Misogynists and Serial Killers

The murder of women in Woonsocket, Rhode Island and Stuart, Florida, took place, at least in time, close to one another. In both cases, women who were sex workers were murdered. In Woonsocket, the women were dismembered. I knew a person who was murdered in Rhode Island, Christine Dumont, having met her while visiting a drug rehabilitation housing unit for women. That Christine’s body ended in the massive Central Landfill in Johnston, Rhode Island and cannot be found is traumatic to the extreme. In Florida, the bodies of two of the victims were dumped only a few hundred yards from where my wife and I once owned a condo. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but the proximity in time of these murders and the fact that I knew one of the murdered women was shocking in the extreme!

Only traces of fluids from the murdered women could be found from any of the Woonsocket women linked to killer Jeffrey Mailhot.

When Rex Heuermann was recently arrested and charged with the alleged murder of three sex workers on Long Island, the sameness of the themes of misogyny and an insane desire to enforce some sort of perverse moral code on innocent people were inescapable. The psychopathology of these murderers may have been different, but these men knew what they were doing during the planning, execution, and follow-up of these murders. The murderers went about their lives following their heinous acts.

In both Woonsocket and  Long Island, police were slow to respond to the killings and exhibited a less than professional regard for the women killed. As years passed, the police investigation became more professional.

In “An Ordinary Guy,” (Rhode Island Monthly, April 17, 2007), sex workers are referred to as “hookers” as reported in killer Jeffrey Mailhot’s interrogation at Woonsocket police headquarters.  Perhaps it was the times and the absence of political correctness that informed that language?

“The questioning continued for another half hour. Then Lee opened a file folder and spread the pictures he’d gathered earlier across the table. There was Audrey Harris, missing sixteen months; Christine Dumont, gone almost two months; and Stacie Goulet, whose disappearance had been reported twelve days earlier.

“Criminologists have sketched a demographic profile, and he fits it to a T. The typical serial killer is a white male who first takes up homicide around age thirty. The majority target strangers or near-strangers exclusively. Though a few travel about, leaving bodies here and there, most operate within a specific locale.

“Beyond that, Mailhot displayed a predator’s psyche. He killed not for money or vengeance, but for the thrill of it. He snuffed out lives with his hands (never a knife or gun) to savor every moment of his victims’ suffering and fear. He preyed on a specific group — prostitutes — whom he’d come to regard as less than human. And he concealed his horrifying depravity with an unremarkable, everyday routine: He could dismember a body, toss the parts in a Dumpster, and stop for a Bud on his way home.”

Eugene McWatters killed three women in ways similar to Mailhot. He strangled three sex workers, not dismembering them as the Woonsocket killer did, and left their bodies in a drainage canal and near a homeless encampment in Stuart, Florida. The homeless encampment was within a few hundred yards of a condo I owned. McWatters was dubbed “The Salerno Strangler,” after an area of Stuart. Sentenced to death for those murders, a technicality in Florida law saw him sentenced to life in prison without parole “Salerno Stranger most recent serial killer on Treasure Coast,” (TCPalm, November 28, 2010).

Rex Heuermann (“The Polygon and the Avalanche: How the Gilgo Beach Suspect Was Found,” New York Times, July 20, 2023), the alleged Long Island serial killer, had a much different lifestyle than the Woonsocket and the Stuart serial killers. He was an architect with a wife and children and lived a middle-class life, although his Massapequa Park home was in substantial disrepair, an anomaly for that Long Island village.

While there have been many psychological profiles of Heuermann, it is a near-universal professional code within psychiatry and psychology to never evaluate a person who has not been evaluated in person. Within the media blitz about Heuermann, an interview of substantial length was conducted a few years ago in which Heuermann dispassionately discusses his work as an architect. In my opinion, the interview was poorly done and is not easily accessed on the Internet since shortly after Heuermann’s arrest.

How many additional murders are connected to Heuermann are impossible to determine at this time. One additional murder has a similarity to his alleged murders, and forensic evaluation of bodies found in the Gilgo Beach site may give up more information.

The misogyny and sense of enforcing some moral order, along with murderous behavior, are the apparent earmarks of these murders.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).