Skip to comments.Killer Souvenirs Being Sold for Profit (Sen. Cornyn has introduced a bill to end this.)
Posted on 06/20/2009 6:35:51 AM PDT by kellynla
NORRISTOWN When Wendy Lavin discovered that jail cell writings from her daughter's killer were for sale on the Internet, she was horrified.
"I was disgusted. I felt sick to my stomach," said Lavin, whose 20-year-old daughter, Jennifer Louise Still, was stabbed to death by serial killer John Charles Eichinger in 1999. "I could not believe that after everything I had been through with the murder and trial, it was like it was happening all over again. I could not believe that something so horrific was going on and I wasn't aware of it."
Lavin discovered the Web site when she used an Internet search engine to research Eichinger's name earlier this month.
"It's horrific. I couldn't take in that people were willing pay money for items personalized by people who have caused so much pain or grief. There's always someone out there willing to make money from someone else's pain," said Lavin, her voice trembling with emotion at times.
Lavin and her husband, Edward, went to the Montgomery County Court House on Tuesday to meet with District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman to raise public awareness of so-called "murderabilia," the burgeoning subculture and business of using the Internet to auction mementos and souvenirs collected from crime scenes or notorious killers.
"We were shocked that there are so many sites and that someone was making money off this," Edward Lavin said.
Lavin, of Mont Clare, the co-founder of the Montgomery County Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, is part of a grassroots effort that has a goal of stopping murder profiteering.
Lavin supports proposed federal legislation that would prohibit murderabilia activities and protect the rights of victims and survivors.
"I would like to see these Web sites shutdown. Realistically, I don't know if it's possible, but at least to stop the people who committed murder, and their friends or family, from gaining financially," said Lavin, urging the public and elected officials to support legislation to end sales of murderabilia.
Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas in 2007 has languished.
"We need to get the word out. We need to get people to sign on and support it," Lavin said. "It's a victim's rights issue."
Ferman said she first became aware of the murderabilia issue through Lavin.
"I think the most valuable thing we can do in the district attorney's office is to help raise awareness of a really despicable practice," said Ferman, who viewed the Web site that offered the Eichinger letters for sale. "I thought it was really disgusting."
Laws regarding the sale of such items differ from state to state or don't exist at all; that's why Lavin is pushing for a national law.
"There's not a whole lot we can do legislatively, but if we can work together to raise some public awareness and make it uncomfortable, or at least not profitable, for the people selling this, maybe we can make an impact," said Ferman, vowing to assist Lavin any way she can.
Ferman didn't rule out meeting with legislators to discuss the issue.
"I signed on to help (Lavin) in whatever way that I could," Ferman said. "There's a connection we retain with families of victims and we're there for them."
Lavin left the meeting with a sense of relief, knowing she gained support from Ferman.
"It's a good place to start," Lavin said outside the courthouse. "I leave here today hopeful."
To those who might be compelled to purchase murderabilia, Lavin reminded them, "I am the other side of these items. I've suffered, my daughter suffered and our family and friends suffered at the hands of this cold-blooded killer. Don't glorify him and don't help make a profit for anyone connected to him. He's not a hero. He's not someone you should look up to."
Officials don't know how someone obtained letters that Eichinger wrote from prison, but some theorized that killers have pen pals and those friends certainly would be able to auction such things.
When county detectives and prosecutors learned about the sale of Eichinger's letters, they contacted the Web site and the site administrators voluntarily withdrew the letters, according to Ferman.
In November 2005, a judge convicted Eichinger, then 33, of four first-degree murder charges in connection with the July 6, 1999, deadly knife attack of Still in her Bridgeport apartment and the March 25, 2005, stabbing deaths of 27-year-old Heather Greaves, her 23-year-old sister, Lisa Greaves, and Heather's 3-year-old daughter Avery Johnson at the Greaves family residence on Kingwood Road in King of Prussia.
A jury then had the responsibility to determine if Eichinger should receive life imprisonment or death for the Greaves killings. Prosecutors used Still's murder to support seeking the death penalty against Eichinger for the Greaves-Johnson slayings.
The jury returned with three verdicts of death by lethal injection against Eichinger. Eichinger was sentenced to life imprisonment for Still's murder.
Prosecutors claimed Eichinger killed Still when she spurned his romantic overtures. Six years later, Eichinger killed Heather Greaves because he wanted a relationship with her when she was entering into a romantic relationship with another man, prosecutors said.
Lisa Greaves and Avery Johnson, who were at the Greaves home when Eichinger confronted Heather, were murdered because Eichinger believed they could have identified him, prosecutors theorized.
"It's like being dragged down to hell," Lavin said about losing her only child. "There is no such thing as closure. That's a word I hate. There is no closure for us."
"By murdering my daughter, (Eichinger) wiped out future generations. That was very hard to take," Lavin said.
Lavin, who described Jennifer as a "loving, caring, kind and considerate person" who loved musicals and poetry, co-founded the local chapter of Parents of Murdered Children to reach out to survivors who have loved ones who died by violence. The organization sponsors support group meetings and refers victims to appropriate places for counseling.
WASHINGTONU.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday joined in announcing the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House that mirrors a bill he sponsored in the Senate to crack down on murderabilia, and protect victims and their families. The Cornyn bill was introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind. It comes on the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.
It is reprehensible that when criminals are supposed to be paying their debt for their misdeeds, many are instead turning to the Internet, exploiting their notoriety and profiting from their deplorable crimes, said Sen. Cornyn, a former Texas Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice. Even more tragic is the effect this practice has on crime victims and their families. Many have already suffered immeasurably through the crime itself and the often lengthy process of bringing the criminal to justice. These murderabilia sales slow the healing process, prevent the closure that crime victims deserve and make them suffer yet again.
Murderabilia is the sale of tangible goods owned or created by convicted murderers. In May, Sen. Cornyn introduced the Stop the Sale of Murderabilia to Protect the Dignity of Crime Victims Act of 2007, S. 1528, to protect victims rights and combat the exploitation of criminal activity. Reps. Reichert and Ellsworth today announced the introduction of House legislation similar to Sen. Cornyns murderabilia bill. Also on hand for the announcement was Dan Levey, the National President of Parents of Murdered Children.
I know Congressmen Reichert and Ellsworth share my concern for bringing an end to the murderabilia industry, and I commend them for introducing this bipartisan legislation in the House, Sen. Cornyn said. I hope all of our colleagues will act quickly to protect the victims of this deplorable practice and make sure crime does not pay.
Sen. Cornyns office has worked closely this year with Andy Kahan, a longtime opponent of murderabilia sales and director of the Houston Mayors Office Crime Victims Assistance Division. In Houston and Dallas this summer, Sen. Cornyn met with city and county officials, local law enforcement officials, and victims rights and anti-crime organizations to discuss his efforts to combat murderabilia on the federal level, built on Kahans work over the last several years.
Sen. Cornyn was also set to speak later in the day at an event marking the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. Sen. Cornyn introduced S. Res. 237 to make this day an annual national observance.
The pain of losing a loved one is unimaginable. That is why support for those who have fallen victim to murder is so important. The National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims provides a needed day of remembrance for victims and their families, Sen. Cornyn said.
Sen. Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committees Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee and the Armed Services Committees Airland subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.
I doubt there’s a problem stopping the crook from benefiting from his crime- in fact, there’s already laws on the books for that. But there’s no way you could stop anyone else.
Chester Gillette, who became the basis for the fictional character Clyde Griffiths in the Theodore Dreiser novel, An American Tragedy, which in turn was the basis of the 1951 film A Place in the Sun. While in prison awaiting execution, he sold autographed pictures to (mostly female) correspondentss for money to purchase luxuries, such as cigarettes and candy.
Gillette was convicted of bludgeoning his pregnant girlfriend to death. Although the movie and novel imply that the circumstances were ambiguous (possibly an unfortunate accident) the trial record shows it was a deliberate and brutal act.
I thought that most states had laws against “financially benefitting” from your crimes, such as writing...But then O J did it also.
Yeah, there are Son of Sam laws. It’s really a murky Constitutional issue. You should be able to stop the crook from making money, but this article doesn’t make it clear if the law is trying to prevent anyone from selling such souvenirs. That will never fly constitutionally.
On the other side of the coin we have
“Ted Kaczynski is trying to thwart efforts to have the federal government auction off his belongings — including his diaries, typewiters, a hatchet and his signature sunglasses and hoodie. The money generated from the sale of the items would go to four survivors of his mail bomb attacks who are owed $15 million from a civil suit.”
Better to execute these thugs rather than provide legal assistance for 25 years. That would help solve the writing problem, wouldn’t it?
If WHAT -- specifically -- were sold?
Yeah, maybe you liquidate the murderer's hard assets -- house, furniture, cars, appliances, etc. That stuff is all morally neutral, and selling it to benefit victims' families just makes sense under the principle of restitution, and the buyers can get some use out of them.
But do you REALLY want some murderer to be able to pass his perverse, twisted writings down the line; perhaps to another murderer-in-the-making? As a society that at least gives lip service to the notion of being moral, we want to be RID of these kinds of people; whether by reformation or termination. We have know that society is most healthy when it is CLEARLY understood by all that rapists, murderers, and pedophiles are to be vilified, not idolized. Therefore, not only should we NOT promote their twisted worldviews, we should do all in our power to destroy every last vestige of them!
Far from being sold, after they have served their role as evidence in court, the writings, and other disturbing mementos should be incinerated.
I’m not under any illusion that the accused will be in need of these things, I am making the assertion that; not only dose NOBODY else in the universe have any need for them, either, but that allowing those things to be passed on — whether for money, or not — constitutes the acceptance of a continuing malignancy in our society.
When Murderer Doe gets caught, tried, found guilty and put out of our collective misery — be that by lifetime incarceration or capital punishment — the entirety of his thought life should be extirpated from society right along with him; writings, recordings, photographs — the lot of it. GONE!
The felt need to preserve for posterity the handwritten drivel of madmen is, itself, a psychopathy.