Russ Lemmon: New book on serial killers includes stomach-turning letters from Gore

Russ Lemmon
'The Serial Killer Whisperer' 
 Pete Earley

"The Serial Killer Whisperer" Pete Earley

Contributed photo
Pete Earley

Contributed photo Pete Earley

Russ Lemmon is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects his opinion.

Pete Earley's new book won't have a warning label for people in Indian River County, so consider this a heads-up.

The former Washington Post reporter's 10th nonfiction book — "The Serial Killer Whisperer" — will take us inside the mind of David Gore.

Gore, who killed six women in Indian River County in the early 1980s, has been on Florida's death row for more than a quarter-century.

Gore is one of four serial killers given in-depth treatment in the book. What's sure to spark outrage from local residents is the content of letters written by Gore.

"You should warn your readers this is gruesome stuff," Earley said. "He shows no sympathy, remorse, regret or empathy and, in fact, takes great joy in describing the cruelty that he inflicted. He is narcissistic and enjoys being infamous."

Published by Simon and Schuster, "The Serial Killer Whisperer" is the story of a teenage boy who, in a jet-ski accident, suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused him to have the same psychiatric profile as a serial killer. (That is, according to the author, "lack of empathy, self-centeredness, uncontrollable rage, hyper sexuality, no social filter.")

The boy, Tony Ciaglia, begins corresponding with various serial killers, including Gore, and is drawn into their world. He believes he might become a serial killer, but he eventually tries to use his insights to help the police.

"And yes, it is true, not fiction," Earley said.

Gore's letters will make your stomach turn.

"Gore is, by far, the most creepy and frightening (when compared to the other three serial killers in the book)," Earley said, "because of his utter lack of remorse, the cruelty which he delights in describing in his letters, and the randomness of his attacks. His victim could have been any woman in the Vero Beach area whom he just happened to spot."

Ciaglia was 15 at the time of his jet-ski accident on July 23, 1992. His first letter to Gore was in December 2006. He and Gore still exchange letters.

Earley's first book — "Family of Spies" — was a New York Times best-seller and it was turned into a five-hour miniseries on CBS.

"The Serial Killer Whisperer" could become a weekly TV series. The rights to the book were sold to NBC.

Why did Earley decide to write about serial killers?

"My father is a minister and I have always been interested in why people do horrific things," he said. "The whole 'nature vs. nurture' debate fascinates me. I spent an entire year in a maximum-security prison as a reporter searching for answers.

"When my son developed a mental disorder, I became interested in neuroscience and the brain. Pursuing this book was a natural for me, based on my interest in the brain and the criminal mind."

Earley, 60, wrote about his son's mental breakdown and the criminalization of people with mental illness in the book "CRAZY: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness." He was one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction.

"The Serial Killer Whisperer" will be in bookstores next week. (The author, who lives in Fairfax, Va., says he has no plans to do a book-signing at the Vero Beach Book Center.)

In 2010, Earley visited Vero Beach with Tony Ciaglia and his father, Al. They spent four days here. (Tony Ciaglia is now 34 years old and lives in Las Vegas with his parents. He has worked as an Elvis "tribute artist.")

"The reason for our trip was because Gore claimed in a letter that he had buried scalps taken from the victims," Earley said. "We were not able to find these 'trophies' and I am skeptical that they exist, although Tony believes him."

You can't say you weren't warned about the gruesomeness.

"We decided to leave in graphic details so that readers could see just how sick Gore and others are — and how they discuss rape, torture, and worse without any sign of disgust or remorse."

The first page of Chapter 20 is a good example of how graphic Gore got in his letters. Very little from this page could be reprinted in a family newspaper.

"Unfortunately, I grew up in a little hick town like Mayberry," Gore wrote at the beginning of one letter.

The rest of his letter is truly repulsive.

"I spent many sleepless nights trying to decide how much to put into this book," Earley said. "The letters verge on being pornographic. And yet this is an important part of the story.

"When you read them, you can tell that David Gore is actually enjoying writing every detail — reliving every horrible attack — and the fact that Tony had a TBI (traumatic brain injury), which made him nonjudgmental, gave Gore a receptive and eager audience.

"We finally decided to print the letters as written, knowing they will be controversial and repugnant to many, but we felt it was the only way to really show how repulsive Gore is."

Which begs the question, how can Gore continue to sit on death row?

"I spent time talking to the families of Gore's victims, and I was impressed with their courage and horrified about how much damage he had done to them," the author said. "Perhaps when your readers see how Gore has no remorse, it may prompt the governor into action."

Here's hoping Gov. Rick Scott reads "The Serial Killer Whisperer."

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Comments » 18

carrymyownweight writes:

I knew him when he was in high school and I was a little younger. It's easy to say he was always a sicko, but he actually hid it well. He should have been dead at least 20 years ago. Our justice system is so corrupted by the facts that attorneys both write and exploit the laws that it cannot be fair in its current form.

carrymyownweight writes:

Today, Scott signed a warrant for a guy who's been on death row since 1980. We need a clearance sale on death warrants to get justice for some of the family members before it's too late.

hdlady9 writes:

Someone should send the Governor a copy of this book. I went to High School with Gore. I agree with Carrymyownweight. Gore should have been put to Death a long time ago. I feel like he is going to out live all of us.. It's ashame how Indian River County has had to deal with him dangleing over our heads! All these years... We are paying his room and board! He sits there I'm sure and laughs at us!

HenryPorter (Inactive) writes:

Two things I hate seeing my tax dollars going to, Planned Parenthood and cablevision for murderers on death row for 30 years.

flacracker writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

dkpaiger#218200 writes:

Carrymyownweight--Our justice system is so corrupted by the facts that attorneys both write and exploit the laws that it cannot be fair...We need a clearance sale on death warrants...

Very well said and in total agreement with you. Unfortunately all our laws include the rights of the most savage of mankind.
For many of the same reasons as the author, I have read about serial killers for many years. I have yet to read about one that had a TBI, which begs the question...What about the future of many of our TBI wounded warriors?? What a horrific it possible??

sassafras writes:

I support Planned Parenthood! On the subject, though, this book sounds like it would indeed be a good read for Governor Scott. I saw Lynn Elliott's mom last year and it hurts to think of all she's gone through while Gore is still alive and sucking off the government teat. On the flip side, I think of the people who spent years in prison, to later be cleared (and rightfully released) due to modern DNA technology.

ironhtejas#332714 writes:

I agree with just about all of the above writers. I especially agree with Russ's line, how can he continue to sit on death row? I think I'll take it upon myself to send the Gov. a copy of the book once I look it over. I wonder who are the other three killers the author portrayed in the book.

galisteo writes:

in response to HenryPorter:

Two things I hate seeing my tax dollars going to, Planned Parenthood and cablevision for murderers on death row for 30 years.

Henry, your tax dollars do not go Planned Parenthood. Do some real research. Don't parrot what you read in the online conservative blogosphere.

By the way, this Gore character is a fine example of a human who has done nothing good in life here on earth, possibly a good argument for reproductive choice if there ever was one.

glbarber2003 writes:

Excuse me butt" planned parenthood as of last audit got $500,000,000 tax dollars. Get your facts straight. Then again you are probably a screaming liberal where facts do not play into your talking points.

AmericaFirst writes:

A very sad comment on our judicial system that a convicted serial killer was not dealt with promptly .

YesandNo writes:

This man is a serial killer. I remember back in those days when Vero was on edge because so many women were disappearing. Apparently, he has no remorse. After all these years, please give the families some satisfaction that this monster has paid for his dispicable acts to innocent women and young girls.

sb61fury writes:

Florida needs to excute the SOB and get it over with
Steph Burlew
Minor Hill, TN
This is wasting tax payers money

sailb#221077 writes:

Come on Rick do the job your voters wanted you to do when they voted for you.

DSchrute writes:

in response to galisteo:

Henry, your tax dollars do not go Planned Parenthood. Do some real research. Don't parrot what you read in the online conservative blogosphere.

By the way, this Gore character is a fine example of a human who has done nothing good in life here on earth, possibly a good argument for reproductive choice if there ever was one.

Reproductive choice? Good god, you sound like Adolf Hitler...

MGofPickens writes:

Oh, will this one follow Furio's questionable "letters"? Most likely. How do you think he's avoided (in small part) a signed warrant for this many years? By writing about his crimes to unknown "pen pals"? Which will undoubtedly, and rightfully so, cause much hatred and grief? You really think ANYONE on death row currently under appeal would freely write about their crimes? Come on....

Shauna73 writes:

Your facts are wrong--Fred Waterfield NEVER paid David Gore for "each pretty girl" and after an audit of his bank accounts and testimony from the bank auditors themselves-Gore's statement was FALSE- This was proven!
As a matter of fact, the State's theory of two "close killing cousins" couldn't be further from the truth! They weren't close- Fred is not a killer and the only part that is factual is their kinship-cousins.
I know it sounds like a great story, but the facts are all wrong--perhaps before you spew them, you should know them, instead of perpetuating lies!

If you'd like to know the TRUTH, please contact me and I'll show you the facts instead of tell you!

Shauna Waterfield Green

AngelaHommell writes:

The State of Florida has never acknowledged it's injustice to me. They raped me and threatened to kill me… Fred Waterfielf and David Gore. July 21.1976
Why was the authorities (Florida Sheriff) never held accountable for the mistakes made in my case. I believe if justice had been served in my case, six women would be alive today. I feel the State Florida is culpable for the six murders that we know of; How come the State gets off scott free?

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