|“||Hello to everyone. May you all have peace because of this. May my victims' families have peace.||”|
— Stewart's final words
Raymond Lee Stewart was an American spree killer who, in early 1981, murdered six people during the course of a week-long rampage in Rockford, Illinois, and Benoit, Wisconsin. He was eventually arrested and, in 1996, executed for his crimes.
Stewart was born in Burlington, North Carolina, in 1952, and raised in an abusive environment. His father frequently beat and molested his nine children, as well as engaged in violent scuffles with his wife. At some point, the family relocated to Rockford, Illinois. At sixteen, Stewart was thrown out of the house by his father, who told him to never come back. Shortly thereafter, he got kicked out of South Beloit High School for getting into a fight with some fellow students over politics, and began living of odd jobs from that moment on. During the 1970s, he spent six years in jail for several armed robberies of gas stations and thefts. According to him, he was implicated in one of those crimes by store owner Willie Fredd, who would later become the very first victim of his 1981 spree for this reason. For a while, Stewart relocated to his native North Carolina. In 1981, he returned to Rockford for the upcoming birth of his out-of-wedlock child.
Killing Spree and Arrest
On the afternoon of January 27, 1981, Willie Fredd, a 54 year-old African-American, owner of Fredd's Grocery Store (just two blocks from the Rockford motel where Stewart was staying), was shot to death along with his nephew, 20 year-old Albert Pearson. Nothing valuable was taken from the store (with the exception of some cigarettes which were later found in Stewart's motel room). The next morning, Rockford gas station attendant Kevin Kaiser was found dead in the station's supply storage room. He had been shot four times, then shot point-blank in the face post-mortem. Again, nothing valuable was taken from the scene, while a witness identified a black male in his late twenties as a suspect. On January 29, another gas station attendant, Kenny Foust, was shot. The latter at first survived, then succumbed to his wounds at Rockford Memorial Hospital. This time, about $150 were taken from the station. Ballistics tests also indicated that the gun with which Foust was murdered was the same that killed Fredd and his nephew, resulting in the very first link between all these incidents. Rockford police soon formed a major case task force.
On February 2, Richard Boeck and Donald Rains, respectively the manager and a customer of a Benoit, Wisconsin, Radio Shack store, were found dead near the rear of the store. Witnesses identified a black male similar to the one spotted the day of the Kaiser shooting. As this, along with the similar circumstances of the crimes, implied the offender had crossed state lines, the FBI was consequently involved. John Douglas was called in to draft a suspect profile, which matched that of a man to whom the authorities were led thanks to witness descriptions: Raymond Lee Stewart. Stewart had, in the meanwhile, fled to his cousin's house in Greensboro, North Carolina. He was eventually arrested on February 21.
Trial and Execution
Stewart was charged with four counts of murder in Illinois and two in Wisconsin. During the trials, he showed resentment and contempt for both his victims and the system. He was found guilty of felony murder and sentenced to death. While in jail, he attempted an escape but was recaptured two hours later. In September 1996, a remorseful-sounding Stewart finally revealed, on tape, his motives for the murders. He claimed that Fredd's murder was merely an act of revenge, and Pearson was killed because he had tried to run away from the store. For what concerns the others, they were killed because of his hatred of white people, whom he deemed responsible for the murders of two of his boyhood idols: John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. On the seventh day of his spree, he added, he was on his way to kill his mother's landlord, but a mysterious voice told him to stop shooting people while he was just blocks away from the intended victim's home. On September 18, he was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center, Illinois.
Stewart shot his victims (usually at point-blank range) with two 38. caliber revolvers: an RG 31 and a Smith & Wesson Model 60 Chief's Special. He attempted to hide the bodies of his victims in the majority of the incidents.
John Douglas profiled the unsub as being a paranoid individual, because of the number of weapons involved, as well as the lack of a "logical motive" (monetary, personal, sexual, etc) to the crimes, which therefore made sense according to a strictly internal, non-objective logic. The offender would have been delusional, but still functional enough to drive and hold a menial job. He would have interacted with people around him, but they would have known he was "odd". Since paranoid, paranoid schizophrenics, as well as assassin personalities, surface in their mid-twenties, the offender would have much probably been in his mid-to-late twenties. Killers usually begin where they feel the highest comfort level, therefore, as his first two victims were black, and the second and third shootings occurred in the early morning hours, the offender would have been African-American (a fact which also witness descriptions confirmed) who would have felt more comfortable in the darkness. The latter peculiarity would have been reflected also in his choice of dark-colored clothing and a dark-colored car. Also, he would have resided near the Fredd Grocery Store. He would probably have felt the need for a police-like dog for protection, like a German Shepherd or Dobermann pinscher (Stewart indeed had two pinschers). He would also have had a police radio scanner. He would have had a criminal record, consisting of assaultive behavior, reacting against authority figures, or institutionalization. Killing every person in each of the holdups, along with the overkill, suggested the offender would have been someone who "overcompensated" for everything.
- Unspecified date in c.1967: Several unnamed students (assaulted in a fight)
- Unknown dates and locations in the 1970s: several victimless thefts and armed robberies of gas stations
- January 27, Rockford, Illinois:
- Willie Fredd, 44 (shot once in the neck and once in the spleen)
- Albert Pearson, 20 (shot three times in the chest)
- January 28, Rockford, Illinois: Kevin Kaiser, 18 (shot four times in the chest, then shot point-blank in the face post-mortem)
- January 29, Rockford, Illinois: Kenny Foust, 35 (shot twice in the face and neck)
- February 2, Benoit, Wisconsin:
- Richard Boeck, 21 (shot multiple times in the head and chest)
- Donald Rains, 26 (shot multiple times in the head and chest)
- January 27, Rockford, Illinois:
On Criminal Minds
- Season Six
- "The Thirteenth Step" - While Stewart was never directly referenced in the show, he appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsubs, Raymond Donovan and Sydney Manning - All three were spree killers and robbers who were active in at least two states and approximately the same duration, targeted at least one store and at least one gas station, both Stewart and Manning used at least one revolver, and both Donovan and Stewart share the same first name and have surnames which are commonly used as first names. Also the way Stewart claimed he had an abusive childhood is somewhat similar to how Donovan was molested by his father.
- John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Journey Into Darkness. Gallery Books. 2010. ISBN: 978-1-439-10781-2
- Murderpedia's article on Stewart
- ROCKFORD KILLER BREAKS SILENCE - Chicago Tribune
- BIRTH(+)FACT(᙮)DEATH(-) 35th year - Facebook
- Miller-Stewart, Ruby. Murderer Amongst Us. Tate Pub & Enterprises. 2009. ISBN: 978-1-606-96983-0