Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 12:10 PM
May Martinez sits in her Jacksonville, Fla., living room, staring at the box full of her slain daughter's ashes and wishing she could afford a plane ticket to confront the teenager's killer.
Five miles away, Eric Gein is counting the cash he earns from selling that killer's "murderabilia" -- graphic letters, greeting cards, artwork and, even, her panties.
"The girl wins, no matter what," Martinez said Thursday of convicted killer Christa Gail Pike.
Pike is on Tennessee's death row for killing Martinez's daughter, Colleen Slemmer, in a brutal attack on the University of Tennessee's agricultural campus in January 1995. Slemmer was just 19; Pike, 18. The two were fellow students at the now-defunct Job Corps program in Fort Sanders, Tenn., and romantic rivals.
Pike, with the help of two fellow Job Corps classmates, lured Slemmer to a secluded spot on the campus and then subjected the Florida teen to a torturous attack, taunting her, beating her, slicing her with a boxcutter, carving a Pentagram on her chest and, finally, repeatedly bashing her head with a brick. Pike even took a souvenir -- a piece of Slemmer's skull.
The youngest woman ever sentenced to death in Tennessee, Pike has proved anything but remorseful. Just this week, authorities announced the arrests of two men, including a former guard at the Tennessee Prison for Women where Pike is housed, she allegedly recruited to help her escape.
In 2004, she was convicted of setting a prison fire to ensure she was temporarily housed with Knoxville, Tenn., killer Patricia Jones, whom she tried to choke to death as revenge for Jones' interest in Pike's prison paramour -- another East Tennessee ritual killer.
Pike has Internet sites devoted to her, books written about her and people like Gein who are drawn to and profiting either from her or, as Martinez alleges, with her.
"She sends him all this stuff to sell and make a profit," Martinez said in an interview March 22. "She's not supposed to be making any money but she is."
Gein denied in an interview the same day that he shares his profits with Pike. But he is unapologetic of his Serial Killers Ink website, through which he hawks what he dubs "murderabilia" he's obtained from dozens of killers nationwide.
"The items I sell, the letters from these killers, do indeed have social value," he said.
The forty-something Gein, who also lives in Jacksonville, says his fascination with killers began in his early youth.
"In a very strong and powerful way, I felt as if I could easily fit the mold," he told an online interviewer.
So, he began corresponding with killers, including the likes of John Wayne Gacy and Richard Ramirez, and, eventually, selling whatever they provided in return. He met Pike in 1997. She was, in his words, "a hottie."
In 2002, the pair planned to marry -- a marriage of convenience that would allow Gein the rights to Pike's story should she be executed. The romance fizzled, though, when Pike's execution was repeatedly delayed.
Now, Gein sells their love letters and anything else Pike sends him on his website. In those letters, Pike continues to fantasize about killing.
Gein says he has a "vast customer base," including professors, "psychologists, police officers and soccer moms." His prices range from $40 for a postcard from Pike to $250 for an "audio letter."
Martinez discovered Gein's website much like she found out her daughter's skull was being stored as evidence -- by happenstance.
"I'm always checking websites on Christa," she said. "I just came across it and was totally blown away."
She confronted Gein, who is pictured on one website brandishing a shotgun, tattoos covering his arms and a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
"He (said) he doesn't have to take it down. He can do what he wants," she said.
Gein accuses Martinez of "stalking" and says detractors of his website "remind me of socialism or, worse, Nazism."
With wounds still fresh over her battle with Gein and her years-long fight to have her daughter's skull, used as an exhibit at Pike's trial, returned to her, Martinez was not surprised to learn of Pike's alleged escape plot.
"A death sentence is not really justice," she said. "If they are going to put her to death, they need to do it now."
Pike's case is lingering in the state appellate court system. An execution date has not been set.
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