Gary Wayne Henry is deep in thought. Hunched between two bushes next to a rural road in southeast Washington State, his worry is clear. “Before this virus, times past, I could come out here and find a drunk staggering home, maybe a young couple, no problem.” He shifts his feet and continues to whisper. “Could have ’em sliced up and beggin’ for momma by sunrise. Now, I ain’t seen barely a soul walk this path in damn near weeks.”
Henry is not alone. Across the nation, in red states and blue, America’s serial killers have reported a drastic, sometimes nearly unfathomable, drop in available victims since the wave of shutdown orders began. In Henry’s home state of Washington, an early coronavirus epicenter often called America’s serial killing capital, local newspapers have reported an 89% decline in mocking, hint-laden letters from on-the-loose killers. “This keeps up, people will get desperate,” says Henry. “I’m not much for breakin’ in homes, but times are tough.”
In 2019, over 7 million Americans were murdered by serial killers, and even these high numbers may understate their contribution to the US economy. Industry experts estimate that serial murderers — defined as those who kill at least three unrelated individuals in over a month’s time — account for almost a third of serrated knife purchases, and more than half of garrote sales. Indirect contributions to the booming true crime industry mean that in total, these dark spectres of the night are responsible for over a billion dollars in annual gross domestic product.
Speak to America’s serial killers, and you will hear the same thing: this isn’t about them. James Lee Wayne, who operates primarily in the suburbs of Indianapolis, emphasizes that he doesn’t want to be seen as a victim. “I don’t do this for me. I need to kill for my cat, who demands constant sacrifice. He’s been furious these last few weeks.”
Alma Jean Lee, a rare female serial killer based in Texas, also talks of her loved ones. “I am trying to raise a young boy I stole to continue this legacy. How long can he go without hunting? Right now he sits home and does the TikTok all day. It’s not sustainable.” The state has partnered with Rockstar Games to create an at-home stalking curriculum for young purveyors of death, but Lee says connectivity issues, and a lack of “virile, precious blood,” have hampered the lessons.
Federal and state aid has been slow to arrive. With the understanding that a quarantined populace means fewer chances for killers to hunt, local governments have loosened restrictions on when and where serial killers may stalk their prey. Many report that it isn’t enough. “Okay, I can go to school parking lots now,” says Henry. “Well, if no one is going to the damn school, how exactly does that help me?”
Congress, recognizing the vital economic role played by the human embodiment of metaphysical evil, included provisions in the CARES Act allowing certain serial killers to file for unemployment benefits, even if they are self-employed. It’s not an ideal solution. Says Wayne, “We don’t want to be on the dole. We are proud Americans, as blue collar as it gets. Let us stalk. Let us kill. Put us to use.”
Wayne spoke favorably of a recent proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to allow serial killers to torture and skin the sickest Covid-19 patients, which would also free up ventilators crucial to treating healthier patients. “Cruz gets it. He was out here for many years right next to us, working side by side. Right now, he is our voice in D.C.” The bill remains stalled in Congress, even despite Cruz’s methodical murdering of its opponents.
For killers still working, the coronavirus crisis has affected their jobs in unexpected ways. With food and other essential goods continuing to crisscross the country, truck stops have been rare hubs of activity. Henry Gary Alma has spent years picking up and murdering wayward teenage hitchhikers from these trucks stops, and reports no drop in activity. Even still, he is worried. “If I see a young girl without a mask, I won’t even let her in the truck. It’s too risky — I live with my elderly mother. Even when they got the mask, I mean, we work in close quarters with our victims. How am I supposed to socially distance when I’m stringing you up on a meathook? You tell me.”
Like all Americans, serial killers don’t know when — or how — the coronavirus crisis will end. Many speak of giving up the profession entirely if things don’t return to normal soon. And they have a warning. Says Henry: “Do you want to see an America without serial killers? Because unless we take drastic steps, that is where we’re headed. And you will miss us when we’re gone.” With that, Henry excuses himself — a young nurse, fresh from a shift at the nearby hospital, has turned a corner onto the dirt road.