By the time he was 16, Montie Ralph Rissell had been convicted of robbery and rape, had been in and out of mental institution and juvenile homes and was about to stand trial for attempting to rob a women at knife-point in an apartment near his own Alexandria home.
Two years later, Rissell is accused of mudering five Northern Virginia women within the last five months who either worked or lived near the Holmes Run apartment complex in Alexandria.
Rissell is the product of two broken homes, intense dislike for his father and stepfather and an inability to cope with reality, according to psychiatrists who have tried to determine what happened to the "engaging and charming" youth whose criminal activity began at age 12.
Rissell's first seven years of life at his birthplace, Wellington, Kan., were "relatively stable," according to his probation reports filed in Alexandria Circuit Court.
When Rissell was 7, his parents, William L. Rissell, now a Postal Service manager, and his wife Roberta were separated. They were divorced three years later.
Mrs. Rissell then married Milbert (Hank) Hindery, who took the family to Sacremento, Calif. But Rissell disliked Hindery as much as his father, court records showed. Because of that, Rissell's mother divorced Hindery two years later, in 1970, according to the records and moved back to the Washington area.
"(Rissell) has not had the benefit of consistant male supervision and reports that he did not have good relationships with either his father or his stepfather," according to one probation report. Rissel said "his father had 'high expectations' on him and that he 'revolted' against this," the report said.
Rissell was an average student, according to probation reports, but was charged, at age 12, with "habits and behavior injurious to his welfare" in connection with an incident in which he allegedly broke into an apartment and took property worth $100.
Nine days later he was charged with disrupting classes at Alexandria's John Adams Middle School, where he was a student. He was again placed on probation.
In 1971, Rissell was charged with stealing $27 and a cash box from the Hamlet Pool Community Club near his home. A month after that he was charged with stealing a car, again from near his home. Disposition of both cases was superseded by his guilty plea to robbery and rape of a woman on April 16, 1973, who lived in the same apartment building where he lived, at 487 N. Armistead St., the records show.
On Sept. 9, 1973, Rissell was committed to the custody of State Department of Welfare and Institutions.
"Psychiatric and psychological evaluations of Montie indicated he was a disturbed youth who was desperately in need of intensive therapy in a closed setting," his probation officer wrote at the time Rissell became a ward of the state.
Rissell later was placed in Variety Children's Hospital in Miami, from Feb. 5, 1974, through Aug. 29, 1975. Variety said Rissell "needed to continue psychotherapy at least weekly on an out-patient basis and his mother should be actively involved."
Less than two weeks after his release from Variety, Rissell was arrested for the attempted for the robbery of a woman who lived near his Alexandria apartment.
At that point, Alexandria court officials decided Rissell was no longer a juvenile, even though he was still 17.He would have to face the charges as an adult.
Rissell "has received all forms of treatment available to the juvenile court," his probation officer wrote to the court. "He has been on probation, he has been committed to the State Department of Corrections and he has received intense psychiatric treatment in an in-patient setting.
"He is not committable to an institution for the mentally retarded or mentally ill and the best interests of the community requires that (Rissell) be placed under legal restrains or discipline."
Rissell's 27-year-old brother, Harold, who left home for college and the military service when Montie was 10, said yesterday he was surprised at the change in his brother when he came home.
"When I left, Montie was just a kid," the older Rissell said. "When I came back, he was already in trouble and it was too late."
Montie Rissell pleaded guilty to the attempted robbery charge and was given a five-year suspended sentence by Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Wiley R. Wright Jr.
He was also sentenced to probation for five years and ordered to continue his psychiatric therapy with Dr. Richard A. Ratner, a private psychiatrist in the District. Rissell had been seeing Ratner since his release from Variety.
From February until April, 1976, when he was sentenced by Wright, Rissell worked as a waiter at the Pizza Hut on Beauregard Street in the Lincolnia section of Alexandria. His employer said he was a good worker, according to court records.
Ratner found Rissell to be "an engaging young man with considerable charm who has developed a cordial relationship with me," according to letters from Ratner last June to Rissell's lawyer. The letters were written to support Rissell's plea for probation rather than a prison term.
By last fall, rather said Rissell was improving his outlook on life.
Harold Rissell said his brother was an excellent basketball and baseball player, painted pictures hanging in the foyer of his mother's apartment and has two guitars in his poster-laden room.
Rissell pleaded guilty last month to driving while intoxicated in the District on Jan. 15. He was fined $300, but it was suspended because he had no previous convictions or arrests in the District, according to court records.
He also withdrew from T.C. Williams High School last month, where he had been a C and D student, according to a report of his guidance counselor. Rissell told the counselor he left school because "he felt he was not learning and was discouraged by frequent disruptions and disorderly behavior by other students."
Last Friday he was arrested on a felonious assault charge in connection with a fight at a party, police said. Then, two days ago he was named as the suspect in the five killings.
Harold Rissell said his brother is not unusually violent. "No more than you or I. Everybody has a temper. I don't think he drank and fought any more than the average teen-ager."