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Authors: James G. Hollock

Born to Lose

BOOK: Born to Lose
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Born to Lose



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Born to Lose: Stanley B. Hoss and the Crime Spree That Gripped a Nation

James G. Hollock

© 2011 by The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio 44242


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 2011000673

ISBN 978-1-60635-097-3

Maufactured in the united states of America


Hollock, James G., 1948–

Born to lose : Stanley B. Hoss and the crime spree that gripped a nation /

James G. Hollock ; with a foreword by James Jessen Badal.

     p. cm. — (True crime history series)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-1-60635-097-3 (pbk. : alk. paper) ∞

1. Hoss, Stanley B., 1943–1978. 2. Murderers—United States—Biography.

3. Criminals—United States—Biography. I. Title.

HV6248.H675H65 2011




British Library Cataloging-in-Publication data are available.

15 14 13 12       5 4 3 2

For the many within these pages who were the victims of aggression and neglect, of assault, of rape and fear; for all those who suffered but survived Stanley Hoss's wide swath of destruction; and most of all for those who did not survive: Joe, Linda, Lori, and “Pete,” who were, really, the best we could have among us, this book is dedicated.

James Jessen Badal

Most people probably never heard of Stanley B. Hoss Jr. His name most likely will not ring any bells, even among those readers who are interested in the serious history of crime. He certainly does not rank in the public mind with such infamous icons of savage murder as Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, or John Wayne Gacy. His name does not appear in any of those large anthologies devoted to major crimes, nor is there much about him and his criminal rampage on the Internet. Yet Stanley Hoss's appallingly brutal career as a rapist, murderer, criminal on the run, and convict supposedly shut safely away in prison remains frighteningly and unspeakably vicious. “Pure evil,” remarked a friend of mine who has put in several years as a state highway patrolman and a SWAT team member when he read Jim Hollock's manuscript. “The best argument for the death penalty I've ever seen.”

Quite a number of years ago, a friend gave me a book on Jeffrey Dahmer and his revolting crimes. It was a rather cheap-looking, shoddy little affair thrown together quickly to capitalize on the public's already waning fascination with Dahmer's murderous activities and disgusting cannibalism. In retrospect, the most interesting thing about the relatively short volume was the fact that the publisher had gotten it onto bookstore shelves within two months of Dahmer's arrest. Unfortunately, to many readers this sort of sleazy wallowing defines true crime writing; true crime books rank as little more than first cousins to the tabloid press. When approached with objectivity and seriousness of purpose, however, the true crime genre should be viewed as a legitimate branch of historical inquiry, a level Jim Hollock's
Born to Lose
clearly attains. Granted, none of the several history courses I took during my student days dealt with crime per se, unless it was an act of enormous political or economic consequences—the Lincoln assassination, for example. But the crimes people commit, the kind of people who commit them, the manner in which those acts and perpetrators are perceived by society, and the way those criminals are pursued and punished are all deeply grounded in the social-economic realities of a specific time and place.

After more than a century, Jack the Ripper remains the most famous and fascinating serial killer in the English-speaking world; the sheer brutality of his murders coupled with the fact that he has never been satisfactorily identified (though the attempts to do so have run the gamut from serious and interesting to harebrained) have guaranteed him a secure place in pop culture, the world of true crime, and social history. Like barnacles on a rusty ship's hull, however, an enormous collection of mythic accretions have attached themselves to the Ripper legend, making the task of separating fact from fiction a monumentally complex task. Therefore, a full appreciation of the Ripper and his murder-mutilations can only come from a thorough analysis of the environment in which his crimes were committed: the squalid living conditions in a nineteenth-century English slum; Victorian attitudes toward sex, prostitution, poverty, foreigners, and immigration; and police investigative assumptions and methods. While London newspapers remain one of the main sources of information about the Ripper killings, it is also necessary to know and appreciate the standards of late-nineteenth-century British journalism when it came to such niceties as accuracy and objectivity.

No major crime or crime spree, no matter how compellingly brutal in its own right, can be fully understood if it is removed from its social and political environment. Every aspect of the Lizzie Borden affair, for example— everything from the vicious killings of her father and stepmother to her trial and eventual acquittal—is firmly grounded in the attitudes and prejudices that characterized late-nineteenth-century, small-town New England life. Similarly, everything about the appalling murder of Little Mary Phagan and the subsequent trial, conviction, and lynching of Leo Frank grows out of the poisonous atmosphere of life in 1913 Atlanta, Georgia—a city rebuilding and still reeling psychologically from the devastation wrought by General Sherman a half century before, a deeply wounded civic psyche darkened by virulent prejudices toward blacks and outsiders, especially a Jewish “carpetbagger” from the hated North. Both the sheer horror and almost unbearable poignancy of the 1947 murder-mutilation of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, are born out of the character of life in a Hollywood just beginning to stretch itself and prosper after wartime restrictions and shortages, a movie capital of glaring contrasts: a glamorous, glitzy surface of studio moguls, stars, and premieres masking a dark underbelly of sleazy clubs and hot spots populated by hucksters, pimps, and naive Hollywood wannabes.

Stanley Hoss's killing ground, however, was neither exotic nor glamorous; in fact, the utter normality of his world remains one of the most disturbing aspects of his criminal career. We tend to associate heartless acts of mayhem such as those committed by Hoss with major population centers—the impersonal and uncaring sprawl of a big city or the back alleys of a New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. But Hoss's brutal rampage of rape and murder was primarily confined to faceless small towns and featureless back roads; his stomping ground was a familiar middle-class world of shopping malls, gas stations, and roadside motels that stretched along the highways from Pennsylvania and southern Ohio to Maryland and Iowa. He was, perhaps, one of the last of the James Dean–inspired rebels, rather like Charlie Starkweather: angry outsiders and tough loners who confronted the world with a hard stare, a dangling cigarette, and a heartless sneer.

Born to Lose: Stanley B. Hoss and the Crime Spree That Gripped a Nation
, Jim Hollock artfully traces all the steps in his odyssey of violence that stretched from 1969 through 1973. He lays out the details of Hoss's shocking crimes objectively; he does not linger unduly on the viciousness of his acts, nor does he back away from their sheer brutality. He also has a wonderful feel for the atmosphere and the quality of life in mid-America more than forty years ago—a peaceful world just beginning to reel from the social upheavals brought on by the Vietnam War. Hollock's knowing and artful evocation of that time and place throws Hoss's cold brutality and mind-numbing insensitivity into startlingly graphic relief. It's as if a monster had suddenly burst on to a social landscape that still clung to the notion that it was a
Leave it to Beaver
world. Hollock's total command of his material also allows him to deftly shift the character of his narrative from a documentary-like recounting of events to a gripping evocation of suspense worthy of a first-rate novel. He plunges the reader deeply into this terrible journey, a journey that does not end with Hoss's arrest, trial, and incarceration. There was more to come.

Society usually seeks to protect itself from the unnerving fear generated by random, inexplicable violence by searching for explanations—reasons that “explain” those disturbing acts that threaten to tear apart the social fabric. Richard Ramirez's savage two-year career as the Night Stalker in the mid-1980s becomes at least comprehensible, though certainly not justified, when seen in the light of his early traumatic brain injury, childhood of depravation, and exposure to violence. Similarly, given the horrendous circumstances of his formative years, it is hardly surprising that Charles Manson became a monster whose legend still survives more than forty years after his “family” members carried out the Tate-LaBianca murders in his name. But there doesn't seem to be anything in his background that explains Stanley Hoss. Words like “sociopath” and “psychopath” seem curiously inadequate in the face of his calculated, heartless savagery. We are left with an endless line of questions that have no answers. He was simply an inexplicable eruption of pure evil.

Author's Note

The following names have been used to shield true identity: Sharon Boehm, Rayford “Georgia” Buoy, Kathy Defino, Beth Evans, Jodine Fawkes, John Gunther, Pat Heidler, Marta Hidal, Diane Hoss, Daniel Lapansky, Karen Maxwell, Whitman Shute, Maureen Vignovic, and Richard Zurka. In addition, the current last names of Stanley Hoss's children have been omitted.

Born to Lose
is the result of a close study of a multitude of documents, including personal letters, depositions, newspaper accounts, and government records, transcripts, and other legal papers, as well as a study of approximately sixty hours of taped interviews with many of the principals of this story. Wherever possible, the principals speak for themselves, and other dialogue was extracted from written documents.

The principal sources for the facts and dialogue in the narrative are listed briefly by chapter in the Source Citations, and in full in the Bibliography. In a few instances, when actors were deceased or otherwise unavailable and no corroborative account of exact words was available, the author constructed dialogue to maintain dramatic narrative pace. Such dramatic reconstructions of dialogue were closely based on the known events and created to tally closely with the characters and personalities of the individuals involved. Each incident described actually occurred, and each character lived the role in which he is portrayed. Although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the responsibility for any error is the author's.

Many thanks to all those interviewed, whose poignant words were the life-blood of this story, to those who loaned or allowed access to personal and official documents and other materials, and to the countless others who provided insight, knowledge, and expertise, as well as leads to people with even more information: to the editors and reporters of the local newspapers, the dearest friend of a writer; the legal and law enforcement agencies who were gracious with their time and who granted access to a wealth of material; to my loving wife, Marilyn, who laboriously transformed a thousand hand-written pages into a very presentable manuscript—no easy task; and to my daughter Sarah, who always stood ready to listen and offer opinion when I read aloud a word or passage. The actual writing of a book is necessarily a solitary pursuit, but I owe much to friends who offered encouragement along the way. Finally, of course, my gratitude goes to Kent State University Press for its faith in my project.

BOOK: Born to Lose
3.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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