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While binging the second season of "Mindhunter" over the weekend, a serial killer with an embarrassing knack for using big vocabulary words in all the wrong ways may have stuck out: William “Junior” Pierce.
The show’s main character, Holden Ford, is based on the very real former FBI unit chief and profiler John Douglas, and it follows him as he interviews killers to try to understand their mindset and see if it can provide insight for other cases. While the second season mostly focuses on the Atlanta Child Murders, it also includes depictions of multiple high-profile murderers, like the "BTK Killer” Dennis Rader and David Berkowitz, aka the “Son of Sam.”
It also features some lesser-known killers like Montie (or Monte) Rissell and Pierce. Yes, Pierce is based on an actual murderer. Pierce in reality was a serial killer who liked to be called “Junior” despite the senior amount of crimes under his homicidal belt.
Over a period of mere months, he killed nine people, a spree only halted by his arrest in March 1971. He had been paroled from a Georgia state prison in May 1970 (he had been serving time for burglary), even though a prison psychologist that said he “may be dangerous to himself and others,” according to a 1971 New York Times article.
Pierce's most notorious crime was killing 13-year-old Margaret "Peg" Cuttino, the daughter of a South Carolina state senator, according to Newsweek.
Cuttino was reported missing in mid-December 1970, “and her body was discovered buried under some leaves and small limbs” a day before New Year's Eve, according to court records. Pierce reportedly abducted the girl at a hamburger stand.
Pierce also murdered two other teens: 17-year-old waitress Kathy Anderson and 18-year-old college student Ann Goodwin. The rest of his victims ranged in age. He killed James L. Shires, a 60-year-old service station operator, 51-year-old country store operator named Lacy Thigpen, 50-year-old gas station attendant Joe Fletcher, 20-year-old housekeeper Virigina Maines, and shopkeepers Vivian Miles, 60, and Hazel Wilcoz, 31, reports Newsweek.
Pierce was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. While the details of his real-life murders are not discussed in the second season of the show, his character instead goes into detail about his so-called language abilities as he is visited in a Georgia prison by FBI agents.
His character, played by Michael Filipowich, brags he can speak seven languages, but it’s made clear that’s probably not the case. For one, he loses track of how many languages he can speak and also he claims he can speak “Libyan,” which is not an actual language but rather a country where the people speak Arabic.
He does use some impressive vocabulary words — but he uses them completely wrong. For example, he says he was feeling “intimated” when he likely meant to say "intimidated." His character appears to provide some comic relief to the super bleak series as he protests that he’s not a moron.
Pierce is bribed with Mallomars into talking to the FBI agents, even though he has no valuable insight to offer in the show.
It’s not clear how Pierce talked in real life or why he killed. What is clear is that before his killing spree, he was convicted of several burglaries, thefts, and even arson, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Real photos of the killer show him surrounded by junk food, so perhaps the sour human really did have a sweet tooth. A black and white photo of his cell shows him posing near bread and vanilla wafers and cigarettes. That very picture, taken in 1971, was actually used in the third episode of the new season, but it was doctored to show the actor’s face instead of Pierce’s.
The show's portrayal of the killer's personal style seems to be on point, too, based on photos of him.
Pierce is still alive and is incarcerated at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison, according to the Georgia Offender Database.
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