On December 9, 1975, a case in the small town of Silverton shocked the authorities after they saw a woman cut across her stomach and breasts as she bled to death. The murderer was Duane Samples, a Vietnam veteran and a classic example of a Sexual Sadist who did not get an opportunity to murder more than one but had the urge to be mutilated by a woman. He said to her former lover that he would erupt to cut her lover’s throat, sadistically torture both of them as they make love, and then as the semen, blood, and bodily fluids mix, he would end up running the knife on his guts so they all are.
“mutually dead together.”
Here’s the story of a criminal who was among the top 5% in intelligence scales and did everything masterfully to get out of prison.
The Night It Happened.
A quiet night that Silverton and most psychologists may remember for a long time flashing back at a criminal who used his particularities to murder Fran Steffens in a sadistic style and yet regarded himself normal when FBI Profiler Robert K. Ressler tried to interview him for his research on Criminal Personality Research Projects.
Duane Sample was a casual acquaintance of Fran Steffens and was interested in her for a long time. An interest that hadn’t been reciprocated but didn’t stop Fran from talking to him. During one of the instances between the two, Samples attended Fran’s apartment over beer, marijuana, and conversation with Fran’s 18-month-old daughter and friend, Diane Ross, present at the scene. As the evening wore on, Fran became tired and left to her bed with her daughter. However, Diane sat on the couch with Samples, talking about his stories of Vietnam that seemed to bore her, and after a few moments, asked the latter to leave as she was tired and needed to rest.
Following his exit, Diane wafted to sleep on the couch but woke up to a strange, warm, and sticky feeling- finding out she had been severely cut on the throat, across her body under her breasts, and from navel upwards. As a result of these attacks, Diane’s intestines, about two feet of them, were hanging out. Waking to Fran’s Screams, Diane witnessed- she was being dragged by a knife-wielding Samples to the bedroom. However, working hard to be saved after the attack, Diane held her arms around the torso, carried her guts, and ran out the door. As she did, her pants (also cut) were not on, and she reached a neighbor saying,
“I’ve been cut. Call a doctor; I’m dying.”
Diane strictly waited to not fall asleep during the incident, thinking she would die, and as the ambulance arrived, one of the witnesses said,
“No need to hurry. She won’t make it.”
However, the medical workers took it seriously, hurrying her to the hospital and saving her life, where she guided the police to rush over to Fran’s apartment as Duane Samples was killing Fran.
Unfortunately, as the police reached the crime scene, it was too late. Fran was already dead, cut in a similar pattern to Diane, with her bedsheets soaked in blood and her daughter sleeping peacefully throughout the time while being close to the victim. By this time, Duane Samples had escaped, but the police were well aware of the murderer.
A Slasher by Birth, Only Intelligent.
An initial perspective of Samples complements his smartness, lying capacity, and elements of sadism from childhood, though he declined them. The Gut Ripper was a Scholarship Stanford Student who pursued Psychology and later served in Vietnam as a “forward observer.”
After the war, Samples returned to America for a regular life, but according to him, the country had changed too much to dash his idealism. Lacking a stable job, he became drug and alcohol addicted and later served as a psychologist at a drug clinic where he used his problems to way in and serve to treat college students in Salem. Samples, according to his patients, was a helpful psychologist capable of treating them. There were even social-work allies of Samples, and he had been so friendly with cops that he played softball with some of them.
Listening to his professional and personal life till now shares no hint towards the sadistic behavior of Duane. But, if we travel ahead in time and note incidences that happened after the murder of Fran, the tragedy with Diane, and the investigation, there are numerous things hidden inside the brain of Duane. As Roy Hazelwood says, catching a sadist is no joke as they have lived their fantasy uncountable times making them perfect at their crimes.
Though Duane perfectioned the after-crime situation, there were fortes that the police, psychiatrist, and the FBI Profiler (indirectly involved) Robert K. Ressler noted about him. Let’s discuss them in brief.
The Crime Scene, Duane Samples and His Sadistic Attributes.
Upon reaching the crime scene, the police noted- Blood smearing on Fran’s thighs, indicating a post-mortem attack on her and defensive wounds on her hands, further explaining that Fran had attempted to fight off her attacker. When the police conducted a search and found Samples shortly, though he surrendered peacefully, they found a handwritten note to Fran dated “Monday 8 Dec”, a day before, in which he asked her to show the note to police to be absolved from murdering Samples. It said,
“‘set forth to threaten Fran with her life,’ Unless she did as he instructed her ‘eviscerates & emasculates me.’ If she wouldn’t follow his sayings, he would, ‘gut & mutilate her & her kid.’ The note, not shared fully, went on saying that it had been Samples’, ‘life long fantasy come true,’ and he, ‘hardly wait to see’ the blade cutting, ‘murderously” into him.’
Upon questioning, Samples shared that he had taken the note to Fran and asked her to mutilate him, who refused his offer, and it triggered his killing instinct, causing the incident. Several Psychologists and police officials found that he had been aware of the scenario and himself and committed the crime willingly. When Diane thought that Samples had left the apartment, he went to take his fish filleting knife and came back with the intent to kill both women. Robert shared in his book, Whoever Fights Monsters, that it is possible Samples wrote the note after committing the crime and building his case on psychological means as he knew Diane had escaped and might live to testify against him.
And things went in the direction of Duane- the note I shared earlier helped Samples and his attorney to weigh in on the options suitable for them. The prosecution even presented a paper where both of them discussed their options, pleading nonguilty, using mental instability defense, and a plea bargain.
Understanding the seriousness of crimes, both opted for the last, the plea bargain. Under this, Samples pleaded guilty to the murder of Fran, in exchange for dropping the attempted murder charge of Diane, which further restricted Diane to testify against him in the court. However, Duane was imprisoned for the maximum sentence available in Oregon, 15 years to life.
But the mischievous and well-planned Duane Samples didn’t stop with his acts. He figured out ways to get out of jail in seven or eight years. During the time of peace, more information on him was gathered, and it was found that Samples had a lifelong fantasy of disembowelment by beautiful naked women, and there were similar episodes from his childhood depicting that. At age five, he slept between his mother and pregnant aunt. As the aunt had a hemorrhage, she lost a lot of blood, and the idea Duane dates back to spilling internal organs originated at this time. His diary entries opened up about a few of his childhood experiences where he even accidentally shot himself in the abdomen and wrote,
“gushing compulsion to feel steel in his guts.”
Duane’s psychiatrist shared that some of the activities from Duane’s childhood included,
“pricking himself with pins or knives while enjoying these fantasies, which he found added to his erotic stimulation.”
This was a classic and common example of sadism where there is lifelong fantasy, dating back to childhood, which increases with age, possibly harming oneself or others, as it happened in the case of Duane. Further, there is no admission of mistakes, an example most commonly found in sadists.
Through a letter recovered by the authorities, it was found that Duane had written a threatening letter to a former lover saying when she lies in bed with her current lover, Duane would,
“erupt from the bowels [sic] of darkness to open with razor knife his taught [sic] throat.”
It further explained how he would disembowel both his former girlfriend and her lover, sadistically torture them, and include himself in their sexual act that would now include- semen, blood, and other bodily fluids. Lastly, he expressed his desire to be,
“mutually dead together.”
after wounding them and cutting his own guts afterward.
Till now, no one had met Duane since the trial, and as Robert visited Oregon, he took his chance to try to see Samples and ask him for an interview that would help him to fill out the fifty-seven-page questionnaire for statistical analysis of the lives of murderers. Following this, Samples straightaway declined the on-record interview, as he believed he was not similar to other serial killers and mass murderers. Robert even came across one of his statements about pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology after his parole and applying to the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit.
Robert didn’t cross paths with Samples again for a long time until 1981 when he heard of Governor Vic Atiyeh commuting his sentence and that he could be out of prison shortly.
Everyone at Marion Count District Attorney’s office was against this decision and even asked Robert to assist along with some of the other psychologists who were prepared to present their observations on Duane and restrict him from commutation.
According to Robert’s research on Duane and his life, it was revealed that Duane had been claiming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Vietnam Stress Syndrome as the reason for his mentally ill state and he should be rehabilitated as he was ill during the crime and only recently his psychiatry had allowed him to understand and accept this.
To show all the correct attributes, Duane wept while discussing the incident, lied specifically about the war situations, and he had seen a few of his friends gutted to death during the war (that wasn’t true when Robert further inquired), causing him to kill Fran and wound Diane. Robert also came to know that Atiyeh turned down the request for Duane’s commutation the first time but accepted it the second time. It might be because Duane had married a woman who worked for a prominent advertising and public relations firm that engaged with political circles in Oregon and there is a possibility Atiyeh showed a gesture of goodwill to Vietnam war soldiers who were not well respected. However, after Atiyeh learned all the lies of Duane and information about the crime scene, he refused his request, and the murderer was released in 1991.
One should note that this is a brief introduction to the case of Duane Samples and the lies he shared to be freed. His commanding officer shared that he had known Duane in Vietnam,
“as well as any commanding officer knows a lieutenant in his unit. Probably better, because we talked often,”
“Duane showed concern for the enlightenment of the times… He was a guy I thought needed frequent counseling to keep his spirits up. He was strange-not peculiar-but strange. He was disturbed by things that did not disturb others.”
When asked about the officers’ deaths Duane had lied about Prisk, the commanding officer added,
“I believe Samples has taken two or three things he saw or heard about and fabricated them into something… [Duane Samples] was a good soldier and did a good job in Vietnam. There’s no question about that. That’s why that whole stress thing is just so much bullsh**.”
This precisely proves how Duane was a manipulator and one who didn’t believe his crimes were wrong and he planned every inch of his move starting moments after his killing Fran when he presented the note, chose a plea bargain, and presented himself as a mentally ill person who had gone through numerous scary moments in Vietnam.
Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert K. Ressler (Author), Tom Shachtman (Author)