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A serial rapist who targeted college students became the subject of national interest after mental health experts successfully claimed in court that he was the host of two dozen personalities and therefore not responsible for his crimes.
Billy Milligan raped three Ohio State University students in 1977. His violent spree ended when one of his victims managed to identify him from existing police mug shots of sex offenders. He had been released on parole just months before her attack, after serving time for rape and robbery in 1975.
When he was arrested for the serial rapes, Milligan claimed to have no memory of the assaults. Furthermore, his personality and mannerisms seemed to change drastically and constantly.
“A parade of psychiatrists” then diagnosed him with multiple personality disorder (now known as dissociative identity disorder), and eventually determined that as many as 24 distinct “multiples” existed within his mind, according to the Netflix docuseries “Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan” which hits the streaming service on Sept. 22.
It was a case that captured the attention of America as Milligan’s defense team claimed that he couldn't be held responsible for the sexual assaults because the rapist wasn’t his core self. Rather, it was one of the many personalities that his body hosted. As the docuseries notes, the disorder is commonly attributed to extreme childhood trauma. As a young boy, Milligan endured sadistic abuse at the hands of his stepfather.
Milligan’s personalities differed in behavior and even had different accents. There was Arthur, a sophisticated expert in science and medicine, Ohio outlet WBNS reported in 2014. When he would come out, Milligan would speak in a British accent. Then there was Ragen Vadascovinic, the "keeper of hate.” He had a Slavic accent. The alters also ranged in age and gender, including 8-year-old David and 3-year-old Christene.
While the claim of multiple personalities was controversial and groundbreaking at the time, the jury believed it enough to find Milligan not guilty by reason of insanity. This made him the very first person in American history to successfully use multiple-personality disorder as a defense for violence in court. Later, psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Lewis testified as an expert witness for several murderers, including serial killer Arthur Shawcross in 1990. Her work has since been widely criticized and renowned forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz, who consulted for both the FBI and CIA, claimed under oath during Shawcross' trial that he felt Lewis was inviting Shawcross to play various roles.
Many people now believe that Milligan was playing roles as well.
Following his trial, Milligan spent years in a psychiatric institution while remaining a source of public wonder as people tried to determine the truth: was he actually controlled by multiple personalities or was he merely finding a way out of responsibility for his crimes?
Interviews with Milligan’s family, friends, doctors and investigators attempt to get to the bottom of the story in “Monsters Inside” which also focuses on his complicated life post-trial.
Milligan began selling his paintings from the psychiatric ward for upwards of thousands of dollars. He also became the subject of a 1981 book called “The Minds of Billy Milligan'' written by best-selling “Flowers for Algernon” author Daniel Keyes. Both resulted in a discourse about the morality of criminals profiting from their infamy. One hospital was also criticized for allegedly favoring Milligan and for giving him unsupervised furloughs just two years after the rapes, the Columbus Dispatch reported in 2007.
Milligan was sent back and forth between low and high-security institutions as he proved to be a security risk, furthering the hypothesis of some that he was a manipulative sociopath. He escaped from the Central Ohio Psychiatric Hospital in 1986, before creating videotapes for local media outlets to complain about the hospital. He worked at a hot-tub business in Washington state while on the lam.
Did he also kill someone while he was on the run? "Monsters Inside" explores that possibility as well. While living under the name Christopher Carr in Bellingham, Washington, Milligan was the last person to be seen with his neighbor Michael Madden, alive. Madden, 33, vanished in 1986 after an argument with Milligan over his disability checks. Some investigators, Milligan's friend, and even his siblings told the producers of "Monsters Inside" that they think he may have killed Madden.
He was arrested in Miami months later, according to the Dispatch.
Milligan was released from all psychiatric wards in 1988 after psychiatrists determined that Milligan’s personalities had fused and that he was back to his core self. He was released from all supervision in 1991.
But his case still invited public fascination. He moved to California to work with directors James Cameron and Joel Schumacher on a prospective movie that was never made, according to the Dispatch. Leonardo DiCaprio was one of several big actors eyed to play Milligan and as recently as 2015, DiCaprio was still chasing the role, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Earlier this year, actor Tom Holland was slated to star as Milligan in an upcoming series called "The Crowded Room," Deadline reported.
By 1996, a California judge found Milligan incapable of handling his own affairs. He was sued for royalties he earned on “The Minds of Billy Milligan” to recover $120,000 of the nearly half-million that was spent on his treatment over the years, the Dispatch reported. He declared bankruptcy in San Diego in the late 1990s.
From 2000 until 2014, Milligan kept an extremely low profile, WBNS reported in 2014.
He died at a hospital in Columbus of cancer in 2014 at the age of 59, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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