CREATIVE NON-FICTION: Feature> Crime>Intimate Encounters of the Worst Kind

Note to Reader: This article contains graphic descriptions of real prison violence, and real sex crimes perpetrated by a man named Thomas McCarthy in the Lakewood, Ohio area. Reader discretion is advised. – JR

 Intimate Encounters of the Worst Kind

Much like stabbing someone to death, sexual assault is an act of intimacy. Both are acts of violence to be sure, but intimate violence. To become an accomplished assailant, that is, to assault successfully without being caught, injured, identified or otherwise compromised, practice, and a steeling of nerves is required.

Scene: Prison

One convict stabs another on a prison tier with a cell-made knife, or shank: the weapon might be a sharpened plastic ball point pen, or a metal scrap filed into a point and wrapped with tape or cloth, to serve as a grip. It might be a piece of wood, whittled into a point and steeped in feces and urine, the better to contaminate the blood of the victim and ensure death by infection if death doesn’t come from stabbed and shredded organs.

Assailant and victim are physically close during the event. The assailant knows he must kill his intended victim, or he will become a victim through retaliation.  There is no half measure in their shared world of violence. In the free world, one can walk away when there’s trouble if one so chooses. In a prison, there’s no place to go. So the assailant stabs as many times as he is able, before he is seen, or stopped. One stab, as in the movies, rarely, if ever, does the job. Here the objective is simple and cruel: kill and escape.

To meet his objective, he stabs fast, repeatedly and viciously. The victim might have highly developed abdominal, chest, back and arm muscles, or may be wearing an armored vest made of magazines under his shirt or coat to thwart such an attack. Both steely muscle and hundreds of pages of bound paper make driving a blade into flesh difficult.  The assailant must be prepared for these obstacles. If he’s an accomplished assassin, he may have studied a medical journal, or consulted with other killers to know where to place his thrusts, the better to pierce vital organs or arteries. He may know his intended victim is, indeed, muscled, or suspect he may be armored, and so will perhaps attack the face, throat, head or groin. He will not stop stabbing until intervention by death, guard or counter attack.

Until such intervention, the assailant will be intimate with his victim. He will touch him, smell him, hold him and feel the fluids from his body run out of him to mingle with his own.


Scene: Ohio Suburbs

Between 1986 and 1997, Ohio fireman Thomas McCarthy is alleged to have stalked approximately 2400 women in the Cleveland and Lakewood, Ohio areas. His erratic schedule as a fireman coupled with his aquarium cleaning business, which he owned, and operated off shift from the firehouse, afforded him what is called “occupational opportunity.” He had, due to the nature of his employment, time to stalk; he honed his non-compliant behaviors in his spare time.

McCarthy’s victims were all women, ranging in age from their middle twenties through their fifties. His victims were homemakers, clerks and salespeople who he found in parking lots, movie theaters, shopping malls and even in the waiting room of the dentist who paid McCarthy to clean his fish tank during office hours. McCarthy would linger at the fish tank until he heard the receptionist call a female patient forward. If he found the patient attractive, on his next visit to the office he would covertly remove her file from the wall of patient records, secretly record her name, address and age, and then, would replace the folder in its correct position in the wall.

McCarthy maintained records on every woman he stalked in a home computer data base. He recorded their age, location of employment, residence, type of car they drove, their hair color, weight, and height. He made notes on which women had a pet, and if so, what type of animal. He also made notations regarding anything he found particularly appealing or titillating, such as their estimated bust measurement or styles of shoes they wore to work.

McCarthy was a sadist. According to his jailhouse confession and interviews given in prison, he physically intimidated his victims and tortured them. He enjoyed administering pain. He spent twelve months stalking the woman who would eventually help convict him of her rape.

McCarthy broke into this woman’s home while she watched television, lashed her to a column in her basement and for three hours, tortured her with an 80,000-volt stun gun while raping and sodomizing her. McCarthy was convicted for this crime, and the attempted rape of another woman, plus assorted charges related to the attempted rape. Police were able to prove during their investigation—though not admissible in court—that McCarthy had stalked over 2000 women, and because of this massive roster, police believed McCarthy raped more than just one.

That McCarthy raped his victim for three hours in her own home and that he left her house mid-assault to move his car into a more desirable parking spot on the street suggests not only McCarthy’s sociopathic make-up, but also his confidence and comfort level; he knew he had three hours for this assault. This behavior shows he likely had cased the victim’s home sufficiently over the preceding year to know no one would materialize there, or his victim wouldn’t leave there, for at least three hours from the time he wished to begin his assault.

A person doesn’t wake one day and decide, “I’d like to try raping someone today. For about three hours.”

Just like the convict who decides he must kill another convict, and who sets out to do so with extreme prejudice, McCarthy knew exactly what he was doing and how much time he needed to do it. He spent a year planning it. Three hours is a good return on that investment. A sexual deviant can accomplish a lot in three hours with an assurance of privacy. They’re highly motivated; they’ve had a lot of practice for their intimate encounters.


Men like Thomas McCarthy, as well as obscene phone callers, child molesters, chat room predators, porn addicts, subway gropers and flashers all carry a burdensome load of psychological baggage. Health professionals group this baggage collectively under a clinical umbrella term: Conduct Disorders.

Now, each of us has a microscopic factory in our brain. This factory is set-up to make customized, psychotic luggage sets. In most of us, thankfully, this factory is shuttered and dormant. In men like Thomas McCarthy, the work whistle blows twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; a non-stop assembly line of crazy:

Conduct Disorders Ltd.: We Pack ‘Em – You Attack ‘Em!

While each afflicted individual carries baggage from the same manufacturer, the styles, and the combination of bags each individual carries is different – just like at an airport. These are some of the model names: Intermittent Aggressive Behavior; Pervasive Developmental Disorder; Affective Aggression; Predatory Aggression.

Many theories chock-full of big words and tongue twisting phrases are postulated and published to explain the etiology of aggression in these disorders. Every year papers are funded and published, lectures and conferences are held and books are sold covering topics such as neurotransmitter theories related to lowered serotonin levels and the increased turnover of norepinephrine and dopaminergic agents in the brain.

As well, there are scientists, therapists and doctors who believe in genetic theories suggesting that X and Y chromosomes conspire to make people behave abnormally. And of course, there are developmental theories – you know the type – the ones that have your mother and father in leading roles. These theories attempt to explain the manifestations of aggression from childhood through adulthood and between the genders. But no one theory, or study, or interview or sampling can account for all the different types of conduct disorders observed in those who suffer from them.

People who are diagnosed with conduct disorders may display what is known as an affective aggression. This is impulsive, uncontrolled, unplanned and/or overt behavior.  But they may also engage in predatory aggression, like Thomas McCarthy. Predatory aggression is goal oriented, controlled, planned and/or hidden behavior.

Another component of conduct disorders are something called impulse-control disorders. This is the failure to resist an impulse, drive or temptation to perform an act that is harmful to the disordered person as well as to others. In most impulse-control disorders, the disordered individual feels an increasing sense of tension or arousal before committing an explosive act and then experiences pleasure, gratification or relief at the time the act is committed. The individual may also experience remorse, regret or embarrassment after the act.

What you just read describes someone you know. They’re out of service. Just like Thomas McCarthy. They just haven’t been caught yet, so you have no way of knowing they’re fucking nuts and incredibly dangerous. They’ve had a lot of practice for their intimate encounters of the worst kind.