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Martin referring to his own crimes

Lee Roy Martin, also known as "The Gaffney Strangler", was an American hebephilic, ephebophilic, and necrophilic serial killer, serial rapist, and abductor active in South Carolina from 1967 to 1968.

Background

Not very much is known about Lee Roy Martin's past. He was born in Gaffney, South Carolina, and was convicted, in 1957, of assault and battery with intent to kill when he assaulted a young girl in the woods. After serving a hard labour sentence, he married, fathered three sons, and found work at a local textile mill. He also worked as a part-time cab driver.

Murders

On May 20, 1967, the nude, raped, and strangled body of thirty-three-year-old Annie Dedmond was found on Jerusalem Road, Union County, South Carolina. Suspects fell on her husband, Roger, who had spent the night before with her in the nearby town of Gaffney. Both had been drinking heavily, and later got into a quarrel, at which point she jumped into a cab when the driver offered her a ride. Roger was eventually arrested, charged with his wife's murder, and sentenced to eighteen years of imprisonment for the latter.

On February 8, 1968, Bill Gibbons, managing director of the Gaffney Ledger, received a phone call made by a stranger who claimed responsibility for the Dedmond murder and reported two more bodies in the Gaffney area, taking accountability also for those. The caller asked Gibbons not to go check the drop spots by himself, requesting that he advised the local sheriff department, which he did. The very same day, the nude remains of twenty-year-old Nancy Parris and fourteen-year-old Nancy Rhinehart were discovered at locations pointed out by the anonymous caller. Parris had been missing for one day, last seen walking her poodle, while Rhinehart had been reportedly missing since January, possibly held captive by her killer. They had both been raped and strangled with a ligature. Parris had cigarette burns covering her back. Both had died, according to the coroner, less than twenty-four hours before they were discovered.

The case, which astonished the small community, was assigned two days later to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. That same afternoon, a man approached the detective in charge of the investigation, claiming he saw the killer, a white man driving a 1957 black Chevrolet, while he was disposing of Parris' body, on February 7. He didn't come forward immediately because he was there with his lover, and he was a married man. Later, on February 12, the killer again called Gibbons (who, this time, was able to alert the authorities) remarking that he was responsible for the death of Annie Dedmond (though he claimed she was killed in March, not May, as originally reported), not her husband ("He's serving my time"), and adding Rhinehart was killed on December 29, not February 6, as the coroner had originally pointed out. He also claimed that he had killed Parris' poodle along with her. The caller concluded by stating he was a "psycho", and that "if they don't catch me, there will be more deaths". On February 13, fifteen-year-old African American Opal Buckson was abducted while waiting for the school bus. Her sister, Gracie, was barely able to see a stranger forcing Opal into the trunk of a blue sedan and drive away.

Arrest, Trial, Incarceration, and Death

Soon, a large manhunt involving citizens, police, sheriff's deputies, highway patrolmen and SCLED agents was organized. Eventually, two volunteers joining the search, Henry Transou and Lester Skinner, spotted a black sedan parked outside a dirt road. The vehicle matched the description given by the authorities, and they began tailing the car until it pulled into a driveway, at which point they noted down the license plate number and left. The owner of the black '57 Chevy spotted by Transou and Skinner turned out to be textile worker and part-time cab driver Lee Roy Martin, who was put under round-the-clock surveillance. Martin had records for assault and battery, and had a car matching the witness description, which he strangely washed soon after Opal's abduction. On February 15, the Rhinehart family hosted a visitation at their house. Martin showed up and said to Nancy's sister, while looking at Nancy's open coffin: "She sure is a pretty girl, I don't see how anybody could have done this to her". The very next day, after Opal's body was found near the woods where Martin's car was firstly spotted by Transou and Skinner, Lee Roy was arrested.

On February 17, Martin was charged with the four murders. On February 28, Roger Dedmond was finally released from prison after serving nine months for a murder he didn't commit. In all the three trials he went through, Martin waived his right to a jury. During the cross-examination of a SCLED agent, it was first revealed to the public that Martin had confessed to engaging in sexual acts with the deceased body of Nancy Rhinehart. He was found guilty on all the four charges, and sentenced to four life imprisonment sentences. Gaffney's sheriff would later state Martin didn't get the death penalty because of the way the evidence was obtained, which could have led to him walking out the courtroom a free man.

During his imprisonment at the Central Correctional Institution, he confessed to his mother that the murders were committed by his "violent half", who took control of his physical movements. Martin was eventually stabbed to death by a fellow prisoner, Kenneth Rumsey, on May 31, 1972. Rumsey later hanged himself in his cell.

Modus Operandi

Martin mainly targeted women and young girls walking alone by secluded roads, then forced them in his car (he did this with his last victim, Opal Buckson, though it is possible he employed some kind of ruse with the others, in order to make them enter his vehicle. In Annie Dedmond's case, he offered her to enter his cab after she had an altercation with her husband). He would then rape and strangle his victims with his belt. In Nancy Rhinehart's case, he engaged in necrophilia with her remains. In Nancy Parris' case, he tortured her with cigarettes before killing her. Martin usually disposed of the bodies in out-of-town wooded areas.

Known Victims

Martin's victims.

All the following occurred in Gaffney, South Carolina.

  • 1957: An unnamed young girl (assaulted only)
  • 1967:
    • May 19 [1]: Annie Lucille Dedmond, 33 (abducted, raped, and strangled; body was found in Union County)
    • December 29 [2]: Nancy Christine Rhinehart, 14 (abducted, raped, and strangled; engaged necrophilia with her body)
  • 1968:
    • February 7: Nancy Carol Parris, 20 (abducted, raped, burned with cigarettes, and strangled; also killed her dog)
    • February 13: Opal Dianne Buckson, 15 (abducted, raped, strangled and stabbed)

On Criminal Minds

  • Season Two:
    • "The Last Word" - While Martin was never directly referenced in the show, he appears to have been an inspiration for one of the two episode's unsubs, The Mill Creek Killer - Both were necrophilic serial killers who were approximately around the same age when they committed their crimes, both targeted women, lured them through both ruses and brute force, dumped their bodies in wooded areas, engaged in necrophilia with them (once in Martin's case), were both apprehended after abducting (or attempted in the Mill Creek Killer's case) a victim in broad daylight and in the presence of witnesses, and were given a nickname for their crimes. Also Martin reporting his own murders and having a job as a taxi driver is similar to The Hollow Man having the same job and wanting media attention for his crimes.

Sources

References

  1. Martin claimed, during his phone calls, that he killed Annie Dedmond on March 9, 1967, not May 19. However, this is contradicted by several official sources.
  2. This date is based on Martin's own statements. Several official sources report that Nancy had been missing for ten-eleven days, and died on February 6, 1968. Martin, however, claimed he killed her on December 29, 1967, which is consistent with him engaging in necrophilia with her body.
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