Mar 032020

How well do you know your best buddy? The guy who works with you? The mother who takes her turn driving the kids carpool to school once or twice a week. Or the neighbor next door you have occasional cookouts with? Sure, you know them. But how much do you really know them? Do any of us really know anyone?

I like to think that I’m a good judge of character, but as this blog post will show, apparently I’m not.

Twice in my life I have known and been friends with men who were killers. One was an airman who was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona in the late 70s. His wife and my wife were also friends, and we had them and their two kids to our house several times. Then one day as I was driving to work, I heard on the car radio that his wife and two little girls had died in an early morning house fire. I was devastated and tried to contact him but was unable to.

Then, when the news broke a week or so after the fire that he had been arrested and charged with three counts of murder and one count of arson, I was outraged. How could anyone believe such a nice man, such a loving father, could do something so terrible? I knew one of the investigators involved in the case and called to tell him they were way off base, but once I heard the evidence, and also compared some things he had told me prior to the fire that were later entered into evidence and proved to be complete falsehoods, it was hard to believe he was innocent.

Autopsies revealed that they died of suffocation, but there was no smoke in any of the victims’ lungs. The autopsy did find a blunt force injury to his wife’s head. When arson investigators tried to replicate the fire, using the same mattress, it would not burn in the manner the fire had, and there were traces of an accelerant on the bed.

Eventually he was acquitted, not because the defense proved him innocent, but simply because of shoddy work by the prosecution. As one juror put it, “They could not get their stories straight or prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it. But no one could prove he didn’t do it, either. Without proof beyond any doubt, we had no choice but to acquit.”

I met the other guy a few years later when my brand new car broke down while on my way to Las Vegas and I was towed into a dealership in Barstow, California. When the service manager saw my Washington state license plates, he said he had always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest. At that time I owned several newspapers along the coast and happened to know that the dealer I bought my car from was looking for a service manager. I gave him the owner of the dealership’s name and he got hired and moved to Grays Harbor.

We used to hang out and go target shooting together all the time. He was always laughing and joking around, but occasionally he would say something off the wall. I would just blow it off, but later looking back, I wondered if there were signs that I should have picked up on. At that time my first wife and I were going through a rough time that eventually led to our divorce a few years later. I remember complaining about something she did once and he asked, “Do you want me to kill her for you?” I laughed it off at the time, but later was damn glad I didn’t say yes.

A couple of years after he moved to town, he went to a restaurant in Seattle, had dinner, then shot 5 or 6 people there. It turned out he had committed two murders in California 15 years or so earlier and was judged criminally insane, but had escaped from the facility he was in and had lived under a false name for many years.

I had a key to his house so I could feed his dogs when he was out of town and went to see him in jail to ask him what I should do with them. He said he probably wasn’t getting out, so just find them good homes.

Then I asked why he shot the people in the restaurant and he calmly replied that they had pissed him off because they were too loud and had disturbed his meal. He said that’s what you do when people piss you off. Then I had to ask him why, in all the times we had been out shooting together, didn’t he shoot me. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Because you never pissed me off, Nick.” That sent chills down my spine and still does today!

Thought For The Day – We call them traditions, but what they really are is peer pressure from dead people.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  7 Responses to “Do We Ever Really Know Anyone?”

  1. Because you never pissed him off…funny how it’s the little things sometimes.

  2. You do attract the nicest people Nick!! LOL

  3. Some people are very good actors, Nick. I worked as a professor at a community college. There was a faculty member who was very polite, nice, married with several small children. I only knew him at work. He never made dirty jokes, or talked about anything lewd or about child sex/porn. He was arrested for molesting a young girl at his home who was visiting his daughter. It turns out he had been in trouble for similar things while at his previous job. We were all surprised because he had not exhibited any of those behaviors or tendencies at work. You never really know what people are like in their hearts.

  4. Om my gosh Mr Nick. How scary. Think I’ll make sure not to tick anybody off, you just never know. That poor family,
    Hope your back is better

  5. It is indeed a very scary world…I agree with you…maybe we never really know other folks…I could tell you a tale about my daughter’s EX that would curl your toes…we had NO IDEA he was SO SICK…I loved him…accepted him as my son in fact. Not now however!! We are DONE!! I also no longer trust myself in the dept of being able to know who is good and who is not. Sociopaths and psychopaths are such smart folks…they are good at fooling almost everyone. Until they get careless and betray themselves.

  6. Loved this story, as did my husband. Thanks for giving us a good laugh. So glad you never pissed this guy off!

  7. My hubby did a plumbing job for a couple one day…he had been at there home out in the rural part of the county for over 10 hours…all seemed well…the next day the guy drove to the local community college and shot his wife…we have always given thanks that he didn’t decide to kill his wife the day before because Ron could have been another of his victims. We were so sad that his wife lost her life about 24 hours after she was shot.

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