Montie Ralph Rissell, 19, who killed five Northern Virginia women last year, is now trying to make money from the experience by writing a book. "The Trials and Tribulations of Montie R. Rissell."
Rissell is an inmate at the Southampton Correctional Farm where he is serving five life sentences for the murders. He said he is looking for a publisher for his book, which discusses his crimes, his life and offers advice for others.
"I can't say it surprises me," said Fairfax prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. "It's very popular for convicts to write books about criminal activities. It's a sign of the times. People will read it. People will buy it. It disturbs me that someone can make money from the commission of crimes."
It also disturbed Virginia Del. George Grayson (D-Williamsburg) who introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature to deal with the problem. It would require that any profits from books, T-shirts, buttons or other ventures relating to a crime go into a fund for the state's victims of crimes.
"After Watergate people began to cash in on their experiences," Grayson said. "As a matter of public policy, people shouldn't be able to take profit from their crimes."
Grayson's bill was patterned after a similar one passed by the New York legislature, known as the Son of Sam bill. It was intended to prevent the man accused of being the notorious Son of Sam killer from profiting from the deaths of his victims.
Rissell's 461-page handwritten manuscript recounts in detail the five murder and his feelings at the time. The autobiography begins with the murders, his trials his explanation for the killings, his "rebirth" in jail as a Christian and how his trials and problems have influenced others.
The chapter entitled "Reasoning" explains his murder spree: "Drugs were the main factor in it, but it wasn't the cause of it. It was na enticement that increased my sexual fantasies and really made my mind not in thinking order," he wrote.
The book lacks proper grammar, spelling and sentence structure, although he attempts sophisticated prose: "It was in the late evening of Aug. 14. It was cool and breezy out, about 9 o'clock at night," Rissell begins the book, setting the tone for the first murder.
Written on yellow legal paper, the manuscript is the culmination of six months of work while in jail, Rissell said.
The immate said he worked on the book from about 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. each night in his cell with a pillow and photo album propped up on his lap as a desk. He became an avid reader of adventure books "to see how words are phrased or sentences are phrased to get the intensity or the depth of it," Rissell said.
He rewrote four of the chapters four times because he was not satisfied with them. Rissell said. And after his first drawt he rewote the whole book on the advice of Fairfax County Deputy Sheriff Alan Fernandez who told him to try to grip readers at the beginning of the book.
"I told him in writing a book he should start with retails to grab the readers' interest," Fernandez said in a telephone interview. "I gave him the example of the book 'Jaws'. Like in 'Jaws' I told him to find items that would keep you continuing through the book, like when Jaws attacked."
Readers, "especially in this area would have an interest in the book and I think a publisher should have no problem," Fernandez said.
In his forward Rissell said he wrote the book so that he could possibly prevent others from following in his path. But he said he is also looking at the financial rewards. Rissell said if his book is published part of the earnings will go to the victims' families and the rest will be placed into a bank account "until I get out (Rissell is eligible for parole in 20 years) so I can start my life right."