A Guide to Mindhunter’s Real-Life Cases

In Season 2 of Mindhunter, available on Netflix this Friday, August 16th, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) will be crossing paths with some of history’s most talked-about serial killers.

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For those of you who aren’t card-carrying Murderinos and don’t know much about the world of true crime, here’s what you need to know about five of the real-life cases and characters that have been confirmed for Mindhunter’s second season.

Wayne Williams

wayne williamsBettman+ Getty Images

Director and Executive Producer David Fincher shared that Season 2 will focus heavily on the Atlanta Child Murders that took place between 1979 and 1981. The victims were all black and primarily male, ranging from ages 7 to 17, but six adults between 20 and 28 were also killed during that time.

Wayne Williams became a suspect in 1981 when a police surveillance team monitoring a bridge over the Chattahoochee River — where several of the bodies had been found — heard a loud splash. The first vehicle to exit the bridge belonged to Williams. A freelance photographer, Williams was charged with killing two of the adult victims and although no one was charged in the murders of the children, the Atlanta PD believed him to responsible for at least 23 of 30.

Currently serving two consecutive life sentences, he maintains his innocence. Even the parents of some of the victims believe that it wasn’t Williams, and that this was all an elaborate cover-up for the Ku Klux Klan. In March of 2019, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields announced they would re-open the investigation and re-test the evidence.

Charles Manson

You may recall that in Season 1, Holden requested a meeting with Charles Manson but was denied, and instead introduced to Edmund Kemper. Well, that meeting with Manson will definitely be happening in Season 2.

Manson’s story has been told numerous times since the infamous murder spree in the summer of 1969. An ex-convict and aspiring singer-songwriter, he didn’t commit any of the murders himself. He had a cult known as the Manson Family who actually committed the nine murders, including Sharon Tate, an actor and the pregnant wife of Roman Polanski.

In 1971, Manson was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in seven of the deaths, and first-degree murder in the other two. He was sentenced to death, but it was later commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was abolished in the state of California. He applied for parole several times during his sentence but was denied, and died in 2017.

Side note: If Damon Herriman’s portrayal of Manson on Mindhunter looks familiar, the actor also plays the same role in the Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Edmund Kemper (The Co-Ed Killer)

We first met Edmund Kemper in Season 1, and Cameron Britton returns to his Emmy nominated role for Season 2. Kemper exhibited disturbing behavior from the time he was a child, and when his parents split, he lived with his abusive mother. At the age of 15, Kemper murdered his paternal grandparents and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic by the courts and sentenced to the Atascadero State Hospital.

He convinced psychiatrists that he has been rehabilitated, and was released at 21. He attended college and hoped to become a police officer with the Santa Cruz Police Department in California, but was rejected because of his imposing size (he stood 6 feet 9 inches at the time). Following a motorcycle accident, he purchased a 1969 Ford Galaxie with the settlement money and that’s when he started picking up young female hitchhikers.

That escalated to an 11-month murder spree between May 1972 and April 1973 where he killed eight women, including five college students, a high school student, and concluding with his mother and her best friend. He requested the death penalty, but was given eight consecutive life sentences. He is currently serving them at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

David Berkowitz (Son of Sam)

David Berkowitz, also known as the “Son of Sam” and the “.44 Caliber Killer,” was a US Postal Service letter sorter when he terrorized New York City in the summer of 1976. At the end of the spree, he had killed six people and wounded seven others using a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver.

In the biggest manhunt in the history of New York, he taunted police with letters that mocked them. In his first letter, he claimed that his neighbor’s (Sam’s) dog was possessed by an ancient spirit that ordered him to kill. That’s how the “Son of Sam” moniker was born. Berkowitz was arrested in August of 1977 and plead guilty to six murders. He is currently serving six consecutive life sentences in an Upstate New York prison.

Dennis Rader (B.T.K)Dennis Rader killed ten people in the Wichita, Kansas area between 1974 and 1991, and gave himself the name BTK (Blind, Torture, Kill). Most of his victims were suffocated or strangled. He was married with two kids, was a leader in his church and with the local Boy Scouts, and worked for the alarm company ADT prior to his arrest.

Like Berkowitz, he would also taunt police with letters. He even sent them souvenirs that he took from each crime scene. DNA evidence and other evidence from the crime scenes found in his home linked him to the crimes. It was these letters that led to his arrest in 2005. Rader plead guilty to all ten murders in June of 2005. He is serving ten consecutive life sentences at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas.

We did see Rader in Season 1 of Mindhunter, and although he’ll be back for Season 2, we don’t know how large his role will be.

Is there another serial killer you’d like to see the Mindhunter team cross paths with in Season 2? Share your picks in the comments below. And don’t forget to add Wiretap to Chrome to share messages during and after each episode.

Unless stated otherwise, photos and video courtesy of Netflix

Melissa at Wiretap

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