Monte Rissell: The Real Story Behind The ‘Mindhunter’ Serial Killer, Who Murdered 5 Women Before Age 18

When he was raping a sex worker and began to suspect she was "trying to control things," Monte Rissell became enraged and hunted her down afterward.

By Gina Tron
Digital Original
John Douglas Reveals Which Cases Will Be In “Mindhunter” Season 2

As the new season of ‘Mindhunter’ starts streaming on Netflix Friday, why not familiarize yourself with some of the criminals it will be profiling? 

For those who don’t know, the show is based on the work of former FBI unit chief and profiler John Douglas. The name of the series corresponds with one of Douglas’ books, “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.” Jonathan Groff plays Holden Ford, a character based on Douglas, who interviews killers to try to understand their mindset and see if it can provide insight for other cases. 

The second season will reportedly take on the portrayal of multiple killers, including its continuing, creepy fictionalized coverage of the “BTK Killer” Dennis Rader and high-profile killers like David Berkowitz aka the “Son of Sam.” 

But it will also feature some lesser-known killers like Montie (or Monte) Rissell.

While maybe not a household name, Rissell is a prolific (and vicious) serial killer from the 1970s, who killed five women by age 18, and started raping women at just 14. 

He was featured in the first season of the show, and the second season promises to dive deeper into his disturbing mind.

In Douglas’ book, he wrote that Rissell told him that “if he had been allowed to go with his father instead of his mother when their seriously troubled marriage broke up, he thought he’d be a lawyer now rather than a lifer at the Richmond Penitentiary, where we interviewed him.”

That line about him thinking he could have been a lawyer, nearly verbatim, was used in the first season of the show.

Sure, he did have a messed up childhood. Douglas wrote about Rissell’s troubled youth, noting that he was the youngest of three children at the time his parents separated. He was 7. After the split, his mother uprooted him and moved him across the country. He almost immediately began getting into trouble.

That trouble included shooting his cousin with a BB gun during an argument. This is all, according to the book, seemingly before the ripe old age of 12. Around the same time, his mom split with a new husband and the family uprooted again.

Soon, he was stealing cars, burglarizing and worse: raping people. He had pleaded guilty to both robbery and rape by age 14, and was committed to a psychiatric ward. The next year he was institutionalized again, and for a year and half, according to a 1977 Washington Post piece. After he got out, he was still violent.

It escalated to murder while he was still a high school student in Alexandria, Virginia. He was both on probation from non-homicide crimes and getting out-patient psychiatric counseling. He had a girlfriend who had gone off to college and told him in a letter that she was ending their relationship. He drove up to the college, where he saw her with her new lover. Enraged, he drove back to Alexandria, and within hours, pulled a gun on a woman and raped her. 

That first victim, a sex worker, complied, but when Rissell suspected that she was actually enjoying the attack, and took control over the situation; according to the book, he became enraged.

“It’s like this bitch is trying to control things,” he told Douglas, as outlined in the book.

Rissell became further enraged when she ran off, so he tracked her down and killed her.

He killed four more women within a five month span.

Still alive, Rissell is currently serving time at at Pocahontas State Correctional Center in Virginia. While imprisoned at at the age of just 19 he apparently hand-wrote a 461-page manuscript, a 1978 Washington Post report states. It was entitled "The Trials and Tribulations of Montie R. Rissell” and in it he detailed both his murders and his feelings. In a chapter entitled  "Reasoning," he attempts to explain his murder spree: "Drugs were the main factor in it, but it wasn't the cause of it. It was an enticement that increased my sexual fantasies and really made my mind not in thinking order.”

It does not appear the manuscript was ever published as a book. According to the Washington Post piece, he envisioned making money off of it, and he wanted to keep some of the money for himself for when he thought he'd get out. Technically, he can.

Rissell became eligible for parole in 1995, and has had a parole hearing every year but each year he is denied. 

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