Thursday, August 13, 2009

Notorious: John List

First off, I like true crime stories, and I have a particular love (which is a weird word for this, but it's true) of serial killers. Which is not to say that I'm one of those creepy groupie people. I don't write to them, I certainly don't want to date and or marry them, and I will die quite happily having never actually met one. However, I find the stories of them fascinating. They're like rogue sharks - an animal that acts outside of the ordinary nature of its species. I even used to have a theory that the sheer numbers of serial killers, mass murderers, etc. (which seems to get higher all the time) is a sort of function of the over population of the planet - not that they didn't have these sorts of killers back in 'the day', but there seem to be more of them. Of course, this could just be that we're more *aware* of them, which is why I say I 'used to' have this theory. :)

Anyway...I say all this to say I watch a lot of true crime shows on TV. I was watching Notorious (I think that's which one it was) the other day, and they did a feature on a man named John List (and here's another, longer article). I'd say (as always) read them for a good idea of the events, but for those who don't want to, here's a brief recap:

On November 9, 1971 Mr. List murdered his mother, his wife, and their three children. He planned it quite carefully and calmly - he laid groundwork for his family being 'out of town' for quite some time - he *asked* his kids what they wanted done with their bodies. On the day of the murders, he sent the kids off to school as if nothing was different, shot his wife in the kitchen and then went upstairs and shot his mother in her attic apartment. Then, as his kids came home, he shot them as well. In the mean time, between killings and attempts to clean up the blood, he mowed the lawn, ate lunch (at the table he shot his wife at), and wrote out some very long letters to different people detailing what he wanted done with the bodies, etc. He also wrote a six page letter to his pastor (who would *understand*, he felt) explaining why he did it.

He slept in the basement of the house that night, while the bodies of his entire family lay in the ballroom (except for his mother, who was too heavy for him to move downstairs). The next day, he got up, turned on all the lights in the house, turned on music, and left. And disappeared for nearly 18 years. He went off, started a new life, married again. He was caught, eventually, because one of his neighbors saw him on America's Most Wanted. He received five consecutive life sentences and died in prison in 2008.

All very gruesome and sad. But here's the bit that actually caught my attention - when he was explaining himself to his pastor, he said that he had to kill the family because they were badly in debt, they were living beyond their means, his wife was ill (syphilis from her previous husband apparently), his daughter was rebelling against him, and he didn't want them to suffer the moral decline and evil that he felt they would descend into if they were poor. This way, he felt, they would definitely be going to heaven. So he shot them to save them.

Why didn't he 'save' himself? Well, suicide would get him sent to hell. So he ran. He felt that he'd sent his family to heaven, and when he died, they would all be reunited. Either they wouldn't remember him shooting them in the face, or they'd have forgiven him. One of the two.

And, as far as I can tell from the show and the reading I've been doing, he *never once* said that he'd done anything wrong in killing them! *Never!* He didn't seem to have any emotional connection to the killings at all in the interview they showed. But, and this is the kicker, he *still expected to get into heaven*. After all, he was a good Lutheran, he was *saved*, so it didn't *count* or something, that he'd committed murder. (The best part of that segment was John Walsh being interviewed, cursing this guy. Of course, child murders are especially painful for Mr. Walsh, even more so than for everyone else.)

Now, I understand that even a murderer may be forgiven, by God. However, this guy seems to have missed the part where you have to realize that you've DONE SOMETHING WRONG! And then, repent, honestly, and truly. And even then, you've got to *pay* for your crimes! (Bullet to the back of the head, people - I don't hold with this let 'em live for decades crap).

Don't get me wrong, I *know* that this is not what Christianity teaches, what this man thought, but it's what he claimed. He claimed a religious justification, in a sense, for murdering people - or at least he never thought that he'd done anything wrong, based on his faith.

Just one (extreme) example of the way people can manipulate their faith to justify just about anything if they want to.


  1. Wow, fascinating! (I thought that word even before I saw your tag!) It's really amazing how people rationalize their actions and even as you said, think they were doing something worthwhile and still will be in heaven. :-/ Like you said, God forgives murderers, but this guy thought he did good. I guess he didn't realize that murdering people was wrong somehow. Hmmm.

    Thanks for sharing this. I really enjoyed it. You write about all sorts of interesting things. Headcoverings to animal pictures to Catholic and Orthodox issues to books to your fascination to serial!

  2. Heh. I have a magpie mind. :)

    God will forgive any sin, but you have to participate in it! Forgiveness is a process. You need to acknowledge that there was a sin, and be sorry for it.

    This is part of my problem with the OSAS idea - this guy believed that he was saved, and so anything that he did after that would be 'covered'.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...