The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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Gretzler, Douglas, and Steelman, William Luther
A native of the Bronx, born in 1951, Doug Gretzler was drifting aimlessly around the country when he met 28-year-old Willie Steelman on October 11, 1973. Once committed to a mental institution, Steelman had compiled a lengthy record of arrests around Lodi, California, serving prison time on conviction of forgery. He recognized a kindred soul on sight, and soon the men became inseparable, trolling the Southwest in their search for victims , stealing to finance their travels and Steelman's heroin addiction.
On October 28, 1973, they invaded a house trailer near Mesa, Arizona, binding l9-year-old Robert Robbins and 18-year-old Katherine Mestiter, then shooting both victims to death. Drifting into Tucson, they killed 19-year-old Gilbert Sierra and dumped his body in the desert, doubling back to murder Michael and Patricia Sandberg in their Tucson apartment. On the Superstition Desert, Gretzler and Steelman found victim number six, leaving his body in the sleeping bag where he was shot to death. In Phoenix, the killers abducted Michael Adshade and Ken Unrein, both 22, dumping their nude bodies in a creek bed near Oakdale, California, rolling north in their stolen van.
Authorities in Arizona had already issued warrants for Gretzler and Steelman by the time they reached Victor, California, 40 miles south of Sacramento, on November 6. Walter and Joanne Parkin went bowling that night, leaving their two children -- Lisa, 11, and Robert, 9 -- in the care of 18-year-old neighbor Debra Earl. In the course of the evening, Debra's parents dropped by to visit, along with brother Richard and her fiancee, 20-year-old Mark Lang. When the Parkins got home, they found a full house -- including two strangers with guns.
Carol Jenkins, a house guest of the Parkins, returned from a date around 3 a.m. and went directly to bed, taking the silent house for granted at that hour of the morning. Near dawn, she was roused from sleep by two friends of Mark Lang, who had spent the night trying to find him. Jenkins started a search of her own, stopping short when she found Walter and Joanne Parkin in the master bedroom, shot to death execution-style.
Deputies responding to the call found seven more bodies jammed in the bedroom's walk-in closet. Victims had been gagged with neckties, bound with nylon cord -- secured with as many as six knots in places -- before they were massacred. In all, medical examiners would remove 25 slugs from nine bodies, plus one stray from Bob Parkin's pillow.
Police published mug shots of Steelman, and Willie was recognized when he checked into a Sacramento hotel on November 8. Police descended on the scene and both gunmen were swiftly arrested, booked on nine charges of first-degree murder. Gretzler cracked under interrogation, directing police to the scattered bodies of other victims while Steelman kept silent, refusing to enter a plea on the charges. In June 1974, Gretzler pled guilty to nine counts of murder, while Steelman submitted his case to a judge and was promptly convicted. On July 8, both defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
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