The Urge to Hurt

A chilling cry of warning from death row

| Web Specials Archives


My name is Michael Ross. I am a condemned man on death row. When most people think of death row inmates, I' m the one they think of. I'm the worst of the worst, a serial killer responsible for the rape and murder of eight women in three states who has assaulted several others and stalked and frightened many more. I have never denied what I did and have fully confessed to my crimes. The only issue in my case was, and still is, my mental condition. For years I have been trying to prove that I am suffering from a mental illness that drove me to rape and kill, and that this mental illness made me physically unable to control my actions. I have met with little success.

So here I sit on death row, waiting for the judicial system to complete the tedious process that will likely result in my execution. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can envision the hundreds of people who are likely to gather outside the prison gates on that night. I can see them waving placards, drinking and rejoicing, and I can hear their cheers as my death is finally announced.

Who is Michael Ross? And what could possibly motivate a clearly intelligent individual, a Cornell University graduate, to commit such horrendous crimes?

As you might expect, I have been examined by many psychiatric experts since my arrest in 1984. All of them, including the state' s own expert psychiatric witness, diagnosed me as suffering from a paraphiliac mental disorder called 'sexual sadism,' which, in the experts' words, resulted in my compulsion 'to perpetrate violent sexual activity in a repetitive way.' These experts also agreed that my criminal conduct was the direct result of uncontrollable sexual impulses caused by my mental illness. The state' s only hope of obtaining a conviction was to inflame the jury' s emotions so that they would ignore any evidence of psychological impairment. In my particular case, that was quite easy to do, and the state succeeded in obtaining convictions and multiple death sentences.

What exactly is a paraphiliac mental disorder?



It is very difficult to explain and understand -- especially for the layperson (which, unfortunately for me, describes most jury members). I' m not even sure that I fully understand this disease, and I have been trying to understand what has been going on in my head for a very long time now. Basically, I was plagued by repetitive thoughts, urges, and fantasies of the degradation, rape, and murder of women. These unwanted thoughts filled my mind when I was awake, and they were in my dreams when I slept. Imagine trying to control such urges day by day, hour by hour. Also try to imagine the hatred, loathing, and abhorrence that I developed toward myself when I ultimately failed. The best way to understand this problem is to remember a time when you had a catchy tune stuck in your mind. Even if you like the melody, the constant repetition becomes more than merely annoying. The harder you try to push that melody out of your mind, the louder and more persistent it becomes, driving you almost mad. Now replace that sweet little melody with noxious thoughts of physically and mentally degrading a woman, of raping her and strangling her. Now you can begin to understand what I had running wild in my head. And I think you can begin to understand me when I say that it is not something I wanted.

The urge to hurt women could come over me at any time, at any place. Powerful, sometimes irresistible desires would well up for no apparent reason and with no warning. Even after my arrest -- while I was facing capital charges -- these urges continued. I remember one day being transported back to the county jail from a court appearance just prior to my trial. I was in the back of a sheriff' s van in full restraints -- handcuffs, leg irons, belly chain -- when we passed a young woman walking along the road. I cannot begin to describe the intensity of feeling that enveloped me that day. I wanted . no, I had to get out of that van and go after her. The situation was ludicrous. (And later, back in my cell, I masturbated to a fantasy of what would have happened had I gotten hold of her.)

bethElise
8/23/2018 2:42:02 AM

It's devastating to see human nature described as mental disorders purely because the behaviours don't match up to Western cultured society. We are thousands of years into evolution but that doesn't mean that we are perfect. In fact, we are probably the most convoluted evolved creature after evolving for thousands of years in different locations etc we've spent years muddling everything up so that there is probably every variation of human being possible! These impulses that are within us, I believe, are our instincts from early years that we are trying to 'grow out of'. Instincts (our hormones, cells, electrical charges) combined with modern day (society, media, porn) to create bizarre 'mental disorders'. I'm a female, 23 years old and a victim of childhood abuse. I've lived with sick urges to harm or distress young, vulnerable children - especially the more they cry. These urges have probably stemmed from my childhood and left me with a combination of fierce natural instinct to over power with ingrained behaviour from my own abuse, thus resulting in my urges to harm children. These urges, however, are controllable but due to having the urges existing I can relate to and understand what it would be like to be unable to control myself. The ability to be outspoken about it would help but there would be a lot of stigma surrounding me afterwards. All these people with these urges and illnesses will probably have some childhood trauma that has moulded their brains to the way they are. There are no true answers in this world, everything is theory yet we are expected to conform and give way to the masses for who or what? I think the fundamental law should be to cause no suffering and I believe that those involved in these cases are usually all victims! I've had to develop this way of thinking to come to terms with and accept my childhood abuse, understanding the compulsion and difficulty controlling brain impulses and human instinct has helped me to forgive. Moving on is the next step but forgiveness removes any hatred and hatred seeps through your entire being like poison. Maybe the next thousand years we could work on seeing the trauma in a child before they grow big and strong and capable of causing more trauma to a new generation. It's all stems from childhood and yet anyone is allowed to have kids? Perhaps the checks we go through to have puppies should be done for having children. A DBS check required to be a nanny but to have a baby, to yourself, all alone, no check whatsoever? There is no simple solution or easy answer and probably will never be resolved. But I can imagine in the next thousand years, if humans make it that long, there's going to be a whole load of new 'mental disorders' that stem from the uncontrollable over population of this damned world.


Dee Houldsworth
1/19/2013 12:59:48 AM

It is far more common than you can imagine that many, many others have the urge to hurt.maim or kill another. It is part of an anxiety disorder that relates to a mental illness ( psycopathology) The fundamental key is that as a human being living in a society, you CANNOT do as you please. You cannot steal/rob//rape/attack/hurt/shoot/kill another. You have the brain capability as every other, to choose whether or not to ACT on your feelings, this sets you apart from thousands and millions of others in a western society, they control their feelings and thoughts as society dictates you should. Whether you accept/repent/acknowledge or not, really doesn't matter. There are and has been for decades GP's/ therapy/medication/support/information/guidance/hospitalization for treatment and stability and prevention of mental disorders. Again you chose not to use the service. As a murderer and rapist you must face the punishment set by the judicial system, mental health is not an excuse. You chose to ignore you're inate cognitive functions as a human being and fulfilled your desire instead. Self Control is definitely much harder, but also was definitely an option.. Female UK




Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter