While he stalked the streets hunting his unsuspecting victims, the residents of a quiet Florida town slept soundly, oblivious to the dark creature in their midst, unaware of the vampire next door.
John Crutchley seemed to be living the American Dream. Good-looking and blessed with a genius-level IQ, he had a prestigious, white-collar job at a prominent government defense contractor, where he held top-secret security clearance and handled projects for NASA and the Pentagon. To all outward appearances, he was a hard-working, successful family man with a lavish new house, a devoted wife, and a healthy young son.
But he concealed a hidden side of his personality, a dark secret tied to a hunger for blood and the overriding need to kill. As one of the most prolific serial killers in American history, Crutchley committed at least twelve murders, and possibly nearly three dozen. His IQ eclipsed that of Ted Bundy, and his body count may have as well.
Chapter 2: You were a vampire…
Nineteen-year-old Christina Almah was still a virgin, and a bit naïve when it came to matters of sex, but like most teenage girls on the verge of womanhood, she enjoyed receiving attention from good-looking, romantically inclined men. Yet, even she was surprised when, after a handsome, slightly older man took an interest in her, she found herself traveling all the way across the country to see him again.
Christina first met twenty-two-year-old Carl Von Bane several months earlier while he was visiting a friend near her hometown of Westminster, California. She immediately noticed him when he walked into the Drug Emporium where she had been working for the past year as a clerk, and they had quickly hit it off. His rugged, bad-boy looks and confident disposition combined to render her fully smitten. But the budding romance had barely begun before “Von” returned home to Florida. Their brief time together had passed much too quickly for the love-struck Miss Almah.
Since Von’s departure, they had continued their blossoming relationship by telephone racking up steep long distance bills. All the while, Christina had meticulously saved her meager Drug Emporium pay so that she could afford to purchase a plane ticket to visit him. When Von had called her a few weeks ago, Christina hinted at wanting to see him again by casually mentioning that she had some vacation time that needed to be used. When he suggested that she catch a flight to Florida to visit him, she had immediately agreed. After all, this was not some fly by night infatuation. She thought that she might be in love.
Christina had been counting the days until this trip—a weeklong vacation certain to be a memorable one if for no other reason than the fact that it would be the first time she had ever traveled alone. She booked a direct flight on Eastern Airlines from Los Angeles to Orlando International Airport, and Von had picked her up there nearly a week ago. Since then, she had been staying with Von in his mother’s mobile home at Lot 12 of the Enchanted Lakes Mobile Home Park on Malabar Road, near the eastern edge of the City of Palm Bay in southern Brevard County.
Named for the lush palm trees that lined the bay at the mouth of Turkey Creek, the nearly 100-square-mile Palm Bay had experienced a period of rapid growth in recent years fueled by an influx of retirees, northern transplants, and space industry workers. As part of the “Space Coast,” Palm Bay benefited from its proximity to Cape Canaveral, home to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space shuttle program. To the west of Palm Bay, just past Interstate 95, a vast expanse of swamps and marsh grass stretched beyond the horizon, home to an endless assortment of flora and fauna. Under the blinding gaze of the eternal Florida sun, cold-blooded creatures swam silent and unseen as they had for ages past, ancient predators stalking their unsuspecting prey.
Immediately to the east of Palm Bay sits the Town of Malabar, a small, quiet community only thirteen square miles in size. Its eastern edge meets the Intracoastal Waterway in a subtropical paradise of palm trees, sailboats, and spectacular sunsets. The area’s abundant seafood, perennial sunshine, and constant sea breeze reminded Christina of her favorite parts of California. That familiarity was reassuring. It felt comfortable. She felt safe.
A petite girl standing about five feet, four inches tall and weighing a little less than 110 pounds, Christina was not a beauty queen, but she was not unattractive either. Indeed, her green eyes and brown hair combined in an inviting way that most men found sensual and appealing, and she had enjoyed her fair share of suitors. Although she had shared a few intimate moments with boys in high school, she had never found one with whom she felt comfortable enough to sacrifice her virtue. Still sexually inexperienced, she had the classic Libra traits of compassion, innate gentleness, and a genuine caring for others, traits that were sometimes misconstrued by men. Still, it never dawned on her that Von’s testosterone-driven brain would expect something more than a kiss hello, or that he would interpret her willingness to fly across the country to visit him as a green light for sleeping together. Von had tried to take that next step during her first night in Florida, and when she told him that she was not ready, he had reluctantly played the part of the understanding boyfriend, but he could not wholly hide his irritation and mounting frustration.
Von worked at Gator Chrysler in nearby Melbourne, and he had to leave Christina alone for much of the day. That had been the routine for most of the week, and the excitement of staying with someone in another state had long-since faded away. On this particular morning, she passed some time by listening to a worn down cassette tape of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” album, popping it into the cherry red Sony Walkman that Von had given her. She played several songs, rewound the tape, and played them again, but after a while she tired of listening to the provocative singer purr about being “touched for the very first time.” She tried watching television after that, but quickly lost interest in the mindless game shows and melodramatic soap operas that dominated the channels. Growing bored, she decided to walk to Melbourne a few miles away to visit several friends that she had met through Von. She would be flying back to California the next morning and wanted to say her good-byes and make the most of her final day of vacation. Wearing blue jeans, sandals, and a black t-shirt with a Harley-Davidson insignia splashed across the front, she left the trailer shorty after 1:00 p.m. It was the twenty-first day of November, 1985.
As she walked out of the entrance of the mobile home park, a light rain began to fall. She could see dark clouds gathering in the distance and a westerly wind promised that they would soon be present. Somewhere beyond the visible horizon, thunder rumbled ominous and angry, its source hidden behind an approaching wall of grey and black clouds.
Christina turned left and started walking faster as the rain increased, heading east on Malabar Road toward U.S. 1 and the Intracoastal. She planned to stop at the Jiffy Mart at the corner of Malabar Road and U.S. 1 to buy a pack of cigarettes before walking north into Melbourne. She had not gone far when a small, light-colored car pulled up beside her.
Behind the wheel of the two-door automobile sat a clean-shaven man wearing a stylish, navy-blue sports coat, a black-and-white striped tie, and a nice pair of dress slacks, not the cheap K-Mart kind, but the higher quality cloth and cut of a more fashionable men’s store. The man looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties. He had loafer style shoes, but he was not wearing them while he drove. Christine thought it slightly odd that the well-dressed man’s bare foot operated the gas and brake pedals, but she gave it no more than a fleeting thought. She had certainly seen much stranger things during her time in Florida. The man’s eyes were concealed behind darkly tinted sunglasses and his face was framed by a mane of medium-length, dirty blonde hair. He had a thin build, and though slightly pale in complexion, his handsome facial features held an undeniable allure. She could not help feeling an attraction to him.
Flashing a broad, inviting smile, he leaned over, rolled down the passenger door window, and greeted her in a friendly, reassuring voice.
“It’s a bit wet today for a walk, isn’t it?” he asked with a wry, disarming smile. “Can I give you a lift?”
Although Christina was initially wary of his invitation, he looked harmless enough and it was the middle of the day in broad daylight in a public place, so she did not wait long before responding.
“Well,” she said, deliberately drawing out her reply as she decided how much to trust the seemingly friendly stranger. “I’m on my way to Melbourne to meet some friends. Are you going anywhere near there?”
“Sure, I have to go that way to get to my office. I just need to stop by my house real quick to pick up a notebook for work, but it’ll only take a minute or two. Go ahead and hop in.”
She hesitated for just a moment, studied her Good Samaritan one last time, and then grabbed the passenger side door handle of the car. As she opened the door, she heard Sting’s new song, “Russians,” playing on the car’s radio.
The country had long since fallen into the depths of the Cold War, and the perpetual threat of nuclear holocaust loomed in the back of most people’s minds like some amorphous boogieman lurking in the shadows. As Christine pulled the door closed, Sting’s voice flowed out of the car’s speakers, echoing what seemed to be the universal mood in America and Western Europe, the growing fear of a nuclear attack by the Russian-controlled Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The song sought to appeal to the good in what President Reagan dubbed the “Evil Empire,” expressing a desperate hope that the Russian leaders loved their children enough to avoid the horror of a nuclear holocaust.
Suffering from the same state of uneasiness expressed in the song, Christina found herself captivated by the sense of calm that seemed to radiate from the man behind the wheel. They drove for a little while making small talk. While they chatted, she caught a glimpse of the man’s eyes behind his sunglasses. Their azure shade of blue added to the aura of assuredness he projected, and it seemed to Christina that the man’s eyes had the power to peer into her very soul, not in any unsettling way, but in an understanding, comforting manner that disarmed her naturally cautious disposition. He seemed genuinely interested in learning about her, and she was impressed with how articulately he expressed himself. He was charming, witty, and exuded self-confidence, and Christine felt relieved that he seemed to be normal. Some of Von’s friends that she had met were more than a little on the odd side.
After about five minutes, the man turned his car onto a bumpy, dirt road, and then continued on for a few minutes more before exiting onto a gravel driveway obscured by a tall row of hedges. Planted across the inner edge of the yard, the hedges had grown high enough to block a clear view of whatever was behind them. As the car continued down the driveway, a well-kept lawn, dotted sporadically with pine and oak trees, came into view. At the far end of the lawn stood a redbrick, Colonial style house with four white columns framing a large front door painted the same shade of white as the columns. The gravel driveway ended at a double-length carport on the left side of the house. The man pulled into the carport and parked. Two motorcycles stood at the opposite end of the parking area.
“I’ll be right back,” the man told her as he took the key out of the ignition and slipped on his shoes.
He stepped out of the car and walked to the side door of the house, where he paused and glanced back at her.
“Hey, you want to come inside for a drink?”
She smiled politely.
“Oh, no thanks, my friends are expecting me and I don’t want them to worry.”
“Suit yourself,” he said, before unlocking the door and disappearing into the building.
After a few minutes, the man emerged and announced with an embarrassed laugh that the notebook was not in the house after all.
“It must be in the back of the car,” he said, an amused smile spreading across his face as if he had just remembered an irresistibly funny joke.
He walked to the passenger side of the car and opened the door, flashing her the same smug alligator smile. He crawled into the back seat and began looking around, grinning all the while.
Suddenly, the back of Christina’s seat shot forward, slamming her violently against the dashboard. Stunned by the force of the impact and shocked by the unexpected attack, she was barely able to register the sound of something rustling behind her.
Then something brushed against her forehead. Before she could react, her neck jerked back painfully, and she began to choke. Frantically, she reached for her purse, attempting to grab something – anything – to try to defend herself. Her fingers brushed against the top of a can of OFF insect repellant. Desperate, she thought that if she could spray her attacker in his eyes, she might be able to blind him long enough to get away.
But as her fingers closed around the spray can, the man’s voice, angry and powerful, startled her into submission.
Stop it or I’ll kill you!”
As her initial impulse of self-defense gave way to a paralyzing feeling of despair, her hand retreated out of her purse and her arm fell numbly to her side.
Then the rope tightened and everything went black.
Excerpt from The Vampire Next Door: The True Story of the Vampire Rapist by JT Hunter. Copyright 2014 by JT Hunter. Reproduced with permission from JT Hunter. All rights reserved.
J.T. Hunter is an attorney with over fourteen years of experience practicing law, including criminal law and appeals, and he has significant training in criminal investigation techniques. He is also a college professor in Florida where his teaching interests focus on the intersection of criminal psychology, law, and literature.