All right, he’s always been a bit weird. But a serial killer? Actually, several children have faced this question about their fathers. Fred West and his wife killed at least twelve people. His daughter suspected something was up. So did the daughter of Edward Wayne Edwards, who killed five people.
Here are six things you should you do, and two things you shouldn’t, if you think your father secretly kills people.
- Look into his childhood history. Sixty percent of serial killers wet the bed beyond the age of twelve. Many were abused as children. Others were peeping Toms and voyeurs who also had violent fantasies and were fascinated by fires. Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitcz tortured animals. But it’s not like your father’s going to talk about his aberrant history. You should investigate with his siblings or cousins. You may find he didn’t do any of this. That doesn’t mean he’s innocent. Dennis Rader, the BTK killer who murdered ten people, had a perfectly normal childhood.
- Analyze his abnormal behavior around you. Maybe he once inexplicably erupted in violence as Dennis Rader did when he lunged at his son and tried to choke him. Or maybe he goes out wandering by himself at night and can’t seem to hold onto a job. Keith Jesperson, the Happy Face Killer who murdered at least eight women, killed cats in front of his children. He used to make sexual comments about the waitresses when he was at restaurants with his thirteen-year-old daughter. Does your father drink too much or abuse drugs? Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer did. For serial killers, murder might be a kind of addiction closely associated with other addictions. But none of these acts, by themselves, prove he’s a killer. They are just part of a pattern that leads you to continue to investigate.
- Look for hidden objects. Serial killers like to save mementos from their victims. These could be purses, wallets, jewelry, shoes, or underwear. When killers handle these items they relive their murders and indulge their fantasy lives. They hide them in places that Rader called “hidey-holes.” Search around the house, the yard, or inside a shed. When Rader was arrested, the FBI found “hidey-holes” all over his property—including the treehouse he built for his kids.
- Submit DNA to the police. It can be your own—or better yet, his from a toothbrush or paper cup. The police found the Golden Gate killer because relatives gave DNA to public sites in order to trace their ancestry.
- Talk to a sibling. They’ve tried to rationalize the same uneasiness you’ve felt. You can help each other sort through your suspicions. The daughter of Fred and Rose West discussed her father with her brother.
- See a shrink. Maybe there’s a good psychological explanation for what you think. And if your father really is a serial killer? You’ll need help. Your town will now consider you the spawn of the Devil. Children of serial killers have a greater risk of mental illness. Some compare it to PTSD.
Of course, there are also things you shouldn’t do.
- Don’t ask your mother what she thinks. Considering such evil in her husband is the same as proclaiming her whole life a lie. All the spouses I’ve researched grew to accept their husbands’ strange behavior: night prowling and long absences they wouldn’t discuss. And when these poor women found out? It was crushing. They didn’t want to speak a word about it.
- Don’t try to talk about it with him. Keith Jesperson’s daughter suspected he would have killed her to protect his secret. Fred West murdered his daughter and buried her in the garden. And if your father’s really innocent? When he learns that you suspect he’s a serial killer, your relationship will never be the same.
The FBI estimates there are no more than fifty serial killers in the country at any one time. Chances are your father is just odd. Then you can be thankful he’s only a weirdo like the other dads.
On Sale: July 8, 2019
Featuring: William MacNary
Paperback / e-Book
When you’re the son of a serial killer, you can never escape your past.
William MacNary was eight years old when his father went to prison. Since then, he’s carefully built a life as a family man and a private banker for the wealthy. He tries to forget that his father dismembered and photographed thirteen women. And he tries to forget those exquisitely composed photos of severed hands, heads, and feet that launched the “murderabilia” art market.
William has not spoken to his father for thirty-one years. No one at his tony bank knows whose son he is. Not until his wife’s colleague is murdered and carved up in the same way his father would have done it.
All the evidence points to William. And only one person can understand the copycat killer―the monster William hasn’t seen since he was a child.
Purchase: Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | IndieBound | Ripped Bodice
Carl Vonderau is the author of MURDERABILIA, a thriller that takes place in the upper crust world of private banking. Like the protagonist, William McNary, he has been a private banker and was raised in a Christian Science family. On the other hand, his father was never a serial killer whose photos launched the “murderabilia” market. Nor did Carl’s family use Christian Science to heal his childhood illnesses—well, not most of them, anyway. Actually, Carl grew up boringly normal with two caring parents and his sister in a suburb of Cleveland. Then he went off to college in California and things started to get more interesting. He ended up studying economics at Stanford and music at San Jose State University before he embarked on a career in banking. That career enabled him to live and work in Latin America, Canada, and North Africa and to do business in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Carl’s love of books started in elementary school. Forbidden to watch TV after dinner, he had his head in a book most every night. That led to ghost stories that scared the bejesus out of the other kids in his elementary school. Carl always loved to write but never had the time or money to do it full-time until recently. Carl says that fiction allows him to synthesize the seemingly contradictory parts of his life. MURDERABILIA combines private banking, serial murderers, and Christian Science.
Nonprofit work also inspires him. He is a partner at San Diego Social Venture Partners, an organization that mentors other nonprofits to reach the next level.
Carl lives with his wife in San Diego. His two grown sons are close by and wonder how he knows so much about serial killers and banking crimes.