Tag Archives: True Crime

GROWING UP IN THE SHADOW OF A LONE WOLF KILLER by Unni Turrettini

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Anders Behring Breivik grew up a twenty-minute drive from my parents’ home near Oslo, Norway. We frequented the same movie theaters and cafes and no doubt crossed paths at some point. Although he didn’t look like a terrorist then or does now, he murdered seventy-seven people and wounded hundreds more five years ago, on July 22, 2011. In shock and disbelief, I asked myself how something like this could happen in my native country. How, in Norway, the second wealthiest nation in the world, with the second highest gross domestic product per capita, and its Nobel Peace Prize?

Breivik was not born a killer. In fact, the psychiatrists who observed him as a child concluded that Breivik was a docile boy, showing no signs of violent behavior. So how did he become one of the worst mass murderers in history?

Any country can produce madmen, one might argue. Unconvinced by that easy explanation, I went on a mission to discover how this seemingly normal young man could become a mass killer. I needed to know if there were any way to stop the next massacre by the next Breivik, regardless of his country.

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As I studied other lone wolves, including the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, I discovered that the lone wolf doesn’t murder for fun, profit, or as a shortcut to suicide. This killer is so shut off and shut down from humanity that the only way for him to matter is to connect so completely with a cause that he is compelled to kill for it.

Breivik’s childhood could match that of anyone growing up in Norway in the 1980s, including mine. He was born in 1979 to economist Jens Breivik, a diplomat stationed in London and Paris, and Wenche Behring, a nurse. Soon after Breivik’s birth, the marriage fell apart, and Wenche decided to return to Norway, settling in Skøyen, an area within Oslo’s affluent West End.

So far, there was nothing exceptional about Breivik. But underneath the appearances, his childhood differed from mine. Before entering grammar school, when he was three years old, his mother began showing signs of erratic behavior. Neighbors gossiped about her smothering her son with inappropriate affection, having him sleep in her bed with her, and then suddenly turning on him with a mix of anger and fear, as if she were frightened for her own safety.

Due to exhaustion, Wenche requested help from the State Center for Child and Youth Psychiatry around the time Breivik turned four. Child Protective Services, upon hearing that she was frightened of her small son and that she was emotionally unstable, recommended that young Breivik be sent to a foster home. Breivik’s father made an attempt at obtaining custody, but the court decided in favor of Wenche, and Breivik remained in her care.

In school, Breivik’s hunger to succeed and be recognized found little nourishment. A misbehaving or openly ambitious child was quickly put in his place by the teachers and fellow students. Sticking out, even in a positive way, was unacceptable in Norwegian schools, and Breivik experienced both bullying and exclusion.

The attachment issues Breivik experienced as a young boy with an unstable mother and a distant father no doubt contributed to his difficulty in developing meaningful relationships and his rejection from every group with which he tried to connect. Breivik’s childhood was not worse than many others, but the lack of emotional nourishment was catastrophic for his development.

All the lone wolves I researched were intelligent and highly sensitive. Some psychologists refer to them orchid children, because of their fragile personalities. If neglected, orchid children wither. But if they’re nurtured, they not only survive, they flourish.

Few people recognize the killer among them when that killer is a lone wolf with no paper trail. Had I sat in a classroom beside Breivik in those early days, I doubt that I would have found him unusual, let alone dangerous. I might have even related to his need to be more than a sheep following the rest of the herd into Norwegian mediocrity. Perhaps that is one reason I wrote my book—to understand how a culture contributes to the making of a killer. More important, I wished to find a way that will allow law enforcement to identify a killer like Breivik before he strikes.

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Norwegian born Unni Turrettini is an attorney and the author of The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer: Anders Behring Breivik and the Threat of Terror in Plain Sight from Pegasus Books.

The Saga of Dr. Hicks by Patrica Dusenbury

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A state line can come in handy. Dr. Thomas Hicks started out in Copper Hill, on the Tennessee side. He sold narcotic painkillers to a returned WWI veteran who turned out to be working undercover for the FBI. It was a criminal act that could also have been one of mercy. Regardless, conviction sent Dr. Hicks to federal prison and cost his license to practice medicine in Tennessee.

Upon his release, Dr. Hicks settled in McCaysville, on the Georgia side. He obtained a license to practice medicine in Georgia and re-opened his clinic, two blocks away from the old one. The Hicks Community Clinic provided basic health services to the people of McCaysville, Copper Hill, and nearby settlements. The good doctor provided free medicine to those who couldn’t pay and made house calls if people were too ill to come to the clinic. He donated money to community causes and to his church.

Dr. Hicks’ generosity was supported by the abortions he provided upstairs from the community clinic. From the 1940s through 1964 when he was arrested again (on abortion charges that were eventually dropped), this medical Robin Hood subsidized health care for poor locals by providing illegal abortions to women able to pay.

The abortion clinic was an open secret. Residents saw the limousines bringing women from Atlanta and Birmingham and Chattanooga, small planes landed on a dirt airstrip outside town, but no one told. Perhaps because Dr. Hick’s illegal activity could, once again, be viewed as merciful. Women desperate to end unwanted pregnancies were risking their lives in alleys and backrooms. Dr. Hicks offered a safe alternative. However, his story doesn’t end here.

Dr. Hicks began selling babies. He convinced some of his would-be abortion clients to carry their babies to term. Or maybe they couldn’t pay, and he offered them an alternative. Regardless, he provided these pregnant women with lodging at his farm or in town and, when they delivered, arranged “adoptions.” Thanks to a cooperative county clerk, the babies came with birth certificates that listed the purchasers as the birth parents.

Couples seeking babies came from an even larger market area than the women seeking abortions, and they paid higher fees. Dr. Hicks charged a thousand dollars for a baby and may or may not have given the mother a cut. Selling babies is tough to justify as merciful—there were alternatives, homes for unwed mothers that arranged legal adoptions—and his black market babies, now called Hicks babies, have brought him posthumous notoriety.

In 1989, an Ohio woman whose parents had told her the true circumstances of her “adoption” traveled to McCaysville, seeking information about her birth mother. Jane Blasio walked around McCaysville and Copper Hill, staring at faces, looking for someone who might be a relative. Her quest led her to Blue Ridge, the Fannin County seat, where birth records are kept. There, Ms. Blasio found an ally in a Georgia probate judge, and the web of lies began to unravel.

According to Fannin County birth records, more than 200 women from cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan, and as far away as Arizona came to Dr. Hicks’ clinic in the isolated little town of McCaysville to deliver their babies. This phenomenon began in 1951 and ended in 1965. Jane Blasio’s mother was one of those women. The information was all there, it had been sitting there for decades, and it was all lies.

Widespread media coverage brought forth more women who had “adopted” babies from Dr. Hicks and more adoptees who wanted information about their biological parents. It’s not an easy search. The birth records list only the purchasing parents, and no records of the birth mothers, if there ever were any, have been found. Dr. Hicks, his nurse, and the cooperative county clerk are all dead. If anyone still living knows anything, they aren’t talking.

The story continues. A confidential DNA registry has been set up for Hicks babies, Ancestry.com is providing free services, and long-time residents are being asked to contribute samples. People still come to McCaysville/Copper Hill and walk around, looking for someone who looks like family. The most recent reunion story I found was in a newspaper dated less than a year ago. The judge who helped uncover this black market in babies said it best:

”This is just too bizarre for real life,” said Judge Linda Davis of Fannin County Probate Court, who has risked the ire of people in her county to help Mrs. Blasio in her quest through county birth records. ”If I wasn’t so personally involved, I’d think they were making it all up.”

  • The New York Times, August 23, 1997

I grew up in a small town. I don’t think this could have happened there, but I don’t know. Do you think this could this have happened in your hometown?

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Pat DusenburyBefore she became a writer, Patricia Dusenbury was an economist and the author of numerous dry publications. She is hoping to atone by writing mystery stories that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015’s best mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. Book 2, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a finalist in the 2016 EPIC award and was a top ten finalist in the Preditors and Editors 2014 readers’ poll. Book 3, A House of Her Own, released in October 2015, completes the trilogy. It has been nominated for InD’tale’s RONE award. Pat’s newest book, Two Weeks in Geary, is a finalist for the Killer Nashville 2016 Claymore Award.

When she isn’t writing, Patricia is reading, gardening, hanging out with the grandkids, or exploring San Francisco, the fabulous city that is her new home