It wasn’t as dark and scary as it sounds. I had a lot of fun…killing somebody’s a funny experience

— Albert De Salvo
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Meet The Devil – Loran Cole’s Story From Death Row

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Meet The Devil is a book about Loran Cole, a murderer who killed the nephew of Senator John Edwards and raped his niece. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of John Edwards who died from a slashed throat and numerous skull fractures.

Chris Dahl is the author of the book Meet The Devil which is a collection of letters of his correspondence with the convicted Loran Cole who is awaiting death sentence. This is one of the series of books about Florida’s death row inmates by Chris Dahl. Chris was kind enough to give an interview for readers of twistedminds.com, and gave you all an opportunity to download Meet The Devil for free on on Kindle Direct/Amazon. This great book is available for free only today and tomorrow (5th and 6th of March) so make sure to seize this unique opportunity!

A shocking and fascinating look into the gruesome life of the man who killed the nephew of Senator John Edwards, Loran Cole. Follow his development through a horror-show childhood, an adolescence running with street gangs and a youth adulthood marred by pain and ultimately murder.This book is a rare, unflinching look at the min of a psychopath — one you will not soon forget.

What got you interested in Florida’s death row inmates’ stories and who was your first correspondent?

Chris Dahl: I like my topics bloody and bold, so i turned to Death Row. There was an infamous kidnapper-murderer who lived just a bit north of me named John Couey. I wrote to him on Death Row with no intention of getting a response — but he write back. There’s a weird energy to a letter that’s been in the bowels of a prison, especially Death Row. After three letters, he swore to tell me all about his case and how messed it had been by the police. This set off all kinds of bells and whistles with the authorities, so he died of “natural causes” a few weeks later. Fishy? I decided to randomly write to other inmates on Death Row to find out what actually happened to Couey — no one would say a word out of fear of retribution.But I happened to connect with the Mayor of Death Row and he hooked me up with the guys I wrote about. So, one thing kind of led to another. Each letter I received was shocking and gruesome, but ultimately fascinating. The books grew out of that fascination.

Did you ever get to meet any of these inmates face to face?

Chris Dahl: I never met any of them face to face. It’s a very bureaucratic process wherein they run a check on you and you have to fill out paperwork. Then you have to travel all the way up north where you wait in a parking lot for the bus to come pick you up and bring you to jail. Once there, don’t forget you are in jail yourself — quite a discomforting thought. But on a practical level, I was never who knew whom I was writing about. Being criminals they are all at once wary and territorial: I was their link to the outside and they would not like sharing that tap of resources. So, if word got out I had visited one person and not another, there could have been tension. Also i wanted a sense of objectivity and professional distance.

How did you earn their trust?

Chris Dahl: It’s a long process to earn their trust. John Couey for instance actually berated in his first letter, telling me how rude I was for not completely introducing myself and stating why I was writing. I felt like telling him that kidnapping and murder were rude as well. But I did not want to destroy the exchange of letters. I got credibility with the other inmates once i established the relationship with the Mayor of Death Row. He would tell an inmate I was okay and could be trusted; therefore, I did not have to go through the whole “feeling out process” that I did with Couey. Then, of course, little things we take for granted like envelopes and paper and a few bucks for cigarettes go a long way in terms of buying trust. On some level, the inmates and i both knew we were using each other, but we both needed what the other had so

How did their stories affect your life and did you live through every story or was it more like a job to you?

Chris Dahl: Letters from Death Row have a distinct energy, tone and feel to them. It’s as if they absorb the dank vibrations of the place and transmit them to the world beyond the prison walls. Each one, moreover, has its own unique feel. So, even though I never met any of them in person, I got a sense of their personalities through their handwriting, organization, thought patterns and style. They did affect me deeply. I can’t say I lived vicariously through them but they became counselors, confidants and even friends on some level.

In your book Meet The Devil, Loran Cole describes his troubled childhood in gruesome details, what were your thoughts and feelings when reading these letters?

Chris Dahl: I was a Death Row letter writer veteran by the time I started corresponding with Cole, but he still managed to shock me. I felt what was an almost physical residue that I can only liken to watching someone die in a car crash on the highway. There are images that can not be scrubbed out of your psyche no matter how hard you try. The images would pop up into my mind as i was at work or just walking through a store. It was the most deeply affecting of the works, if not appalling. People often ask how authentic they were, and i tell them that is how he remembers them. So, he is either a raving psychopath who remembers things in that demented way or he did in fact live through the embodiment of Hell on earth. Then, of course, he reproduced it in his own reality.

Loran Cole kept sending you the pictures he drew in prison, there are a few of these in your book as well and they all rather abstract. Do you have a favorite one that you could share with us and maybe explain what’s on it from Loran’s point of view?

Chris Dahl: I like the Illusions series. These drawings are extremely ornate, almost cluttered, but distinct enough to be able to discern every piece. In the middle of each piece is a distinct symbol which is the theme of the artwork. If you look closely, the works contains messages to the outside world: please for mercy, redemption, forgiveness and absolution. They seem restricted by the edges of the paper, just as he is confined by the prison. Thus, just as with his letters, it is a look into his diseased, frantic and disordered mind. (click on the image for a full size view)

Are you against capital punishment in general and what are your reasons?

Chris Dahl: People ask me all the time about this. I am neutral because I am just writing about a social phenomenon. The reader needs to draw the conclusion for him-/herself. I can see the pro and the con of it. Capital punishment does have to be monitored very closely because it is permanent. Once that switch is pulled or once that injection is complete, then the decision to take someone’s life is irrevocable. There can be no real correction. Then on the other hand, if half of what Cole said was true, he might not be a viable citizen of civilization. So, i vacillate a lot.

In this particular case do you think Loran Cole deserves a second chance and do you think a medical treatment could improve his mental health?

Chris Dahl: Cole has had several chances if you read his book. Nowhere along the way does he actually take full and complete responsibility for what he has done. Therefore, i don’t see how he can ever be a fully trusted member of society. Research says that the chance of recidivism goes down as people get older ( levels of testosterone, aggression, maturity increases, physical strength decreases) but then again what he did was permanent. So, should the punishment be permanent for him? Like I said, I go back and forth on the topic. See, i got to know these people and heard their stories, so I know them as more than statistics on a website. On a purely philosophical level, I believe that Capital punishment is some attempt to “beat the Devil;” in other words, we think that by killing a person who has done an evil thing, we are destroying evil. We are not destroying evil; it is a permanent condition, as as good is perpetual. Good and evil are two sides of the same coin, as it were. As long as there is good there will be evil and vice versa. Thus, we can execute Loran Cole and all the rest of them, but there will just be more to come right up behind them. That’s just the way it is.