His use of language appalled me.
Even as it awed me.
He was a 20-year old loser, previously convicted of sex with an underage girl, in my sights for sex with more underage girls, for sexually explicit contact via text, for setting up young girls for meetings, for whatever else I could think of.
And yet as I read his 28,492 text messages from that three month period between when he was released from jail after serving his first conviction and when I picked him up for playing basketball on school grounds and began my investigation, I couldn’t help but be horrified and amazed by what he’d done.
Understand that there were so many text conversations it was impossible to keep track of them individually. Every test was presented to me in chronological order. So one conversation might be texts 1, 4, 15, and 53 while a second conversation was texts 2,6, 38, and 103.
I had a programmer friend, Jim Van Fleet, write me a program that separated out each conversation. He gave me a file for each phone number and made it incredibly easy to follow each conversation. But he also gave me a master file that he programmed to be color-coded. The conversations were all jumbled together in chronological order, but were identifiable by color.
What rocked my socks when I looked at the color-coded file was how many conversations my offender could juggle at any given time. Put this fucker in Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey, juggling burning things and he’d make a mint! He was bouncing between four, five, seven, ten young women at once.
What stunned me was that every conversation was somewhere different. One girl he’d just met, while another he’d known for a few months and still others he’d known for years. His conquest had a very specific trajectory and he knew where every girl was on that trajectory.
Not once did he get confused about who was who and who was where.
I immediately understood the trajectory when I noticed the patterns in his use of language. Crouched and hidden in the middle of all these seemingly random conversations –
(…u goin 2 skool 2day….)
(…go bowling 2night….)
(…gotta wk w/dad 2mrw….)
– were very particular phrases that I began to see repeated with every girl. Subtle at first, then more explicit as the girls responded favorably, until he was asking them to sext him and send him pictures so that he could get off.
Long before he got to the size of his unit and the size of their breasts, he spoke of romance and roses. Each girl was the girl of his dreams, each was the one he wanted to spend his entire life with. Every girl was the only recipient of the secret knowledge of his three month stay in jail.
They were all guinea pigs, too. This guy would try a phrase or a question with one girl. If she responded the way he wanted, he’d then apply that same question or phrase with all the girls. If she didn’t respond how he wanted, the question was gone…never to be seen again.
Yet even within those repeated questions, he tweaked language. Subtler, sleeker, with power words at the ends of the questions rather than buried in the middle and surrounded by pointless verbiage.
Those questions and phrases, though, were designed for young girls who had mental challenges, who were from broken homes with little parental support, who were victims of previous sexual abuse. Thus his language was intended specifically to allay their fears and offer them a vision of how they believed life should be.
In one case, my guy texted an adult woman, her number given him by his enabling mother. He used the same language with her, the same conversation trajectory, and couldn’t understand why it didn’t work.
It was because this woman saw the train wreck coming. She’d been around the block a time or two, had probably heard these lines when she was in junior high school, and knew precisely where his texts about working out in jail and “getting bigger” were leading.
And she was right. With the younger girls, his funny, joking texts about exercising and getting bigger invariably led (in as straight a fucking line as I’ve ever seen) to texts about his cock getting bigger while in jail.
The older woman shut him down immediately and never answered his texts again.
The younger girls, being on the harsh side of desperate for contact and for male attention, never stopped answering him.
He took the young girls from general questions to specific questions, from general statements to specific questions, used poetry along the way, and kept them on the string.
Don’t get me wrong…Shakespeare this fucker ain’t. His use of language was a clunky, high school level use of language, but for those particular girls (girls he sought specifically, I believe, because they did have emotion and mental issues) the language was beautiful.
One of his victims, a 14-year old girl who I interviewed five times, told me repeatedly that he loved her more than anyone had ever loved her. She got angry at me, cried at me, yelled at me, told me to fuck off constantly, stormed out of interviews (and when she did finally tell everything, it wasn’t to me).
But she could quote many of his texts verbatim. The promise of forever, the promise of a marriage, the promise of love, the poems, the promise of a ring (which he did eventually buy her and reminded her of constantly in later texts). She could recite so many of those texts off the top of her head it made me want to throw up.
(There is nothing so sad as interviewing a 14-year old at her school, in a counselor’s office, while the victim eats lunch, and listening to her recite bad love poetry as though it is the key to the universe.)
But in all his manipulation of language, I found the key to him. I used his use of language to try and get him to tell me everything. While I don’t think he ever did, I managed to get quite a bit…including his admission of having sex with the 14-year old.
So for the next five years, he’ll be using his language in the Illinois State Prison, though I don’t think it’ll go over as well as it did with those young girls. In fact, I suspect he’ll get an entirely different reaction.