Donald ‘Pee Wee’ Gaskins

Crime Files

"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 Gaskins) 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.’ (Donald Gaskins)

The Crime

‘I’m not asking nobody’s forgiveness. I got no apologies to make for my life. I always had my reasons for everything I ever done.’ (Donald Gaskins)Gaskin kills around once every six weeks. He does it for pleasure and to calm his ‘aggravated and bothersome’ feelings. His first predatory kill occurs after a female hitchhiker laughs at him when he suggests sex. He beats her unconscious, rapes, sodomises and mutilates her, before drowning her in a swamp.Hunting along the coastal highways, he terms the murders that follow this pattern his ‘Coastal Kills’. He tries to keep his victims alive for as long as is inhumanely possible. He tortures and mutilates before stabbing and suffocating and cannibalising his victims. He sometimes even forces them to have a last supper of their own flesh.He claims to kill around 90 people this way. But this figure has never been corroborated.When his murders aren’t random he terms them ‘Serious Murders’. His first is in November 1970. His niece, Janice Kirby, is 15. He tries to sexually assault her, and her friend. He then beats them both to death. Other victims are dispatched because he’s paid to kill; they owe him money, or simply because he felt they’d insulted him. Unlike his ‘Coastal Kills’, these murders are usually quick executions.But sometimes there’s no distinction. Doreen Demsey is an old friend of Gaskins. She’s 22, unwed, pregnant, and already a mother of a two year old girl. She decides to start afresh somewhere new and accepts a lift from Gaskins. He asks for sex in exchange for the lift to which she agrees. He then asks for the same off her two year old. When the mother refuses, he rapes and kills her. And then does the same to her two year old daughter. He later says“It was the best sex of my life.” (Donald Gaskins)

Timeline

13 March 1933 Donald Henry Gaskins Jr is born.1952 In jail, Gaskins kills Hazell Brazell.August 1961 Gaskins is released from jail and finds work with a travelling preacher.1963 He’s arrested for the rape of a 12 year old girlNovember 1968 He is paroled again.September 1969 A female hitchhiker becomes his first ‘Coastal Kill’.15 November 1970 Gaskins kills his 15 year old niece1973 ‘Pee Wee’ purchases a hearse. He jokes that he needs it for all the people he’s killing. He rapes and kills his ‘friend’ and her two year old daughter.12 February 1975 Silas Yates is killed by Gaskins, unusually, for money27 April 1976 Gaskins is charged with eight counts of murder.24 May 1976 He’s found guilty and sentenced to death.November 1976 The Supreme Court rules the death penalty unconstitutional which means Gaskins won’t be executed.9 September 1982 Gaskins again kills for money. As the death penalty has been made legal again in 1978, his fate is sealed.6 September 1991 ‘Pee Wee’ Gaskins is executed3 January 2008 A documentary is broadcast about the life of Donald Gaskins. It’s entitled,’ Pee Wee’.

The Trial

Gaskins is tried for eight murders on 24 May 1976 and four days later, he’s found guilty and sentenced to death.One small improvement to Gaskins lot is that he’s no longer subject to sexual or physical assault. His fearsome reputation means no one will take on ‘Pee Wee’. Inside, Gaskins kills again. On 2 September 1982, he finally succeeds in fulfilling his contract to Tony Cimo. Tony was the son of Myrtle Moon and Myrtle and Bill Moon had been killed by Rudolph Tyner during his bungled armed robbery of their store. As Rudolph Tyner is in the same prison as Gaskins, Tony hires Gaskins to exact vengeance.Gaskins tries poison but then he rigs a radio with explosives telling Tyner that it will allow them to communicate between cells. When Tyner tunes in, Gaskins detonates. Gaskins is again sentenced to death.On death row, Gaskins spends 15 months confessing his life of serial killing to a journalist. These memoirs form his autobiography, ‘Final Truth’ in which he explains he has a ‘special mind’ that gives him ‘permission to kill’. Gaskins claims to have killed over a 100 people including the 12 year old daughter of a state senator. Many of his claims cannot, however, be verified.He never once expresses remorse for his actions.Regarding his own end he says‘I truly don’t mind dying. I’ve lived a damn full and good life.’A few hours before his execution, Gaskins tries to delay his execution by slashing his wrists. With stitched wounds, he’s placed in the electric chair. At 1.05 a.m. on 6 September 1991, Donald ‘Pee Wee’ Gaskins dies.‘When they put me to death, I’ll die remembering the freedom and pleasure of my life. I’ll die knowing that there are others coming along to take my place, and that most of them will never get caught.’ (Donald Gaskins)

The Arrest

On 14 November 1975, Gaskins, now aged 42, is arrested after a criminal colleague, Walter Neely, tells police he’s seen Gaskins kill two men.Gaskins downfall was involving other people. The first is Walter Neely. He needs Neely’s help in disposing of a van in which Gaskins has killed three people.Gaskins then decides to make some money out of his serial killing, and becomes a killer for hire. A woman hires him to kill her former lover. Diane Neely lures the target out so that Gaskins can kidnap him. Two others are involved in the murder and burial of the body.Diane Neely and her boyfriend try to blackmail Gaskins over the murder, little realising that he’s a psychopathic serial killer. He says he’ll meet them to give them the money. Instead, he murders them. Two locals also have little sense of the true nature of their victim when they steal from Gaskins. They’re also killed. He enlists Walter Neely to help bury the pair. Meanwhile, another of Gaskins former kills leads police to search his apartment. The victim’s clothes are found. And Neely is also brought in for questioning. He soon confesses everything.Gaskins says he’s involved in the murders of many of those reported missing and indicates where he’s buried them.On 4 December, 1975, Gaskins takes police to some land he owns. The police find eight of his victims.