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Killer Groupie Samantha Spiegel 

Wednesday, Dec 8 2010
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For people who are abused, it makes sense to pursue a relationship with someone who is locked up. "You are safe," Isenberg says. "You make the decision to visit or take the phone call. It's a very powerful position for a woman who had previously been powerless." Additionally, women looking to be the center of a man's life were more likely to find that with an inmate. "A man in prison has a lot of time on his hands," she says. "He's going to be very attentive. Very romantic." Based on her research, Isenberg concluded the killer groupies weren't crazy; they were fulfilling their psychological needs.

Samantha appears to be the quintessential modern killer groupie — a hybrid of a media-obsessed attention junkie and a vulnerable young woman sincerely attracted to twisted, violent men.

She craves attention from famous killers, from her friends and relatives, from the world. She wants to be our cherry bomb, and in attaching herself to Karr, then landing on The Today Show, she has figured out a way to do that.

But according to her, all that is secondary. "Getting attention is not my intention," she says. "It's just what comes with what I'm interested in." She has other psychological needs that are seemingly a product of her upbringing and background.


Samantha was adopted in 1990 by a well-off Jewish couple in San Francisco who had also adopted a boy, Brian, who is older than Samantha. Her parents did not return messages requesting interviews for this story, and her brother, who lives out of state and from whom she is recently estranged, could not be reached.

Samantha describes her father as a well-known and unaffectionate attorney who left her with "daddy issues." (She's referring to Carl Jung's Electra complex, a psychoanalytic theory proposing that a young girl's early relationship to her father is sexual and formative.) "I think that goes to why in the last three years I've been with men who are 20 to 30 years older than me," she says.

She describes her mom as a controlling type who hoped to manicure her daughter into a traditional, high-society woman. "Instead, I'm kinda out there," she says. "Basically, I've failed her completely."

Her brother used to throw chairs at her, she says, which was only the beginning of his misbehavior. Samantha remembers that when her brother got kicked out of high school and checked into rehab, she felt "virtually invisible." "I wanted my parents to notice that I was fucking baked as shit or drunk beyond belief at home," she says. "They just didn't notice."

Craving familial bonds, at age 17 she went on a hunt for her biological family, and discovered them to be working-class Roman Catholics living in Cincinnati. She arranged a family reunion, and discovered she had two sisters. "It was really trippy going to Cincinnati to see what life would have been like," she says. When she learned that one of her sisters was dating a white supremacist child molester who had been in prison, and that her biological grandmother was prone to dating men who put her in the hospital, she wondered whether a macabre streak might run in the family.

From a young age, Samantha had always been fascinated with the psychology of sociopaths and killers. That's part of what drove her to make initial contact with Karr, she says.

He had worked briefly at her elementary school, Convent of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco, when she was in fourth grade. She remembers having a crush on him back then. A decade later, after watching him confess to the murder on the news, Samantha — then 16 — was compelled to reconnect.

Their interaction, limited to the phone and Internet, was often pleasant. Karr entertained her with impersonations of South Park characters over the phone, and she listened to his problems with an ex-wife. "We'd joke about so much shit," she says. "We'd gossip, tease each other, spill our emotional guts. And that just made it so strong."

But there were also elements of the conversations that were pretty sick. "He loves girls ages four to six," she says. "He loves how they are just so amazed by everything, and so happy. He wanted small feet ... and he'll lick feet. He'll lick their faces and make out with them."

Samantha found herself uncomfortable listening to Karr obsessing about girls, but at the same time, she was drawn to what she calls his charisma. She wanted to give him everything he wanted, and that's why she agreed to begin recruiting young girls for a sex cult they called "The Immaculates."

"I sized up girls on the street," she says. "I would look at their feet, their face, their hair, their size. He's not a fan of black girls, so when I saw one, I'd think, 'She's just not gonna work.' When I look back at all that, it scares me so much. He was grooming me to be a pedophile."

Before Samantha could deliver any children to Karr, her adoptive parents sent her to a rehab facility in Montana for 16 months. When she got out and refused to continue the recruitment, Karr threatened her. "If you cost me my little girls, I will hunt you down and kill you," he wrote. Then came the restraining order, the Today Show appearance, and the SFPD investigation, which has gone nowhere. Police believe Karr, who supposedly underwent gender reassignment surgery and now goes by Alexis Valoran Reich, is in Europe, keeping afloat with funding from supporters.

Samantha has not seen Karr in person since she was in the fourth grade. Sometimes, the people who care about her wonder whether the distant pen pal romance might be healthier than some of Samantha's close encounters.


About The Author

Ashley Harrell

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