The Bizarre Story Of The 'Meanest Man In America'

America has had its share of serial killers and mass murderers. And in the annals of men and women who have gone down in history for their murder sprees, perhaps the most vicious and depraved of all is South Carolina murderer Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins, the "meanest man in America."

Between the 1940s and 1980s, Gaskins would kill at least eight people, though he confessed to murdering as many as 15 (and bragged about killing over 100), according to The State. In addition to murdering his victims, some of whom were children, it was claimed that Gaskins would also torture, mutilate, and even cannibalize those he killed; he even made some victims watch as he ate their cannibalized body parts. He would later explain, as Crime Museum details, that he was driven to commit his crimes by "bothersome feelings" that would pop up from time to time.

What's more, he was a huge menace inside prison walls as well, responsible for at least one jailhouse murder and one kidnapping plot he arranged while behind bars.

Gaskins was a violent criminal even at a young age

Born March 13, 1933, in Florence, South Carolina, Donald Gaskins earned the nickname "Pee Wee" because of his small size. Bullied and ostracized by his classmates — and beaten by his own stepfather — Gaskins and two friends formed a gang, the "Trouble Trio," that would burglarize homes, pick up sex workers, and sometimes rape other children, usually boys, according to Crime Museum. At the time, he was only 12 years old.

In one incident, Gaskins and his gang were caught sexually assaulting the younger sister of one of the boys, and as punishment, all three were beaten until bloody by the girl's parents. Gaskins' accomplices gave up their lives of crime after that incident, but Pee Wee was just beginning.

In 1946, Gaskins bashed in a girl's head with an axe after she caught him burglarizing a home; fortunately, she survived. That crime would earn the serial killer his first taste of life behind bars. The experience would help turn the violent adolescent into a hardened criminal.

Gaskins had a hard time in prison

Donald Gaskins' first stint on the inside was at the South Carolina Industrial School for Boys, where he was sent for the axe attack. Due to his small stature, Gaskins was repeatedly raped in the facility, and he quickly learned that he could get status and protection on the inside by buddying up with the more powerful inmates, or better yet, becoming one himself.

He would be in and out of prison over the next several decades. At 5'3", and weighing only 130 pounds, Gaskins was a target for abuse by the larger and stronger inmates. However, knowing that he would be safe if he had enough respect, Gaskins would earn status wherever he went by targeting the most powerful prisoners, according to The State. Indeed, it was the prison murder of Rudolph Tyner — not the eight he had committed on the outside — that sent him to the electric chair.

Gaskins tried, and failed, to die on his own terms

On September 6, 1991, Donald Gaskins was put to death in the electric chair. However, if he'd had his way, it wouldn't have been the State of South Carolina that ultimately put Gaskins to death, but rather the murderer himself, according to the New York Daily News.

Hours before the final switch was flipped, Gaskins sliced his forearms open with a razor in an attempt to commit suicide. However, he failed, and South Carolina's most prolific murderer was put to death while his limbs were bandaged and stitched from his failed attempt at getting the upper hand on his accusers.

In his last words, Gaskins admitted that he had made peace with his fate, saying, "I'll let my lawyers talk for me. I'm ready to go," as reported by The State.

In fact, those words wouldn't be Gaskins' last, in the strictest sense. Before being put to death, Gaskins had spent the final two years of his life telling his story in his own words, in the book Final Truth, which would be published two years after his death.