Sunday, 14 July 2013

Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer

by Gary C King - 2.5 stars

Dayton Leroy Rogers was one of the most prolific serial killers that Oregon had ever known. Eventually sentenced for 7 murders (and only after being caught in the act of killing his last victim, Jenny Smith) it seems highly unlikely that the bodies of Jenny and the others accidentally discovered by a hunter in the Molalla Forest were the only ones he had any involvement with.

Raised in a large family with zealously religious parents and a violently abusive father, Rogers had already developed a fetish for feet by adolescence, after peeping at his sisters and masturbating over their shoes. His favourite victims were prostitutes, and after picking them up and plying them with cartons of vodka and orange would drive them to the forest where he would tie them up and commence torturing them, focusing largely on their feet. Getting off on their pain and fear, this would last for hours before being horribly mutilated and killed, and left in the forest stripped of any trophies Rogers had taken a shine to.

Changing his MO slightly for his last victim, Rogers killed Jenny Smith in a parking lot opposite a busy Denny's restaurant. While the many witnesses weren't able to save Jenny, they were able to chase him down and provide important eyewitness evidence that would see him arrested - at which point dozens more women came forward to tell of their own experiences at his hands over the years, which they'd managed to survive.

As with many of these books, what was most clear to me was that Rogers would likely never have been caught if it hadn't been for his last, very public killing. Due to the fact that his victims were prostitutes and largely living transient lifestyles, they weren't often reported as missing until months after their disappearances, which then didn't rank highly on anyone's agenda due to their choice of employment. In fact, Detective Turner (who led on investigating the crimes) is actually portrayed within as someone unusual for actually giving a shit about what might have happened to them.

The book did a decent job of giving the facts of the case but felt a little tabloidy, and I'd have liked for the author to have thought about his choice of words at times. Describing Rogers' victims variously as whores, streetwalkers and trollops, and always noting whether they were attractive or pointing out a 'well-developed' corpse, I felt this was yet another dehumanising indignity served up to these poor women. In fact, considering that many of the surviving victims also hadn't come forward previously for fear of getting into trouble, more than anything this book really highlighted for me the need to think reasonably about women who sell their bodies for whatever reason. Their continued criminalisation doesn't seem to really protect anyone, other than the johns who abuse them without fear of reprisal, knowing they will never be reported.

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