Killer gloats over crime on the Internet


Birmingham - Mary Kate Gach thought she had heard the last of Jack Trawick when he went to death row for murdering her daughter in 1992.

Instead, Trawick's twisted writings about how he beat, strangled and stabbed Stephanie Gach and killed other women are available to anyone who wants to read them on the Internet. Many of the writings were put there by a one-time pen pal and admirer of Trawick's.

The killer even taunts Mary Kate Gach by name.

"I'm mad as hell," she said. Those people don't even have a right to speak my name or my child's name. There's got to be a way to keep them from funneling this stuff out of prisons."

Around the country, dozens of United States death row inmates have had their letters and artwork posted on the Internet, a practice that torments the victims' grieving friends and relatives.

"It's going on all over," said Nancy Ruhe, executive director of Parents of Murdered Children in Cincinnati. "People say to me all the time, 'When are these (victims) going to get over it?' They can't."

Experts say little can be done about websites featuring the writings of killers.

"It's the First Amendment," which covers freedom of speech, Ruhe acknowledged.

Typically, material from inmates makes it onto the Internet through an intermediary. Prisoners send letters to people or companies on the outside, where it is then posted online.

Alabama prison officials say it appears Trawick stopped sending out new stories about murder after Gach's mother and others complained last year. But Trawick's old writings are still on the Web, along with gruesome drawings of murdered women.

In one letter posted on the Internet, Trawick revelled in the Gach slaying.

"I would do the whole thing again knowing death row was waiting for me," Trawick, 56, wrote from Holman Prison.

Trawick confessed to kidnapping Gach, 21, from a shopping mall in 1992. He took her to an isolated area where he beat her with a hammer, strangled her and stabbed her through the heart.

Gach's body was thrown off an embankment, where it was found the next day. Trawick was convicted in 1994, and he was convicted the next year in the slaying of Aileen Pruitt, 27, killed about four months before Gach.

Trawick has yet to exhaust his appeals, and no date has been set for his execution.

Gach's mother avoids listening to anything about Trawick. But it hurts her to know he has a worldwide platform for his sadistic prose.

Free-speech protections prevent prison officials from blocking inmates' outgoing mail unless it presents a security risk or involves a crime in progress, said Amy Fettig, an attorney in Washington with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project.

"Certainly I would understand victims being upset, and prison officials have a right to read mail," she said. But "just saying nasty things or having bad opinions is not a crime."

In one test of inmates' rights, a federal judge in May struck down as unconstitutional an Arizona law that made it illegal for state inmates to send out material to be posted on websites. The judge ruled the law was not "rationally related to legitimate penological objectives."

In Alabama, Gach and other victims' relatives met with the state prisoner commissioner last year to protest inmate websites. Corrections spokesperson Brian Corbett said Trawick's mail was screened extra closely for a time, but his writings have reappeared in new postings in recent weeks.

"I'm in shock. I feel like I have been here before," said Mary Kate Gach. -Sapa-AP


sign up
 

Join us on

IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks

Business Directory