|interview with Barry Simonis/(the Ski Mask Rapist):
||[Aug. 3rd, 2006|07:58 pm]
On a humid summer day, Simonis welcomed both Roy Hazelwood and Ken Lanning to his permanent address, the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. Hazelwood and Lanning wore suit and ties and sat opposite one another. The mustachioed Simonis in his white prison-issue T-shirt sat between the two agents. At Roy's nod, a video camera started recording, and the conversation began.|
"What were you incarcerated for?" Roy asked
"A series of armed robberies and rapes", Simonis answered evenly.
"What's the total number of those combined?"
Simonis was unprepossessing, serious and alert and responsibe, but with almost no edge to his voice, or much light in his eyes. That was intentional. The Ski Mask Rapist had learned the value of not being noticed. He explained to Hazelwood that when he first arrived at Angola in 1982 the older cons advised him to deliberately score low on the standard IQ form so that prison authorities wouldn't expect too much of him, or watch him too closely. Simonis had scored a 108, and when Roy had him retested, he scored a 128.
"And how many were rapes, specifically?" Hazelwood asked.
"Between forty-five and fifty rapes. Actual sexual assaults probably would get a little higher, anywhere between sixty or seventy-five."
"And what would you include in sexual assaults?"
"Somebody who performs oral sex, masturbation, any kind of sexual act other than intercourse."
The discussion had the air of an employment interview, a tone that Hazelwood set deliberately.
"And in what states did these take place, and what period of time are we talking about?" Roy continued.
"My first assault took place in November of 1978," Simonis answered, "and it ended in November of 1981. It went from Florida to Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and California."
"Would you say there was a progression, or an escalation of aggression or violence associated with your attacks?"
"Oh, yes," Simonis answered. "It started out very mild and progressed quite heavily."
Hazelwood asked Simonis to describe his first assault. The Ski Mask Rapist didn't hesitate.
"The first one started out to be a burglary," he said. "I entered a house and was confronted by the lady who lived there -- who I'd followed from a shopping center earlier that day. After confronting the woman, I kinda let her know that I was in control. After I got the money from her and I kind of bound her hands, I took her into a bedroom and had her perform masturbation on me. I was unable to do vaginal interourse because I was unable to get an erection at the time. I was very nervous."
"You did not physically assault her?"
"How," Roy asked, "Would that assault have occured two to three years later?"
"Near the end of my criminal activities, it got to be a much more violent thing, a form of degradation towards the women, making them feel dominated. My intention was to inflict fear on them, to make them do things that they wouldn't ordinarily do."
Ken Lanning asked if Simonis's preparation for his crimes evolved as well.
"I progressed in a more disguised way," Simonis explained. "My face was covered. I wore gloves. I also wore baggy clothes, like coveralls, to kind of conceal my build. I also took into the place a pistol with precut lengths of rope to bind the victims with, or handcuffs. Duct tape to blind them, maybe tape their mouths. A pocketknife in case I needed to cut anything."
"What precautions did you take when you left?" Roy asked.
"I'd usually cut the phone and make sure they were tied securely where they could loose anytime soon. Sometimes I'd slash their tires to prevent them from traveling."
Hazelwood asked how much money, in all, Simonis made from his thefts.
"After fencing gthe stuff, about a quarter million dollars," he guessed. "Retail it, probablly was worthe three to four million."
"Was it necessary for you to work, as well?"
"Not at all. When I worked in the hospital as a cardiovascular specialist, I was making somewhere from fourteen thousand to eighteen thousand a year. I'd sometimes make that much in a month from my thefts."
"Barry," Lanning asked, "How did you identify your victims?"
"There were different ways. They usually were wealthy. As I drove through an area, I'd pick out a house that looked to belong to a financially secure couple. Sometimes, I'd pick somebody driving around in an expensive car. Or I might see somebody inside a store who might be wearing a gold watch or a large diamond. I'd wait outside in my car and then follow them to where they lived."
"If I didn't hit them direcly, I'd probably hit somebody else in the neighborhood where they lived."
"What about the women attracted you?"
"Attractive ones had an appealing effect on me. It wasn't always the motive for following them, but it was a major one. I figured that if a woman was attractive and her husband was well off, he'd do things to keep her happy. Buy her expensive jewelry and other nice things."
"This was the initial reason for a lot of the attacks. I'd rob and take what I could. The assaults and rapes usually took place afterward."
"Tell us your understanding of why you did these things," Lanning asked.
"It's pretty complex. I think there was a multitude of things involved. Money was a motive. Sex was a factor. Urges just came on to me to the point that I was uncontrollable near the end. The effects on me when I saw women had more of a hold on me than I had on them."
"Did the robberies and burglaries, entering homes, satisfy some of your urges?"
"It got me high just going into a place that belonged to somebody else," Simonis explained. "Any kind of illegal activity, knowing there was a risk of being caught, created stimulation. It was a turn-on so to speak. But it was a different high than the sexual aspect. They kind of coincided with one another."
Prior to his arrest as the Ski Mask Rapist, Simonis's rap sheet included a 1978 arrest near Lake Charles for making indecent phone calls. In a statement he gave police, he admitted window-peeping as early as 1975. Later, as a soldier in Europe, he said, he repeatedly exposed himself to women.
The obscene telephone calls, Simonis said, had begun in late 1977, when he was working at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, operating a heart-stress machine. He denied ever having committed a rape to that point.
"You began deviant sexual behavior at fifteen? Is that right? With window-peeping?" he asked.
"How long did you continue to window-peep?"
"Oh, off and on until the times I was actually going into the houses."
"You stopped at that time?"
"Well, I classify window-peeping as just looking, and not doing anything else. THere were lots of times I'd peek in a window and see women who might be undressed, but it was more to get an idea of who was at home, and where they were at. It wasn't just looking and leaving."
"What about the exhibitionism?"
Simonis said it started when he was in Europe in the army at age twenty-four.
"How long did that go on?"
"off and on for about three years?"
"The purpose was to get a response from the women?"
"Exactly. A lot of times I got a stimulating feeling just one the reaction of people. A lot of times it was to induce fear, or surprise, and see how they responded to it. I would feed off this fear. It was like a source of fuel for me."
Lanning asked about the telephone scatology.
"Yes. That was around '77 or '78, around in there."
"You also said you masturbated a considerable number of times," Lanning said to Simonis. "What kind of fantasies did you havea during masturbating?"
"It was a multitude of things. It might consist of bondage or the fantasy of a rape, or maybe multiple males and multiple females."
"And how long did you masturbate?"
"Sometimes four or five times a day. But there were times when it was as much as ten or twelve times."
"During the time you were committing your rapes," Roy asked, "Were you also having consenting sexual relations?"
"Yes. Quite a bit."
"Did you ever live with a woman?"
"Several of them, yes."
"Why do you think you were so successful for such a long period of time?" Lanning asked.
"I think it was just a natural instinct I developed, and relied on heavily. It always paid off for me."
"It got to be a cat and mouse game with the police. I knew they were after me by 1980. From there, I figured that if I kept on going I just could not create a definite pattern. I had to stagger my attacks and my robberies in different states. Always change my clothing, have new stuff after every job. Throw the old stuff away. Never kept any evidence."
"I tried to think like cops would think. For instance -- after I left one job, I figured they'd probably block the interstates, so I used the back roads. It was a kind of guessing game with them."
"Was traveling in a lot of jursdiction part of those efforts?" asked Lanning.
"Oh yes. Spreading them out. THere was less chance of people associating those crimes with me."
"Did you ever use your occupation to select victims?"
"Oh, yes. When I worked in a hospital I had access to al the medical records. I knew where the patients lived: what their husbands did; whether he worked in or out of town; who was home during the day, and who wasn't. Also, if they were having surgery, I'd have access to their keys, which they usually left in their nightstands by their beds. I"d go down and have a copy made and return the original and copy down their address and later on use that to get in their house.
"Did you ever take advantage of patients under sedation?"
"Oh, sometimes. I had neurology patients we had to sometimes sedate. So there were times for that, yeah."
"What was the youngest victim you sexually assaulted?"
"Agewise, I really don't know," Simonis answered a little warily. "About thirteen or fourteen."
"And the oldest victim?"
"There was one in Houston who was fifty," he answered., then added, "But she was really well preserved. Sh looked more like thirty-eight or forty."
"You mentioned that you would take things that were easily transportable, easily concealed," said Hazelwood. "Why?"
"Well, in the beginning I took a lot of things like televisions and video recorders, but I was exposing myself to the chance of being caught. Later on, I started taking just jewelry. Easy to conceal and lightweight. It didn't bog me down in case I had to move or run or get away quickly."
"What kind of vehicle did you drive?"
"I started off driving a '78 Buick Regal. It was gray and I had it painted black. I also had a '79 Kawasaki motorcycle that I'd use especially out in the country, where I could conceal it quite well. Later on, I sold the Buick and the bike and bought an '81 red Trans Am."
"Did you like to drive?"
"Yes, I put about eighty thousand miles on it in ten months."
"Why did you like to drive so much?"
"I just like to travel. It gave me a sense of freedom. I didn't have to worrry about what I did. I didn't have to worry about answering to people."
"Barry, you indicated earlier that you had these tremendous urges that kind of drove you. Yet in some cases you'd rob and burglarize and not sexually assault. What are some of the factors that determined whether or not you sexually assaulted a victim?"
"The victims herself play a part in that," he answered. "if they'd show fear or apprehension, sometimes I'd feed off that. That might cause me to make a sexual attack. Some I had no sexual contact with at all. I don't know why."
"Were there ever practical reasons why you wouldn't sexually assault?"
"Well, sometimes if the assault jeopardized getting away with the robbery, I wouldn't do it."
"Did you ever take anything that wasn't valuable?"
"Just some articles of clothing, and maybe a driver's license on a few occasions. They were just temporary things to hang on to."
"And what did they represent to you?"
"Like a trophy. Kind of a reminder. It helped me visualize in my mind when I reenacted the fantasy in my head."
"You said you'd dress in a particular way for your assaults. What would you do with that material later?"
"Oh, I'd always discard it. Put it in dumpsters. Rip it up and throw it out the window along the interstate. Usually, this was a long distance away. I'd never dump it right there in the community where I committed the crime."
"What would be your first response when a woman resisted you?" Roy asked.
"In the early stages, if they would have put up a scream, it would probably would have dissuaded me from sticking around."
"What would happen later on?"
"It would have been a point of agitation to me and I would probably have retaliated by taking a physical action against them."
"Beating them. Or kicking them. Or burning them. Any way to inflict pain to get them to be quiet.
Lanning asked SImonois to describe the assaults.
"Well, their hands were tied, and usually their feet were, too, but not always. I'd slam my fist to their breasts or into their stomachs. Sometimes I hit them across the face. There were times I'd light a cigarette and touch it to their breasts."
Roy reminded Simonis of the police officer's wife.
"She said you were a gentleman and then you assaulted her."
"Correct. I struck her across the mouth a couple of times."
"What was the reason for that?"
"I felt she was trying to patronize me. Like she was talking down to me. Treating me like a child. It irritated and agitated me. I decided to let her know I was in control and she would not dictate to me what was going on."
"You mentioned compulsive urges just a moment ago," said Lanning. "Yet you were able to control the urges so as not to bring harm to yourself. If you had an urge to assault but you knew the area to be dangerous, what would you do?"
"My safety came first. If I thought I could pull it off, I would pull it off. If not, I'd go somewhere else, or try from a different angle."
"So you did not have an irresistable impulse?"
"No. Not total domination. Later on it did get to where it controlled me a lot more than I wanted it to. But i wasn't at its mercy completely."
"I'd like to talk a little bit about pornography," said Lanning. "Did you ever view or collect it?"
"Yes. I had a small not binder full of different pictures I'd get from Playboy yand other skin books."
"How did you use these pictures?" Lanning asked.
"I'd look at them for masturbation."
"Did you ever view pornography when you were younger?"
"Yes, I did. But not to get off on it. I was bout six or seven, I think, the first time I actually came in contact with any kind of pornography. It was something like Stag."
Simonis explained that from his very earliest memory, sex was connected to violence and pain in his imagination.
"It had an artist's conception of a woman, completely nude, with her hands tied together and bound above her head, tied to a rope that went up to the ceiling, and there was a man standing there with a smile on his face, holding a large knife. It looked like he was getting ready to inflict bodily harm, a form of mutilation, almost.
"It wasn't so much the nude woman that excited me, it was the overall picture."
"Do you think the picture had an impact on you?"
"I think it did. It's stayed in my subconscious all these years. I'm not saying it was a contributing factor to me doing the things that I did. I have to take full blame for that. But I think it does contribute in some way."
"A while back, we were talking about sexual bondage," Roy said, "and you mentioned tying your victims in a variety of different positions. Where did you get the idea for that?"
"Was it your goal to inflict pain on your victims?"
"Yes, that was the most stimulating part, I guess. TO inflict pain and terror to a woman. The attacker kind of feeds off it. It's kind of like adding fuel to the body. The more you see it, the more it stimulates you, the more it gets a person going."
"Is the pain itself the goal? Or is it the victim's response?"
"I think it's the initial resp onse that they give off, that's produced by their pain. That is what the sadistic person's actually looking for. It's not that he doesn't enjoy inflicting the pain, but the final product is the reaction you get from it. If you inflicted pain and they showed no response whatsoever, it would be like making sex to a dead person. You'd get no thrill out of it."
"What was the turn-on?" Roy asked. "Was it sexual intercourse or control?"
"It was a multitude of things. The rapes were a sexual thing a lot of the time, but it was also mainly the idea of being dominant, having complete control, having the woman at your disposal and mercy to do what you wanted to do."
"Barry, will you tell us what your sentence is?" Roy asked in closing.
"I'm not sure I remember them all. I have about twenty one life sentences, plus an additional 2,386 1/2 years to go."
"Any possibility of parole?"
Off camera, Simonis made several further disclosures to Hazelwood. He said that although he had no chance of ever legally walking free of Angola, he was glad in a way to have been stopped when he was. Rape, said Simonis, was beginning to bore him. About the time Lieutenant Milan arrested him outside the Lake Charles convenience store, his fantasies increasingly were of murder.