The Serial Killer Next Door

By Cliff Springs

Let me go ahead and admit up front that I have always had a teeny, tiny, wee bit of a sadistic streak.  More often than not, it resulted in nothing more harmful than a split-second moment of absolute fear-of-impending-death terror for the target of my shenanigans.  I know that’s not much of a defense, but all of my victims are still friends to this day.

In January of 1988 in my hometown of Charleston, S.C., convicted serial murderer Fred Kornahrens escaped from the back of an unlocked police cruiser during transport to a different jail facility.  He vowed not to be taken alive.

I was 17 at the time.  My friend Jasen was 15.  Kornahrens—who I’m going to call “Fred” henceforth because I don’t like typing “Kornahrens”—had been on the lamb for about a week at this point.  Jasen’s parents had to leave town for some reason, but Jasen needed to stay behind and attend school on Friday because of an important test.  They asked if I would stay with Jasen until they returned.  I agreed.

Jasen was obviously younger than me—and at that time had not hit his growth spurt either—so he was kind of small and easy to torment.  Although we were very good friends (we were frequently not allowed to sit together during formal church events because we were always up to something), that sadistic streak I referenced had been exercised at Jasen’s expense on more than one occasion—although nothing as elaborate as what I would end up concocting in this particular situation.

Here’s where it gets interesting. 

Jasen lived in a town-home apartment complex—essentially a long row of two-story apartments smooshed together.  Unfortunately, his next-door neighbor was a former girlfriend of serial killer Fred.  The police had already been by to question her during Fred’s time on the run.  I made several jokes to Jasen about my hope that Fred didn’t forget his girlfriend’s address and try to break into Jasen’s home.

Without permission from Jasen’s parents, I asked my friend Thomas to join us (the same Thomas I mention in my Eat the Elephant blogs).  Thomas and Jasen were good friends as well, so neither of us saw any harm.  Before I lay out the details of the horror unleashed upon Jasen, I must provide some contextual history.  Now let me acknowledge in advance that many of the things you do as a teenager seem perplexingly stupid when recounted later. 

Anyway… more than once, Thomas, Jasen, and I had found ourselves in a cemetery for one reason or another—usually some form of self dare (at least that’s what we would tell Jasen).  This would always be late at night at some remote graveyard.  Spooky.  Isolated.  While walking far away from the car, weaving between the headstones, I would eventually give Thomas a nod, and we would take off running back to the car.  As I mentioned, Jasen had not had his growth spurt yet and was notably slower than Thomas or myself.  Once we beat him back to the car, we would lock the doors and drive away.  We’d come back in 5 or 10 minutes to find Jasen unhappily waiting near the entrance or walking down the highway (yes, this happened more than once).

Well on the night of this particular sleepover, Thomas and I became a little bored.  Knowing what Jasen’s answer would be, I suggested that we drive out to the cemetery.  Jasen immediately declined to join us and decided to remain at the apartment. 

Heh heh heh.  Perfect.

Thomas and I drove straight to the house of my friend Lonnie.  Lonnie was a bit of a delinquent.  Mostly, he got into mischief that went a bit too far—nothing horribly serious—but you always thought that he was capable of worse.  It turns out a few years ago that my parents saw his name in the newspaper as being wanted for grand theft auto and drug dealing.  An unfortunate life result for Lonnie—he was capable of being good when he wanted to be.

The thing I loved about Lonnie at the time was that he was pretty much up for anything I wanted to do any time I wanted to do it.  Lonnie lived with his mother and grandparents.  His grandmother tried to keep him in line, but he basically came and went without really having to answer to anybody.  Once, when I was over at my girlfriend’s house, a huge group of youth from my church went on a mad toilet-papering spree.  They not only wrapped my car, but poured water all over it—so I had to peel it all off soggy bit by soggy bit.  I decided that I required retribution and left my girlfriend’s house early to begin my quest.  First stop:  Lonnie’s house.

It was about 10:00 that night—this long before cell phones came along—and Lonnie had no idea I was coming.  I knocked on his front door.  When he opened the door, I merely said, “We’ve got work to do.  Come on.”  Lonnie closed the door behind him and got in my car.  No questions asked.  Like I said, Lonnie was always up for anything.  Without elaborating here, I’ll just say that Lonnie and I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish that night during our toilet paper revenge tour.  It even involved Lonnie diving into the open door of my moving car as one of our victims hurled her fists and profane epithets our direction.  Ah, the good ol’ days. 

Back to 1988 and serial killer Fred.  Thomas and I picked Lonnie up and laid out the scenario:  we would drop Lonnie off behind Jasen’s apartment complex.  Remember that this was a long row of town homes.  To go around to the front side required that you walk all the way around the full length of the complex.  Keep that thought in your brains for a moment.  Lonnie’s job was “simple”:  go to the back of Jasen’s apartment and make some subtle noises—nothing too overt.

Thomas and I waited a good 10-15 minutes.  If Jasen heard strange sounds out back, he would naturally assume it was us trying to screw with him.  It was critical that Jasen hear the sounds, then hear them AGAIN after Thomas and I walked in the door.  As is often the case with these well-crafted plans, something goes a little awry.  When Thomas and I walked in, we found Jasen asleep.  He hadn’t heard ANY of the noises Lonnie was making.  So we heard them right along with Jasen.  I was quite the actor if I do say so myself.  I first cracked a joke.  Then it wasn’t a joke.  Then I got concerned.  Then I picked up a huge knife from the carving block in the kitchen.  Thomas grabbed a baseball bat.  Jasen tried to laugh it off, but got freaked out once Thomas and I picked up the weapons.  I blurted out that I was getting the heck out of Dodge and made a beeline for the front door.

By this point, I had pretty much assumed that our scheme wasn’t going to deliver on the level I had hoped.  I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I charged out the door.  This is where my appreciation for Lonnie grew exponentially.  Remember how I said that the only way to get from the back of Jasen’s apartment to the front required a long run around the full length of the complex?

I snatched open the front door and ran for my car.  Thomas was right on my heels.  By this time, Jasen had no intention of waiting around to find out where the noises were coming from.  He came running out behind us—right into the waiting hands of Lonnie, who was crouching beside the front door. 

I do believe what Jasen did could be considered levitation.  He jumped high and he jumped long.  And might have screamed like a girl.

We all got a good laugh out of it—except Jasen.  Lonnie sprayed him with shaving cream later that night.

The police caught serial killer Fred about a week later.  For some reason, Jasen’s parents never asked me to stay over again. 


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4 Responses to “The Serial Killer Next Door”

  1. jasen

    I think we should get a story about you running over the Puppet Director with your car. That’s my favorite.

    BTW — it wasn’t just Fred K. running wild. The next door neighbor was being stalked by a different person / ex-boyfriend who was writing scary messages on her sliding glass door….in blood….multiple times a week….AND Fred was running around scaring the crap out of everyone.

    It was freaky stuff.

    Frigging Lonnie and his terror filled shenanigans. I still think about that night.

  2. Shelley

    So many memories! I remember getting our cars searched for Fred K. driving home from school. And I’ll never forget the t.p. fights in the youth group. And Lonnie — no surprise he’s doing time. This is another great story. Poor Jasen…still traumatized.

  3. Ashley

    Great article. The girl who’s mother was murdered by Fred was in my second grade class. I remember the scariness of fred running around escaped. Crazy! One correction though. It could not have been 1988. I think it was 1984 or so.

  4. Ashley

    Sorry man you were right is was 88 that he escaped.


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