Isaac Zamora, a notorious spree killer in Washington state, thought he'd made some new friends, his mother said.
But she says they had an odd request -- they asked him to trace the outlines of his hands on sheets of paper, and then sign and date them, and send them to the "friends."
Zamora, who killed six in Skagit County four years ago, did so. His mother, Dennise Zamora, said her son, who is now confined in a state mental hospital after being deemed mentally ill, didn't know better.
Those tracings have turned up for sale on three Internet websites that specialize in "murderabilia" -- souvenirs, artwork and signed items from well-known killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. At serialkillersink.com, Zamora's now-out-of-stock tracings were on sale for $35 apiece. They are $45 each at another website, darkvomit.com.
The family of at least one of Zamora's victims is appalled.
"It's really offensive, to say the least," said Fred Binschus, whose wife, Julie Binschus, was among six people killed by Zamora on Sept. 2, 2008.
In a killing spree that started near his home, Zamora first killed his neighbor Chester Rose and Skagit County sheriff's Deputy Anne Jackson. Down the street, he killed carpenters David Radcliffe and Greg Gillum and then fatally shot Binschus and wounded her husband.
He fled in a stolen pickup toward Interstate 5, where he fired on several people, killing motorist LeRoy Lange and injuring a State Patrol trooper before surrendering.
Zamora, who later told a Skagit County judge that he'd killed "for God," pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the deaths of Rose and Jackson and was committed to Western State Hospital.
A judge has called Zamora "the most mentally ill criminal in the history of Skagit County." His sentence includes the proviso that he will be sent to prison for life should he ever be deemed recovered from his mental illness.
Andy Kahan, a Houston-based victims' advocate who is pushing for laws that would ban killers from profiting from their crimes, alerted The Seattle Times to the Zamora tracings for sale on the Internet.
According to Janelle Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's office, Washington has a law that requires any profits made from the retelling or re-enactment of a crime to go into a crime victims' fund managed by the state Department of Labor & Industries. The law does not prohibit prisoners from selling personal items or memorabilia, she said.
The original "Son of Sam" laws prohibiting criminals from profiting from their crimes, which was enacted in the wake of serial killer David Berkowitz's 1978 slayings in New York City, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.
Kahan, who sits on the board of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, a support group for families of homicide victims, said in a telephone interview that his goal is to shut down the websites that make money off other peoples' tragedies. "It infuriates me," he said. "There is nothing more insidious and despicable than an industry that preys upon the lives of crime victims. It constitutes blood money. I believe in free enterprise and capitalism but this is where the buck needs to stop."
But William Harder, the owner of murderauction.com, where Zamora items are also on sale, said his website did not create the market it serves.
"I didn't make Charles Manson famous; the press and the media did," Harder said. "And the fascination with crime didn't start with me. Back in the Wild West, they would cut up the nooses when they hung prominent people, and nobody complains when the networks make true-crime documentaries and everybody, including the victims, get paid."
"I understand the victims' view and I wish they wouldn't go to my site," said Harder, "but this is America. This country is founded on free speech and free enterprise. If you don't like porn, don't go to a porn site."
Zamora's attorney, C. Wesley Richards, and officials at the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which oversees Western State Hospital, were not aware of the tracings until contacted by The Times. Richards declined to comment.
After Zamora's mother learned about the tracings she checked the websites and confirmed the items did appear genuine. On Tuesday, she said she spoke to her son by phone and he admitted making them.
Zamora told his mother he'd sent the tracings to a "girl" who had written to him.
Others went to someone who claimed he was in the ministry and wanted to use them to pray for Zamora. When Dennise Zamora told her son where they'd turned up and that they were for sale, "it broke his heart," she said.
She said her son told her he is not profiting from the sale of the items.
(Reach reporter Christine Clarridge at cclarridgeseattletimes.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com)