Donald Henry Gaskins
Donald Henry "Pee Wee" Gaskins Jr. (né Parrott; March 13, 1933 – September 6, 1991) was an American serial killer.
As a young man, Gaskins was repeatedly arrested for robbery and rape. In 1955, he escaped from prison and found work with a traveling carnival. Gaskins was charged in 1976 with eight charges of murder after an associate told police officers that he had confessed to multiple murders. Police found eight buried bodies on his property in Prospect, South Carolina. While awaiting the death sentence in prison, Gaskins killed a fellow inmate on death row with a small explosive. He was put to death on September 6, 1991.
Gaskins was born on March 13, 1933 in Florence County, South Carolina to Eulea Parrott, the last in a string of illegitimate children. He was small for his age and immediately gained the nickname "Pee Wee". As an adult, he was between 5' 4" and 5' 5" and weighed approximately 130 lbs (59 kg).
Gaskins' early life was characterized by a great deal of neglect. When he was one year old, Gaskins drank a bottle of kerosene, which caused him to have convulsions until he was three years old. His mother apparently took so little interest in him that the first time he learned his given name—Donald—was when it was read out in his first court appearance, for a crime spree Gaskins committed along with a group of fellow delinquents which included robberies, assaults and a gang rape.
Following his conviction for his role in the crime spree, Gaskins was sent to reform school. There, he was regularly raped by his fellow inmates. After escaping from the school, getting married and voluntarily returning to complete his sentence, he was released in 1951, at the age of 18. Gaskins briefly worked on a tobacco plantation until his 1953 arrest, after he attacked a teenage girl with a hammer for an alleged insult. Gaskins was sentenced to six years' imprisonment at the South Carolina Penitentiary.
After being raped and "owned" in prison, he earned his fellow prisoners' respect by killing the most feared man in the prison, Hazel Brazell. As a result, Gaskins received an extra three years in prison, but from that point on he became the aggressor instead of the victim. He escaped from prison in 1955 by hiding in the back of a garbage truck and fled to Florida, where he took employment with a traveling carnival. He was re-arrested, remanded to custody, and paroled in August 1961.
Gaskins was arrested on November 14, 1975, when a criminal associate named Walter Neeley confessed to police that he had witnessed Gaskins killing Dennis Bellamy, aged 28, and Johnny Knight, aged 15. Neeley confessed to police that Gaskins had confided in him to having killed several people who had been listed as missing persons during the previous five years, and had indicated to him where they were buried. On December 4, 1975, Gaskins led police to land he owned in Prospect, where police discovered the bodies of eight of his victims.
Gaskins was tried on eight charges of murder on May 24, 1976, found guilty on May 28 and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life in prison when the South Carolina General Assembly's 1974 ruling on capital punishment was changed to conform to the U.S. Supreme Court guidelines for the death penalty in other states.
On September 2, 1982, Gaskins committed another murder, for which he earned the title of the "Meanest Man in America". While incarcerated in the high security block at the South Carolina Correctional Institution, Gaskins killed a death row inmate named Rudolph Tyner, who had received his sentence for killing an elderly couple during a bungled armed robbery of their store in Burgess. Gaskins was hired to commit this murder by Tony Cimo, the son of Tyner's victims.
Gaskins initially made several unsuccessful attempts to kill Tyner by lacing his food and drink with poison before he opted to use explosives to kill him. To accomplish this, Gaskins rigged a device similar to a portable radio in Tyner's cell and told Tyner this would allow them to "communicate between cells". When Tyner followed Gaskins' instructions to hold a speaker (laden with C-4 plastic explosive, unbeknownst to him) to his ear at an agreed time, Gaskins detonated the explosives from his cell and killed Tyner. He later said, "The last thing he [Tyner] heard was me laughing." Gaskins was tried for Tyner's murder and sentenced to death. It was the first time in the history of South Carolina that a white man was sentenced to death for the murder of a black man.
While on death row, Gaskins claimed to having committed between 100 and 110 murders, including that of Margaret "Peg" Cuttino, the 13-year-old daughter of then South Carolina State Senator James Cuttino Jr. of Sumter.
Gaskins was executed on September 6, 1991, at 1:10 a.m. in the electric chair, hours after he tried to kill himself by slitting his wrists. His last words were: "I'll let my lawyers talk for me. I'm ready to go."