Carroll Cole was born in Sioux City, Iowa, the second son of LaVerne and Vesta Cole. His younger sister was born in 1939 and soon afterwards, his family moved to California, where LaVerne found work in a shipyard. Not long after that, LaVern went to fight in World War II. While his father was away, his mother would have affairs and sometimes take Cole with her and threaten and beat him afterwards to ensure he wouldn’t tell his father. Vesta was cruel to her son and dressed him as a girl and made fun of him. And at school, Cole was teased about his “girl’s name” by his peers. He once retaliated against one of his classmates, a boy his age named Duane. Cole drowned him in a lake and it was regarded an accident until Cole confessed to it many years later in an autobiography he wrote in prison.
As a teen, Cole committed petty crimes. He was often arrested for drunkenness and minor thefts. After high school, he joined the army but was discharged soon after for stealing pistols. In 1960, he attacked two couples parked in cars on a lover’s lane. Soon afterwards, he called the police in Richmond, California, where he was living, and told them that he was plagued by violent fantasies involving strangling women. Cole was in and out of various mental hospitals over the next three years. At the last of them, Stockton State Hospital, a Dr. Weiss wrote: “He seems to be afraid of the female figure and cannot have intercourse with her first but must kill her before he can do it.” This apparently wasn’t a red flag to the doctor as Weiss approved his release in April 1963.
Upon his release, he moved to Dallas, Texas, where his brother Richard was living. There he met and married an alcoholic stripper named Billie Whitworth. The relationship didn’t cure him of his hatred and violent feelings towards women however. After two years, the marriage ended when Cole burned down a motel after convincing himself that Whitworth was having sex with men there. As a result, he was arrested for arson. Upon his release from prison, Cole attempted to strangle an 11 year-old girl in Missouri. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. After the sentence was up, he ended up in Nevada, where he attempted to strangle two more women. Once again, he checked himself into a mental hospital. The doctors there noted his murderous fantasies but still didn’t see a reason to detain him and he was given a ticket back to San Diego, California.
While in San Diego, Cole committed his first murder as an adult. His first victim as an adult was Essie Buck, whom he’d picked up in a tavern in San Diego, California, on May 7, 1971. He strangled her to death in his car and drove around with her body in the trunk before eventually dumping it. Just two weeks later, he killed an unidentified woman and buried her in some wooded area. He later claimed that they had proven themselves unfaithful to their husbands, and so reminded him of his adulterous mother.
In July 1973, Cole married barmaid Diana Pashal, who was also an alcoholic. They argued and fought frequently, and Cole regularly went off on his own for days at a time. He would commit murders while he was away, including one woman he allegedly cannibalized to a degree. In September 1979, Cole strangled Pashal to death. A suspicious neighbor called the police eight days later, but although they found Pashal’s body wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in a closet, they inexplicably decided that she had died because of her heavy drinking, and Cole was released without charge after questioning.
Cole then left San Diego and started moving around again. He killed a woman in Las Vegas, and then returned to Dallas, where he strangled three more women in November 1980. He was a suspect in the second of these killings and was actually found on the scene of the third murder. He was arrested and held in custody. The police then came to the conclusion that the victim had probably died of natural causes, and they were about to let him go, but Cole started confessing. Not just to this murder, but to all of them. He claimed that he had murdered at least 14 women over the previous nine years, although he added that there may have been more and he couldn’t remember exactly, as he was usually drunk when he committed his crimes.
On April 9, 1981, Cole was convicted of three of the murders committed in Texas. He was sentenced to life in prison at Huntsville Prison. In 1984, his mother died and his attitude seemed to change. He agreed to face further murder charges filed in Nevada, even though it could possibly mean the death penalty. In October 1984, Cole was sentenced to death in Nevada. Anti-death penalty campaigners tried to have his sentence commuted but Cole protested. When the sentence was passed, he said the words: “Thanks, Judge.” Cole was executed by lethal injection on December 6, 1985.
- May, 09, 1938
- Sioux City, Iowa
- December, 06, 1985
- Huntsville, Texas
Cause of Death
- Execution by Lethal injection