Archive for February 14th, 2012

What Life Is Like For a Serial Killer on Death Row

Letters From Death Row Inmates By Derek Olson Published


Five men now sit on South Dakota’s death row. And while the living conditions are no secret, a pair of letters from 2002 gives us a glimpse of what life is really like for those waiting to be executed.

In 2002, Joel Schwader was working as a Rapid City newspaper columnist. “I got the idea to write to the death row inmates because I was curious on what life was really like on death row. Is it as bad as people thought, or did they lead a nice, cozy life?” Schwader said. He wrote to all five men waiting to be executed.

Charles Rhines, who was sentenced for Murder in 1993, was the first to respond. He said, all things considered, his life wasn’t that bad. He even had a sense of humor. “Personally speaking, I think I’d likely have gotten another murder conviction had I been forced to spend the last nine years in a cell with Donald Moeller or Ron Anderson. They’re both okay individuals to speak with, but I don’t think I could handle spending 23 1/4 hours per day in a cell with them without resorting to violence,” Schwader read from Rhines’ letter.

A few days later a letter arrived from Robert Leroy Anderson. “I don’t judge people. I just don’t. But the sense of evil that engulfed that letter when I pulled it out of the mailbox was just overwhelming to say the least,” Schwader said.

The serial killer spent much of the letter complaining about the justice system, politics and perceptions. “Your story would not enlighten the public to “row” conditions as much as it would participate a debate on whether or not we’re being too kindly treated. I hold no disillusions on the public sentiment towards me,” Schwader read from Anderson’s letter.

Rhines’ wrote similar words. “As for letting the people of South Dakota know what life on Death Row is really like, well, perhaps we’d be better off not telling anyone. It’s not as if they chain us to a wall and feed us with sling shots,” Schwader read from Rhines’ letter.

Even though conditions are no secret, Schwader says that hearing the first-hand accounts of the men living there was an eye-opening experience. “We all know that death is coming eventually. We don’t know when, but these guys do. They know that it’s going to come sooner than later,” Schwader said. And although he is not for or against the death penalty, Schwader says he feels compassion for those who are condemned. “Some people say that there are some things worse than death. And I would think that waiting to die would be one of them,” Schwader said.

“While I’m getting rather long-winded, supper is nearing. It might even be edible tonight. It’s never fancy, but usually okay.

Sincerely yours,

Charles R. Rhines,” Schwader read.

Rhines is still awaiting execution for the 1992 killing of Donnivan Schaeffer.

 Robert Leroy Anderson committed suicide in prison on March 30, 2003.

Seems to me their lives are pretty cozy. No need to work. A roof over their heads, and edible food. Way too easy if you ask me.

Twenty-two year old Donnivan Schaeffer was opening up the Rapid City doughnut shop where he worked in 1992, when he surprised fired former employee Charles Russell Rhines burglarizing the business. According to another Journal article, in his taped confession to police, Rhines “…chuckled at times when describing how he methodically went about executing Schaeffer so there would be no witness to the burglary. Rhines said he killed Schaeffer even though he pleaded for his life.” Schaeffer was “…stabbed twice by Rhines and shoved into a storeroom. Rhines left him to die after tying him up and stabbing him a third time in the neck….” The ” … unemotional Rhines carefully described the fatal stab would where the skull meets the spine.” Even today, almost twenty years later, I remember reading at the time how Rhines taunted Donnivan as he executed him.

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Rhines is not even the one that the author described as evil. He is not the serial killer.

Anderson was convicted of kidnapping and killing Larisa Dumansky of Sioux Falls in 1994 and Piper Streyle of rural Canistota two years later. He kidnapped Piper in front of her two small children.

Police found evidence to connect him to the murder and to show that he was a sexual sadist.

Near the Big Sioux River where part of a shirt that matched to Piper was found was a roll of duct tape with human hairs attached to it. The hair was later analyzed and found to be consistent with samples taken from Piper’s hairbrush. Moreover, the duct tape taken from the scene matched the roll recovered fromAnderson’s truck two months earlier.

More gruesome physical evidence was discovered around the river, which included several lengths of rope and chains, eyebolts, a vibrator and a half burned candle. It was believed that the items were used to torture Piper. They also presented clear evidence that Anderson was a sexual sadist.

Sexual Sadist

According to Hazelwood and Michaud, there was sufficient proof that Anderson was a sexual sadist who was excited by the physical and psychological suffering and helplessness of his victim. Their opinion was based on four factors:


  1. Anderson displayed an “obvious interest in sexual bondage, a hallmark of the sexual sadist,” which was represented by the restraints, dildo, partially burnt candle, eyebolts, handcuff keys, duct tape and plywood platform.
  2. The evidence found by investigators “clearly indicated physical torture.” It was surmised that after Piper was abducted, Anderson drove her to a wooded area near Baltic. While there he may have bound her to the platform, gagged her with duct tape, sheared her shirt off and then methodically tortured her with the dildo and candle before raping her. It is believed that he then murdered Piper and disposed of her body. 
  3. Anderson admitted to police and friends that he liked anal sex, a preference his wife did not share. Research conducted by Hazelwood and Michaud found that, “sexual sadists prefer this form of sex.” They believed that the dildo was used byAnderson to act out his fantasy.
  4. It was further suggested that sexual sadists “habitually plan their crimes in much greater detail than do other criminals.”

One of Anderson’s longtime friends, Jamie Hammer, brought forth evidence, which provided investigators with new information concerning Anderson’s sexually sadistic and predatory behavior. They learned that Piper was not his only victim. They also realized that he would have likely continued to prey on women, if he hadn’t been caught.

On August 26th, Anderson approached Larisa in the parking lot where they worked. He held her at knifepoint and ordered her into his vehicle. Then Anderson and Walker drove Larisa to LakeVermillion. When they arrived at the lake,Walker watched as Anderson dragged Larisa out of the car and raped her several times. According to Hazelwood and Michaud, Larisa pleaded desperately for her life but Anderson ignored her.

During testimony given byWalker several years after the incident, he informed police that Anderson suffocated Larisawith duct tape and then buried her remains beneath a chokecherry bush. At the time of Larisa’s death she was approximately six weeks pregnant

Crime Library 

So yeah, in my opinion they are living cozy lives.

I am willing to bet that that Ms. Streyle, Ms. Dumansky, Infant Dumansky and Mr. Schaeffer would agree with me.

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