Donald Henry Gaskins : The Hitchhikiers’ Killer

Donald Henry Gaskins : The Hitchhikiers’ Killer

Section 1: Demographic Information

Donald Henry Gaskins was born in 1933 and died in 1991 at the age of 59. This means that he underwent all the stages of development from early childhood to adulthood. He was born in a disengaged family made up of an unmarried teenage by the name Eulea Parrott and an unknown father (Aamodt & Moyse, 2003). This way, he faced a lot of issues regarding growth, and this affected his future in one way or the other. The place of birth was Florence County, South Carolina. He was a Caucasian born and raised in the US.

The figure identified himself with the male gender and got attracted to the members of the opposite sex. This shows that he was straight despite facing problems in his family that changed his perception towards marriage since a single mother raised him and barely knew anything concerning his father. It is important to note that Donald Henry Gaskins was raised by his blood relative that is his mother even though his father was away. This sharply differs from a situation whereby one is adopted or raised under foster parents. In the latter case, many developmental-related problems can be witnessed which would lead to psychological issues such as behavioral disorders among others.

Donald Henry Gaskins marital status was not known to the public. Nonetheless, he had different wives whose details were not disclosed. This shows that he was secretive and this could also be seen through the way he killed his victims. Those who knew Gaskins feared him a lot since he was usually silent and most of the people who related with him thought that he was a weird person. In 1951, shortly after getting married, his wife, Mary, filed a divorce. The main reasons behind this move were marriage instability, and Gaskins was considered the main problem in this case (Aamodt & Moyse, 2003). This can be seen as a replica of his family life since his mother singlehandedly raised him.

Regarding his place of residence, Gaskins lived at different locations at South Carolina until his demise. However, he usually conducted his killings systematically and selected his targets wisely. The murder cases were viewed as of high profile and stood out among other common ones in the region. This is clear evidence that he was the most feared serial killer who earned himself the name “The meanest man in America” over the time he conducted the murders.

When Gaskins joined the school, he started being violent. This is because the aggression and mistreatment that he experienced at home manifested itself in school. Most of his classmates teased him and even went to the extent of giving him the nicknames ‘Pee Wee’ and ‘Junior Parrott.’ Regarding his occupation, it is known that he ever worked in a garage even though on a part-time basis (Aamodt & Moyse, 2003). It was during this work that he met Marsh and Danny both of whom were of the same age as him but could not attend school. During this time, they started pursuing theft and getting involved in other criminal activities such as raping other boys and threatening them alongside picking prostitutes from various towns.

Section 2: Childhood and Adolescence

In his childhood, Donald looked feeble and sickly, and this might be attributed to his weight when he was born. He was just 4 pounds. Even though there are no documented illnesses that he suffered from, it is clear that he faced many psychological issues especially when his mother and Mr. Gaskins could have sex in his presence and push him away whenever he tried to stop them. This means that most of the issues that he faced during this time contributed to his tumultuous future whereby he was forced to turn violent or aggressive to make up for his past.

At the age of 10, his mother married another man named, Hinnant Hanna. This was in 1943, and the man could assault Donald several times in the presence of his mother. With an utter shock, the mother could do nothing to stop the abuses, and this could be viewed as the results if being alcoholics and dating men who had nothing good for the small family. Pee Wee, as he was nicknamed, Donald could face many problems as his mother worked hard towards raising him singlehandedly even though she slept with other men to raise money ranging from $1 to $10. During that time, above $5 could sustain the young family but it was not enough to give Pee Wee decent education support (Aamodt & Moyse, 2003).

Gaskins believed that these experiences affected his life negatively, thus forcing him to resort to being a serial killer. The murders that he committed can be viewed to be as a result of his problematic childhood, and he had developed a disorder that gave him relief if he killed innocent souls in the most tragic and foulest ways.

Early School Years

Since his family was poor, the school that he joined, since he was six years, was not favorable for him. Mostly, he was bullied by his fellow kids who even called him names which affected his self-esteem to the extent of interfering with his performance. He scored below the average mark, and this had an adverse impact on school life since he had gone through a lot regarding bullying and even being beaten. At a young age of below ten, he could pick fights with his fellow students, and this shows that he had grown violent.

He hated going to school and could hide in the woods until he was late for classes then he could go back home. This persisted from the time he joined the school to when he was eight years later he resorted to quitting school. This means that he could not continue to high school and institutions of higher learning such as tertiary colleges. The experiences he had in early school years changed his perception towards education, and he could not think of going back to school.


After quitting school and getting a job at a garage at the age of 12, he met with Danny Smith and Henry Marsh who would hurt his adolescence. They had lived in a shack inside the woods when he was 13. Since they had not joined the school, the trio started breaking into people’s homes as from when Pee Wee was 15 years. Donald’s romantic life was not apparent since he found it good sleeping with prostitutes while he was with his friends. However, in 1948, they thought that this was no longer interesting and resorted to having sex with a virgin. To achieve this, they raped Henry’s sister, and this was the beginning of the group’s break up since the families separately relocated to distant areas. In the same year, he met Walt and continued the burglary actions in people’s homes.

In 1950, he was taken to reform school, which is the South Carolina Industrial School for Boys in Florence, South Carolina where the head of the school, Boss Poss constantly harassed him sexually and even sold him off for sex in exchange of cigarettes. This was after he was found with a deadly weapon that he intended to use in committing murder. Since they could not bear this for long, they decided to run away from the institution. However, they were discovered two days later and ruthlessly beaten. Each of them received over thirty lashes. He was then taken to solitary confinement where Poss together with his followers continuously raped him. However, he endured this, but it would later affect his life negatively. At the age of 18, he met and married a woman by the name Mary and one year afterward, he got out of the reform school and immediately got back to crime. This time, he graduated to murdering his victims.

Family Relationships

Since he was brought up by a single mother who regularly brought different men to their house, Donald was unhappy with her. This way, he had a negative perception towards family as a unit. He also hated his father since he could tease him while sleeping with his mother while he watched all these (Aamodt & Moyse, 2003). Additionally, when her mother finally married, his stepfather beat him together with the four half-siblings. This also affected his life negatively and contributed to his conduct of being a serial killer.

Cultural Factors in Childhood/Adolescence

Culture and childhood experiences worsened Donald’s state since he could quickly get into any criminal activity. Since he was not attached to any church or religious institutions, he was easily influenced by friends who had bizarre motives. However, he did not face cultural or language barriers since he was born and raised in South Carolina. Mostly, since her mother could not afford a rental in big towns, he lived in the suburban regions and the first six years, the family lived with Mr. Gaskins in a three bed-roomed house. This time, he could pay for their house rent and sustain them. However, this could not last for long since he abandoned the young family. During adolescence, Donald’s disregard for human rights forced him to get involved in serious crimes.

Section 3: Adult Development

Post High School Education/Training/Learning

Donald Gaskins did not go to High School or any other institution of higher learning. Having dropped at the age of 8 from primary school, he did not advance his education. Also, this was because of his socioeconomic status. At the age of 12, instead of going back to school, he worked in a garage. This is where he got involved in a wide range of criminal activities as a result of peer pressure. Gaskins did not join the military since he hated the uniformed officers and he was usually apprehended for a variety of offenses. He got a chance to advance acquire some knowledge when he was taken to a correction facility, but this was not successful. Lack of further training had adverse effects on Donald’s socioeconomic status since he could not earn reasonable income but instead turned into a crime.

Romantic/Family Relationships

Donald fell in love with Mary who was his first wife and was willing to do anything to salvage their marriage. However, this was futile. In 1955, he got married to Juney Alice Holden although Donald had not entirely divorced Mary. His romantic relationships faced many challenges, and this can be attributed to his problematic childhood. In most cases, he was tired with them and opted out. In 1961, he married Jenni Deloris and in 1962, he married Leni Oxendine, who was his fourth wife. In 1965, his fifth wife gave birth to a son. Thus, he had two children, a son and a daughter from different marriages. These children faced many difficulties since their father was absent most of the times. Even though he got contact with the previous wives, he could not want to bear more children with them since he had issues settling.

Occupations/Careers throughout Adulthood

As at the age of 31, Donald worked a construction company doing roofing in Sumter. The work was tedious to him and did not pay well. To sustain himself, he worked in the evening on stolen cars which he repainted and refurbished them. Donald did not get along well with his bosses at the workplace and this affected his stay. However, when hired to kill, he did so without a second thought. As an adult, he did not pursue any higher learning since he did not go beyond primary school. He survived through menial jobs which did not pay that much.


If he could have pursued education, Donald could have succeeded despite having a problematic childhood and adolescence. However, he became a serial killer who ended up being dreaded in entire America. Regarding accolades, he did not get any since he was much involved in crime whereby he sexually assaulted his victims before killing them.

Civic Engagement

Donald was never involved in civic engagement or charity work. He was against anything that bordered community development since his life had been affected by childhood. Thus, he was wanted in more than four states having killed and maimed many people.


In adulthood, Donald Gaskins did not attend any other places of worship. This proved that he was usually forced in childhood to go to church even though he did not like this. His aversion to religion contributed to the negative attitude towards other people and ensured that his victims went through torture before killing them between 1969 and 1975. This was an indication that he was merciless.

Medical or Psychological Disorders/Activities

Although Gaskins was considered physically weak and since childhood, he was not diagnosed with any disorders or illnesses. In adulthood, he weighed 59 kilograms which were below average. Pee Wee was admitted to a mental hospital once when his appendix ruptured and he had to be checked for further disorders.

Peer Relationships in Adulthood

In adulthood, Donald did not make friends as he did when he was below the age of 15. Instead, he operated singlehandedly and in secret. He could kill more than two people at once. At some instance, he had found three passengers which comprised two college girls and a male in 1975. He then forced them to engage in group sex after which he killed them. All these were done singlehandedly and this raised questions regarding how he could act alone in such a deadly manner. It is evident that he had blamed the previous relationships with Henry and Smith which caused him to be a dreaded killer. As he got older, he seemed to avoid peer relationships.

Issues with Aging

Donald ‘Pee Wee’ did not live past the age of 59. Thus, the issues relating to aging that he faced were not evident. However, he could not work in the construction company that he had sought employment any more since it was tedious and his age could not allow getting involved in strenuous jobs. Instead of working for long hours, he opted to take part in the killing spree and rage havoc. From Donald’s perspective, dying is not an issue of concern since he killed without any fear until he was executed by being electrocuted using an electric chair.

Cultural Factors That May Have Affected Development

His weird culture believes they gave him a chance to conduct killings and he enjoyed seeing people die. Additionally, his view towards sex was skewed and perverse since he resorted to sexually assaulting his targets before murdering them.

Other Experiences

Finally, other activities that might have affected him included the punishments that he received in prison. A good example is the more than 30 lashes that he was subjected to while at the correction school. These acted negatively towards his life, and he even became resistant to any form of punishments, Jail was no longer scary to him, and he could do anything wrong or against the law.

Section 4: Application of Theory

In the discipline of sociology and psychology, most of the theories explain childhood and adolescent development. A lot of time has been taken to explain developmental milestones whose concentration is focused on youth. This is because of childhood determination of the probable behavior or personality the person will manifest with at adulthood. However, several theories exist to describe adult development.

  1. Biosocial development: According to Levinson’s model, “Seasons of life theory,” adult development comprises sequence-like stages, and each of them would shape the action or event that leads into the next phase (Levinson, 1978). At the age of 17-12, people should be transitioning to adulthood. In the case of Donald, he did not start making adult choices such as choosing to enter workforce or college, but rather he shifted to crime based on his upbringing. His biosocial development was not in a sequence according to Levinson. Moreover, adults should transition to settling down and living adulthood with a particular family (Levinson, 1978). Donald had something he referred to as “bothersomeness,” which was the internal urge that could be fulfilled through murder, torture, and rape. According to Vaillant’s theory, six adult life tasks exists which must be accomplished for a person to be mature and adult. They include developing identity, intimacy, career consolidation, generativity, becoming the keeper of the meaning, and achieving integrity. In all these, Donald wanted to be a master of his world which made him antisocial and a person with no moral responsibility.
  2. Cognitive development: Cognitive abilities remain relatively constant throughout adulthood. This is contrary to physical abilities which peak in the mid-20s. In this period, the young adults need to demonstrate relativistic thinking and become aware of the complexity of life. Donald could not see the importance of settling because he was an angry man, and he directed his anger towards women as seen in his killing of young ladies. He raped, tortured, and killed them. These activities were accompanied by cannibalism, biting, mutilation, cutting, and breaking bones. Thus, according to Levinson’s theory, Donald was entirely out of his cognitive parameters.
  3. Psychosocial development: his childhood trauma shaped Donald’s emotional development. According to the differential-association theory, Donald’s behavior was deviant. He does crimes thinking it is not against the moral teaching of the society. This is because he does so based on the setting and the values he was taught. Throughout his criminal cases, he displays anger and vengeance of what he suffered from when he was young. Based on Levinson’s theory, it is clear that the psychosocial development of Donald was influenced by how he was brought up and the events that took place.
  4. Furthermore, Donald had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as depicted in his preoccupation with personal vanity, prestige, power, and adequacy. He says that “I have walked the same path as God, by taking lives and making others afraid, I became God’s equal.” He does not see the harm he causes to others or himself.

Adult experiences are essential in mitigating childhood experiences. For a case in point, Donald’s parent used to make love in front of him, and they neglected him. His stepfathers physically abused him, and Molly did not intervene. Although Donald reports that he was not harmed and had a normal childhood, his adulthood’s crimes reflect the lack of parental guidance. Usually, adults are the core contributors to childhood development. If Donald had caring, affectionate, peace-loving, and supportive parents, he would have a better life that is sequential according to Levinson’s theory. Taking children to rehabilitation centers or a psychologist would be beneficial to help them grow some sense of belonging.

Moreover, with Donald suffering from NPD, he needed someone to support him. He was born and grew up in an impoverished neighborhood, and most of the times, his mother did not supervise him. Therefore, he graduated as ‘power man.’ Despite his small size, the gap was accomplished by being a serial killer. Bullying, learning difficulties, and poverty are results of poor upbringing and lack of parental guidance and love.


Cultural factors influence development through adulthood. Parenting style, race, class, and intersecting identities are culture-driven factors that have a significant influence on adult development. Donald was a white, and most of his captives were of the same race except for one woman who was African American. His criminal background emanates from the trauma he went through without support or guidance. Cognitive development is influenced by culture. Cultures with limited diversity yield groups whereby one is superior, and the other feels inferior. Social development, which is the ability to get along with others, is dependent on the values and belief of a particular culture. Concerning Donald’s setting, his adulthood was influenced by a culture which did not foster moral values. Precisely, he was suffering from anomie, which made him develop the feeling of “bothersomeness,” that was the key driver in his killing. A society which has lost its moral teaching tends to produce individuals who do not consider the law. This is reflected throughout the life of Donald’s whereby his community did not produce ethically upright individuals.




Aamodt, M. G., & Moyse, C. (2003). Researching the multiple murderer: A comprehensive bibliography of books on specific serial, mass, and spree killers. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology18(1), 61-85.

Levenson, M. R., & Crumpler, C. A. (1996). Three models of adult development. Human Development39(3), 135-149.

Levinson, D. J. (1978). The seasons of a man’s life. Random House Digital, Inc..