We’ve come to know our serial killers over the years. It’s hard not to. Especially after binging Mindhunter in, like, a day. Amirite?
In our bizarre, masochistic desire to drown ourselves in the minds of Ed Kemper and Kendall Francois, we’ve learned that serial killers can be anyone from anywhere. We’ve come to view the serial killer as the hiding-in-plain-sight type of creep, the one with the charming personality, but with cold, expressionless eyes.
We might chuckle at those who say in TV news interviews that “he was such a nice guy.” They always think he’s a nice guy. Dennis Rader was a “nice guy.” Paul Bernardo was a “nice guy.” Ted Bundy was a “nice guy.”
Take a look at any of their mugshots. Do any of them look like a nice guy? Of course, they don’t. Who looks like a nice guy in a mugshot? All of these men: Rader, Bernardo, Bundy, Dahmer, Manson, you name them, might all pass as “normal,” but they all look intimidating in some form or another.
Rader looks cold. Bernardo looks sadistic. Bundy looks crazed. Manson looks, you know, friggin nuts. Being nice, friendly, charming, sociable, etc. are all expected traits of a serial killer. Nobody here is surprised to learn that the serial killer next door was a “nice guy.”
But what if you were to hear of a killer who was pathetic? What if you looked upon the mugshot of a serial murderer and felt pity? Not genuine pity, apathetic pity.
Take a look at the mugshot of Ronald Joseph Dominique and tell me that isn’t a sad, pathetic man.
Born 1964 in Thibodaux, Lousiana, Ronald Joseph Dominique was described by those who knew him as a short, overweight man who walked with a cane. Bullied in high school for his soft, meek personality that was likely accentuated by his flamboyant homosexuality, Dominique was an unassuming, tubby man who never amounted to anything in his life.
Throughout his life, Dominique was bullied, criticized, or ostracized. No community seemed to welcome him with open arms. Not the gay community, the straight community, or the community writ large grew to find Dominique appealing. He never kept a regular job, moving from manual labor gig to gig over the years.
And then trouble with the law started.
On August 25, 1996, Dominique was arrested on forcible rape charges. It isn’t surprising that a conventionally unattractive man such as Dominique resorted to prostitutes in order to enjoy sex. Part of what Dominique enjoyed in his interactions was binding his partner. S&M isn’t exactly unheard of in the 90s, so why not?
According to witnesses, a half-naked young man escaped from Dominique’s Thibodaux home screaming that he had tried to kill him. He claimed that he had been tied up by Dominique and forced to have sex with him. After refusing to have sex, Dominique began to strangle him until the young man eventually escaped.
Though the victim ended up not pursuing charges, Dominique still had to spend some time in jail. While incarcerated, the gentle, pathetic Dominique was subjected to severe beatings from fellow inmates. They could smell the weakness on him.
Upon release, Dominique vowed to never to return to jail ever again. In order to avoid jail, he’d have to eliminate witnesses.
In 1997, the first bodies were found. 19-year-old David Levron Mitchell was found in a shallow canal by a water treatment plant in Hahnville without shoes and his pants pulled down his ankles. His death was determined to be asphyxiation by drowning.
Six months later, 20-year-old Gary Pierre was found in St. Charles Parish. In July 1998, 38-year-old Larry Ranson was found in the same parish. Over the following nine years, more and more bodies of men ranging in age from 19 to 40 would be found dumped in sugarcane fields, bayous, and in remote ditches.
A similarity in 23 of the murders led police to believe that they were the victims of a serial killer. “The Bayou Serial Killer”, as he became known.
In March 2005 a task force was formed to investigate the 23 victims who were primarily homeless men who led high-risk lifestyles which included drug-use and prostitution. All of the victims had been asphyxiated or strangled with some of them raped. Many of the bodies had been redressed post-mortem.
On December 1, 2006, thanks to a tip, police arrested Dominique and charged him with the murder and rape of 19-year-old Manuel Reed and 27-year-old Oliver Lebanks. While in custody, Dominique confessed to the rape and murder of at least 23 men over a 10-year period starting in 1997.
Like so many serial killers before him, Dominique targeted society’s undesirables, wayward kids and homeless drug addicts willing to do anything for a buck. He would persuade his victims to have sex for money back at his trailer. On one condition. They would have to be bound.
If the intended victim was homosexual, binding was an easier sell. If the intended victim was heterosexual, Dominique would show them a photo of an attractive woman, his non-existent wife, who was “shy” and wanted her partners bound. Once the victim agreed, they were helpless. Dominique would rape then strangle or smother them, then dump their body in one of six parishes all over southern Louisiana.
Dominique’s sad demeanor along with his intended targets and method of dumping the bodies all contributed to nearly eight years of remaining undiscovered. No one thought Dominique was too charming to be a serial killer, they thought he was too pathetic.
He was charged with multiple cases of rape and first-degree murder. During interrogation, Dominique would cry and claim that he only killed his 23+ victims because he felt threatened by them. He was afraid that he was going to be raped or strangled, arguing that he was the victim and that he was acting out of self-defense.
Forensic evidence, however, would show that none of Dominique’s victims displayed any physical signs of struggle. Despite his tears, Dominique was still facing murder charges and a possible death sentence.
In order to avoid the death penalty, Dominique pled guilty to the charges. He is currently incarcerated at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.