A few weeks ago, Florida Governor Rick Scott had never heard of death row inmate, David Gore.
But Scott has heard about little else from the outraged residents of Vero Beach since the publication of my new book, The Serial Killer Whisperer. In it, Gore openly boasts about how he abducted, raped, tortured and murdered two women and four teenage girls in the 1980s in that scenic beach community.
On Friday, Gov. Scott put Gore on a fast track to be executed. Clearly, he now knows the serial killer’s name.
Gore could be put to death as early as March 1st.
I certainly didn’t write my book to get Gore executed. But Gore’s letters, which are printed verbatim in the book, clearly set off an emotional firestorm.
“[I] had absolutely NO mercy. You said you read on the computer where it said one victim was fed to the alligators. That was true….” Gore bragged in one letter to his Las Vegas pen pal, Tony Ciaglia.
Gore has been sitting on Flordia’s death row for nearly thirty years. What few knew until my book was published was that Gore had been writing to Ciaglia for five years, openly chatting — and boasting — about the murders that he had committed.
Ciaglia, age 34, began writing to Gore and more than two dozen other infamous serial killers after he suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him lonely and, at times, under a self-imposed “house arrest.”
I tell his story in my book. At age fifteen, Ciaglia was struck in the head by a jet ski while attending a summer camp near Dallas, Texas. His heart stopped beating three times en route to the hospital. When he emerged from a coma, he was a different person. He had flashes of uncontrollable rage, didn’t recognize the consequences of his actions, was impulsive, was obsessive-compulsive and had difficulty speaking, walking, even eating.
Abandoned by his friends and soon despondent, Ciaglia struggled for years for some purpose in his life until he formed an unlikely kinship with serial killers. They lived in a physical prison, he explained. He lived in a “mental prison.” Soon, he was calling the likes of Arthur Shawcross, ‘The Genesee River Killer’ who murdered twelve prostitutes in Rochester, New York, and Joe Roy Metheny, a self-described ‘Cannibal killer,’ his new “best friends.’”
As their friendship grew in letters, so did the depravity of the killers’ revelations – especially Gore’s. In often pornographic prose, the killer described with glee how he had sexually abused his “catches.”
“If I could inflect pain, I inflicted it to the max,” Gore declared, describing how he had scalped several victims to satisfy a hair fetish. “I really didn’t want them to say a word..[while torturing his victims] It was like I had no emotions. I was just doing it. And you know where I got my biggest rush was really not the sex part, it was the capture. That was when I got a high…”
What makes the letters unusual is that the serial killers’ words went straight from their minds to paper, without pretenses, niceties or preening for prosecutors, psychiatrists or the public.
Killer Shawcross revealed that he enjoyed choking his victims and then reviving them, with CPR if necessary, so he could continue torturing them. Metheney urged Ciaglia to contact a “local mortician” to try necrophilia.
When two investigators for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children asked for Ciaglia’s help in locating the remains of women thought to have been murdered by Alaskan Serial Killer Robert C. Hansen, who hunted women like big game, Ciaglia’s “hobby” took on a new objective. He set out to help police close cold cases.
Now Ciaglia’s correspondence with Gore has had an unintended consequence.
Gore has literally talked — or more accurately written — his way into Florida’s death chamber.
Here’s the chain of events that caused Gov. Scott to act last week.
My publicist sent a copy of my book to Russ Lemmon, a Vero Beach newspaper columnist, who had been crusading for Gore’s execution. He was so outraged by Gore’s letters that he published a front page story about my book under the headline: New Book on Serial Killers Includes Stomach Churning Letters From Gore.
Entirely by coincidence, Lemmon was scheduled to meet with Gov. Scott that same day and during their meeting, he brought up my book and Gore’s letters. [See video above] The governor said he’d never heard about Gore. Lemmon told him that he needed to read my book. If the governor did, Lemmon said, then he’d understand why Vero Beach residents, especially the families of Gore’s victims, wanted him executed.
I happened to be in Vero Beach the day after Lemmon met with the governor. This was another unlikely coincidence. I was there to speak about mental health reforms. Lemmon contacted me and I met with the families of several victims, including Carl Elliott Jr. and Jeanne Elliott, whose daughter, Lynn, age 17, was murdered by Gore. The Elliotts told me that they were going to follow up on Lemmon’s conversations with Gov. Scott and also suggest that he read my book.
On Saturday morning, Carl told me that he received a letter from state officials informing him that Gore would have a clemency hearing on February 1st.
“I was shocked at first,” Elliott said. “I thought, ‘Clemency, are they going to let this killer loose?’”
But when Carl read the remainder of the letter, he realized that the clemency hearing was the final step that the state was required to take before Gov. Scott could sign a “death warrant.”
Gore exhausted his legal appeals more than a year ago. Under Florida law, a clemency panel must review his case and make a recommendation to the governor. He will either accept that recommendation or reject it. If Scott decides against granting clemency, which seems certain, then Gore could be executed in thirty days. Scott signed a death warrant last year in October and that inmate was executed a month later.
“Thank you so much for writing your book,” Elliott said. “It was those letters in the book that are finally going to make this happen.”
Lynn Elliott and a friend, age 14, decided to hitchhike in July 1983 from one popular Vero Beach to another. Gore picked them up, drove them to his parent’s house, and raped them. When he was momentarily distracted while sexually abusing her young friend, Lynn bolted naked from the house. A nude Gore chased her down and shot her to death in the front yard, dumping her body into a car trunk before returning to rape his other defenseless captive. A boy riding by the house on his bicycle saw the shooting and told his mother who telephoned the police. Surrounded, Gore surrendered. Police found his other nude victim in the attic, terrorized but alive.
Why would a convicted serial killer on Florida’s death, who had exhausted his legal appeals, brag in letters about rapes, torture and murders – knowing his statement would outrage the public?
Gore, who has now put down his pen and is keeping silent, might have provided a clue when he wrote this passage to Ciaglia:
“…I don’t think a serial killer really has a choice. They may be able to suppress their desire and urges, but if genes play a part, how do you change your genes? Even people who know it’s wrong are powerless against it… I’ve never tried to hide from who I am. I’ve always known there was something inside of me that made me different…I’d be at a friend’s house sometimes and I’d be seeing his wife and I’d be thinking –Damn, I’d like to [rape and kill] her — and immediately after thinking that, I’d say to myself – Why am I thinking this? – you see, I’d know it wasn’t right, but it was there lurking just beneath the surface, always on my mind…”
Simply put, he couldn’t help himself.