"Being born on a farm, I know the difference between raising something and it just growing. You raise tobacco and vegetables...and pigs and sheep...They got purpose; you tend them. But weeds grown on their own, tended or not. I grew; I wasn’t raised; that’s for damn sure."
Donald Henry Gaskins, Jr is born on 13 March 1933 in South Carolina. His mother lives with various men. Many bully and beat him. His mother rarely intervenes. When she marries, his stepfather continues the abuse. His small stature earns him the nickname ‘Pee Wee’. He later claims he never heard his proper name until he was a teenager.
Donald’s education is marred by frequent fights with his classmates and regular punishments by his teachers. He quits school at 11, finds work at a garage, and teams up with two other boys who work there. Calling themselves ‘The Trouble Trio’, they start their own mini crime-wave. They burgle for money, and rape young boys for kicks. But when they’re caught gang raping one of the trio’s sisters, the parents beat and break up the group.
Now alone, Donald’s crimes escalate and aged just 13, one bungled burglary ends with him hitting a woman on the head with an axe. He thinks he’s killed her. But she survives and so Donald’s sent to reform school. There, his size (he’s under five and a half foot) makes him an easy target. He claimed he once endured being raped by 20 boys in one go. He survives by offering sex in return for protection.
Aged 18, Donald marries, and has a daughter. He supports himself through insurance fraud (he’s paid to burn down barns by their owners for the pay-off) When a teenage girl accuses him of this, he takes a hammer to her. Donald receives six years for attempted murder. His wife divorces him.
Aged 20, Donald kills for the first time. Determined to avoid a repeat of his reform school experience, he shows he’s not an easy target by slashing the throat of another prisoner (while the prisoner’s defecating). Claiming self defence, he receives only another three years. But he escapes in the back of a garbage truck and joins a travelling carnival. Rearrested, he’s paroled in 1961.
Donald remarries and returns to petty crime. In 1963, he’s arrested for the rape of a 12 year old girl. He’s out on parole in five years.
Within a year of his release, he begins killing hitchhikers.
A victim of his size, and his circumstances, he finds killing others proves to himself, if no one else, that he’s finally dictating his own destiny.
‘I have walked the same path as God, by taking lives and making others afraid, I became God’s equal. Through killing others, I became my own master. Through my own power I come to my own redemption.’