How do you cope when the offender in your life is so universally hated for a crime so heinous that when the state tried to let him out on parole, riots and protests erupted? The state of California, frustrated by these protests and refusals of areas to house him, eventually put a trailer on prison grounds for him to live in for the duration of his parole. I think they rightly feared that he would be murdered if they forced an area to let him live in the neighborhood. After he finished his parole, he left for Florida and a continuing life of petty crime, until eventually, he brutally murdered a young prostitute and was sentenced to death. He died on death row of cancer in 2001.
Lawrence Singleton giving a jail house interview the day before being released from state prison.
The Men’s colony “CMC” in San Luis Obispo County. Singleton, on September 29, 1978,
picked up 15-year old Mary Vincent up hitchhiking, raped her and then hacked her forearms
off with a hatchet, throwing her off a 30 foot cliff. She managed to pull herself up the cliff
and alerted a passerby who took her to a hospital. By the time he was arrested, Vincent
was fitted with prosthetic arms.
This man’s daughter contacted me recently and has been reading on FamilyArrested, and has agreed to tell some of her story about coping with the crime her father had done. She was 15 years old at the time of the crime.
Who was this monster and what did he do?
(Lawrence) Singleton picked up Mary Vincent in his blue van on Sept. 29, 1978, as the teenager was hitchhiking from Berkeley to Los Angeles. She’d come from home in Las Vegas to visit an uncle and was setting out on her own to see California. Singleton told her he had a daughter, (name deleted) just her age and offered to drive her to Interstate 5, the fastest route south.
Instead, he kept driving east, toward Modesto. When Vincent realized something was wrong, she would later testify, she became “scared and mad” and found a pointed surveyor’s stick beside the passenger seat. She picked it up and demanded he drive her back to the freeway. “I’m sorry,” Singleton said. “I’m just an honest man who made an honest mistake.” He turned his van around.
Soon he said he had to relieve himself and could not wait to find a gas station. Stopping in desolate Del Puerto Canyon, he got out of the van. Vincent got out, too. As she bent over to tie her tennis shoe, Singleton hit her. He tied her hands, tore open her white blouse and pulled her hair, forcing her mouth onto his penis. “You better suck hard, you bitch,” Vincent remembers he said. He raped her there, then threw her back into the van and drove deeper into the canyon. It was almost dark when he pulled over again and repeatedly raped and sodomized her. “It hurt a lot,” she said. She begged him over and over again to set her free. He made her drink alcohol from a plastic jug and she passed out.
When she came to, he was cutting the ropes off of her hands and she thought he was letting her go. Then, she looked up and saw an ax coming down as he held out her left arm. “You want to be free?” he said. “You’ll be free.” He chopped off her left arm below the elbow in three strokes of the ax. Vincent was screaming, fighting to pull away, blood was spurting everywhere. He held her down, grabbed her right arm and chopped it off in two strokes. Then he threw the girl over a railing into a culvert, saying, “OK, now you’re free.” ‘
Mary Vincent walked out of Del Puerto Canyon alive. Two vacationers found her wandering nude, in shock, holding up her arms “so the muscles and blood wouldn’t fall out,” she said. They wrapped her in towels and drove to an airport to call an ambulance. The first thing Vincent said was, “He raped me.”
From her hospital bed Vincent was able to describe her attacker so well that a police sketch artist produced a drawing of a man that (name deleted, a former neighbor) a San Pablo, Calif., housewife and bowling aficionado, instantly recognized as her longtime friend and neighbor, Larry Singleton. Vincent also picked his picture out of six others before the grand jury.
When he was arrested, Singleton insisted that Vincent was a prostitute, a “$10-a-night whore” he called her. There were two other hitchhikers in the van that night, including another “Larry.” If anything happened to Vincent in his van — and the blood and other physical evidence presented at his 1979 trial was overwhelming — then the crimes had been committed by “the other Larry” while Singleton was passed out drunk. He insisted that he’d been framed.
Later, many years after his release, Singleton lured a young prostitute to his home in Florida and brutally killed her, and was found standing in blood over her body with the knife. He died on death row in Florida in 2001.
Even after the horrible rape and mutilation of the young woman, Singleton only served about 8 years of a 14 year sentence. Until his death he claimed he was framed for the crime and that the young girl was a “10 dollar whore.” The country and state of California was so outraged that he got such a light sentence that laws were changed and now he would essentially have been put behind bars for his natural life for such a horrific crime.
I remember reading about this crime at the time it occurred and again at the time the protests over him being released on parole and the horror of it etched the story on my memory.
Singleton’s daughter told me that after her father’s arrest she lived with a neighbor woman until she turned 18 and went to college.
Six years into my father’s sentence I knew he would be getting out early as he was an “ideal inmate”. So, in 1984 when I was 21, three years prior to his proposed parole, I called the California prison where he was staying (San Luis Obispo’s California Colony for Men). I told whoever I talked to (I wasn’t sophisticated enough then to take names or notes) that I was afraid my father remained a threat to my safety and in general was still dangerous.
When I was 21 I quickly made several changes in my life: I graduated from college with my first degree , I changed my last name legally, I moved from Nevada to California. Then moved back to Nevada to marry my college boyfriend. Within the year I knew we would be moving to (blank) where he had family and would be working for (blank)
So, in a period of a year, two name changes, moving states 3 times. When I left Reno, I told anyone who my father might possibly contact to try to find me to tell him I “flaked out” or something, got married to someone they didn’t know and left town. I gave them a PO Box so we could stay in touch. I realize how naive this sounds today as I write this, but I was concerned he might hurt or harass them. When I was about 20 years old with the assistance of a Ph.D. psychology intern I had written a letter to my father telling him I was terminating our relationship.
I asked California prison personnel what could be done to keep him in longer, and I was told there was nothing. They suggested I obtain a restraining order at the time of his release. Sorry, but I mean this quite sarcastically….I tell you he is a danger, I said that before the first crime; I’ve changed my name multiple times and am moving across state lines….and you all suggest a piece of paper that will tell him exactly where I am, what my name is, and not to come within, say 300 feet of me!
The neighbor woman I had moved in with and lived with from about age 15 1/2 until I was 18 had discouraged me both from terminating the relationship, and from considering changing my name. She told me it was my “responsibility” to….I don’t know, not hide? I – then and now – wonder if she was not motivated by fear of my father.
I definitely understand why Singleton’s daughter would want to terminate the relationship with her father and had fear of him. I also understand why the neighbor lady would try to get her to continue the relationship. In my family as well, no matter what the family “bad boy” did, we were not allowed to sever the relationship, and in my experience many families are that way. I’ve been told so many times by people that I can’t count them that “you can’t give up on him, he’s your sonnnnnnn” Well, yea, I CAN give up on him. Shared DNA is not a reason to have a relationship with a monster.
Most recently, the Elliot Rodger case, (where the young man, obviously a very narcissistic and rage filled young man stabbed three people to death and shot and killed three more and wounded 13 before killing himself) Elliot’s father blames the mental health profession for failing to “fix” his son, and he blames lack of “gun control” for the killings (apparently forgetting that Elliott STABBED three people to death.) From what I’ve read, I think the young man was a highly narcissistic psychopath with delusions of grandeur and intense feelings of entitlement and with a total lack of empathy.
I know that Mr. Rodger doesn’t want to believe that his son chose to do what he did. I didn’t want to believe my son guilty or that he chose to kill a young woman in calculated cold blood. I am sure that Singleton’s daughter didn’t want to believe her father was a monster, but the evidence was there and she told me she had “no doubt that he was guilty.” He had also physically attacked her as a teen so she knew first hand what his temper was like.
I felt shame for my son, and fortunately, my son’s crimes were not publicly known in the community and state where I lived, so I didn’t have to face the press or the “world” knowing my son was what he is, but the family of Singleton and the Rodgers as well, and many others whose crimes become national and world news do have to face the public’s scorn.
The young woman whose arms Singleton cut off has led a chaotic life in and out of the public and media spotlight. I have no doubt that this woman suffered the worst kind of PTSD, but I also believe that Singleton’s daughter does as well. She and I both have much in common, as my own biological father was a violent and criminal man, and I feared him, as I imagine Singleton’s daughter feared her father.
My own biological father’s death in 2007 gave me some closure where he was concerned and I imagine that Singleton’s daughter felt some closure when her father died on death row in 2001. At least we both no longer had to fear them. But the scars of the things they did to us and to others are harder to heal. The shame of it all. Intellectually, we know that we are not responsible for what they did or what they were, yet, winning the trophy for the “most evil father in the world” award isn’t something we want to brag about. Knowing something intellectually is not the same as accepting it emotionally.
Singleton’s daughter has become a successful professional, yet she has not found validation of her situation in others because her experience is pretty unique. The “club” of individuals whose loved ones are publicly spotlighted as monsters is a painful initiation that is like an albatross around their necks. I saw a Dateline show last night where a man killed both of his wives by blunt force trauma to the head and staged “accidents” to make it look like they were not murdered. Unfortunately, the law caught him with enough evidence that he was convicted of killing the last one. The man was a minister and had had numerous affairs, etc. and his two daughters, even now, after seeing all the evidence of what kind of man he was and how their step mother and own mother died, which actually speaks pretty plainly, still maintain that their father is innocent.
Look at Jerry Sandusky’s wife, who still is “supportive” of her husband in spite of all the evidence and testimony that he was a serial child molester for decades.
It is very difficult to admit that someone we love(d) and/or respected is truly a monster. Look what happened to Bernie Madoff’s family, one son committed suicide. It isn’t easy being the person who finds out that someone close to them is a monster, much less for those who have it spread far and wide on the 6 O’clock national news. Those young Madoff men had essentially turned their father in to the police when they became aware of his crimes and frauds. Yet they were tarred with the same brush in business and sued for their assets.
Coming out of the closet isn’t easy, and my son’s crimes didn’t make the national news, though I have given interviews on radio and on film for a movie about psychopaths and other criminals and the damage they do to their families, not only the damage they do to their victims directly. For me, “coming out of the closet” about my son was not an easy decision to make, but I am glad in retrospect that I did it. Especially if so doing, I can help to comfort others who have some of the same issues with criminal offenders whether they are national news or not. “Coming out” publicly isn’t a good choice for everyone. Some people, like Singleton’s daughter, choose to form a “new identity” and leave behind the story of her former life. But that too has it’s price to pay.
My mother still supports my son and buys into his “repentance” and sends him money and hopes he will get out on parole and come live with her in her declining years even though she read the letters he sent to the man he had sent to kill me. My greatest fear is he will get out of prison and I do everything I can to block his release on parole.
Coming to terms with events over which we had no control, no blame and should shoulder no shame, is not an easy thing to do. And, it is a thing we must continually work on, because if we stop, we will slide backwards like I did last year in my melt down when I was preparing the protest packet for my son’s upcoming parole hearing. I let myself slip and I fell into the abyss of fear, shame, depression, and terror. Fortunately I have a wonderful trauma therapist and I went back to him for several months until I could pull myself back up from the abyss. I hope I never allow myself to fall into that pit again.
While I don’t agree with the “support” people like Sandusky’s wife continues to give him, I understand why she feels that she HAS to believe in him, and I understand why my mother HAS to believe in Patrick’s repentance even though she has seen evidence that he is a monster and tried to have me killed, and I understand why I stayed “supportive” of Patrick for so long even knowing he was guilty of the crime, I also understand why Bernie Madoff’s son killed himself. We cope with the trauma brought on by these offenders in different ways. Some of us reach acceptance, but others get stuck in denial, or bargaining, or sadness and despair or even stuck in anger and bitterness. To be healthy it is important that we reach acceptance of what is, and quit grieving over what never was. Some people, though, for many reasons are stuck and can’t terminate the relationship. They can’t believe the evidence in front of their eyes. I don’t criticize these people, I’ve been there myself, but even saying that, I realize how miserable I was trying to maintain that state of denial. It takes a great deal of energy to ignore the elephant in the room.
My prayers and compassion go out to Singleton’s daughter and I admire her for surviving and educating herself under a great burden, instead of turning to drugs or chaos. I’m sorry his victim did not cope as well, but I can’t even imagine what her pain must have been like and even today to be present.
God bless us all as we struggle to cope with the behavior of others over which we have no control.