We'll be profiling 13 serial killers over the course of the 13 days leading up to Halloween. Today, we meet a man named Pee Wee. Have any suggestions for our list? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When someone has a nickname like Pee Wee, people generally assume that they're either totally harmless or absolutely terrifying. There's no happy medium in this case. The thing about nicknames is that no one takes them seriously. But Donald Henry Gaskins -- also known as Pee Wee -- should have been taken far more seriously while he was alive.
Gaskins was a career criminal who came from a rough background in South Carolina.
He was abused by his parents and given the name Pee Wee because he was so small for his age. Gaskins only learned his real name when a judge read it out loud during his first trial as a teenager.
By the early 1960s, Gaskins had fallen into a life of robbery. By the end of the decade, however, he'd progressed to murder.
After moving closer to the coast, Gaskins picked up a female hitchhiker on a local highway. He then tortured and murdered the poor girl before dumping her body in a swamp. Gaskins called this the beginning of his "coastal kills."
Once every six weeks or so, Gaskins picked up and killed another hitchhiker. Most of these victims were stabbed or suffocated, but some bodies showed signs of cannibalism. After he was arrested, Gaskins confessed to having killed 80 or 90 people in this way.
By the 1970s, Gaskins began what he called his "serious murders." At this point, he started killing people he knew.
His first victims during this phase were his 15-year-old niece and her 17-year-old friend. Other people he killed in this way were friends or associates who had angered him in the past. These killings were typically done execution style with one bullet to the head. They were far less ritualistic than his coastal kills.
Gaskins also hired himself out as a hitman from time to time. His most heinous murder during this time was when he raped and killed his pregnant 23-year-old neighbor, Doreen Dempsey. During that home invasion, Gaskins also killed Dempsey's one-year-old daughter.
The end of Gaskins' killing spree came when a fellow criminal confessed to police that he'd witnessed Gaskins kill people who were currently on the state's missing persons list.
After hearing the witness out, police arrested Gaskins. They then forced Gaskins to show them where he had hidden the bodies of his victims.
He was convicted of eight counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
While in prison, Gaskins was hired to kill a death row inmate by the family of a victim. After he murdered the man with a small explosive device, his sentence was upgraded to death. The sentence was carried out on September 6, 1991. He final words were "I'll let my lawyers talk for me. I'm ready to go."
All I know is that not many serial killers I've studied went so far as to kill pregnant women. That's some seriously twisted stuff. Good riddance, I say.