Donald “PeeWee” Gaskins was a true American serial killer, possibly connected to over 200 murders. Born in Prospect, Florence County, South Carolina, Gaskins spent most of his youth in and out of reform school and later prison. Gaskins' small, slight build (5'4" tall, hence his nickname) made him a target for physical and sexual abuse in prison. He eventually killed a highly regarded prisoner while the man was defecating, transforming him into a jailhouse legend for the rest of his stay.
In 1969, after being released from prison, Gaskins got back to killing at an alarming rate. He made a distinction between people he found while driving around the roadways of the American South that he killed for pleasure, and people he was familiar with that he killed for specific reasons. Gaskins also had a thriving business fencing stolen cars. He operated his fencing business out of several properties around the Carolinas, where he murdered most of his victims. His other favorite hunting grounds were the coastal highways, where every six weeks, he went hunting to quell his feelings of "bothersome-ness."
His total number of victims might well have been over 200, but law enforcement sources found it impossible to verify all of his claims. In his autobiography, Final Truth, Gaskins wrote that he had "a special mind" that gave him "permission to kill." Gaskins first victims were his niece and her friend who he beat to death in Sumter, South Carolina in 1970 after they argued about the girls' drug use. On December 4, 1975, Gaskins led police to land he owned in Prospect, where police dug up numerous bodies of Gaskins' victims. Gaskins killed children and at least one baby. He crushed their necks, cut their throats, stabbed, poisoned, and drowned them, beat them to death with his fists, and shot them execution style.
Before 1976, Gaskins was on death row, but his sentences were commuted to life in prison when the South Carolina General Assembly's 1974 death sentence ruling was changed to meet the United States Supreme Court guidelines for the death penalty in other states. In the early 1980s, Gaskins was named the "Meanest Man in America" for killing another inmate while in maximum security, a crime for which he was sentenced to death. While in prison, Gaskins was hired by Tony Cimo to kill Rudolph Tyner. Tyner was on death row for killing Bill and Myrtie Moon, Cimo's parents, with a 12-gauge shotgun in the store they owned in the Burgess community. Gaskins first attempts at killing Tyner involved sprinkling poison on his food that only made him sick to his stomach. Then Gaskins rigged a device similar to a portable radio and told Tyner this would allow them to talk between cells. When Tyner followed Gaskins instructions to hold it to his ear and plug it in, it exploded and killed Tyner.
PeeWee Gaskins was tried for the murder of Rudolph Tyner and sentenced to death. Gaskins was executed on September 6, 1991 at 1:10 a.m. He was the fourth person to die by electrocution after the death penalty was reinstated in South Carolina in 1977.