A seemingly average petty criminal, Charles Hatcher took a big step up to murder when he stabbed fellow prisoner Jerry Lee Tharrington to death in the kitchen of the Missourri State Penitentary in 1961. Suspected of the murder but never tried, Hatcher soon turned his rage on the weakest of prey: children.
Upon his release for a child abduction conviction in the mid-1960's, Hatcher began a crime spree of abductions, molestations, and murders involving young children. Along the way, he was arrested many times but always avoided serious punishment, once being forced only to stay in a mental hospital for one year after the attempted murder of a boy, and on another occasion he was only held briefly because of his deteriorated mental state after sodomising another boy. After these incidents Hatcher would simply resume his murders.
On July 30, 1982, Hatcher raped and murdered eleven-year-old Michelle Steele in St. Joseph, Missourri. Arrested for the murder, Hatcher cracked and began confessing, claiming guilt in fifteen other child murders dating back to 1969. His slayings claimed lives in California, Iowa, Missourri, and Illinois. His first child-killing took place in Antioch, California, just one day before he was arrested on molestation charges in San Francisco. He also drew a map pinpointing the location of a Bettendorf, Iowa, boy that had not been previously found. Found guilty in the Steele slaying and the killing of another Missourri child, four-year-old Eric Christgen, Hatcher was sentenced to two life terms, though he had requested the death sentence. The cowardly child-murderer took care of it himself, hanging himself in his cell just four days after his last sentence.