Earle Nelson, The Gorilla Killer, Terrorized The 1920’s as The First Known Serial Sex Murderer of The Century
Earle Leonard Nelson was born on May 12, 1897, in an abusive home. He received the monikers of “The Dark Strangler” and eventually “The Gorilla Killer” for his heinous crimes. His grandmother raised Earle after both his parents died of syphilis when he turned two-years-old. Earle Nelson quickly became a convict and trouble-maker, eventually beginning a killing rampage that spanned both United States and Canada.
Earle killed his first victim, landlady Clara Newman, on February 20th, 1926. Newman was an older lady who met Nelson after he inquired about her attic room for rent. They found her beaten and strangled in the vacant attic room. Nelson had even committed necrophilia on Clara Newman after she passed away.
Earle Nelson was suffering from both syphilis and a serious head injury sustained when he was only 11 years old. The head injury permanently damaged his brain after he crashed his bicycle into a passing streetcar. Nelson would complain of frequent headaches, memory loss, and doctors would contribute his sexual deviancy to this earlier head injury. Earle spent several years in a mental institution before escaping.
They nearly caught Earle after luring a 12-year-old girl, Mary Summers, to her parent’s basement. Mary’s older brother thwarted the attack and severely beat Earle, who was later taken into custody and re-admitted to a mental institution. Staff when his condition “improved” discharged Nelson, but would brutally murder nearly twenty-five helpless victims.
On May 19th, 1921, Earle was posing as a plumber in the home of 12-year-old Mary Summers in San Francisco. He found her playing in the basement and strangled her. However, his plan was ruined when Mary’s brother saw him. Her brother protected her as Nelson got away. He got arrested later that day.
On January 13, 1929, they hung Earle Leonard Nelson for his crimes, struggling for eleven minutes because of an improper noose knot. His last words were, “I am innocent. I stand innocent before God and man. I forgive those who have wronged me and ask forgiveness of those I have injured. God have mercy!”
“Murder just isn’t possible for a man of my high Christian ideals.” – Earle Leonard Nelson