Visitors to the Serial Killer Ink website can buy digital recordings of Charles Manson, the 243-page confession of Jeffrey Dahmer and — recently added — a painting signed by Craigslist killer Richard Beasley.
The painting by Akron native Beasley, now on Ohio’s death row for murdering three men, features a hummingbird on a tree branch bathed in sunlight. The asking price is $200.
The painting is an example of what’s dubbed “murderabilia,” a term describing items for sale on the internet that are tied to the nation’s most infamous criminals.
“It’s a whole macabre business,” said Andy Kahan, a victim advocate in Houston.
Kahan, whose self-appointed side job is tracking and calling attention to murderabilia, notified the Beacon Journal this week when he saw the Beasley painting on Serial Killer Ink, one of several sites that he regularly checks.
News of the Beasley painting wasn’t received warmly in Summit County, where Beasley was convicted in 2013 of luring young men to a remote spot in southern Ohio using a Craigslist ad that promised a fictitious job — and killing them.
“We are appalled and sickened that someone would try to profit from the works of a serial murderer,” said Margaret Scott, the chief assistant Summit County prosecutor. “The victims and their families have suffered enough.”
Eric Holler, owner of the Serial Killer Ink website, said the site obtained the Beasley painting from a third party. He said he doesn’t know Beasley and has never had contact with him.
The painting, the first piece on the site from Beasley, was posted March 2 with a $300 price tag, but the price was dropped to $200 because of a lack of interest, Holler said.
He declined to say who profits from the sales of the items.
The website provides a certificate of authenticity with each item. When asked how authenticity is verified, however, Holler declined to provide details.
“I could write and submit to you a thesis on our authentication process but that would be time consuming as well as counter-productive to a story in regards to one specific piece,” Holler said in an email, the only way he agreed to answer questions. “I will emphatically state that the painting has indeed been authenticated and is guaranteed to be Beasley’s work.”
Beasley, 57, is incarcerated at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, home to Ohio’s death row. He has appealed his conviction.
JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said death row inmates aren’t permitted to sell items for profit. She said the prison system has no record of Beasley sending artwork to the website or receiving a payment from the site.
However, death row inmates are permitted to create and send artwork to family and friends. She said Beasley paid for postage to mail out a package in August 2015.
“I could not speak to whether or not a family member sent artwork to the website,” she said in an email.
Ohio has a Son of Sam law that prohibits criminals from profiting from the publicity of their crimes in a movie, book or television show.
Kahan said eight other states — Texas, California, Florida, Michigan, Utah, Alabama, Montana and New Jersey — have passed laws that also prohibit criminals from profiting from the online sale of items based off of their notoriety.
He said he hopes to persuade Ohio to take this step when he talks about murderabilia at an Ohio attorney general’s conference for victim advocates in mid-May.
“Frankly, your state’s in dire need,” Kahan said of these notoriety laws, noting that Ohio is among the states with the most serial killers with items for sale online.
Kahan pointed to online items tied to Anthony Sowell, who was sentenced to death for killing 11 women and hiding their remains in and around his Cleveland home. The items included a painting with Sowell’s signature that featured 11 tombstones to signify each of his victims and a handful of dirt from Sowell’s property that was offered for $25.
The second most popular item on the Serial Killers Ink website is Dahmer’s confession, with a digital copy offered for $12. Dahmer, who was from Bath Township, was sentenced to life in prison for killing 17 people. He was beaten to death in prison in 1994.
Leanne Graham, executive director of Victim Assistance in Summit County, said there is merit to Ohio looking into expanding its Son of Sam law to include the sale of online items. She plans to attend Kahan’s murderabilia session at the upcoming statewide conference.
“I’m interested in learning more about it and seeing what we can do to support legislation or education about this murderabilia,” she said.
Graham said someone called her office three years ago and offered to donate a door from Dahmer’s house for the agency to sell for a profit. She declined.
“The thought of benefiting from a murder or offender just sickens me,” she said. “Regardless of the benefit, I was not interested.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj .