In its deeply disturbing details, the case brings to mind all the other killers whose seemingly demonic crimes have placed them in the pantheon of modern American monsters, men like Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker; Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal killer; Dennis Rader, the self-proclaimed BTK Killer who stalked the suburbs of Wichita for three decades, killing 10 women; and others
But if everything we've been told about Kevin Underwood, the 26-year-old failed supermarket stock boy accused of raping and murdering the 10-year-old girl in his Oklahoma bedroom, is true, it is possible that we are witnessing the emergence of a new paradigm for evil, one that in many ways is more frightening because it is much more prosaic. In essence, if his alleged confession to authorities proves to be true, and if all the details about him that have appeared on the Internet hold up to scrutiny, Underwood may be the among the first predators to have bought his identity on the Internet, as if he were bidding for it on Ebay.
Certainly, the allegations against Underwood underscore some similarities between him and the infamous killers of recent decades. But unlike Richard Ramirez, who lusted as deeply to be known as almost the personification of evil as he did for the savage volcanic release of murders, unlike Dennis Rader, who tried to prove his intellect by taunting authorities after his murderous, sexually driven rampages, and unlike Jeffrey Dahmer, who in the depths of his twisted soul linked his killings and cannibalism to some perverse idea of love, Underwood seems to have been motivated by a desire to be something — anything.
By all accounts, Underwood was the classic slacker. At the age of 26, he was a loner; a man who had few friends, unless you count the cyber buddies with whom he exchanged cryptic and perhaps telling Internet messages, and almost no life in the real world. He has no career to speak of; his resume includes a stint at a fast-food restaurant and a job as a stocker at a supermarket, and by his own account, virtually no serious romantic relationships.
Instead, he spent endless hours gaming and chatting and cruising on the Internet, a fantasy world where one's entire identity is nothing more than whatever one chooses it to be. What is most intriguing and most disturbing about Underwood's writing, as detailed by Steve Huff both on this site and on his own blog, is that Underwood seems to have lacked the seething volcanic intensity of rage and madness that drove Ramirez, Rader, Dahmer and others.
In his forays on the Web, Underwood seems to flit from one sordid idea to the next, as if he were cruising the Internet for an identity that fit. In his writings, for example, he appears to have bought his religion off the rack on the Internet, subscribing, it appears, to an Internet group that demands little of its adherents and is viewed in most quarters as a wry and sardonic joke. There is, of course, no way to determine how seriously Underwood took the tenets of the Church of Bob, but this much is clear: It required almost nothing of him.
There also is evidence that Underwood casually discusses what might be described as coprophilia, the fetishization of excrement, but then, as in so many other aspects of his life, he moves on.
Even in his interest in cannibalism, which seems to be well-documented, he appears to be a dilettante, and unlike notorious psychopaths like Marc Sappington, who by all accounts was driven by terrifying voices in his head to eat flesh and drink blood, Underwood comes off as someone more interested in the idea of cannibalism than in cannibalism itself.
Our monsters mock our values
Taken together, Underwood's Internet ramblings seem to paint a picture of a man not driven to monstrous behavior by the monsters in him, but instead looking for some sordid club he could join, a fraternity of depravity that would give him a sense of identity without demanding too much of him.
Even the details of the crime as alleged by authorities seem to support that view. Though there is evidence that Underwood planned to commit a cannibalistic crime — and to that end, authorities have said, he bought meat tenderizer and metal skewers — there is little evidence that he brought to his crime the kind of meticulous planning that marked Rader's crimes, or the careful hunter's eye that Ramirez developed.
Though he had planned, authorities say, to kill and consume someone, Underwood by all accounts didn't really care much about who his victim might be. Authorities have said that he might just as well have attacked a woman, a man, or a boy instead of young Jamie.
Jamie Rose Bolin
Underwood is that even after he committed the initial crime, luring the young girl to his apartment, hitting her on the head with a wooden cutting board, suffocating her, and then raping her, he seems to have given up. There is evidence that he made an attempt to decapitate the girl authorities found saw marks on her neck. But then he stopped.
It is possible, of course, that he was remorseful or at least conflicted, though his Internet posting after the slaying, as captured by Huff, seem to focus more on a desire to distance himself from the crime, and he frets about being considered a possible suspect.
But it is as least equally likely that Underwood, if the allegations are true, simply lost interest and that he discovered that truly monstrous evil makes monstrous demands on its perpetrators. And as a self-involved loner, he wasn't up to the task.
In their way, the iconographic killers of the past, the cannibals like Dahmer and Sappington, the sex killers like Rader, held up a dark mirror to the culture in which they lived. In their fevered fantasies and savage acts they reflected grotesquely distorted images of the values we all hold. Ramirez, with his devotion to Satanism, turned the power of religion on its head. In his sexual violence, Rader fed on the cultural dreams of power and the value we place on intellect. In their own ways, they each cruelly parodied the culture. That is one of the principal reasons that we, as a culture, are so fascinated by such villains. It's not just that they touch on some primal fear, which of course they do, that they touch that deepest part of our psyche where the ghosts of ancient predators still stalk us. It is also that, in a way, their evil, though a mutation, in someway acknowledges our most cherished values.
Underwood may represent another cruel parody. His pathology may be a reflection of our own retail culture, where we buy our identities off the rack, and return them a week later when we find they don't quite fit. And if authorities are right, the fact that Underwood lacked even the determination to carry out his depraved crime may make him the perfect perverse reflection of our culture.
And if he is found guilty, he will have become the perfect evil icon for our time, the Slacker Killer.
Kind of wow. What a loser. Then he had to go after a little girl for it all.
Edited by __Kratos__, 01 May 2006 - 12:24 AM.