A brutal serial killer, Darren Dee O’Neall raped and killed more than six girls and women during the 1980s, and remained on FBI’s list of the top ten most wanted fugitives until he was arrested in September 1987. HEMRAJ SINGH tells the story of O’Neall’s crimes.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on February 26, 1960, Darren Dee O’Neall, was a drifter by nature and had a hard time staying in one place for long. Darren’s travels began early on, as he was the son of an army man, and frequent transfers were part of his father’s life. But when his father retired from army and chose to settle down with Darren’s mother, Christa, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Darren went on to become not only a compulsive drifter but also a pathological liar with tendencies to engage in violent sex, which turned out to be too unhealthy a concoction to lead a normal life.
As a young man, Darren took to travelling far and wide into the West reading novels by his favourite author – Louis L’Amour. When Darren went around assuming fake identities, he frequently used the names of the characters from L’Amour’s books as aliases.
Darren worked as a trucker, which not only kept his appetite for travel satisfied, but also provided him enough time and opportunity to explore his darker side, which remained dormant until the evening of January 17, 1987 in Portland, Oregon, when Darren, driving a big rig, spotted an attractive 14-year-old girl walking across a freeway overpass towards a convenience store. Darren’s compelling sexual urges took over and he, having driven past, turned around and drove back to have a second look at the girl. He saw the girl enter the convenience store. He chose to wait for her. He parked the truck on the side of the street alongside the road the girl had taken to walk to the convenience store.
As he waited anxiously, Darren lit a Camel filter cigarette, his favourite brand. Some three minutes later, he lit another one with the one he was smoking and tossed the previous one away. He already had one of his hunting knives out and ready as he waited for the girl fantasizing about all kinds of inhuman things he would do to the girl.
Finally, the girl emerged from the store with an open soda bottle in one hand and a few other things in the other. Darren quickly got out of the truck and busied himself by the truck’s sleeping compartment like he was attending to some problem with the truck. And as soon as the girl was within easy reach Darren pounced upon her and dragged her into the sleeping compartment of the truck and pulled the door shut. He told her menacingly that he had a gun and he would not hesitate to use it, if she did not cooperate. The girl did not actually see the gun he was carrying, which was a .358 Ruger, but was anyway too terrified by the knife in her face to resist. He seemed pleased by the girl’s display of mortal fear.
He bound her hand and feet, and gagged her, and once he was sure that she could cause no trouble any longer, he left the sleeping compartment and climbed into the driver’s seat and drove away.
After driving for fifteen minutes, Darren parked the truck on a dark, unpaved road with lush trees around. Darren had chosen a secluded area that was pretty much a forest, and it was dark. He took a moment to put his ears to the surroundings and all he could hear was the drizzle against the metal roof of his truck. He pulled a can of Black Label beer and lit another Camel filter. He felt very much in control, and after soaking in the feeling for a while, he entered the sleeping compartment and sat next to the frightened girl, who was whimpering in terror. He pulled his knife out and placed it where she could see it, after which he proceeded to untie her. He raised his hand as though to slap her only to demonstrate that if she tried to resist, he would not hesitate to hurt her badly. Fearful, she nodded her agreement to do as told. Without resistance, she followed his instructions to remove her clothes. He held the tip of his hunting knife on her skin and ran it lightly across her body. He felt powerful. He removed his own clothes and raped the girl over and over again for the next two hours. He also had her perform oral sex on him, which she did without protest fearing for her life.
When Darren was exhausted and realized that he could not go on any longer, he picked the now empty soda pop bottle that the girl had brought from the store. He placed the bottle between her legs angrily, and asked the girl if she knew what he was about to do. The girl just stared at him, speechless in horror. Darren forced the head of the bottle into her vagina. Fortunately, the bottle withstood the force applied and did not break. Darren was now done with the girl, and had to decide what to do with her. He thought of killing her and talked about it with her, but when the girl cried and pleaded with him to not kill her, he decided to let her go. He threatened her with dire consequences if she told anybody about what had happened, and after she promised to not tell anyone many times, he drove her back and dropped her at a spot from where she could get to her house easily.
When she got back home, she found her parents awake and very worried. They had already intimated the police about their missing daughter, but it was too soon for the police to treat it as the case of a missing person. After her arrival, the parents immediately reported the crimes committed against their daughter to the Portland police. The girl was medically examined, and the evidence of rape was collected using the standard rape kit, which comprised of a comb, swabs and evidence containers.
The Detective Bill Carter of the Portland Police Department interviewed the victim at length. She described the perpetrator as a white male, approximately 25 to 30 years of age, nearly six feet tall, and about 160 pounds. She also told that he had a thick beard and moustache, and also had crooked teeth. However, she was still some six months away from positively identifying her tormentor as Darren Dee O’Neall. In the meanwhile Darren was on his way looking for more victims.
After attacking the young girl in Oregon, Darren changed his appearance, took an alias and did not return to his job as a trucker. He moved to Edgewood from Puyallup, and got himself hired as a laminator.
In March 1987, Darren met an attractive woman called Mary Barnes at Baldy’s Tavern in Puyallup. Barnes was a part-time barmaid at Baldy’s Tavern. Barnes and Darren got along well and Barnes kept Darren sexually satisfied for quite some time. But it was not enough for Darren.
On the night of March 28, 1987, Darren spotted an attractive blond in Baldy’s Tavern. She was 5’3″, weighed around 115 pounds and had clear blue eyes. She was Robin Smith (22), and Darren was certain that she was the woman of his dreams, but the problem was that she was with her fiancé, Larron Crowston (23). He was not likely to get Smith, but Darren found a way.
Just when Baldy’s Tavern was about to close that morning, Darren managed to persuade Barnes to announce to the all the guests at the Tavern that they were invited to Darren’s place for an “after hours” party. Not everybody agreed to go, but a small group of people did agree, and it included Smith and Crowston. Darren’s sinister plan had worked.
In a development that played right along Darren’s plan, Crowston left at 5:00 in the morning for the fishing trip he and his friends had planned in advance. But Robin was having too much fun to leave with Crowston. So, the problem was how Robin would get home. Darren stepped in to offer his assistance and assured Crowston that Robin would reach home safe. And with that assurance, Crowston’s problem was solved, and he bid goodbye – the last goodbye, it later turned out – to his girlfriend.
Trish: A friend murdered
In 1978, when Robin’s mother divorced Robin’s father and her second husband, Stuart, Robin started having nightmares about being captive in a dark place. Apparently, Robin was having hard time accepting her parents’ divorce. Eventually, she settled down with reality and accepted the truth. In a year’s time she started being more sociable, and became friends with Julie and Trish. The three were together most of the time and soon enough people started calling them the “Three Musketeers”. But in 1982, Trish decided to move to California, and the trio broke. Robin was 16 then and was deeply saddened by the departure of her friend.
Trish called Robin two months later, but she did not sound alright to Robin, but despite Robin’s inquiring several times as to what was wrong, Trish maintained that everything was fine and she was good. She told Robin that she had a job and was happy and liked California. Robin, however, wasn’t convinced that all was well with Trish.
However, a mere two days later, Robin saw a news report on television, according to which a girl had been murdered at an apartment complex down on the Sea-Tac Strip. The Strip was known to be frequented by the prostitutes, and sex crimes were high in the area, especially among the sex workers, who mostly fell victim to violent sexual fetishism. It was the time of the Green River Killer, who had already killed a number of prostitutes. The girl was thought to be a prostitute and yet another victim of the Green River Killer, who was known to have picked a number of his victims from the Strip. The police confirmed that she was a prostitute but knew immediately that she wasn’t the victim of the Green River Killer, for the way she had been killed had nothing in common the modus operandi of the Green River Killer.
But since the police had not identified the victim by then, Robin did not have any reason to think that the girl was Trish, for Trish was supposedly in California living her life happily. That changed when the police had the picture of the dead girl’s face published in the local newspapers under the heading ‘Crime Stoppers’. One of Trish’s former classmates identified her and informed the police. It was indeed Trish, and she had been raped and murdered brutally.
Both, Robin and Julie, were stunned, and had difficulties coming to terms with the brutal murder of their dear friend. Robin actually went down to the apartment where Trish had been murdered and started inquiring with the neighbours. The police had to intervene and finally the officers managed to persuade Robin to let them do their job.
Robin’s nightmares took a turn for the worse. Now, she did not just dream of something horrible happening to her, but dreamt of being brutally murdered like Trish. Everybody around her tried to calm her down and console her. They repeatedly assured her that nothing bad was going to happen to her, but her nightmares kept getting worse, and, in the end, turned real.
After fishing all day on Saturday, Crowston came home tired and fell asleep. He did not wake up until the next day afternoon, which is when he realized that Robin had not returned, and the last time he saw her was when he left their friend’s apartment to go fishing. He called Robin’s mother, Edna, who told him that Robin had not come home and she had assumed that Robin was with Crowston. Crowston and Robin’s brother went to the apartment Crowston had left her at, but there was nobody there. The matter was then reported to the police.
…to be continued