More Russ Lemmon
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."