Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

George Russell


George Russell's psyche gorged on grudges. Spending most of his pre-adolescent life as a roaming cat burglar in the Seattle, Washington suburbs, he stole to get even, not with the people he ripped off, but with the world. Petty robbery, however, was not enough. The indelible mark of hate that he felt he needed to impress on the surface of mankind or, rather, womankind could not flush up until he found the outlet to do so. All his life he had been looking for a spigot to vent, whether he realized it or not. At the age of consent, when the singles bars opened their doors to him, and when he was able to "blend" with the people whom he realized were symbols of his loathing, George Russell crossed the danger line.

"Russell, convicted of murdering three women in Bellevue (Washington State) in a two-month span...killed his first victim in an alley, but the next two in their homes," writes Richard Seven, a Seattle Times reporter. "The MO or modus operandi changed, but each woman's body was found grotesquely posed, an obvious and rare signature that revealed his distinct compulsion."

Signature killers, driven by something erratic, erotic and lethal, become assassins warring against their own mania. Their battleground is often the most unsuspecting place in urban or rural America, often where the killer grew up. Figures of pent-up frustration, predominantly sexual, they reach an age, or encounter an incident, that pushes them across what signature killer authority Robert Keppel calls "the comfort zone the edge of normalcy and the borderline of criminality".

Dr. Robert Keppel, author of Signature Killers and former chief investigator for the Washington State Attorney General's Office, personally studied and took part in the trials of landmark killers Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and George Russell. His knowledge of anger-driven prototypes who leave their "personal mark" upon their crime scenes is vast. Russell is one of his most interesting "signature killers" in that Russell's entire existence followed a course set at an early age when a mother, and then a stepmother, abandoned him. These women came to represent, to Russell, Womanhood Total. What they did to him, abandoned him in life, needed to be repaid through death. While they were not to be touched, he nevertheless unleashed his vengeance on others in female form whom he considered as he considered his mother and stepmother heartless and promiscuous.

As Ted Bundy (whom Russell idolized) was able to navigate unsuspectingly "normal" in his world, so did Russell in his. A black man in his thirties in an upper-echelon yuppie community, he brought with him to the singles bars a good-looking face, a flashing smile, verbosity and a great personality that camouflaged a lethal under-self. He picked up women, black and white, with the ease of Lothario, but with the intention of Bluebeard.

"The fury (George Russell) expended at the crime scenes (and) the obvious lengths he went to show whomever found his victims' bodies the contempt he felt for those women...bespeak a kind of deep-residing cauldron of anger that's way beyond normality," writes Dr. Keppel.

As is typical with many serial killers, Russell's anger eventually overtook him.

The following article detailing what has been since called "The Bellevue Yuppie Murders" is based on the determinations and hypotheses of Dr. Keppel and the findings of the Bellevue/Seattle area police who took part in the investigation. Because no one was present when George Walterfield Russell, Jr. committed his necrophiliac murders, much remains in conjecture what exactly went through the murderer's mind, for instance. In attempting to re-enact those scenes, as well as digging into the killer's brain while he stalked his victims, I referred to the latter scrutiny of the subject painstakingly studied and addressed by experts.

With this story I also intended and hopefully succeeded to step deeper into the recesses of signature killings, an examination I had begun with my previous story of Harvey Glatman, the sexual necrophile who killed then posed his female victims. Several other Crime Library articles touch on this subject (see stories on Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer) and this profile of Russell aims to take that exploration a step further.


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