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"We hated him for what he had done to all those people," says Hottell, who was working at a factory in eastern South Carolina. "We found later that he killed my niece and had the body in the trunk when he came over to see us. We had coffee and cake, and it was like a little family gathering. He buried her about a half-mile from our place. We didn't know that for seven years."
Pee Wee was generally out of the limelight until September 1982, when he was accused by prison authorities of handing death row inmate Rudolph Tyner a booby-trapped portable radio. Tyner was blown to bits, and the evidence later showed that a South Carolina man named Tony Cimo had hired Pee Wee to kill Tyner to avenge the murder of Cimo's parents.
Tyner was the only one of Pee Wee's known victims who was black. "But I don't think he saw black and white when he murdered, for the most part," Carol Hottell says. "He saw a person that he wanted to murder."
Pee Wee was put back on death row, and his name kept popping up in the news as his appeals for a new trial were rejected time and again. The cries for his scalp increased.
"When it heated up again," Hottell says, "the people who cared about me still cared about me. But you'd see little groups of people at work or wherever talking, and they'd just stop when I approached them."
A few years ago, Carol and Ken Hottell decided to leave South Carolina. "It was a very stressful situation back there, to put it mildly," Ken Hottell says. "Life's too short. We hit upon the notion of getting a motor home and just going."
The couple and their two cats wandered the country for a time, then wound up at the trailer park in Mesa. Carol Hottell has told some of her workmates at Smitty's about her connection to Pee Wee Gaskins. Now she's thinking about starting a self-help group for the families of murderers. She considers herself and others like her society's forgotten grievers.
"There's a family who's innocent, but they're left with these terrible feelings of guilt and anger," she says. "There's no kind of support except for each other. Think of how Jeffrey Dahmer's mother feels, or the wife of Barry Kaiser--that guy who just did all the shootings in Phoenix. We don't want innocent people to get hurt. It's a lifelong nightmare that never ends. I want some good to come out of all this evil."
"I thought it was important for somebody this evil and this disturbed all his life to repent before God."
"All of my life, it seems, cops were coming into our backyard or wherever digging for bodies."
"The wrong way always appealed to him," she says.
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