“Twisted Thursday” has been on the back burner for a while. During the past few months I have been in Criminal Justice classes working on my Master’s degree. Taking a break until January. I don’t recall “Crazy Charlie” Hatcher from my psychology classes of a few years ago when we studied abnormal psychology. Who knows, maybe I forgot about him on purpose. With these blogs I am not trying to sensationalize what they did, but rather look at what might have caused their actions. Was it something they witnessed, something that happened to them or where/are they just plain bad people? Many of the serial killers of the world were abused as children by parents and/or other family members. Who knows what goes on in the minds of people? I will leave that to the actual psychologists and psychiatrists.
Sometimes known as the “one man crime wave”, Charles Ray Hatcher (aka Crazy Charlie, Albert Ralph Price, Richard Lee Grady, Richard Clark), was born on July 16, 1929 in Missouri. He was the youngest child of four, the son of an abusive, alcoholic father. He often inflicted pain on his classmates, some say due to his being abused at home. It is believed that Hatcher was traumatized after he had witnessed his brother die from electrocution. In the spring of 1935, he and his older brothers were flying a kite with copper wire they had found in an old car. His oldest brother, Arthur Allen, was handing the kite to him when it hit a high-voltage power line and electrocuted him. Arthur was pronounced dead at the scene. Soon afterward, his father left home and divorced his mother. His mother remarried several times, and in 1945, Hatcher moved with his mother and her third husband to St. Joseph. Hatcher began his life of crime in his teenage years when he began to steal cars. From the time he was 18 until the age of 34, Hatcher was in and out of prison for stealing cars and then for his attempted escapes from prison. From 1947 to 1984 Hatcher was in and out of prison for auto theft, assault and murder. At times, he was shuffled back and forth between prison and psych wards. He had 14 aliases and at least six social security numbers.
Hatcher’s murder series began while he was in prison in 1961, at the age of 32. The age of his first victim, fellow inmate Jerry Tharrington, who was found raped and stabbed to death on the prison’s kitchen loading dock differs greatly from the rest of his victims. His victims were typically between 4 and 16 years of age. Hatcher usually chose males, but sometimes would murder females as well. All of his victims were raped or sexually assaulted prior to their murders. Hatcher would either strangle or stab his victims to death. All the bodies were left at the scene of the crime, there was no attempt to bury or hide the bodies.
On March 28, 1973, security guards found Hatcher hiding in a cooler near the hospital’s main courtyard with two sheets stuffed into his pants, after which he admitted to an escape attempt. He was sent back to court for sentencing after doctors determined he was still a threat to society. In April, Hatcher was sentenced to one year to life and sent to a medium security prison in Vacaville. In May 1973, a psychologist found Hatcher to be a “manipulative institutionalized sociopath”. In June 1973, he tried suicide by slashing his wrists after it was suggested that he be transferred to a maximum security prison. A psychiatrist diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, and he remained at Vacaville.
In August 1975, guards reported good behavior at Hatcher’s parole review. In June 1976, the California Parole Board found that Hatcher had improved dramatically through his time in prison and set a parole date of December 25, 1978. As a result of the passage of a bill giving inmates credit for time spent in jails and mental hospitals, Hatcher received a modified parole date in January 1977. He was released to a halfway house in San Francisco on May 20, 1977.
Just over one year later, on May 26, 1978, four-year-old Eric Christgen disappeared in downtown Saint Joseph, Missouri. His body later turned up along the Missouri River; he had been sexually abused and died of suffocation. The police questioned more than 100 possible suspects, one of them was Melvin Reynolds – a 25-year-old man of limited intellect who had been sexually abused himself as a child and who had some homosexual episodes as an adolescent. Reynolds, although extremely disconcerted by the investigation, cooperated through several interrogations over a period of months, including two polygraph examinations and one interrogation under hypnosis. In December 1978, he was questioned under sodium amytal (“truth serum”) and made a vague remark that intensified police suspicion. Two months later, in February 1979, the police brought the still cooperative Reynolds in for another round of questioning—14 hours of questions, promises, and threats. Finally, Reynolds gave in and said, “I’ll say so if you want me to.” In the weeks that followed, Reynolds exaggerated this confession with details that were fed to him, deliberately or otherwise. That was enough to convince the prosecutor to charge Reynolds, and to convince a jury to convict him of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Four years later, Reynolds was released when Charles Hatcher confessed to three murders, including that of Eric Christgen. Unfortunately the police wasted almost five years and imprisoned an innocent man – at least innocent of this crime – in their haste to convict someone.
On August 3, 1982 Hatcher was arrested for the murder of Michelle Steele. He later confessed to 16 murders, though police believed that this was to receive the death penalty. Hatcher was found guilty of Michelle’s murder on September 22, 1984 and Eric Christgen’s murder on October 13, 1984. Hatcher was sentenced to life in prison for both murders and hung himself on December 7, 1984.
Ganey, T. (1989). Innocent blood: A true story of obsession and serial murder. New York, NY: Carol Communications, Inc.