For Donald Henry Gaskins, life was all about being in control…
He boasted of committing over 100 murders and became the only person to kill a fellow inmate on Death Row, earning him the title ‘The Meanest Man in America’.
So who was Donald Henry Gaskins? And what made his own lawyer J McMahon Young later call him ‘the most evil human being’?
Born in 1933 in South Carolina to an unmarried teenager, Donald Henry Gaskins never knew his father.
His mother lived, on and off, with several men.
Gaskins’ early life was characterised by instability and neglect.
Weighing just 4lb at birth, and having a small frame, he was nicknamed Pee Wee.
He also suffered from night terrors and received beatings from his stepfathers.
Aged 8, Gaskins dropped out of school and is thought to have committed robberies and gang rape.
Sent to a reform school, he was, allegedly, regularly raped by inmates.
At 18, Gaskins was released and, two years later, in 1953, he was charged with attempted murder after using a hammer to attack a teenage girl he claimed had insulted him.
He was sentenced to six years at the Central Correctional Institution.
Inside, he was raped again, but cut the throat of his attacker.
From that point, he became the aggressor instead of the victim.
He raped a 12-year-old girl and served eight years in prison before being paroled in November 1968.
The following September, Gaskins tortured and murdered a hitchhiker.
This hitchhiker was the first of many he killed while driving across coastal highways.
Gaskins proudly branded them ‘Coastal Kills’: people killed for pleasure.
He tortured his victims, attempting to keep them alive for as long as possible.
In November 1970, Gaskins committed the first of his ‘Serious Murders’: people whom he knew and killed for personal reasons.
He began with his niece, Janice, 15, and her friend, then 17. Both of whom he beat to death after attempting to sexually assault them, rather than drag out the torture.
In 1973, he committed one of his more gruesome murders when he raped and murdered two of his neighbours: a pregnant 23-year-old and her 1-year-old daughter.
That same year, he bought a hearse and put a sign in the window which read: We haul anything, living or dead.
With a reputation for being explosive, many tried to avoid him. But nobody suspected he was a serial killer.
Two years on, a woman hired Gaskins to kill her boyfriend.
He did it but, in order to cover up the murder, he ended up killing four more times.
Gaskins was arrested in 1975 when an associate confessed to witnessing him kill a 28-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy.
He later led police to the bodies of eight victims.
In court he was found guilty of eight murders, and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life in prison.
While in prison, he murdered Death Row inmate Rudolph Tyner. He was sentenced to death.
Gaskins later confessed to having committed between 100 and 110 murders. But police found it impossible to verify them all.
He was executed in September 1991. Hours earlier, he’d tried to commit suicide.