5 foot 4 inches tall Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins earned himself the title, “The Meanest Man In America”, and even the death sentence didn’t do justice to the horrific crimes Pee Wee had done during his whole life. Gaskins was a man who would crush another man’s windpipe and watch the blood gushing, would drown a woman along with a baby in her womb, beat young girls to death with his bare fists, and then he would be describing all of these crimes like people tell what they had for breakfast.
Believed to be responsible for over a hundred cruel and sickening murders, Gaskins was a serial killer who would not stop killing people even on a death row.
It was 1975, school teacher Mary Dunham reported the disappearance of one of her students, 13-years-old Kim Ghelkins. Eventually, Kim was not the only missing person, 5 years ago another teenage girl Janice Kirby had vanished too without a trace.
Investigators were alarmed and began to focus their investigation on Kirby’s uncle Donald Henry Gaskins. The investigation led to Walter Neely, an ex-con who eventually cracked under pressure and took the investigators to the place where he had helped Gaskins to burry someone.
Nearly 10-15 deputies and SLED agents started looking into the woods walking slowly, moving through the bushes in Prospect, South Carolina. As they covered a few meters of area, somebody discovered that there were some bushes that had been put there and weren’t actually growing. The area was sealed off and using metal probes led to a final point where they started digging the ground. A total of 6 bodies were unearthed including a woman with a child in her womb, and bodies of two men who were brothers.
The first grave to dug up included 25 years old Dennis Bellamy and his older half brother Jhonny Knight, who were both associates of Gaskins in an auto theft ring.
The other four graves included 2 men and 2 women who Gaskins thought had wronged him or might just betray him in the future. But none of these bodies included that of the missing schoolgirl, Kim Ghelkins.
“It was a pretty gruesome scene, and I was overwhelmed” recalls William Barns, the lead investigator who said had never seen anything like that in his 12 years long career in law enforcement.
Toddler Pee Wee Drank a Bottle of Kerosene
Born on March 13, 1933, in Florence County, South Carolina, Donald Henry Gaskins Jr. was just another young kid, born to an unmarried mother, who took little to no interest in little Gaskins. When he was just one year old he drank a bottle of kerosene which eventually caused him to have convulsions until he was 3 years old. He would have bad dreams and sometimes remained unconscious for at least 10 minutes, her mother later claimed this was the only reason he became such a horrible person in the adult age.
Gaskin never grew as the other average young kids and remained smaller in structure than others of his age. This immediately gained him the nickname “Pee Wee”. Gaskins’s childhood was a lot characterized by physical abuse, both at home and especially at school. Having a small stature, Gaskins would try to demonstrate how tough and aggressive he is to overcompensate his overall personality and to gain a reputation.
At the age of 11, Gaskins dropped out of the school and started working at a garage, where he met two boys, Danny and Marsh, that he would eventually form the “Trouble Trio” with. Together the Trouble Trio would lure young girls to their hideout and do all sorts of evil turn by turn. In 1946, aged just 13, Gaskins would graduate from rape to attempted murder.
While burglarizing a house, Gaskins was interrupted by a young girl whom he hit in the head with a hammer and ditched her thinking she was dead. But fortunately, the girl survived and was found by a neighbor.
The girl was able to identify her attacker, which led juvenile Pee Wee to be sent to reform school. Over the course of the next 4 years, Gaskins would run away repeatedly and get caught again, but eventually, his release was due in 1950, on his 18th birthday.
Pee Wee’s becoming a powerful man, in prison
Pee Wee Gaskins’s criminal activities took up again from where he left off after he got out of the reform school. He started working for a tobacco farmer and would steal the tobacco to sell it. He then went way out to cover up the theft and burned up the whole barn.
Only a year after as a free man, Gaskins was arrested again on the charges of arson, assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder on another young girl who only taunted him about burning down the barn. This time Gaskins was sent to State Penitentiary where a group of feared convicts made the rules.
Gaskins was chosen as a sex slave by one of those violent convicts and he knew in order to avoid being sexually abused for the rest of his time in the prison he too has to become a powerful man. And to do that, Gaskins approached the most feared man and killed him by slitting his throat, elevating himself to the top. Gaskins became the face of that particular penal subculture and serves the rest of his time, with notoriety and someone not to be messed with.
For the next 2 decades, Gaskins would frequently escape the prison only to be recaptured again. He would hide in the woods and live there for months, taking water from the ditches and boiling it to drink, he later called the woods his “home”.
At one instance while he was looked for during the night, two of the deputies slept waiting for him, and after they woke up, they found “Pee Wee was here” written on the back of the windshield of their vehicle.
Pee Wee Gaskins and Doreen Dempsey
After the arrest of Gaskins in November 1975 when Walter Neely led the investigators to the graves of the 6 people, Gaskins struck a deal to lead investigators to further bodies of his victims. At an area known as Alligator Landing, he admitted burying 23-years-old family friend Doreen Dempsey, along with her 2-years-old daughter Robin.
The true horror that happened to the mother and daughter were revealed only after Gaskins explained how he first drown Doreen, who was 7 months pregnant at the time, and did the same to Robin, after raping her. “When you go to mixing, I don’t hold with that one bit in the world.“
And the reason why Gaskins killed Doreen was absurd in every way, it was only because the mother had been with a black man. The baby, Robin was half black and half white, and he just didn’t believe in that, “I was gonna talk with her, and when I asked her who the daddy was, that … she was carrying right then and it was another black kid from what she told me“, Gaskins told the investigators.
Kim Ghelkins and Janice Kirby’s disappearance
Unfortunately for Kim Ghelkins, she landed right at Pee Wee’s house on a runaway in September 1975, Gaskins let her stay with him and his daughter. But he found that she was telling people about him and two other men raping her and that triggered him.
He lured Ghelkins to a dirt road near the county line then shot her on the head, and then repeatedly stabbed her. On asking why he did both, he said “Well, I couldn’t resist it, I had my knife with me at the time.“
He also finally gave up the body of his 15-years-old niece, Janice Kirby whom he killed 8 years ago. Gaskins killed Kirby because she ran away with a friend, Patricia Allsbrook, and he found them both high on drugs. After a scuffle, he beat both the girls to death with his bare fists. He then ditched Allsbrook’s body in a pit nearby but kept Kirby’s body in the trunk of his car for 2 days before finally burying it near his childhood home.
Investigators ultimately discovered remains of other 13 victims, a body count that would make Gaskins the biggest mass murderer in the history of South Caroline. But in prison, Gaskins made an even more shocking claim, claiming to be the “Hitchhiker Killer”.
Was Pee Wee Gaskins really the Hitchhiker Killer?
Everybody knew that Gaskins boasted about a lot of things, but he also did many of those things in real life. This particular claim that he actually murdered around 80 to 90 young people not only shocked the investigators but his own daughter had no idea about these killings.
He allegedly started in 1969, killing primarily young women and later young boys along the coast. He used to travel up and down the road, picking up hitchhikers and then would take them to a secluded place, torture them and finally kill them before hiding their bodies.
But did the 80-90 young hitchhikers he claimed to have killed along the coast actually exists?
IRA Parnell Jr., one of the investigators in Pee Wee’s case doesn’t believe the hitchhiking killing to be true, he says that they never had any physical evidence, rumor or conjecture from anybody, and if that many people were missing for so long, somebody would have reported them or if nothing someone would have seen them with Pee Wee. “I don’t believe it happened, if there had been any more victims, he would have called me and tried to work out a deal“, “Could he have killed a 100 people ? That’s a very very high number even for a prolific killer. It’s possible, but not probable.” said Parnell.
Pee Wee blew up a fellow inmate
Although Donald Pee Wee Gaskins was serving a life sentence in South Carolina’s maximum security prison, no one imagined what he was planning this time, something that would eventually led to his death sentence.
Pee Wee had another victim on his radar, Rudolf Tyner. Tyner was from New York, and wasn’t actually mentally stable. He was involved in a robbery at a convenience store where he and his partner shot dead the owner. There was a decision pending on his case and it was most probable that he might get out on the reason of insanity.
Victim’s family wanted justice and they ended up hiring Pee Wee to take Tyner out, while inside the prison. Now Gaskins first befriended Tyner and tried smuggled poison to kill him, but that didn’t work out and Tyner only got sick.
Gaskins then came up with an ingenious plan and got himself to become a maintenance man, with all the tools he wanted. He then suggested to Tyner that he wants to have a communication system between their cells almost like a telephone system. Using a large cup given to inmates, he was able to make an explosive that could be triggered with a fuse or battery, although investigators were shocked how he was able to get all that arrangement done inside a maximum prison security cell.
He then passed the cup to Tyner, asked him if he could hear him and to hold the cup near his ear, plugged the other end into a 110 socket, and said, “Just listen to the bang !”. He blew up Tyner, instantly killing him. Pieces of him were blown all over the prison, fingers went everywhere, and then Pee Wee flushed everything down the toilet, came out asking what was going on.
Either way, Tyner’s murder is the one that Gaskins was scheduled to die for Friday. Gaskins went to the electric chair professing to be the single most prolific serial killer in American history, but the answer if he really was a hitchhiker killer remains a mystery for many, and remaining others just deny any credibility in it.
“I could tell if my daddy was telling the truth and I could tell when my daddy would lie, and he did kill that many people”, said Gaskins’s daughter, Shirley Gaskins.
When Asked whether he’d ever killed anyone he was sorry about, Gaskins named two: his niece and Jessie Judy.
Going down deep, you get to thinking about it, why it still gets on your nerves and on your mind about it.Donald Pee Wee Gaskins