Booming 'Murderabilia' Sales Spur Outrage

Victims' rights advocates slam 'insidious and despicable industry'

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 30, 2011 12:44 AM CST

(Newser) – Sales of the personal effects, letters, and even fingernail clippings of mass murderers and serial killers are stronger than ever thanks to the Internet, but victims' rights advocates say it's time to end the trade in "murderabilia," the Washington Post reports. Only eight states have laws banning convicted killers from profiting from their crimes, and efforts to get legislation through Congress have failed repeatedly. "It’s an insidious and despicable industry," says victims' rights advocate and law enforcement official Andy Kahan.

Selling the items of killers "gives them infamy and immortality they don’t deserve,” says Kahan, adding that buyers are often people who idolize serial killers and long to "own a piece of their soul." Around half-a-dozen websites peddle "murderabilia" to collectors, including one where a seller is asking $3,700 for a calculator that Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho sold on eBay to raise funds to buy guns for the rampage that killed 32 people. The seller "is trying to profit off what this guy did," says a woman whose sister was killed by Cho. "The question is, what’s he doing with the profit? Celebrating Christmas or doing good for society?"

This video frame grab image taken from a video aired by NBC News on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 shows Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui.
This video frame grab image taken from a video aired by NBC News on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 shows Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui.   (AP Photo/NBC)
Locks of Charles Manson's hair are among the items for sale on 'murderabilia' sites.
Locks of Charles Manson's hair are among the items for sale on 'murderabilia' sites.   (AP Photo, File)
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