Everything to Know About the Real Serial Killers of Mindhunter Season 2
The towering "Co-Ed Killer" murdered his own grandparents at the age of 15 (after which he was declared a paranoid schizophrenic), and he eventually killed his mother and her friend. But he is most known for slaying teen and college-aged women in a Southern California spree that lasted from May 1972 to February 1973: Mary Anne Pesce, Anita Luchessa, Aiko Koo, Cindy Schall, Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu. He turned himself in to police after killing his mom (whom he claimed was abusive during his childhood), and season 1 of Mindhunter focused on his hauntingly matter-of-fact conversations with Special Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff). When season 2 picks up, Holden is in the throes of a panic attack after Kemper's (Cameron Britton) bone-chilling bear hug. Beyond killing his victims, Kemper was known for necrophilia and dismembering their bodies. Now 70 years old, he remains incarcerated in Vacaville, California.
Dennis Lynn Rader
Known as the BTK Killer for his gruesome method of binding, torturing and then killing his victims, the specter of Rader (Sonny Valicenti) looms over both seasons of Mindhunter. We see him in vignettes, going about his daily life with hints of his true deviance creeping in; season 2 jolts to a start when his wife discovers him engaged in auto-erotic asphyxiation, wearing a doll mask and women's lingerie. And Special Agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) travels to Wichita, Kansas, hoping the new research on serial killers will shed light on still-unsolved case. In reality, Rader murdered 10 people between 1974 and 1991: the Otero family (Joseph and Julie, and their young children Joseph and Josephine), Kathryn Bright, Shirley Vian, Nancy Fox, Marine Hedge, Vicki Wegerle and Dolores E. Davis. Rader wasn't caught until 2005, after taunting police about the cold case in letters. He was convicted of 10 counts of first degree murder and sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms in prison. Now 74 years old, he is in solitary confinement at the El Dorado Correctional Facility.
PEOPLE spoke to Rader's daughter, Kerri Rawson, about being raised by a serial killer in January 2019. She said she had no idea about his crimes (“Nobody wants to believe their father could be capable of such monstrous things") and that "he just doesn’t seem to understand what he’s done. He doesn’t understand how much grief, pain and loss he’s caused to these families — and to ours.”
Berkowitz shot and killed six people (and wounded many more) in New York between 1976 and 1977, usually couples parked in their cars in private settings: Donna Lauria, Christine Freund, Virginia Voskerichain, Valentina Suriani, Alexander Esau and Stacy Moskowitz. He courted the media and police, sending them strange letters signed "Son of Sam" and featuring his own symbol. After being caught on Aug. 10, 1977, he insisted he'd been compelled to murder by a demon, which manifested itself in his neighbor's dog. But as seen on Mindhunter, Berkowitz (Holy McCallany) eventually recanted those claims. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for each slaying and, now 66, remains incarcerated. He is next able to apply for parole in May 2020.
On Mindhunter, Holden goes down south to interview convicted killers but gets tipped off to the Atlanta child murders, which put the city on high alert from 1979 to 1981 — even if the national media initially ignored the heartbreaking slayings of at least 28 people, mostly children as young as 7 who were strangled or suffocated to death. Williams was captured during a police stakeout in May 1981. He was convicted of murdering 28-year-old Nathaniel Cater and 21-year-old Jimmy Ray Payne in February 1982. Police say he was responsible for the child murders, but whether he was involved in the slayings remains unclear.
For example, the corpse of Curtis Walker, 13, was found floating down the South River in DeKalb County, Georgia, on March 6, 1981. His mother, Catherine Leach, spoke to PEOPLE in July 2019 about her son's still unsolved murder, saying she believes the Ku Klux Klan, not Williams, took her boy. "“They had to hurry up and blame [the child murders] on somebody because the city was fixing to go haywire,” she said. “Everybody was tense.” Investigators largely dispute the KKK theory but also question whether Williams, who is now 61 and serving life in prison, was responsible. The Atlanta Police Department has re-opened the cold cases.
William Joseph Pierce, Jr.
On Mindhunter, Pierce (Michael Filipowich) claims to speak six languages but struggles with basic English; he's bribed into opening up to the FBI with Mallomars. In real life, "Junior" killed nine people in Georgia and the Carolinas while on parole for robbery for burglary between 1970 and 1971: Margaret Cuttino, Kathy Anderson, James L. Shires, Lacy Thigpen, Joe Fletcher, Virigina Maines, Vivian Miles, Hazel Wilcoz, Ann Goodwin. He is serving life in prison.
Elmer Wayne Henley
Henley (played by Robert Aramayo) was friend and an accomplice to Dean Corll, the serial killer dubbed "The Candy Man" who raped, tortured and murdered as many as 28 young men in Houston between 1972 and 1973. Then 17 years old, Henley said he lured the victims for Corll, whom he fatally shot in 1973 before calling police to turn himself in. He is serving six consecutive terms of 99 years in a Texas prison and is eligible for parole in 2025.
Much has been made of Charles Manson’s portrayal in Mindhunter, but it's important to note that the cult leader isn't technically a serial killer, having instructed his "family" to commit his crimes. But Watson, also seen in season 2, certainly is. He helped stab and kill actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child and friends Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger on Aug. 9, 1969. The next night, he murdered Leno LaBianca. He was arrested that November and convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Originally sentenced to the death penalty, he was saved by a Supreme Court ruling and is still imprisoned in San Diego.
In February 2019, Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, told PEOPLE she believes that Manson and his followers were responsible for other unsolved deaths. "We are just scraping the surface," she said, adding, "There was nobody else at that time — other than the Zodiac Killer — who was prevalent at wielding a knife like these people."