Murderabilia: Online Sites Where Crime Pays
Jamie Smith Reporting
PHILADELPHIA (CBS 3) ― America has long had a fascination with serial killers. From movies to TV shows, the subject has always been big business. But one source of fascination may just cross the line.
CBS 3's Jamie Smith reveals the bizarre business of "murderabilia".
Online sites where crime pays.
The sites are full of a horrifying inventory of criminal minds where the personal items of killers are sold to the highest bidder.
Like a lock of Charles Manson's hair going for around $800, complete with an autographed certificate of authenticity.
Or a handwritten letter from John Couey, who was convicted of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lundsford.
There are sweat socks worn by Hadden Clark, a Washington D.C. area cross-dressing killer from the 90's.
A hand-tracing by murderer Gary Heidnik who held six women captive. Police found them chained and naked in the basement of his Philadelphia home.
The items all found on internet sites that specialize in convicts' belongings, right down to fingernail clippings and used dental floss.
"I think it's despicable. It's troubling there's a market for this stuff," said Bruce Castor, the former Montgomery County district attorney who spent a career bringing killers to justice.
Murderers like serial killer John Eichinger who is awaiting execution for slashing to death three women and a little girl.
Castor described him by saying, "He's an atrocious man."
We showed Castor Eichinger's hand-written envelopes for sale on line.
"Really sick stuff," responded Castor.
The mastermind behind one of these sites is Tod Bohannon. He collects $10 registration fees from these online shoppers.
"Arthur Shawcross did this. He's the Genesee River killer from New York. He killed about 12 prostitutes," said Bohannon displaying the murderer's artwork.
Bohannon has filled his Georgia home with what he calls serial killer artifacts. He was a young teen when his fascination with crime items began.
"When I was 13, I watched Helter Skelter. Got me interested in Charlie Manson," said Bohannon.
Bohannon says he has written to hundreds of killers in prison.
Murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Night Stalker Richard Rameriz and Ted Bundy.
In return he has received letters, autographs and even items like Hadden Clark's fingernail clippings. Items that often wind up for sale online.
Bohannan considers his collection part of history.
"It's not much different to me than collecting comic books or World War II memorabilia or klan memorabilia," he said.
"It's hard to believe there's this subculture propagating crimes these people did," says Castor who is now Montgomery County Commissioner.
There are laws restricting inmates from making huge profits as a result of their crimes.
But in most of these cases, it's not the criminal who is making the money. It's the Web site dealers.
Five states ban the sale of "murderabilia".
New Jersey is one of those states. Pennsylvania is not.
Congress has introduced a bill that would make it a felony for inmates to mail items for interstate commerce, but that would not affect those who buy and sell.
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