Killer Profile: "Pee Wee" Gaskins
Donald Henry Gaskins - better known as "Pee Wee" due to his small size - is one of America's most notorious serial killers; he was convicted of nine murders, but he claimed that he has taken the life of over one hundred people over the course of almost thirty years. He became known as the "Meanest Man in America" by doing some pretty crazy killings, even from his jail cell. Pee Wee Gaskins has certainly earned his spot as one of the more prolific men in modern day crime, so without further ado...
Gaskins was born March 13th, 1933 in Florence County, South Carolina to Eulea Parrott. He was the last in a line of illegitimate children, and much of his childhood was spent without supervision. His mother essentially neglected Pee Wee, even from an incredibly young age, and showed close to none (if any at all) affection towards her son. When Gaskins was just a year old, he managed to get into and drink a bottle of kerosene (lamp oil), which is obviously something a mother shouldn't ever let happen. The incident cause the young Gaskins to suffer from convulsions over the next two years. Combine that with beatings Gaskins took from his mothers various partners and his consistent night terrors, and poor young Pee Wee was almost doomed from the very beginning of his life. His childhood was pretty messy, and Gaskins was left on his own to defend himself and learn about the world, so it almost doesn't come as a surprise that he ended up in some nasty trouble at a young age. Gaskins was taken to court for a spree of crimes that his group of friends and himself were a part of (they even called themselves "The Trouble Trio"), including robberies and even a gang rape. One of the victims from the robberies was able to identify the young men to the police, and they were taken into custody. It wasn't until Gaskins court appearance did he learn his actual name for the very first time. As a result of the crimes, Pee Wee was sent to reform school where he was regularly raped by fellow inmates. He would seek the protection of bigger "boss boys" in return for sexual favors. Gaskins left the school at the age of 18 and just two years later, he was arrested and charged for attempted murder when he attacked a teenage girl with a hammer who he claimed that insulting him. Gaskins was sentenced to six years in prison, where he would go on to kill the most feared man in the prison, Hazel Brazell. Three additional years were added onto Gaskins' prison sentence, but he managed to escape the prison by hiding in the back of a garbage truck. Gaskins made his way down to Florida where he got a job with a traveling carnival. It didn't last long, however, and he was re-arrested.
After being released from prison, Gaskins returned to the life he knew best of robberies and selling stolen property. Two years after his release, Pee Wee was taken in for raping a twelve year old girl, and he managed to flee before he was sentenced. The police eventually caught back up with Gaskins, and he was sentenced to another eight years in prison. After his release from prison this time, Pee Wee went on to commit his first non-prison related murder, and it was done so in the fashion that Gaskins would become notorious for: Pee Wee picked up a girl who was hitchhiking, and he tortured and murdered her before tossing her body into a swamp, left to sink. The hitchhiking woman apparently laughed at Gaskins after he made a sexual proposition, and murder was his way of retaliation. Gaskins would cruise around the coastal highways of the southern US, and pick up highhikers (both male and female). He would torture and mutilate the people while keeping them alive, and actually trying to keep them alive for as long as possible to see just how much the people can endure. He went on to say that these kills were purely for pleasure, and that he would do this once every six weeks or so. Gaskins confessed to stabbing, mutilating, suffocating, and even cannibalizing some of the victims, of which he claimed there was around "eighty to ninety." To Gaskins, this was just his "weekend recreation."
It wasn't until 1970 that Pee Wee would commit his first "personal" murder, or the murder of someone he actually knew and had a reason for killing. After attempting to sexually assault his own niece and her friend (who were ages 15 and 17), Gaskins beat the two young women to death.In the time that followed, Gaskins would go on to commit more of these "serious" murders, killing people he knew for reasons such as owing him money, claiming they stole from him, attempting to blackmail him, and even just mocking him. The interesting thing to note about these types of murders, however, that is very different from his hitchhiker murders is that these victims were killed swiftly: they were often shot to death (a quick death) as opposed to spending time torturing and mutilating the victims before actually ending their lives.
Gaskins murdering spree seemed to just continue, without anyone actually catching on to his murderous trail. As his body count continued to rise, Gaskins continued to roam the streets of South Carolina without any worry of being caught. In 1973, Gaskins committed one of his most heinous crimes when he raped and murdered his two neighbors: a pregnant 23 year old woman and her two year old daughter. Gaskins would eventually become involved in murder-for-hire crimes, and in 1975 he was paid by a woman to kill her boyfriend, but it only ended in even more bloodshed: to cover up the murder, Gaskins killed four more victims. By this point, it's almost unbelievable just how many peoples lives Pee Wee managed to take without being held responsible. But that would all change on November 14, 1975, when he was arrested after fellow criminal Walter Neeley told police that he witnessed Gaskins murder two teenagers. Neeley went on to tell police that Gaskins confided in him, telling him about some of his additional victims and even telling him where some of the victims were buried. In December, Pee Wee led police to land he owned, where the grizzly discovery of eight bodies would ultimate bring an end to Gaskins spree of murder. Gaskins essentially created his own personal cemetery.
On May 24, 1976, Pee Wee Gaskins was tried on eight charges of murder, and four days later he was found guilty and sentenced to death. His death sentence was changed to life in prison, after the Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional. While in prison, Gaskins committed one more final murder. The target was Rudolph Tyner, who was a death row inmate who killed elderly couple Bill and Myrtle Moon during an armed robbery of their store. Myrtle's son, Tony Cimo, hired Pee Wee Gaskins to take out Tyner as revenge for taking his parents. After unsuccessfully trying to lace Tyner's food and drinks with poison, Gaskins decided explosives would be a better option, and so he rigged a device with an explosive, which he told Tyner would act as a radio that would allow the two of them to communicate between cells. Gaskins told Tyner to hold the device to his ear at a particular time, and at just the right moment, Gaskins detonated the device and successfully killed Tyner. He was tried for the murder and sentenced to death.
On the morning of September 6th, 1991 - at 1:10 - Donald Henry Gaskins was executed via electric chair. Just before his execution, Gaskins attempted suicide in his prison cell by slitting his wrists with a razor he had managed to swallow a week before. In an attempt to avoid the electric chair, Gaskins began confessing to other murders he apparently committed. His final words to the world, before the electric chair ended his life, was “I’ll let my lawyers talk for me. I’m ready to go.”
But Gaskins lawyers didn't need to talk for him: Gaskins did plenty of talking on his own. Prior to his death, while he was still on death row, Pee Wee met with journalist Wilton Earle over the course of fifteen months, and together, Gaskins told his life story to the journalist so that they could put together an autobiography of the serial killers, in his own words. The result was "Final Truth" - in which Gaskins claimed to have committed between 100 and 110 murders. Through "Final Truth," readers would be able to get inside the head of the "Meanest Man in America" and potentially uncover just how dark Pee Wee Gaskins truly was. In his own words, "In this book I'm not asking nobody's forgiveness. I got no apologies to make for my life. I always had my reasons for everything I ever done." The book is available for purchase online, however the price is quite substantial.
Since Pee Wee Gaskins was not able to provide information about all of his victims or locations of the bodies, it truly is unknown what his actual victim count may be. Some speculate that he just wanted to become known as the most prolific serial killer in all of South Carolina, while others think Gaskins was truly capable of taking the lives of over one hundred victims. So while his final total may be up for debate, one thing is for certain: Donald Gaskins was one wicked, wicked man who certainly didn't care about his victims or the families they left behind one bit.