TW: Rape, murder and violence
The second season of I Am A Killer is more riveting, twisted and sickening than the last. I Am A Killer follows the stories of murderers, from their childhood, to their teen years and to the day their lives would change forever and for worse. This docuseries analyzes the downfall of seemingly normal people, and how they wound up taking another life.
Possibly the most chilling of the crimes is that of Joseph Murphy, also known as Pyro Joe. Pyro Joe had been sitting on death row for 24 years for the murder of 72-year-old Ruth Predmore with a knife in her own home. Murphy’s episode opens with him claiming “I was kind of happy to be sent to death row because I was treated better there than at home. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken a victim to get me sent there.”
Murphy endured horrendous abuse as a child, from being raped as a six-year-old to sleeping in a locked box at the foot of his parent’s bed. He was robbed of his innocence and was set up for failure. Murphy’s childhood can only be equated to hell, but while living in hell can one be held accountable for their crimes? The jury thought so when they unanimously sent him to death row. However, his sentence was eventually changed to life in prison with no chance of parole, after Ohio Governor John Kasich approved Murphy’s appeal for clemency. Murphy’s life was doomed from the start when the education system, the welfare system, and Child Protective Services left him in the dust, resulting in a life filled with tragedy and crime.
Canvona Flenoy is another example that showcases the failure of an institutionalized world, a topic that comes to the forefront of this docuseries. Flenoy, a young woman of colour, shot a man in his own apartment in what she claims was self-defence. Flenoy acted in fear of getting raped. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. However, as her episode unfolds, the audience begins to see a pattern of racially and gender fuelled prejudice. She says she was raped multiple times as a teen and in every instance, the perpetrator was let go with no consequences. The system that had neglected Flenoy led to her taking her well-being into her own hands, only to be punished for her actions. Flenoy’s episode takes a look at the harsh intersection of race and the justice system.
While there are those who were products of a traumatic childhood and failing system, there are those who killed in cold blood. Charles (Billy) Armentrout is one of those cold blooded killers.
Armentrout beat his grandma to death with a baseball bat in an attempt to rob her for money to pay for his drug addiction. The worst part was during his arrest where he told the officer that if he could smoke crack — the drug that led him to kill his grandma — just one more time, he would cooperate with the law. Needless to say, that privilege was not granted. For years Armentrout maintained his innocence and forced the blame onto one of his drug-addicted peers. The system ultimately did not buy his story, which resulted in a life sentence for Armentrout. This docuseries follows Armentrout’s story on how he eventually admitted his guilt while in prison, and this revelation is emotional to watch unfold. As the audience becomes privy to Armentrout’s struggle with addiction and mental health, small sparks of empathy are set off. But what stops these sparks from igniting is the brutality of Armentrout’s crime. There are some stories throughout this series I failed to connect to, failed to find any sympathy towards and unfortunately, Armentrout is one of those stories.
Lindsay Haugen, convicted of killing her boyfriend, was another killer I failed to sympathise with because of the chilling details revealed about her crime. Moreover, the relationship between Haugen and the slain’s parents was unsettling to watch form; their forgiveness seemed too quick, too confident and frankly, unwarranted. Robby Mast was strangled to death by Haugen in his own car in a Walmart parking lot. They had known each other for less than a month, yet she claims from her prison cell they were in love and he begged her to help him commit suicide. It’s sick to think Mast’s life ended in such a cruel way, but it is more sickening that Haugen claims this heinous act was out of love. If you thought it couldn’t get worse, it does. In an investigation tape, Haugen claims, “I kind of just wanted to kill someone with my bare hands, honestly.” How can someone claim a murder was out of love, while simultaneously claiming she was fulfilling a personal goal of taking someone’s life? In my opinion, you can’t.
I Am A Killer will chew audience members up and spit them out with each gruelling episode. This series adds layer after layer of childhood trauma, failed systems, mental illness and addiction. Viewers are left rooting for some of the incarcerated protagonists, yet left despising others. This docuseries will force viewers to reevaluate their ideas of justice and righteousness, to question their perception of right and wrong and to mourn the loss of those who fell victim to horrendous crimes.