by EJ Flynn
When my editor told me to go after this story I thought he was nuts. I was six months on the paper and a virtual nobody. I figured I would put my request in and be denied. Instead, I was immediately invited in.
I was escorted into a room with a metal table and two chairs. I was allowed to ask five questions. I could bring in my questions and a recorder they provided. I quickly jotted down five questions and ripped the page out of my notebook. I didn’t have time to be terrified, or wrap my head around the fact I was about to interview one of the most prolific serial killers in US history armed with only five questions.
Seth McAvoy, the 12 Days Killer, murdered a reported seventy-eight people across the US. The nightmare started on Christmas Eve at midnight mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Two bodies were discovered the next day, three the following and so on until the twelfth day when they found him alive and eleven dead under a church in Hamlin, NY.
He lived among them in the small town for over a year as Father Andrews traveling the country to different churches where he found his victims.
Now, he wore an orange jumpsuit, shackled at the wrists and ankles. He sat down, tented his hands and smiled at me.
He looked so normal, handsome, non-threatening. I told him my name and what newspaper I was from. He continued to smile but said nothing. I cleared my throat, pressed record, and began.
Me: What do you want out of life?
Seth: This is a simple question. I want nothing but to find peace.
His voice was smooth and even. I wasn’t sure what to do with that answer. I moved on.
Me: What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever done?
Seth: I have done many things people may think of as mean. Most everything I’ve done has had purpose. Something mean is when it doesn’t serve a purpose for the betterment of yourself or the person you’re being mean to. I suppose raping Vicki was the meanest thing I’ve ever done. It was for revenge, not to help her understand the wrong she had done, or the evil person she was.
I knew Vicki was Victoria Ward one of the victims from Hamlin where he ended his fifteen year killing spree. Her husband and daughter were found with her. I read the next question.
Me: Have you ever killed anyone?
I realized once I said it, in my haste I wrote down the wrong question. I meant to write, “how many people have you actually killed?” but it was too late to fix it at that point. He looked confused. I smiled nervously. I was about to correct myself when he answered.
Seth: Yes, as most know, I’ve killed many people. Seventy-eight is what is reported. There have definitely been more. I can’t remember where I put the discarded ones, which of course frustrates people very much. It was unavoidable. As with most things, I made mistakes in the beginning. I had to hone my skills. I had to figure out how much pain the human body could take before it gave up, how to preserve the bodies for later discovery. A small mistake in the carvings ruined the entire body, I would have to start over. But it was part of the process.
I recalled a picture of his victims carved with scripture. His matter of fact tone was unnerving. I shivered and moved on hoping he wouldn’t notice.
Me: Have you ever been in love?
Seth: Yes, I have definitely been in love. I loved Ren. I was very much in love with her. I never stopped loving her even after she betrayed me. When I found her again with plans to make her part of my salvation, she almost changed my mind. I almost left it all for her. I still love her now and miss her very much.
Ren was Karen O’Neill. Found on the twelfth day along with her son Jasper, Seth’s brothers; Connor O’Neill, Hamlin’s Sheriff Jack O’Neill, Seth’s biological parents, Sheriff O’Neill’s wife and daughter, Jonathan, Vicki and Alexis Ward. The eleven victims were found staged at a dinner table in the most macabre way with Seth at the head.
Me: Show me your scars.
Seth: In all honesty, I was getting bored with your questions until now. This, this is smart. I can’t show you my internal scars, though there are many. I have a scar for every soul I’ve given peace to. I have scars from my father’s suicide, and from my mother, my beautiful mother, and how she died. I have scars from my children I knew nothing about until it was too late. I have scars from Ren and the baby she carried that will never know life.
My physical scars are fewer and farther between. Most have faded to nothing. The physical scars heal quicker and far more easily than the profound scars left on the heart, soul and psyche. I am who I am because of these scars. I’ve done what I’ve done because of them and the people who caused them.
If you wish to understand me, you must understand these scars. I don’t truly expect anyone to ever comprehend my process or my reasons. You can take everything apart, and psychoanalyze it piece by piece, and still never fully understand simply because you’re not me.
You don’t get to pick your life, your parents, your siblings. These are where the true scars come from. My father was insane. He slit his throat in front of me and told me he did it because of me. I poisoned my mother thinking I was killing Santa Claus because he couldn’t bring my father back. I was horribly abused in the foster home the system placed me in. But those scars didn’t turn me.
I was saved by the O’Neill’s when they adopted me. I was part of a real family, I had brothers who took care of me. It was blissful, for a while.
High School was torture. I didn’t fit in. I was bullied and alone. Then a miracle happened. The girl I adored, Vicki, broke up with her boyfriend. I asked her out and she said yes. But the only reason she said yes was so she and her friends could play the most unthinkable prank at my expense. That was the beginning, a deep scar.
I escaped Hamlin to college where I met Ren. She stole my heart the first time I allowed my eyes to look up and see her. She showed me there was life beyond Hamlin. But she too crushed my soul when she left me for my brother Connor. Another scar.
I ran from that pain and found the church and the real Father Andrews. My mentor, my guide. He helped me control the rage, the darkness. Helped me forgive. Then he too turned on me. He took advantage of me in the worst possible way. So, I killed him. I put my hands around his throat and squeezed until I watched the life leave his eyes.
I can pinpoint my final breaking point to that moment, the deepest scar.
I decided to become him. His voice and guidance still alive in my mind, despite what he did to me, he continued to show me the way.
Circumstances beyond my control did not allow me to complete my work exactly as I had intended. If I had I wouldn’t be able to tell you about these scars.
The news of Vicki’s daughter being mine and Ren’s son also being mine, these things rocked me to the core. Learning who they were to each other, the abomination they became, not knowing they were brother and sister. All because of their mothers. These scars were all unexpected. Ren telling me she was pregnant right before launching herself onto my knife. I had a moment of clarity that I might have been able to have a life with her. But she killed that too leaving the harshest of scars.
In the end, I gave them all peace and was not able to find my own. I guess that’s my punishment for everything, living with these scars. I find salvation here though, through prayer, I counsel and spread the word of God to my fellow inmates. It doesn’t take the scars away and I suppose I wouldn’t want them to, after all, they are my scars and why I am me.
Again I felt a shiver. My time was up and my questions were asked and answered. I thanked him. He smiled at me, they took him away. It was a lot to digest. Hearing the story through his eyes. I had no idea a question about scars would be the most important. This was going to be the story of a lifetime.