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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deadly Charm: The Story of a Deaf Serial Killer
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Some of the attention Patrick gained was not so positive — several times the police waved him over because his motorcycle lacked a muffler and made too much noise. But when the officers realized he was deaf, they generally gave him a warning instead of a ticket and waved him on.

Patrick came to view some of the officers as his friends, and they, in turn, adopted a sort of paternal feeling toward him. Captain Stanley Malm of the Annapolis Police noted that Patrick would sometimes kid around with the officers, walking up behind them and tapping them on the back to see if they were wearing their bulletproof Kevlar vests. Patrick even enjoyed a bit of a hero status with those officers who remembered him from the time when he was living on State Circle with his girlfriend Cindy and had spotted a fire in the city marina office. Patrick had become a temporary hero when he rescued an old man who was sleeping in the building. There was one officer, however, whom Patrick did not regard as a friend—Captain Albert “Yogi” Baer of the Annapolis Fire Department. Captain Baer kept asking Patrick if he had set the fire, and warned that he was keeping an eye on him.

As for the occasional warnings about the Harley’s lack of a muffler, Patrick saw them as little more than an annoyance. He loved revving the engine and feeling the Harley’s power as its vibrations penetrated the smothering blanket of silence that isolated him from the world. With the Harley under him and the wind in his face, he could forget about his fights with Clint. He was twenty years old now, a man, and he was free to go where he wanted, and as fast as he liked. No more being locked up . . . no more somebody always telling him what he could do, what he couldn’t do.

Fred Hechlinger, a veteran sailor and historic ship restorer who was a friend of Clinton Riley’s, commented on the impression Patrick gave: “Patrick was not well educated. He knew mostly basic signs, and was only able to carry on a conversation at a very primitive level. However he was tall and handsome with an imposing physique, and extroverted manner, which helped him get by.”

Hechlinger felt that deafness added in a way to Patrick’s boyish appeal, particularly with hearing people. ”Lots of folks felt a need to befriend and help him,” Hechlinger said.

Occasionally when Patrick was in one of the local bars, someone would make fun of him on account of his deafness, but they soon found that embarrassing Patrick could be dangerous. When Patrick was provoked, his strength became the equal of any two men, as his tormentors learned to their sorrow. Neill Burke, a veteran officer of the Annapolis Police Department, responded to an incident in Marmaduke’s one night when Patrick insulted a girl who had broken up with him, and she responded by throwing an ashtray at him. At that, Patrick went on a screaming rampage and began breaking up chairs and tables. Burke, a powerfully built man himself, had to physically wrestle Patrick to the ground in order to prevent more havoc.

Despite the occasional bar fights—or, in some cases because of them—Patrick remained a popular figure. Often in bars he demonstrated his strength by arm wrestling with challengers, after which the men would clap him on the shoulder and buy him beers.

There were usually girls in the bars, too, and they flirted with him. Patrick was well aware that his good looks and athletic physique drew their attention. His deafness lent him an aura of intrigue and, oddly enough, enhanced his sexual appeal. Girls felt important when they learned to exchange a few signs with him. Or perhaps it was because their ability to hear gave them a sense of control over him—whatever the reason, Patrick used whatever advantages his deafness gave him as part of his come-on.

One night as he entered Marmaduke’s, he spotted a slender young woman on one of the barstools. She was pretty, with long dark hair, olive skin, gorgeous legs, and a tall, attractive figure. He smiled at her, slid onto the adjoining stool, then tapped the empty glass in front of her to suggest he wanted to buy her a drink. The half smile she gave him made her seem receptive. “I buy you beer?” he said.

At first she drew away, taken aback by the strangeness of his voice, which came out as in a hoarse, gangster-like tone. The bartender leaned over and said something to her. At that she turned back to Patrick and smiled. “You are deaf?” she said, shaping her words carefully with her lips so he could understand.

Patrick nodded and indicated to the bartender to bring them both a refill. The girl, again articulating carefully, said, “I was friends with a deaf boy in my high school. He played football.” She pantomimed throwing a football. Seeing Patrick seemed puzzled, she took a pencil and paper and wrote the word football.

Grinning enthusiastically, Patrick imitated her move with the football and said, “I play football at deaf school.”

The girl reached over and felt his biceps. “You are a strong man,” she said. “What is your name?”

“Patrick,” he said, and made the sign for his name. “Your name?” he asked.

She wrote Rosamund Witty. He fingerspelled the name on his hands and mouthed the letters for her. She carefully imitated what he had done.


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