"Holy crap. We have caught an evil man." That authorities caught Jose Manuel Martinez—known as El Mano Negra, the Black Hand, the self-proclaimed killer of roughly 3 dozen men in the US—wasn't due to superior sleuthing. When being questioned about a rural Alabama murder five years ago, he just decided to confess. To it all. Writing for BuzzFeed, Jessica Garrison has the lengthy story of Martinez, a California-born man whose alleged murder-count aligns him with the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. So how did such a prolific killer get away with it, and why is his name still barely known? Martinez says he was "so damn good at it"; police allow that he was careful to eliminate witnesses and evidence. But some say he killed "the right people"—farmworkers and drug dealers who "didn't count."
Garrison opens with Martinez being questioned by Alabama investigator Tim McWhorter of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office over the body of a young man found in a hay field. McWhorter was bluffing when he told Martinez a murder charge was coming, but it led to Martinez responding by volunteering the "truth" about murders in 12 states, men he killed over personal offenses (one man kept parking in his mom's driveway) or as a hired hitman. Martinez is now serving life for nine California murders but is in a Florida jail—where he has won over the guards, writes love letters, and corresponds with his granddaughters—waiting for his trial for two murders there. Garrison delves deep into Martinez's background, how his sister's murder allegedly set him off, and how an ignored cigarette butt may have allowed him to keep killing; read her full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)