Vaughn Greenwood – Criminal Musings – 18

Vaughn Greenwood is a serial killer. He was convicted for the murder of 12 people. The question is: Is he a satanist? Listen in as JV unpacks the story of this madman.


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So, it feels strange to do two black serial killers in a row, but this case is older than the Govan one, and is definitely not ongoing, plus this one is actually gay. And this one will also be a fast one, as the information surrounding this case is minimal, but still interesting. I will attempt to not speculate wildly as to details about the killer… but I would like to start off by takin’ a gander at the guy’s image.

So, this guy… he looks like a dark-skinned Ice Cube, with a full beard. The only photo I could find of him, he is walking on crutches. Honestly, this is baffling to me, because he doesn’t look violent to me, he just looks like a homeless dude. But maybe it’s because there is a rendering of the photo right here and he looks a little bit like a blurry makeup guru on youtube, showing off their latest eye look. This is a weird observation, but like… gay black men have the prettiest eyelids, with-or-without makeup. Anyway… let’s dive in, shall we?

Vaughn Orrin Greenwood was born in 1944 and grew up… somewhere, but I’d guess Pennsylvania. He finished seventh grade before fleeing his Pennsylvania foster home and thumbed a ride to California.….. And that marks the end of what I know about his background. Like literally, that’s all. In any case, most of his adult life was spent drifting from Chicago to the West Coast and back again, riding the rails and earning his keep as a migrant farm worker. He was the first of several “Skid Row” slayers. Skid Row is a neighborhood in Los Angeles, and is called Skid Row because the people who live there are “on the skids”, meaning, they are impoverished and destitute. Skid Row is not a term specifically reserved for LA, most major cities in the east coast have them. Hell, they exist around the world. Some places call them Red Light Districts, others call them just the “bad part of town.” A lot of broke people, sex workers, and drug addicts. They are places of extreme tragedy, where… (sigh) if you were to approach any person in Skid Row and ask them to tell their story, you would end up sobbing and angry at the injustices of the world. So, I hope you get the idea of the type of place we are in here. Greenwood launched his reign of terror in 1964, at age 20, before taking a decade off due to being incarcerated elsewhere, before returning to wage war in Los Angeles killing 9 more people in two months.

This is the part I find to be distinctly odd. Greenwood’s victims were ritualistically “posed” after death, with salt sprinkled around their corpses and cups of their blood nearby. The wounds surrounded by markings that were unidentifiable. Now, here is where we will break for a second to talk about something relating to this. Ritual Murder is the legal name of this crime, defined as the killing of another human for the benefit of a deity, aka a human sacrifice. It is a point of fact that most major religions have outlawed human sacrifices. Indeed, most world religions expressly forbid the killing of another person. Legally, we added the “self-defense” line later on… but in any case, true ritual killing doesn’t happen very often. During the Satanic Panic, people thought that people were being harmed in the name of Satan. I’ve looked into Satanism, and I think that people don’t understand what satanism is, so I’ll read a description about it and we will go over it. “Satanism is the religious belief that considers Satan as an objectively existing supernatural being or force worthy of supplication, with whom individuals may contact, convene and even praise, rather than him being just an archetype, symbol or idea. Most actual theistic Satanist religions exist in relatively new models and ideologies, many of which claim to be independent of the Abrahamic religions.” There are multiple kinds of Satanism, just like their are multiple sects within Christianity, but most of them center around a belief in Satan. Satan, in Abrahamic religions i.e. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, is either a fallen angel or a jinni. His appearance is loosely based on Pan, Poseidon, and Besset, all of whom are older deities than that of Christianity. If Satan is seen as a fallen angel, the reason for his fall from gods grace is usually that he questioned the almighty God on something, and god was feeling some type of way that day, turned to Satan and mollywhopped his ass straight out the sky, snatching them wings back, bein’ all like, “Awwww hell nah, get out my house.” You’re welcome for that comical image. In any case, a lot of people mistake a lot of pagan/old world faiths and traditions to be “devil worship”. I guess, long story short, when you see a pentagram or a pentacle, you shouldn’t think of Satan. You should think of Wicca or some other form of paganism, where the pentagram is a symbol that represents Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Spirit. Most pagan religions have expressly written into their code that you are to do no harm with your practice. So like, most witches take the magickal equivalent of the hippocratic oath doctors take. Wait…. Is that why the term Witchdoctor exists? MIND. BLOWN.

All of that being said, there was a radical sect of Satanism that promoted the idea of human sacrifice, and they did form right around the time that this guy was out here killing homeless men. Anyway, back to Greenwood. The authorities creates a profile of the killer, complete with various sketches of their suspect, but the case was ultimately solved by accident, which was lowkey embarrassing for authorities, because they were SOOOOOOOO far off the mark. From here, I will be quoting the Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.

“Greenwood’s first known victim was David Russell, an old homeless man. David Russell was found on the library steps with his throat cut and numerous stab wounds on November 13, 1964.

The following day, 67-year-old Benjamin Hornberg was killed in the second-floor restroom of his seedy hotel, throat slashed from ear to ear, numerous stab wounds marking his head and upper torso.

Police saw a pattern of sorts, but it seemed to lead nowhere, and the early victims were forgotten by December 1974, when the killer returned with a vengeance.

In Chicago, during 1966, he had demanded cash from 70-year-old Mance Porter, following a sexual encounter in the latter’s skid row apartment. When Porter refused, Greenwood slashed his throat and stabbed him repeatedly with two different knives, spending five and a half years in jail on conviction for aggravated battery.

On December 1, he murdered 46-year-old Charles Jackson, an alcoholic drifter, on the spot where David Russell had been slain a decade earlier. Moses Yakanac, a 47-year-old Eskimo —- errrrr, nope, wrong,incorrect and offensive, I’m sorry, the correct term is either Inuit or Yupik. Lemme try that again. Moses Yakanac, a 47 year old Inuit man, was knifed to death in a Skid Row alley on December 8, and 54-year-old Arthur Dahlstedt was slain outside an abandoned building three days later. On December 22, 42-year-old David Perez was found in some shrubbery adjacent to the Los Angeles public library. Casimir Strawinski, 58, was found in his hotel room January 9, and 46-year-old Robert Shannahan had been dead several days when another hotel maid discovered his body — a bayonet protruding from his chest — on January 17. The final Skid Row victim, 49-year-old Samuel Suarez, was also killed indoors, his body found in a sleazy fifth-floor hotel room.

Inexplicably, the killer switched his hunting ground to Hollywood on January 29, 1975, stabbing 45-year-old George Frias to death in his own apartment. Two days later, a cash register mechanic, 34-year-old Clyde Hays was found in his Hollywood home, marked by the Slasher’s characteristic mutilations.

By that time, L.A. detectives had formed a mental picture of their suspect, described as a white male in his late twenties or early thirties, six feet tall and 190 pounds, with shoulder-length stringy blond hair. A psychiatric profile, published on the morning of Clyde Hay’s murder, described the killer as a “sexually impotent coward, venting his own feeling of worthlessness on hapless derelicts and down-and-outers… He strongly identifies with the derelicts and drifters he kills, and we think he’s trying to resolve his own inner conflicts by turning his wrath and hatred outward.” The Slasher was further described as a friendless, poorly-educated loner, probably homosexual, with an unspecified physical deformity.

On February 2, a prowler invaded the Hollywood home of William Graham, assaulting him with a hatchet before houseguest Kenneth Richer intervened, and both men plunged through a plate-glass window. The attacker fled on foot, striking next at the home of actor Burt Reynolds, carelessly dropping a letter — addressed to himself — in the driveway. Police picked up Vaughn Greenwood, charging him with counts of burglary and assault, their search of his residence netting a pair of cufflinks stolen from victim George Frias. A year later, on January 23, 1976, Greenwood was indicted on eleven counts of murder in the Slasher crimes.”

Now, the suspect profile was a huge stumbling block for the case. At the time of the crime, Vaughn Greenwood was a 32-year-old black man, not deformed, and from the testimony of some… um… acquaintances, he was by no means impotent. Certainly, he was a loner and a homosexual but that’s about it all they got right.

On December 30, 1976, Greenwood was convicted on nine counts of first-degree murder, jurors failing to reach a verdict in the case of victims David Russell and Charles Jackson. He was sentenced to life on January 19, 1977, the judge recommending that he never be released because “His presence in any community would constitute a menace.” Yikes.

That’s where he is now. Good riddance I suppose, but I do wish someone would interview him and get more info about his early life. I’m almost positive something unpleasant went down.

Anyway, as always, be well, do good work, and… Stay Safe Out There.