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Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins: The Meanest Man in America

Donald Pee Wee Gaskins, prolific serial killer from South Carolina

Born on March 13th 1933 in Florence County, South Carolina, Donald Henry Gaskins Jr had a number of nicknames. His nicknames include: The “Meanest Man in America”, “The Redneck Charles Manson”, “Junior Parrott”, and “Pee Wee.”

Who Was Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins?

Born last in a string of illegitimate children, his mother’s name was Parrott. She neglected her children, giving them little to no supervision. When Gaskins was just one year old, he drank an entire bottle of kerosene, which caused convulsions until he was three years old. Small for his age, Gaskins received regular beatings from his various step-fathers. He got his best know nickname “Pee Wee” at a young age.

Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins. One of Americas most prolific killers.

Pee Wee used the violence he saw at home to hurt the children who crossed him at school. Whether it was a boy or a girl, Gaskins made no distinction. He was little in stature, but he had a ferocious and mean temper. At just eleven, Gaskins quit school. At that same age he met two boys, Danny and Marsh, while working at a local garage. All around the same age and all dropouts, they teamed up and called themselves “The Trouble Trio.” The Trio burglarized homes, picked up prostitutes, and even raped little boys. They used intimidation tactics on the boys they assaulted police to keep them from going to the police. Marsh’s father once caught the Trio gang-raping Marsh’s young sister. When he did, he bound them and beat them until they bled through their clothing.

The trio soon went their separate ways. Danny and Marsh left the area. Gaskins stuck around and continued to burglarize homes. In 1946, at age 13, young girl interrupted him during a break-in. She tried to hit him with an axe. But Gaskins managed to grab the weapon, struck the young woman, and fled the scene. The girl survived the attack and identified Gaskins. Police arrested him and a court convicted him of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Sources report Gaskins only learned his given name–Donald–at this court hearing. The court sent him to the South Carolina Industrial School for Boys until he turned 18.

The Reform School Days

At reform school, the “Pee Wee” nickname stuck. The reform school boys took delight in attacking the boy. His small frame made him an easy target. He was victim to a twenty-man gang-rape in the showers. From there, he accepted protection from the dorm “Boss Boy” in return for sexual favors.

After escaping from the school, he joined a traveling carnival and married a young girl of 13. Sometime thereafter, he voluntarily returned to complete his sentence. He was released on his 18th birthday in 1951. As a free man he began working on a tobacco farm where became involved in insurance fraud. Gaskins worked with a partner and collaborated with local tobacco farmers to burn their barns for a fee. People around the area began to wonder about Gaskins involvement in the barn fires. When mocked by a young girl, he panicked and split her skull with a hammer. He received a five-year prison sentence for assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder.

Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins’ Rise to Power

He was quickly raped again in prison. So Gaskins decided killing a fellow inmate might be enough to keep the other penitents from bothering him. In an attempt to become one of the “Power Men” of the prison, he fought back and cut the throat of the most feared man there. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six months in solitary confinement. But Gaskin had accomplished his goal. He was instantly elevated within the prison. For the rest of his time there was dubbed a “Power Man” and someone not to mess with.

In 1955, his wife filed for divorce. Gaskins subsequently escaped from prison in the back of a garbage truck and fled to Florida where he found employment with another traveling carnival. Shortly thereafter, he remarried but divorced his wife two weeks later. After meeting a woman named Bettie Gates, they drove off together to Tennessee to bail out Gates’ brother.  When they arrived in the city, Gates disappeared without a trace. The man in jail was not her brother. No, he was her husband … who had recently escaped from prison. Police arrived at the hotel where Gaskins was staying. They quickly realized he was an escaped convict and returned him to prison.

Donald Pee Wee Gaskins, The Meanest Man in America.

Out on Parole and Then Back into the Prison System

Paroled in 1962, Gaskins was arrested for the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl. But he escaped to North Carolina in a stolen car. Gaskins married for a third and fourth time, finding that monogamy was not for him. With his last wife only 17, she turned him into the authorities for statutory rape and he ended up at Columbia penitentiary. Gaskins made parole from that stint in 1968. One year later, he picked up a female hitchhiker on the highway. When he tried to have sex with her, she laughed at him. That is something Pee Wee Gaskins was not willing to accept. He beat her unconscious, raped, and sodomized her. Then he left her in a swamp where she ultimately drowned.

Continuing a crime spree throughout the 1970s, Gaskins liked to pick victims up as hitchhikers on the highways of South Carolina. He described his “process” of rape, torture, and murder as a “vision” into the “bothersome feelings” he experienced throughout his life. Satisfying these feelings became his driving force in life. He mastered the skill of torture, often keeping his injured victims alive for days. Sometimes he would cannibalize their severed body parts. He would make them watch him eat their flesh in horror or sometimes join in the eating.

Gaskins regarded his highway killings as “weekend recreation”, while personal acquaintances were considered “serious murders.” Among his “serious murders” were his 15-year-old niece, Janice Kirby, and her friend, Patricia Alsobrook. The girls believed he was driving them home. He instead drove them to an abandoned house and beat, raped, and drowned them both. He later buried them in separate locations.

Donald Gaskins Drove a Hearse as His Primary Method of Transportation

In 1973, Gaskins was living in Prospect, South Carolina. He bought an old hearse, jokingly telling friends he needed it to haul all the dead bodies he killed. No one knew how serious he was. Still, many stayed away from Gaskins because he was frightening. Though he did have a handful of close friends. Doreen Dempsey, mother of a two-year-old infant girl and pregnant at the time, was on her way out of town when she accepted a ride to the bus station from Gaskins. Gaskins did not take Doreen to the bus station. He drove her to a deserted and wooded area and raped and killed her before sodomizing and killing her baby. He buried them both next to each other in a shallow grave.

In addition to killing for fun, Gaskins also took work as a hitman. In 1975, he was paid $1,500 by Suzanne Kipper to murder her ex-boyfriend. John Powell and John Owens handled the communication between Kipper and Gaskins. Diane Neely, also involved in the crime, lured Yates out of his house by claiming to have car trouble. Gaskins then kidnapped and murdered Yates while Powell and Owens watched. All three helped bury him.

A Malevolent Blackmail Scheme

Diane Neely and her boyfriend decided to blackmail Gaskins for hush money and asked for $5000 to keep quiet. Gaskins agreed to meet the two outside town to exchange the money.  But instead of a man holding a wad of cash, Neely and Howard were met with a pistol and two freshly dug graves. Gaskins killed them and considered the matter over.

Two local boys, Johnny Knight and Dennis Bellamy, robbed Gaskins’ repair shop without knowing about his terrible temper. He killed and buried the two with the help of Walter Neely, Diane’s ex-husband, in his own private cemetery. 13-year-old Kim Ghelkins was the next Gaskins victim. After being sexually rejected by Ghelkins, Gaskins drove Ghelkins out to the woods where he raped and strangled her.

After the disappearance of Kim Ghelkins, the authorities grew suspicious of Gaskins. Upon searching his home, police found Kim’s clothing. But that evidence alone was not damning. They detained him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. At the insistence of a neighborhood minister, Walter Neely came forward claiming he had specific information on Gaskins. Brought in for questioning, he admitted he had helped dispose of several of Gaskins victims. Eight graves were uncovered in total, but Ghelkin’s body was not among them.

Authorities File Charges

Authorities charged Gaskins and Walter Neely with eight counts of murder. On May 24th, 1976, a jury convicted Gaskins of the murder of Dennis Bellamy. He was sentenced to death. He later confessed to seven additional murders.

In November 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional, so Gaskins death sentence was converted to seven consecutive life sentences. In 1978, the death penalty was restored. This didn’t mean anything to Gaskins until he was caught and found guilty for being paid to murder fellow prisoner, Rudolph Tyner. This conviction led to a new death sentence.

Gaskins Tried Everything in His Power to Dodge a Death Sentence

In an attempt to stay out of the electric chair, Gaskins began confessing to more murders, which if true, would make him the most prolific killer in South Carolina history. He admitted responsibility for the murder 13-year-old Peggy Cuttino, the daughter of a prominent family. Prosecutors had already prosecuted William Pierce for the crime and sentenced him to life in prison. Prosecutors claimed Gaskins’ confession to the girl’s murder was simply for publicity and his confession was rejected.

Pee Wee Gaskins takes the police to his many graves in South Carolina.

Over the last months of his life, Gaskins worked with author Wilton Earl on his book, Final Truth. In the tome, Gaskins said of his ability to kill, “I am one of the few that truly understands what death and pain are all about. I have a special kind of mind that allows me to give myself permission to kill.”

On the day of his execution, he cut his wrists in a final attempt to avoid the electric chair. But that didn’t work. The powers that be placed him in the electric chair, with stitched arms, and pronounced him dead by electrocution on 1.05am, September 6th, 1991. Gaskins is the fourth person to be executed after the ban on the death penalty was lifted.

Updated June 1 2024

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Written by Nicola Odeku
Nicola Odeku is the co-founder of Wicked Horror. After managing a fashion and lifestyle magazine, in addition to writing her own published relationship articles, Nicola set up team with Arturo and followed her genuine love for horror. Also known as Miss Horror, Nicola is a big fan of hardcore gore, anything demonic, and disturbing cinema. Also cats. She looooves cats. Nicola enjoys traveling, sitting on a beach and eating cake.
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