had no idea what happened to Denise.
On July 13, 1994, a woman in residence in Prescott, AZ, sought to purchase paint from a man named John Famalaro. While picking up the paint, she noticed a rental truck parked in the rear of the driveway that clearly had been there for some time and looked suspicious. She took down the license plate number and had the sheriff's department run it. The plate came back as stolen from Orange County, California.
When a deputy knocked on Famalaro's front door and got no answer, he also noticed an electrical cord running to a freezer in the truck. Thinking that he had stumbled on a mobile drug lab, the deputy got a locksmith to open the back of the truck. When he lifted the lid, he found the body of a young female, naked, handcuffed, and wrapped in garbage bags. It turned out to be Denise Huber.
Famalaro likely kidnapped Denise from the freeway and then took her to his deserted warehouse business location where he raped and killed her. Denise's skull was badly battered. Falmarao was convicted and sentenced to death in 1997. He currently resides on death row in California.
Richard Farley, The Stalker Who Wouldn't Take No For An Answer
From the moment that Richard Farley met his co-worker Laura Black in 1984, he became immediately obsessed with her. They both worked for a Silicon Valley technology firm. Farley began to pester her for dates; she politely refused. He started to leave letters and gifts, drive by her home, and follow her to the gym. He harassed her at the office and on the street, becoming more and more threatening. Farley was terminated by the company in 1986, but continued to stalk Black until she got a temporary restraining order.
On February 16, 1988, facing foreclosure, on the day before a hearing to make the restraining order permanent, Farley drove his motor home to his former company armed, indiscriminately killing anyone he encountered with a shotgun and other firearms. When he got to Laura Black's office, she slammed the door in his face. He blew it off its hinges and fired, hitting her in the shoulder and puncturing one of her lungs. He shot and killed four employees and wounded others. Black survived, but in the end seven people had been killed.
Farley was convicted and sentenced to death on January 17, 1992. He is still on death row at San Quentin, CA.