Is Jack Trawick Still A ... Menace To Society?
By Taylor Bright
Source: Birmingham Post-Herald
Date: January 15, 2004
Jack Trawick has been locked up on death row in Holman Prison in south Alabama for eight years.
Yet through the Internet, the man who has been convicted of killing two Alabama women and who says he
has killed more is tormenting his victims' families and, with a helper, preaching his murderous gospel to the world.
A Web site devoted to Trawick has left families enraged, authorities seething and the site's caretaker smug under the free speech protections of the FirstAmendment.
"I'm going to turn him into an international superstar now. I'll make sure of that," wrote the maker of the site, Neil O'Connor, 23, of Mount Laurel, N.J. to a critic of the site. "Try and stop me^; I look forward to it."
Alabama prison authorities vow they will prevent Trawick from sending any more of his disturbing writings to O'Connor. But they and everyone else appear powerless to shut down the Web site.
Unlike many sites set up for death row inmates, which often are used for claims of innocence or denouncing the death penalty, the Trawick site allows him to revel in his killings.
"It's disgusting," said Laura Petro, the prosecutor who sent Trawick to death row. "Just sickening."
On the site, Trawick has an imaginary conversation with his last victim, Stephanie Gach, a college student whom he abducted from Eastwood Mall and killed in 1992:
"Was it really worth it? It was for me (a smiley face is included). I would do the whole thing again knowing death row was waiting for me. Watching you die was (is) worth it all."
On the second page of the Web site, Trawick writes, "Trawick philosophy 101: Never rape a woman without killing her. Never kill a woman without raping her. Eventually a raped female will tell someone."
Under the heading, "Jack Gives a Female Fan Rape/Murder Advice," Trawick says, "Murder is deliciously, deliciously delightful."
Trawick tells Britney Spears, "no security is absolute," and then asks her to write him "ASAP." "Please send some lingerie photos," he asks.
On one link, he says he saw the movie "Enough" with Jennifer Lopez, who plays an abused wife in the movie who gets revenge on her ex-husband. Trawick says he would like to tie her up and "do the nasty" with her. He tells O'Connor, "You may enjoy seeing her slapped around."
Trawick also describes, in detail, killing his victims.
Trawick was sentenced to die in 1994 for Gach's killing and was convicted of killing Frances Aileen Pruitt in eastern Birmingham in 1995. He also made a credible confession in the 1972 killing of Betty Jo Richards, 17, of Quinton, but he was not prosecuted because he already had been sentenced to die.
O'Connor, who said he is fascinated with serial killers, said he began writing Trawick in November 2001. O'Connor took the letters he received from Trawick and put them on the Internet in September.
Three months and 12,000 hits to the site later, O'Connor continues to write Trawick and post the letters.
Most of what is on the site cannot be printed in the newspaper. "It's horrid," said Brian Corbett, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections.
O'Connor is unapologetic for the site.
"I like Jack. I think Jack is a literary genius," O'Connor said in a telephone interview from his home in Mount Laurel, a small suburb near Philadelphia. "I think he is a Marquis de Sade of the 21st Century."
O'Connor said he is not responsible for what Trawick writes or whether it affects someone else.
"If someone sick reads the Web site and goes out and acts on something they read, it's their fault," he said. "They would have done it one way or the other. It's not up to me to hide what Jack has to say to those people."
The site has incensed Mary Kate Gach, the mother of Stephanie Gach.
"I don't want this monster to have publicity anyhow or anywhere until the day he is executed," Gach said.
Gach said she wouldn't look at the Web site.
"He can't hurt her anymore^; he can't hurt me anymore," Gach said.
Gach's lawyer was more direct about the Web site.
"He's riding a rocket to hell," said David Cromwell Johnson. "If that's where he wants to go, more power to him."
Johnson died from natural causes last week.
Petro said the site is "criminal or sure as hell ought to be criminal."
But there appears to be little the authorities can do about the site. Don Pember, an expert on the First Amendment, said there is little people can do to restrict what is on the Internet.
Pember, author of "Mass Media Law" (William C. Brown Publishers), which includes chapters on the First Amendment and obscenity, said people can post "pretty much anything" on the Web.
More than likely, Pember said, the site, even though it details rape and murder, would not be considered obscene, according to the law.
Pember said the Internet has the same freedoms as printed matter. The difference, he said, is newspapers and book publishers exercise more standards on themselves than most Internet operators.
"It's not that they couldn't publish these things, it's that they wouldn't publish these things," Pember said.
Arizona legislators made it illegal for inmates to write to anyone who publishes their letters on the Internet, but the American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the law as an infringement of free speech.
John Hagerty, spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, said while the O'Connor's site may be unappealing, there would be no reason for them to act, especially since the Web site host is in Florida. Florida officials said they had looked at the site and decided there was nothing illegal about it.
"We do not see a criminal violation in that Web site," said Bob Breeden, a special agent supervisor with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "As distasteful as it is, it's protected under the First Amendment."
But Hagerty said the division would advise Spears' management and Jennifer Lopez's management of the threats being made to them by Trawick.
O'Connor said he runs the site because he has had a fascination with serial killers since he was a boy. He said the site also helps alleviate sometimes violent thoughts that go through his head that come with his obsessive-compulsive disorder.
"I've always been an animal lover," O'Connor said in the telephone interview. "I have four very cute cats. The cutest of the cats a lot of times I just think about stomping on it until her eyes pop out of her head. It (the Web site) alleviates it a bit."
Officials with the Alabama Department of Corrections said they would prevent Trawick from writing any more graphic letters to O'Connor, who runs the site from his home.
Trawick has agreed not to send O'Connor any more of his graphic letters after he was called into a meeting with Holman Warden Grantt Culliver, said Brian Corbett, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections.
Corbett said the correspondence could be prohibited if it disclosed a breach in security or did not fall in line with Trawick's "rehabilitation goals."
"We are going to put a stop to it somehow, some way because it's nothing but trash," Corbett said.
Police Probe Trawick Claims Of More Victims
The Birmingham Police Department plans to interview Jack Trawick, already convicted of killing two Birmingham women, about new claims he has made that he killed several other women. The claims were made on a Web site run by New Jersey resident Neil O'Connor. The site is filled with writings sent to O'Connor by Trawick from death row in Holman Correctional Facility in south Alabama.
"We'll definitely look into that. We'll go down to the prison," said Sgt. Scott Praytor in the Birmingham police homicide department. "We're going to follow up on it and see if we can clear some homicides."
Trawick was convicted in 1994 of killing Stephanie Gach, 21, and in 1995 of killing Aileen Pruitt, 27. Both were from Birmingham. He also confessed to the 1972 killing of Betty Jo Richards of Quinton, located just over the Jefferson County line in Walker County.
On the Web site, Trawick said he had killed Dr. Virginia Bryant, Michelle Thomas and Susan Hill. He also claims to have killed another woman by the name of Kim and a nameless mother and daughter.
The Birmingham Post-Herald tried to find any record of the women through its archives, Internet searches and talks with law enforcement officials, but could find no information about them.
Laura Petro, the Jefferson County deputy district attorney who prosecuted Trawick, said Trawick's new confessions are "complete and utter garbage. He always wants to make Jack Trawick bigger and better."
Petro said Trawick made similar claims while he was awaiting trial for Gach's murder, but, outside of the Richards case, authorities found nothing to substantiate his claims.
"He does a lot of ranting and raving," Coppage said.
Praytor said the only way to find out if Trawick is telling the truth is to try and match details from his stories with what the police know about the cases.
"Sometimes they (suspects) try and confess crimes they did not commit," Praytor said.
Petro said Trawick's confession in the Richards case was credible enough that she believes he committed the murder, even though he was never tried in the case. On the two murders for which he was convicted, Trawick was given the death penalty and a sentence of life without parole.
In his new claims, Trawick provides the most detailed description in his depiction of the murder of Bryant, who Trawick said was on Highland Avenue in Birmingham when he abducted, raped and murdered her.
He is vague about the rape and murder of the mother and daughter, and the only detail given about Michelle Thomas is that she was pregnant when he murdered her.
Trawick has told O'Connor he has killed as many as 14 people, but has not given names or details of all of those killings.
^macro[showdigestcomments;^uri;Is Jack Trawick Still A ... Menace To Society?]