I am a Killer (2018) s01e08 Episode Script

David Lee Lewis

[man] A lot of things happened, you know, in the year kind of all around that event.
Everybody in my life, like, they didn't believe it.
"Not Robert, not the Robert we know.
" But a lot didn't know me as well as they thought they did either.
It wasn't something I really wanted to do, but once it was kind of agreed upon that I would do it, [stammers] it just really spun out of control.
Very quickly.
There was no conversation about what was gonna happen when we got to where we were going.
Things had taken a terrible turn, and it just got worse.
[man 1] And I walked up, I fired one shot.
And as I got closer, I fired one more shot.
[man 2] She was shot through the cheek and it stopped in her jaw.
[man 3] I drove him around behind a desk and I stabbed him approximately 25 times.
[man 4] I couldn't believe it.
I just thought I can't believe I just killed somebody.
[man 5] I don't feel bad about it.
[laughs] [man 6] I started stabbing him, stabbing the guy on the couch.
[producer] Just go one, two, three, four One, two, three.
One, two, three, four [Shafer] I was born and raised in Salina, Kansas in August, 1970.
I'm the ninth of 11 children and the sixth of six boys.
A Catholic family.
My father was military, uh, Army.
So previous to my birth, my family moved around quite a lot.
Um, my father passed in August 1977, and kind of the dynamic of my family changed.
Single mother, but she brought another man into the picture.
, Once my father passed it really changed me.
My downward spiral can be easily tracked from that day forward.
For 12 years, I kinda did what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted.
And it just evolved into criminal type behavior.
Minor stuff, petty theft and vandalism, and just being, you know, in this country what we call kind of a miscreant or a delinquent.
Um And the drugs and alcohol came at 9.
I would take alcohol to school, and while we're at recess and the other kids were playing, I would sneak off and try to drink alcohol.
It's crazy, and people didn't even know, but I got away with it because I didn't look like I would do that.
And they knew I was sad about my father, so they kind of left me be.
My first serious brush with the law I had some more more than minor before, you know, my case now, um, but they were nothing serious.
I stole a car.
I was with a girl and we argued, and so she reported the car stolen.
That was And I was in the wrong.
She did the only thing she could do and it cost me.
That was, that almost put me in prison.
And then I did it again a couple years later with another girl, and didn't learn my lesson the first time and that was I was actually sentenced to prison in Oklahoma for that, and they gave me probation.
And three months later, I managed to find myself in this case.
My co-defendant, Steinmeyer, I worked with him, and, um, maybe we were in some way kinda kindred spirits.
He was a little bit younger than me, but a lot like me, maybe more of the aggressive type.
But I liked him because he was a lot like me when I was a little bit younger than him.
We didn't really become close until maybe about a month before the murders happened.
But in that month, we crammed a lot in.
Girls and partying, drinking underage, and messing with marijuana and cocaine and meth.
Steinmeyer, he bragged a lot, and he had talked a lot previously about robbing people, committing various crimes.
I really, you know, I talk a lot, but I wasn't really into all that.
When he brought it up, I initially just kind of, uh, said no, and it was no.
I mean, you can't make me do it.
But as the day wore on, I bit.
I said, "Okay.
" And within an hour after that, we were on our way.
The planning of what was supposed to be a robbery had nothing to do with killing anybody.
That never played into it, initially.
[stammers] It just really spun out of control.
[Shafer] We met the victims at Blanchette Landing, and, this is a word that, um, it's kinda tough to use, it feels like predator and prey, but that is in fact what it was.
We kinda stalked the victims.
It was dark and they were quite a distance aways, away from us, but as we approached them, we could tell that it was two men, and at one point they kissed.
We knew that people of a homosexual preference might be easier targets.
When you're looking for somebody to rob, you certainly don't wanna pick the 6-foot-8, 300-pound bruiser.
You wanna pick somebody that may be an easy victim.
They thought it was unusual we were out this late at night.
We both looked young.
And my mugshot from that time will tell you I look like I was about 12, not 19.
Um, "What are you doing out so late?" Well, we just came up with a quick story about we needed to get to this girl's house about ten miles away, "Will you give us a ride?" "Sure.
" And that's how we ended up in the car with them.
They had been drinking.
Uh, they were both quite intoxicated.
We had them take us a few places like houses we were looking for, we didn't know even where we were.
I knew I had a gun, at that point an unloaded gun.
I had the bullets in my pocket.
We got to a point where they stopped, and like, "This Enough.
" You're having us, like, drive round in circles, so" That's when we were going to rob them, just when we got out of the car.
There was a struggle, and While I fought with Mr.
Young on the driver's side of the car, uh, Steinmeyer fought with the passenger, Mr.
Parker, on the passenger side.
Mr.
Parker, on the other side, had Steinmeyer down on the ground and I pointed the gun at him and told him to get off, and then we all got in the car.
I told them to get in the car.
And that's where it went to a kidnapping.
I just tell him to drive.
The tension was was thick.
I put the bullets in the gun.
We ended up on Silver's Road and, you know, we'll just stop the car here.
I just told them to stop the car.
"Open the door, let us out.
" That's what I said and Mr.
Parker let Steinmeyer out and they ended up in a confrontation immediately.
And as I was getting out of the car, I ended up in a confrontation with Mr.
Young.
It was just nothing said, it just happened that quick.
While I was struggling with Mr.
Young, Mr.
Parker took off running down the road.
I chased him.
He was maybe 50 feet ahead of me at that point.
Um, he wasn't running fast, um, he was running not even in a straight line.
The road was uneven and he stumbled, and as he stumbled, I fired one shot.
[gunshot] I know now that that shot missed.
But he did stumble into the ditch at that point and I closed the distance, and as I walked up, I fired one more shot [gunshot] and as I got closer, I fired one more shot.
One hit above the eye and one hit below the eye.
Steinmeyer was still at the rear of the vehicle and Mr.
Young was at the front of the vehicle in the ditch.
And he's trying to kinda scale his way out of the ditch, it was wet and muddy, and I fired one shot.
[gunshot] And he fell backwards, and I jumped down in the ditch - and kind of at the same time, I fired - [gunshot] and one shot hit him in the forearm, it was kind of a through-and-through wound.
And somehow or another, he turned and I fired one more shot.
[gunshot] That was it.
The shooting happened and it was all over within 30 seconds maybe.
It was just over.
And it was just silence.
Steinmeyer and I talked about this part.
Not the murders, but how we would tell the story.
You say you did one, I'll say I did one.
That's what partners do, um He didn't wanna turn himself in, and I didn't make him, but eventually he [stammers] I don't know why he did.
I know why I did, I was trying to get away with it.
And if you turn yourself in, if you run, you look guilty.
Everybody knows that, right? So we turned our self in and that was the story.
You say I shot one, and I'll say you shot one, and there was a homosexual advance and that's kinda how the story went from there.
[man] My Uncle Jerry was a super nice guy.
He would do anything for you.
He never met a stranger.
Everything was funny to him, he never took nothing serious.
Um, he was just out for a good time.
If you wanted to do something, he was there with you.
Whatever he had was yours, and he was just that type of guy.
He's just, you know, anxious to help out, anxious to do anything for you.
Denny and him hung out quite a bit.
The only thing I really knew about Denny was that he was gay and that a woman broke his heart and that he was never gonna be with a woman again.
When we were told about Jerry, I think we were in disbelief.
I mean, I don't think none of us believed it.
He wasn't the type to start something, or a reason for him to be killed, there was no reason to.
He was 40-something years old, his knee, he couldn't walk, he had a bad heart.
A 19-year-old could have knocked him down and, you know, got him off him or whatever without much effort.
When Jerry died, my whole family was hurt.
I think I've seen my mother cry twice in my lifetime, and that was one of them.
On Robert Shafer's court dates, my mother would never go.
My grandmother went and my sister went.
Um, they would come back and give us little information.
I remember my sister telling me he was a young, good-looking kid until he opened his mouth.
Then she said he was a cocky bastard.
I'm not sure why she said that, but when he opened his mouth, she instantly hated him.
[man] My name's Phil Groenweghe, I'm the Chief Trial Attorney and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney here in St.
Charles County, Missouri.
We'll usually get two or three murder cases a year.
Um, not common, but it happens, and one of the duties I have is to prosecute those cases.
The first impression when Shafer and Steinmeyer turned themselves in, uh, Shafer gave a statement which frankly didn't quite ring true to me.
It didn't seem very plausible.
They claimed that they were hitchhiking, they were picked up by two men who they said were gay.
And that the men tried to sexually assault them and that Shafer and Steinmeyer managed to get a gun away from one of the two men, and in self-defense, shot them.
The problem is, one of the victims was shot twice in the head, the other was shot once in the head.
That doesn't seem like the kind of wounds that are typically inflicted by someone who's just trying to fight off an attacker.
I didn't believe that initial version.
But that's not unusual when people come in to confess to the police.
They usually have a version they wanna sell that makes them look, uh, better than the truth would.
Shafer struck me as very manipulative.
He struck me as very cruel.
I also think he overestimated, significantly, his intellect.
He's not nearly as smart as he thought he was.
To him, the fact that these victims were gay, he almost viewed that as a mitigating factor, that that everyone would understand why he would wanna kill two gay men.
And he had some real issues with that.
And, um, I don't know why.
[birds chirping] So when we were kids, this was a very, very quiet neighborhood.
Um, all of our, you know, our friends lived on Custer or Sheridan, Merill.
They're all American generals.
So we call it the Generals' streets.
My mother was raised in an orphanage by Catholic nuns.
Very strict.
She didn't know how to be a mother.
Even though she had all these children, she didn't know how to be a mother.
We didn't get the hugs and the "I love yous" and the affirmations that children need.
My mom and stepdad would get into some altercation.
She'd want him to leave.
She'd call the police, and then didn't want him to leave.
It just was always something.
And that's where we grew up.
There were 11 kids and two adults in that house.
As small as it is.
I don't remember a happy holiday.
I don't remember just any happy times within the home.
The happy times were when us kids were playing on the railroad tracks.
There was a place over to the right that we built forts.
And I think we all really enjoyed school.
Because school wasn't home.
He was just such a happy boy.
[stammers] And a people person.
Everybody loved him.
You know, he knew everyone.
We called him, "Nosey, rosey news reporter.
" Because he knew the current events, everything that was going on.
But yet for some reason, he just got blamed for everything.
He just couldn't do anything right.
He was He was getting spankings all the time, or just beatings, basically.
It never affected him, though.
He was happy.
He always had a smile on his face and rosy cheeks, and was never upset or cried even.
He liked to, you know, maybe steal a thing or two, but he always got caught.
So why he ever continued to do it was always always baffled us.
The only way that I could get away from the dysfunction was to leave.
Even at 15, I struggled with doing that because I knew I was leaving four still there.
But the only one I really worried about was Robert.
I didn't come back for a long time.
Robert, he had gone into the Navy for a brief period.
And then after that, he didn't want to come back to Salina.
So, you know, I said, "Well, come live with us in St.
Charles.
" And things were going good.
I mean, he babysat my son, my two, three-year-old son.
Then, you know, obviously, about six, nine months later is when that happened.
[insects chirping] [man] When I first met Robert, it was in second grade, and Robert just blurted out, yelled out, "I'm Elvis Presley's Elvis Presley is my brother!" And, obviously, I knew that was a lie, but yet, our home our home lives and energies just pulled us together.
And the teacher said it was like a dark cloud of energy, and it scared the hell out of her.
But nobody could break that bond since.
Robert was a stunt man, a wild child.
Always had to try to outdo everybody because that was his style, and, uh, the more dangerous the better.
We played around the trains when they were stopped all the time.
Uh, however, Robert had to take it to another level, and jump on or climb on a moving train, and climb all the way up it and jump from one car to another.
And here I am thinking he's gonna die.
This is the last time I'm gonna see my friend, and You know, I'm like, "Get down! Don't do it! No, you're taking it too far!" He stressed me the hell out, you know.
As Robert and I got older, we'd drive around town with a group of friends, and we'd go to the park and there'd be some gay people over there, and sometimes we would cozy up to them while the other one is taking all their belongings, and I don't know why we started doing that.
It was maybe just the thrill of it, I guess, I'm not sure.
What we didn't know is the oldest one in the group was leaving with one of the gay guys, having sex with them and then coming back.
We didn't know that.
I don't think that I ever thought Robert would do the crime that he did to be in jail.
However, quite a few people always figured that's where he'd end up.
People thought it'd be stealing a car, and hurting a cop, or something like that.
Nobody ever thought it would be killing two gay people.
That kinda violence is not in his nature.
Other violence, maybe beating up a girl, his girlfriend or something.
You know, okay, he's done that a few times.
And Robert could get hundreds of women! He had a wonderful skin complexion, he had beautiful words with the ladies, he could lay it down even in grade school.
They wanted the bad boy that Robert was.
When he slept with them, sometimes he was conflicted or confused or whatever, and that's when he'd do things like maybe beating up his girlfriend or something.
Tear up the girl's house or something.
[Kiel] I contacted Robert Shafer when I was going through pictures and stuff of my Uncle Jerry in, um, 2014.
It kind of brought back all the stuff that happened back then.
It was 24 years later, he wasn't a 19-year-old kid no more.
I was interested to see what kind of person he was.
And, um, at that time he was still claiming that David killed one of them and that he killed one and he's the one who ended up with it.
And the way he made it sound was like, um David was more of the hot head, David was more of the wound-up one than Robert was.
So I just reached out to him and "You know, Robert, you spent a long time in prison, I've read up a lot of things and it sounds like you got the short end of the stick.
And if you ever have the chance to get free, we're okay with that.
" I almost felt a little bit sorry for the guy.
Doing something when you're 19, and being known for the worst thing you ever did in your life, that's all he's ever known for.
I just wanted to let him know we forgive him.
Robert warns me in this letter that, um, the details of what happened on April 29th, 1990, that it's quite graphic and to prepare myself and maybe I'd like to be alone when I read it.
I thought Robert was gonna tell me the same thing that was written on the Internet.
I thought that, um, he killed one and David Steinmeyer killed the other one.
But in this letter, he takes full responsibility for everything.
He told me he shot them both.
He just said, "Hey, I did it.
I can't say exactly why I did it, but I did it.
There's no excuse in the world for me doing what I did.
" You know, he owned up to it.
I did write back to Robert.
I basically told him things haven't changed for us, for me and my side of the family.
We forgive him, you know.
I mean, we're Whatever the parole board decides or whatever anybody decides, we're okay with them.
Why did I forgive Robert Shafer? I guess the real reason [exhales] if I don't forgive somebody, how could I ever be forgiven for anything I've ever done? I mean, he's been in jail for 28 years, [clicks tongue] for something he did one night that he didn't even think about.
And I know my uncle would have forgiven him, too.
That's the way my uncle was.
[Groenweghe] I don't recall how long Shafer held on to that first version of events, but, uh, his story started to change as the case progressed through the courts.
This morning you had a conversation with Susan McGrath.
Did she advice you to, uh, not make a statement or make a statement? - She advised me not to.
- Not to.
Okay.
- You still want to make a statement? - Yes, I do.
Okay.
[Groenweghe] After we had filed the charges, Shafer wanted to talk to the police again, and he gave a different version.
A version which really was not self-defense, which was essentially a confession to first-degree murder.
As we got to the stop sign at Old Town St.
Peters, Young tried to reach for the door handle.
I guess he was trying to get out.
Uh, this is when I knew that, you know, something more than a robbery was going to happen.
I was almost sure they were going to be shot.
As a matter of fact, Steinmeyer asked me if I was going to shoot them and I told him, "Yeah.
" The first shot I fired, I don't know if it hit.
But the second shot, I knew it did because I was close enough that I had blood on my right hand.
What time of the night are we talking about? He seems, almost arrogant, um, certainly not remorseful.
[indistinct chatter] You know, a lot of times, these interviews are like pulling teeth.
Not his.
He seemed almost proud of what he'd done.
I ran from Parker back to where Young and Steinmeyer were.
Young was still in the ditch.
As I got closer to Young, he begged for me not shoot him and then he said he hadn't seen my face good enough, and he wouldn't go to the police.
[stammers] I already knew in my own mind that I was going to shoot him.
Why had you decided at that point to shoot him? Well, because I had already shot Parker and I didn't think it would do me any good to leave Young there - so he can go tell on me.
- Mm-hmm.
I knew that he would When I look at it, he's very matter of fact, uh, doesn't seem emotionally affected by this in any way.
Doesn't seem to show any emotion.
He's just going through and explaining how one of the men was running away and he shot him in the back.
I put three shells into the gun.
[Groenweghe] Shafer decided that he wanted to obtain the death penalty.
That was what he wanted to get.
So he pled guilty and asked the judge to impose a death penalty.
And the judge, in fact, did just that.
I get the feeling that he wanted to control things.
He wanted to control the way this trial proceeded and that was a very powerful way to do it.
I don't know that he really had a clearly thought-out end game.
I almost got the impression that Shafer was manipulative for the sake of being manipulative.
That being manipulative was an end in itself.
[Groenweghe] He later claimed that the reason he targeted people he believed were gay was because they wouldn't put up as much of a fight as someone who was not gay.
But I don't believe that's why he targeted them.
There are 6-foot-4 gay men who are very strong and very timid straight men.
I think he targeted them out of hatred.
He believed they were gay, and, for him, that was something that he for whatever reason, couldn't tolerate.
[man] Oh, I remember the day.
We got a call, and my wife came into the bathroom.
I think I was giving my youngest daughter a bath.
And she said, "Robert's killed somebody.
" I was like, "No way.
" You know, I just didn't believe it.
I couldn't believe it.
But I almost understand it, you know, the anger.
I'm not condoning what he did, I don't agree with it, but I can definitely see it happening.
If his childhood had been a little different, maybe it'd been different.
Robert asked me, he says, "Why doesn't Momma love us?" And I said, "Well, I don't know.
" Because it did seem that way, you know, 'cause the other kids were kind of spared.
They didn't never have to suffer that, you know? We were almost, like, hunted.
I think that's a good word to use for it.
You know, there were a couple of times I remember waking up at night and she'd, like, be slapping Robert, you know, in the bed and during his sleep.
I do remember my mom would, you know, call him "faggot," and me too.
I didn't know what a faggot was.
I found out one day and it devastated me.
It did.
I thought, "Why is she calling me that?" So, even to this day, for me, and Robert, I've talked to him, sometimes I still look in the mirror and think, "Do I look feminine?" You know? Because why would your mother call you that? It had to mess with him the same way because he looks like me.
We were All-American boys, I mean, right? Especially if he got molested when he was a young boy.
I never had nothing happen to me.
Robert did, so there could be the difference.
[Phillip] I remember the street.
This guy, you know, having the young boys in the neighborhoods come over to play their video games.
We know what that means today.
I mean, all them young boys in the neighborhood.
I definitely think it affected Robert.
[Martin] I would say it started fourth grade summer.
Twelve, 13 years old, 13 or so.
Fourth grade summer is when Robert introduced me to the child molester.
This child molester ran things like he was the head honcho at a brothel for child molesters, okay? I mean, he had his own prices for each person, whatever.
Um We were two kids that didn't have jobs, too young to work.
We'll do about anything for money.
Okay? And it was all motivated by money.
And it was nice.
You know, we could go to the pizza parlor, and we could throw a party.
We could throw a pizza party and be there all day and just have a blast.
And forget about what happened to us.
The money helped everything go away.
It was obviously very disturbing for me when I found out the full extent of Robert's molestation.
I only performed oral sex with a condom.
And I let him perform oral sex on me.
And that's as far as I ever let him go.
Um, for Robert, the nature of it was much more worse, much more severe, much more disturbing.
We would go to, you know, certain places to do these sex acts, okay? I would have my turn, and then I would leave the van while Robert had his turn.
And Robert always had 150, 200 dollars where I would have, you know, 50 or 75, whatever.
I guess I always thought Robert was better at giving oral sex for money than I did! [laughs] You know, whether he did it with a condom on or not.
I guess that's all I ever thought, you know? We never talked about that aspect of the transactions.
I believe it made Robert do violent damaging things.
He never put it together that him shooting those two guys was like getting rid of or atoning for the damage that had been done to him in his life.
Whether Robert sees it or not, he targeted these two gay guys because he'd been molested himself.
That is exactly how I feel, that's exactly how a lot of people feel.
[Shafer on recording] I knew that I was different, and I wasn't like some of the other boys my own age.
Um, because it happened to me, I spent a considerable amount of my time, um, trying to be with every girl that I could be to prove to myself or maybe others, they didn't even know! That wasn't my fault, that wasn't me.
You know, I wasn't gay.
That was him.
Them! Um, so, I knew that part of it was [Juliette] It's hard listening to him talk about the abuse.
He's a little disassociated, like he's talking about a story of somebody else's life.
I do think that he was trying to prove to himself that he was attracted to females, not you know, because that had happened, that he had maybe questioned a lot.
I know that you couldn't, like, joke around and call him, you know, back then the term was "faggot.
" That was the word that was used a lot.
[sniffles] And if you said that to him, he would get very upset.
[Shafer on recording] Everybody in my life, like, they didn't believe it.
"Not Robert.
Not the Robert we know.
" But a lot didn't know me as well as they thought they did either.
I wasn't into anything on the side in secret.
Everything I did was kinda on the surface, it was on the surface.
His masks were so There wasn't one.
One might come off a little bit, but there was another one underneath it.
And then probably another one underneath that.
He just put all these walls and masks up, that I don't think anyone could have penetrated.
[Shafer] Did I wear a mask? Sure I did.
I didn't really want people to know who I was.
Uh, was I the kid who had been molested? Well, I didn't display that for everybody either.
Some of the way I was living makes me sound sociopathic.
And I guess by definition that's exactly the way I was living.
I was doing abnormal things and then living a normal life.
[Shafer] I never did have a resolution to the child molestation.
Revenge? No.
Maybe just everything just came out.
And the murders didn't make it any better.
No.
I didn't find out about any of their backgrounds till after the fact, so I didn't know.
Did we think we knew? Well, sure we did.
But we didn't know for sure.
I had a gun.
I had a loaded gun.
Bad things are gonna happen when you're living a criminal lifestyle and you have a loaded gun, and you mean to rob somebody.
It can quickly turn into a murder.
And it did! And so, it was impulsive that I shot.
I didn't have to shoot.
[Groenweghe] Shafer decided he wanted to obtain the death penalty, that was what he wanted to get, so he pled guilty and asked the judge to impose a death penalty.
And the judge, in fact, did just that.
I get the feeling that he wanted to control things.
He wanted to control the way this trial proceeded and that was a very powerful way to do it.
[Shafer] The case was just becoming frustrating beyond all imagination.
I thought that if I pled guilty and asked for the death penalty, it would bring light to my case, that people would sympathize and it would cast me in a favorable light.
And the old saying goes that, "Be careful what you ask for.
" I asked for it, and the judge gave it to me.
I regret it for the impact that it had on so many people.
Um, my victim's family didn't even know that this was going to happen.
They found out later that I got the death sentence.
They weren't invited to the courtroom, they didn't have a chance to speak.
In the United States, when you're sentenced, the victim's family has an opportunity to speak.
It's called a Victim Impact Statement.
They have a chance to come up there and say whatever they so choose to you.
And, um, I wasn't prepared for that.
But I also knew I was truly guilty of the murders.
And I couldn't face them.
And I didn't wanna face them.
I was ashamed of myself.
And I robbed the victims, but I didn't realize that until later.
[Shafer] If I had a chance to talk to anybody, I would probably most wanna talk to him.
I mean, I didn't just ruin, you know, my victim's family's lives and my family's lives, um, I ruined his life.
If I would've told the truth from the beginning, he might not ever went to prison.
And I very easily could've put him on death row for what I did.
I didn't want another murder.
And that's what it would've been tantamount to, but I would simply tell him, "I'm sorry.
" [Kiel] I did write back to Robert.
I basically told him things haven't changed for us, for me and my side of the family.
We forgive him, you know, I mean we're Whatever the parole board decides or whatever anybody decides, we're okay with them.
[Shafer] I don't think he knew the impact that his letter would have.
It was a life-changing moment.
I remember the day I received the letter.
[stammers] And it started a process that I was on my way to, but I needed someone to kinda give me I didn't need a nudge, I needed a push.
And his letter did that.
Um So, the kindness that he showed me, um led me to finally do something good.
Telling the truth, um, is never easy when you've lied.
But to tell the truth about killing two people is even worse.
And I'm grateful that he did that.
Grateful.
[sniffles]