May Manson and Shrader rot


Lindell John Kay


Staff Writer

Monday, November 20, 2017

I woke up Monday morning to the welcome news that Charles Manson is dead.

Manson, 83, died of natural causes in a California prison over the weekend, having been denied parole a dozen times. Behind bars since 1969, the apocalyptic cult leader’s infamy was bolstered by fascinating books and movies.

The television miniseries “Helter Skelter,” about the Manson case, scared the bejesus out of me as a child. That was the power of Manson. Long locked up in prison, Manson still instilled fear in folks years after being convicted of sending cult members on a murderous spree.

With his crimes committed before I was even born and on the other coast, Manson was always just a specter to me. But in my career, I’ve come across the paths of many killers who hit much closer to home.

One of the worst murderers I’ve covered was Marcus Shrader. The 65-year-old serial killer died in prison in Raleigh in 2007. How did folks in Eastern North Carolina react? In the days after Shrader’s death, a sign at a furniture store in Jacksonville read “Burn in Hell, Marcus Shrader.”

Eastern North Carolina was terrorized in the mid-1970s by a madman who kidnapped young women and forced them to help him rob banks before shooting them in the face. The police sketch of a man in a green ski mask haunted communities along the Chrystal Coast for two years before detectives cracked the case.

Shrader, who was a Navy corpsman stationed at Camp Lejeune, was convicted of kidnapping and murdering a 19-year-old woman. He was also accused by police of killing two 15-year-old girls and another 23-year-old woman. Not to mention several unsolved cases in port cities across the globe where he visited as a sailor, though he was never tried on those charges.

The two girls Shrader picked up, raped in the back of his van and strangled them with pantyhose, all with the help of his teenage daughter.

When the diabolical duo were finally arrested, she was 16 and pregnant with his child. She was sentenced to seven years in prison for her role in her father's crimes.

Of course, I never interviewed Shrader, but I landed the only interview the daughter ever gave - 40 years after the murders.

She had stayed off the grid for decades, working odd jobs and raising her and her father's child. But after years under the radar, she got into a jam and tried to sell drugs. Her first customer was an undercover cop.

Perhaps looking for absolution and definitely looking to get something off her chest, she surprised me late one night, wanting to talk about her past.

"He beat me with chains, fists, guns and bottles," she said of her father who first raped her when she was 12.

She was Shrader's oldest of five children and sometimes submitted to her father's abuse to spare her younger sisters.

Detectives said they can't forget they house of horrors they unearthed when searching Shrader's rural home. In the attic, investigators found a torture chamber complete with chains and other sadistic paraphernalia.

Shrader wrote letters to his daughter while they were both incarcerated.

"Until I’m dead and in a box, you belong to me body and soul," Shrader wrote. "Don’t get any false feelings of security as long as I’m alive. I may just decide to take you to hell with me. As long as I live, you may damned well die."

Shrader received a death sentence, which was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Like Manson, Shrader was up for parole several times, but always denied.

Shrader was never getting out of prison. Had he ever been paroled by the state, he would be sent straight to a federal prison to serve a 20-year sentence for the bank robberies. But, sadly, Shrader outlived most of his victims' family members.

I'll leave it to you to decide whether you think Shrader's daughter was his willing accomplice, his ultimate victim or both.