Murder by Craigslist  SEP 05 2013

Hanna Rosin writes about Murder by Craigslist, the story of a killer who advertised for victims on Craigslist in order to steal their possessions.

Davis wasn't the only person to answer the Craigslist ad. More than 100 people applied for the caretaker job -- a fact that Jack was careful to cite in his e-mails back to the applicants. He wanted to make sure that they knew the position was highly sought-after. Jack had a specific type of candidate in mind: a middle-aged man who had never been married or was recently divorced, and who had no strong family connections. Someone who had a life he could easily walk away from. "If picked I will need you to start quickly," he would write in his e-mails.

Jack painstakingly designed the ad to conjure a very particular male fantasy: the cowboy or rancher, out in the open country, herding cattle, mending fences, hunting game -- living a dream that could transform a post-recession drifter into a timeless American icon. From the many discarded drafts of the ad that investigators later found, it was clear that Jack was searching for just the right pitch to catch a certain kind of man's eye. He tinkered with details-the number of acres on the property, the idea of a yearly bonus and paid utilities-before settling on his final language: "hilly," "secluded," "job of a lifetime." If a woman applied for the job, Jack wouldn't bother responding. If a man applied, he would ask for the critical information right off the bat: How old are you? Do you have a criminal record? Are you married?

Jack seemed drawn to applicants who were less formal in their e-mail replies, those who betrayed excitement, and with it, vulnerability. "I was raised on a farm as a boy and have raised some of my own cattle and horses as well," wrote one. "I'm still in good shape and not afraid of hard work! I really hope you can give me a chance. If for some reason I wouldn't work out for you no hard feelings at all. I would stick with you until you found help. Thank you very much, George."

This was your standard well-written crime story until about 2/3rds of the way through when Rosin highlights a societal trend that more deeply connects the victims with their killer.

I was initially drawn to the story of the Beasley murders because I thought it would illuminate the isolation and vulnerability of so many working-class men, who have been pushed by the faltering economy from one way of life -- a nine-to-five job, a wife, children -- into another, far more precarious one: unemployed or underemployed, single or divorced, crashing on relatives' spare beds or in the backseats of cars. At what other moment in history would it have been plausible for a serial killer to identify middle-aged white men as his most vulnerable targets?

But what I discovered in the course of my reporting was something quite different. As traditional family structures are falling apart for working-class men, many of them are forging new kinds of relationships: two old high-school friends who chat so many times a day that they need to buy themselves walkie-talkies; a father who texts his almost-grown sons as he goes to bed at night and as he wakes up in the morning.

There's a bit more to it than but I don't want to spoil it for you...the entire piece is worth a read.

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Craigslist   crime   Hanna Rosin   murder

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