This story contains adult content that is not suitable for young children. In addition, it includes content that might trigger victims of sexual violence. Reader discretion is advised.
The summer of 1995 was one for the history books. It was a fun time when some of the modern day's most influential artists tore up the airwaves. It was a golden decade of music and fun.
There was no war in the Middle East. The term "terrorist" was something only the media used — and even then, sparingly. There were no worries about Russia. Bill Clinton was president and just starting to mess around with Monica Lewinski. Then, windows 95 was released, changing how we interact with the Internet forever.
Yet it was not all good times and games.
1995 was when heat waves struck with a vengeance. Chicago suffered 739 heat-related deaths in the summer of 1995 in five days. Some reports put the toll at over one thousand. In addition, there were power outages, warnings, failures, and a general lack of preparation. Pollution and humidity further aggravated the heat wave. Temperatures went as high as 106 degrees F.
Gary was hot as well. The city was well on its way to a record-breaking year-end murder rate of 130 murders. Most of it was gang violence, but before the stories of Darren Deon Vann and David Maust rocked the Region, one would contribute to the murder rate slightly differently.
MONSTERS AREN'T BORN
Eugene Victor Britt was born in Gary, Indiana, on November 4, 1957. He was the second oldest of six siblings born to the same mother and father. Gene's father's name was Elmer K. Britt Sr. His mother's name is Darlwin (DARL-WEEN) Britt.
Eugene has three young sisters. Elizabeth, Brenda Joyce Britt, and Darlwin Joann Britt. Darlwin Joann got named after her mother. He also had three older siblings, born to his mother from three different fathers.
Elmer was 22 when he was arrested for killing a Gary woman in 1951. He ran over nurse Mrs. Rose Martha Prus, 37, while fleeing from Patrol Officer Will Slepcevich — who tried to arrest him for reckless driving after almost hitting his motorcycle. The incident occurred at 6th & Broadway.
Elmer fled the scene, crashing into other cars, and was finally arrested after a foot chase on the lawn of Gary's main library. He got 2 to 21 years in prison — which was the max.
Upon release, Elmer Sr. became a steel worker, which economically placed him above most other blacks around Gary proper. Money was no problem, but Elmer's past influenced his parenting style.
Elmer had a steady habit of cheating with different women on his wife, Darwin. However, Darwin was also a cheater.
Eugene walked into his mother's bedroom at their home on 17th & Madison at five years old. There he discovered his mother having sex with a man that was not his father. Shocked by the intrusion of her son and angered at the prospect of being ousted, Darlwin violently chased him out of the room. Later, she would bribe her son to silence by showering him with treats.
Eugene grew up in a household rife with violence. Both parents were alcoholics, and as the stereotype dictates, there were constant beatings. Elmer abused his children daily and also beat his wife. In addition, the kids often were forced to witness the sexual abuse of their mother.
EARLY SEXUAL AWAKENING
Eugene hid in a closet in his parent's bedroom during one extraordinarily violent episode of domestic violence. He watched his father beat his mother mercilessly with his fists and feet. Elmer then tied her hands to the bedposts and viciously raped her. Finally, Elmer ravaged his wife with varying degrees of aggression nearly every night.
Eugene's mother bathed him up until he started high school. It is unknown if Darlwin ever sexually abused him during these sessions.
As he grew older, Gene would purposefully hide in the closet to watch his father beat and rape his mother, masturbating through it all. It is unknown if his father and mother were ever aware.
Unfortunately, Eugene was not alone. The four Britt children were all exposed to sex and violence.
The three Britt sisters were very close, too close — if you get my drift. Eugene had sex with them, as the sisters also had sex with one another. As teenagers, their parents would regularly catch all of them having sex with each other. The punishment was to beat them with thick electrical extension cords. However, the beatings failed to stop the behavior.
While growing up, Eugene was subjected to several aptitude tests. Each test showed inconsistent learning capabilities from age 9 to age 15. For example, at age 15, Eugene was in the 10th grade but had the learning capability of a 2nd grader.
Eugene was unprepared for independent life when he became an adult. He had no concept of money, needed help with budgeting, and had a terrible memory. In addition, he could not maintain a household, shop for groceries, care for his health, or keep himself out of dangerous situations. Gene was socially awkward, with limited capability to solve problems, testing at the lowest percentile of the US population.
Eugene had a brother, Michael Britt, who was developmentally disabled. Michael was a habitual criminal incarcerated for most of his life. As a result, he also couldn't do anything for himself, and by the 90s, he was an alcoholic. The same was true for Eugene and possibly his sisters — to various degrees.
Elmer Sr. rejected Gene in almost every way. He complained that Eugene was nothing like his other sons. According to Sr., his other sons were handsome. Eugene wasn't. His other sons were intelligent. Eugene wasn't. They all had good-looking girlfriends. Eugene didn't. Elmer told Eugene constantly that he would never be anything in life. The rejection of his father hurt the young, battered, and confused Eugene.
In addition, the Central District neighborhood where the Britts resided was going down the drain at a lightning-fast pace. Drug dens, liquor stores, ho houses, and the like surrounded them. Not only was the world cruel inside the home, but it was also atrocious outside of it. Drunkards lurked the streets, breaking into buildings, raping and stabbing people nearly daily. Raising children in this environment is challenging enough without the profound abuse suffered.
Eugene's twisted introduction to the world affected his association with sex and violence. Finally, when Eugene was 15, he grew tired of the abuse and left home. He felt bad for messing with his sisters and felt leaving home was the best way to stop his contribution to the Britt household's uncontrolled madness.
ON HIS OWN
Eugene picked up drugs and alcohol after leaving home, as things tend to go. All of the abuse affected the challenged boy. His maturity was that of a 10-year-old, with social and living skills falling in line with an 8-year-old. He needed help looking up phonebook listings. He could not write a check or money order. His expressiveness was more substantial than his receptiveness.
He was unable to create close relationships, romantic or otherwise. He never fell in love. Not only was he rejected at home, but he was also rejected by other girls in the neighborhood. It is unknown what activities he was involved in once leaving home — except for one.
Though Eugene had problems with relationships, he had no problems getting sex. Yet, he could not engage in that activity normally and did not understand what regular sex was. It wasn't long before young Eugene began acting out on his more negative desires in real life.
All he knew was violence. So he started practicing on the women he chose to have sex with. Ultimately, when a woman angered him and rage rose, he raped her.
Sometime in the mid-70s, Eugene stayed with an older Hammond, Indiana woman. Her name was Shelly Hall. Shelly was a jack of all trades if the businesses were on the streets. Shelly was a stripper working at the White Eagle Hall in East Chicago's Calumet neighborhood.
Shelly was also a female pimp, with at least thirteen streetwalkers working for her. So not only was Hall a pimp, but she was also a drug dealer selling out of her Hammond apartment. Britt was in a sexual relationship with this grown woman at 14–15 and continued dealing with her into his early 20s.
Being on his own at such a young age more than certainly affected the young man’s mind. With a phobia of being out of control of his circumstances, indeed being vulnerable contributed to his negative habits.
Also, with being mentally challenged, there’s no telling how he was taken advantage of and by whom. The powers that be were not interested in providing the proper help for those who had slipped through the cracks. Therefore, young kids like Eugene were subject to the mercy of the streets.
The environment at Hall's residence was far from stable. Living in such an environment did nothing to quell Eugene's sexual appetite. He routinely traveled from Hammond to Gary's East Side to commit rape at a very young age.
Mental illness and feelings of rejection, inadequacy, and frustration fueled rage. However, the more grievous the act of violence, the more temporary the satisfaction became. Gene was single-handedly responsible for several dozen rapes he was never caught for.
Eugene sexually assaults multiple women with varying degrees of rageful violence. It is unknown how many women the young Eugene attacked.
Yet Eugene would later talk about a particular incident.
One day, when his rage was hot, he found and took a beautiful woman from a deserted street in Midtown. She was submissive. Eugene, surprised at the ease of his catch, pulled the woman down into the nearest abandoned home, and they both went to its basement.
There he stripped the woman of her clothes and viciously raped her. Yet the woman remained calm through the entire ordeal. The calm and ease of the woman helped to quell his rage, and he went from raping her to — in his mind — making love to her. After the deed, the woman treated him nicely and calmly, making him feel what he thought was love for the first time.
Eugene had a pep in his step. They held hands, walking up a street. They kissed and hugged like boyfriend and girlfriend would. The woman looked at him with love in her eyes. She led Eugene around the neighborhood like a puppy on a leash.
Soon they found themselves walking up an alley. In the middle of the block, the woman pointed out the house where she lived and excitedly announced that she wanted him to meet her family. Excited at finally having a girlfriend and possibly earning his father's respect for the first time, he agreed to let the woman enter her home.
Minutes later, her family members poured out of the house, entering the alley in an angry, foaming throng. Taking the rear of the familial mob armed with knives, bats, and pipes, the woman pointed Eugene out. Immediately a foot chase ensued.
In fear for his life, Eugene tore down the alley. He narrowly avoided a vicious beating that may have ended his story then. After a while, Eugene would find himself on another abandoned block. Safe from harm, he cried. The twisted budding rapist, desperate for love, was again rejected by a victim.
FANTASY BECOMES REALITY
His sexual addiction led to him consuming massive amounts of pornography. The feeling that sex gave created disturbing dreams he had never had before. The more rage consumed him, the more the fantasies manifested in his mind. The more dreams that manifested, the more he became obsessed with them. The more obsessed he became, the more predatory his actions became. The more predatory his actions became, the more risks he took.
At some time in 1975, Eugene gained his first legitimate job at a Clark gas station at 17. Most of his money went to funding his massive pornography collections. He fed himself a daily helping of weed, Mad Dog 20/20, and processed foods. One day, on his day off from work, he was watching a porno and became bored with it. The fantasy he often thought about filled his mind. Thus came the most significant risk he would take to date.
On April 20, 1978, he crossed Grant Street while walking east down 21st Avenue in Gary. He found himself in a quiet neighborhood. He cut through a lot filled with weeds and found himself on a block nearly devoid of structures. An apartment unit inside the Small Farms Apartments now occupies this block.
A young, black Gary Roosevelt High School girl walked towards him on this street in a summer dress. The sun gleamed off of her skin, and her shape enticed Eugene. As the two passed one another, he whipped around and got behind the girl. Before she could react, Eugene reached out and grabbed the girl.
I have not mentioned this thus far, but grabbing his victims by the throat was his method of operation. Often, Gene would choke his victims until they fell unconscious. Then, he would revive them and start all over again. This was a way for him to have control. The same was true with this teenager.
Eugene put his arm around her neck, one hand over her mouth. With no soul to witness, the 20-year-old, 200-pound Eugene drug the struggling 17-year-old teenager by her neck into the overgrown field he just came out of.
Moving quickly, Eugene pulled her to the ground, dragged her to a remote spot in an open field south of 24th Avenue between Arthur & Grant Streets, and beat her with his fists. The rage flowed strongly. The more the girl fought, the more he pounded.
"Don't look at me, or I'll punch your eyes out," he said. Finally, Eugene ripped her clothes off, including shoes, pants, and panties.
The more he pounded the girl, the more excited he became. Blow after blow; he routed the girl until she was bloodied and bruised. Unable to fight anymore, the girl finally submitted to her attacker.
With a blank expression on her face, Eugene proceeded to rape her repeatedly. Then, even putting his clothes on to leave the girl, he turned around to rape her again. After being fulfilled, he took a distinctive gold ring off her finger and left her where she lay. The girl went to the police, but they could not identify him.
Ten days later, on May 9, 1978, the raped victim was with friends at a Clark gas station. An attendant approached their car. The attendant was 6 foot, 200 pound Eugene Britt, the man who raped her. She didn't recognize Eugene's face but noticed her stolen ring on the attendant's pinky finger. She called the police, and they had the gas station surrounded in a flash.
Eugene was charged with rape and robbery, but the state waited until he turned 21 to prosecute. Finally, after a jury trial, Britt was found guilty of two counts of rape and one count of robbery. That December, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison, serving his sentence at Indiana State Prison Westville.
However, the prison was not a deterrent. Gene was with the worst of the worst. He conversed with and made friends with predators who did unspeakable things. Prison did nothing to dampen his sexual urges. He frequently had consensual sex with or — if non-compliant — raped his fellow inmates throughout his incarceration. Eugene was not gay, but his rage fed his need to be in control in an environment where there was none.
THE AMPUTATED NEICE
Darlwin Joann Britt, Eugene's sister, got in trouble for neglecting her 9-year-old daughter in January of 1987, a case that became national news. She met Edward James Carlisle, three years her senior, while they were both students at Gary Roosevelt. This occurred the same year her brother Eugene went to prison.
Darlwin and Carlisle had a child, a girl named Darlwin Carlisle. The Britt family wanted Edward to marry their daughter, but he could not find work in Gary. As a result, Carlisle got ostracized and, according to him — barred from seeing the baby who lived with her maternal grandparents. Mother Darwin had to sneak Carlisle inside the house for him to see his daughter. Yet this was unsustainable. Carlisle went to the military in 1983 and never returned to Gary after being discharged.
Child services took the young girl away from her grandparents and into her mother's custody. At some point, her mother began to abuse drugs and neglected her daughter daily. All the while, they were jumping around from house to house until they squatted in an abandoned home in Glen Park in the summer of 1986.
Next, on January 4, 1987, the girl attended Gary Webster Elementary School. After that day, Darwin Carlisle was left alone in the house and deprived of food, water, electricity, and heat for at least eleven days.
By January 17, a mortgage company had hired a contractor to board the house, not knowing a little girl was locked inside. As the contractor, Jeff Griffin began hammering on the attic window; he heard the screams and cries of a little girl from inside the home pleading, "…please don't board me up".
Griffin solicited the help of a neighbor, Jim Dykhuis. They entered the house and discovered drug paraphernalia strewn about a kitchen table and trash and ashes from burned newspapers. The girl was padlocked behind an attic door at the top of a staircase. In addition, the doorway was barricaded with a 6-foot refrigerator.
The two men found Darlwin Carlisle wrapped in a thin, urine-soaked blanket, wearing two pairs of socks, no shoes, slim corduroy pants, and a sweater. She couldn't walk. Later, she was reported to have gangrenous legs and underwent a double amputation. The mother, Darlwin Britt, got 14 years. The little girl survived this incident.
As worthy of my attention as this story is, I must move on.
Eugene missed the '80s and was released in August 1993 at 35 years old — an entire year earlier than his original release date — due to good behavior. What good behavior meant is unknown. Eugene had a lengthy disciplinary record while imprisoned. The initial release date was August 5, 1994.
Eugene was not rehabilitated; in fact, he was more dangerous than he had ever been. Gene was placed on probation for a year and lived on welfare briefly while at Pendleton Reformatory outside of Indianapolis. A discrepancy occurred because DOC released him to Indianapolis, but his parole officer was in Lake County.
When Eugene was released, he returned to stalking and raping women. Simplicity was his ally. He stalked his victims from the shadows of buildings or behind tall grasses and weeds. Once they got close enough, he'd grab them by surprise, drag them to a secluded spot — usually preselected — and beat and assault them uninhibited.
Despite his mental limitations, he could get work, though he did not understand why he needed to work. Initially, he got a job as a janitor at Victory Arms, a Gary apartment complex. A perk was a free apartment, which Eugene took up. For 16 months, Eugene lived in #505 and was always on time with his rent once he stopped working there as a janitor. After that, he worked at Bailey's car wash in Merrillville until 1994.
Later, in 1994, Eugene worked at Hardee’s as a janitor on the Indiana Toll Road in Portage, Indiana. Finally, Eugene moved out of Victory Arms in December 1994 and into an apartment on 16th & Pierce Street.
He did well enough to keep this job but was chronically late and horseplayed. He was also accused of inappropriately touching a female coworker at Hardee's.
With a low capacity for receiving information, he needed a proper understanding of appropriate behavior professionally. Instead, Britt lied on his job applications, refusing to disclose his past. To the few people he did tell of his prison experience, they didn't care enough to ask why he went in the first place.
It is also unknown if Britt could drive; he had never applied for a driver's license. He needed help understanding how to use public transportation. Yet it is a fact that Britt cycled to and from work with a blue, 10-speed bike in all weather situations.
He stayed with a woman periodically; her identity is unknown. I might know who she was, but I will not state it because I don't want to make a mistake. I will say that this woman might have graduated from college the same year Eugene was locked up in 1978 and could have been a therapist who worked at St. Mary's substance abuse program. It's unknown if this woman was romantically involved with him.
There was at least an emotional connection, however slight. This woman was someone that Eugene met, began a relationship and continued the relationship through 1995.
He lived between his relatives and this woman. One of his sisters, Darlwin Britt, had just been released from prison after serving seven years of a 14-year sentence for neglecting her daughter in 1987. She lived in Marshalltown.
While everyone else went about their lives, while the City of Gary was dealing with an already horrific situation with the gang and drug-related violence, nobody could have predicted the horrors to come.
THE MURDERS BEGIN
In the spring of 1995, Eugene saw a woman walking alone. She had not noticed him. The location was behind Indiana Sugars, along Tennessee Street. There, MLK, Ohio, and Tennessee Streets turn into a fork. The fork allows one on a bike to pass someone, take the industrial railroad tracks serving Indiana Sugars without being seen, and suddenly reappear on the adjacent street.
After passing the woman, he ditched his bike and appeared on the road before her, breathing hard. The woman paid him no mind. Moving fast, Eugene moved to some nearby train tracks and rode his bike along them as fast as he could.
As they passed each other, he spoke to her. “Where you goin’?” A car passed them. As the automobile disappeared, she sensed something was wrong.
Before the woman could react, Eugene grabbed her by the neck and dragged her into a secluded spot off the road. As with the other women, he proceeded to beat the woman senselessly. Yet the woman would not grant him access to her panties, no matter how hard Eugene punched her. The woman’s tenacity enraged him furthermore.
Finally, he decided to take the advice he got from inmates in prison. He needed to kill her. Incarceration had ensured that anyone who saw his face would die. His insecurities signified that while he was in control, he would never be rejected.
Eugene placed his huge hands around her neck and squeezed as hard as he could. He pressed and shook the woman until she was unconscious, then raped the woman with her panties on, fearing his time alone with her was quickly approaching its end.
As he did the deed, she started coming to. He allowed her to regain consciousness fully. When she did, she looked at his face. Enraged, he choked the woman to death. He took her clothes and body to another spot that he felt was more secluded. He raped the dead woman again, returned to his bike, and went to work.
The woman’s name was Maxine Walker. Unfortunately, she would not be found until December 1995.
An unidentified 13-year-old girl was raped under the I-80 flyover between Central Avenue and Clay Street in Lake Station, Indiana. She was grabbed by the neck as she walked the railroad tracks, dragged under the expressway, and assaulted. She was not killed.
May 9, 1995
Arlinda Lois Smith, 46, was found dead by schoolchildren. She was face-up, wholly nude, beaten with a blunt object, and suffered neck injuries.
May 16, 1995
The body of Sara Katherine Snellgrove-Harrington, 34, was found in a wooded area in Gary’s Miller neighborhood. A driver passing by just happened to spot her lying face-up in the foliage. Police indicated no sign of foul play and hoped that a toxicology test would reveal the cause of her death.
June 12, 1995
The mother of Nakita Moore, a 14-year-old, reports her missing.
June 14, 1995
Tonya Dunlap was charged with criminal trespass at a truck stop on Ripley Street in Lake Station.
June 24, 1995
Nakita was found in a field on the 2000 block of West 15th Avenue. She was partially decomposed. Her body was clothed with one sock on. Her clothes were later found on top of an abandoned building adjacent to the lot. No cause of death was determined at the time of discovery.
Later found to have been strangled.
July 17, 1995
Family and friends last saw Deborah McHenry between 8–10 pm.
July 18, 1995
McHenry’s body was found lying face-up, nude from the waist down, in weeds behind a garage by the homeowner. She suffered neck and head injuries, being choked and beaten. She was naked from the waist down, hidden in tall weeds behind a garage in an alley on the 2900 block of W 21st Avenue.
Also, on this day, Tonya Dunlap was last seen by her family in Hammond.
August 7, 1995
15-year-old Johnice A. “China” White was reported missing on her birthday at 6:30 pm, a half-hour after she blew out the candles on her birthday cake. She had a learning disability and last seen riding her pink and purple bike.
August 8, 1995
Police searched for Johnice west of their home. Yet Johnice was found dead two miles west of her home, in dunes, by her brothers, who conducted their search. She was face-down, nude from the waist down, strangled and beaten in the head, suffering skull fractures. DNA was left on her panties.
The FBI was involved, as the government believed she was murdered on federal property, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
August 13, 1995
This morning, Michelle Linette Burns, 27, was found strangled to death in an empty lot next to 2019 Broadway. She was a sex worker and Gary’s 77th homicide. She wore Levi jean shorts, a black and white short sleeve shirt, and aqua Reebok sneakers.
August 22, 1995
Sarah Lynn Paulsen, 8, was riding her bike this morning in the parking lot of a church in Portage.
An hour later, She was found nude, face-down, strangled, and raped in a nearby wooded area by a passerby walking her dog. Paulsen was left under a pine tree. Her sandals and bike were nearby. We will discuss this incident a little later.
September 1, 1995
Betty Askew stood in her alley, observing her backyard. At that moment, Eugene appeared out of nowhere, startling the woman. “Hey, how you doin’?” Eugene exclaimed. Betty did not answer. Instead, her alarm was raised, and she began to retreat from him. It was too late.
Betty had recently discussed the state of the house two doors south of her home. “I want that grass cut down. It’s frightening,” she told her sister, Agusta Abram. “Someone could be killed there.”
Betty Jean Askew’s sister and ex-boyfriend Albert Smith filed a missing person’s report with the police department after she failed to report to her job at St. Margret’s Hospital.
Her brother found her back door wide open, with lights still on. Worriedly, Smith decided to search the abandoned lots on her block. He discovered her body.
Askew, 51, was decomposed in an abandoned yard two lots north of her home on the 500 block of Harrison Street. Her clothes were thrown all around her, bra over her head. She was Gary’s 85th murder.
September 11, 1995
Grover Cleveland Barnes got into an altercation with Cleaster McNeil and another unidentified woman after McNeil took him to the rear of Miller’s Pizza that night to do drugs.
They met each other in the parking lot of the Hudson-Campbell parking lot at 5th & Connecticut Street.
After an argument, Barnes dragged McNeil into the back of an abandoned house by her neck. Then, after seeing McNeil’s eyes roll back and twitch, Barns and the woman left.
September 12, 1995
Cleaster McNeil was found dead by police inside an abandoned building at 2144 Massachusetts Street after the woman reported what occurred the night before. McNeil was nude and had a fractured spine and strangulation damage. While originally attributed to Britt, Grover Cleveland Barnes was charged with her murder.
Between May and September of 1995, over a dozen women and girls were raped, strangled, and, in most cases, left for dead. The female victims were primarily black. They were discarded in fields, overgrown alleys, parking lots, and wooded areas. The method of their deaths was nearly similar — most took place within the same general vicinity. This is the calling card of a potential serial killer.
However, Gary Police missed the signs. Time and time again, Mayor Barnes and the police were questioned about the possibility of a serial killer on the loose. They batted down the suggestions of this assumption, rationalizing that there was no direct evidence that the killings were connected to one person.
Admittedly, GPD had its hands full with a record number of gang shootings and murders unrelated to Britt. The police department was overworked, understaffed, and under severe scrutiny on almost every level of their responsibilities. It was so bad that the National Guard and Indiana State Police were called into Gary in a show of force that was unprecedented.
Though the National Guard had no authority to shoot or arrest anyone, their presence quelled the steady rise of murders and general crime for a short time. Yet they could not perpetually occupy the city.
Meanwhile, women were still being found dead. It seemed it was a symptom of the sickness of a drug-ravished, poverty-stricken steel town. However, More tuned minds felt deep down that despite the alarming rate of gang-related and domestic murders, something else was lurking in the shadows.
A spirit of murder was striking out of the overgrown woods and dilapidated homes, protected by the social and economic chaos that created them. More affluent towns around Gary followed the news with a passing curiosity. Sadly, many of these residents were white and former Gary residents who wrote the city off long ago.
It took an 8-year-old white girl to wake everyone up.
THE MURDER OF SARAH PAULSON
Eugene has never spoken publicly in any great detail about what he did to little Sarah Paulsen on August 22, 1995. In his words, however, he said he felt ashamed.
On that day, Eugene was at work when he was caught by a manager eating chicken he wasn’t supposed to be eating. It was said that Eugene was stealing the chicken and not eating it. It was also reported that Eugene was sent home for horseplaying too much. It was also reported that Hardee’s found out Eugene lied on his application, and they discovered his 1978 rape conviction and fired him. Regardless of the matter, the manager, Ms. Hubbard, sent Eugene home due to whatever infraction occurred.
Eugene was used to a routine and, as such, exited the restaurant but did not leave the property. Instead, he lingered aimlessly around on his bike in the parking lot of Hardee’s for nearly 40 minutes. Finally, the manager asked a security guard to kick Eugene off the property. The security guard exited the restaurant and ordered him to leave the premises. It was around 11:00 in the morning when Eugene left.
Eleven minutes later, as Eugene rode his bike down Central Avenue, still dressed in his green Hardee’s uniform, he passed a church — Central Avenue Church of God. He spotted a little girl riding a pink and purple bike with white wheels in the church’s parking lot. The little girl was Sarah Paulsen.
Sarah’s home was just across the street from the church. Today, her mother, Patricia, was at work, and her father, Daniel, was on business. So she was being watched by her older brothers. Somehow the brothers ended up in the house and left the girl in the church parking lot to play, which was a fairly regular occurrence.
Eugene didn’t know about the brothers or how close the girl was to home. All he saw was someone weaker than he. Yet unbeknownst to him, he was spotted by others in the neighborhood and by passersby in cars with the little girl heading towards a wooded area behind the church. His green Hardee uniform stood out like a sore thumb, and he was a large, grown black man on a blue 10-speed. Only a little is publicly known about what happened next in great detail, which is for the best.
According to Eugene, he convinced the girl to come with him into the woods. Once there, he touched her, trying to convince her not to say anything. However, the little girl screamed. Not even children could survive his rage.
A few minutes later, he was spotted leaving the church parking lot by another person, riding his bike west on Central Avenue. Another witness spotted Eugene heading west on Central Avenue near Warrick Street.
The story behind how Sarah Paulsen was found is a bit convoluted. I don’t know if a passerby was suspicious about seeing the large black man in the green shirt leaving the woods behind a church on a bike or if someone was genuinely out walking their dog in the area Eugene happened to be.
Other reports state that a neighbor’s dog was going nuts while roaming at the location where Eugene had been. Upon investigation, that neighbor found the grizzly sight. Regardless of the matter, Sarah’s body was found within an hour of her being killed. She was left under an oak tree, strangled, raped, and sodomized.
THE PORTAGE REACTION
Little Sarah’s murder scared the living shit out of Portage. Residents feared that a serial child killer was loose in their town, though there was no evidence to support such a claim.
No one suspected Sarah’s murder was connected to the same person who murdered other women in Gary. Yet Eugene had been spotted. His description was given to the police, who immediately acted on that information.
Meanwhile, Portage got busy supporting the Paulsen family. Midwest Steel offered $15,000 for an arrest and conviction.
Restaurants started fundraising drives for the family. Neighbors held candlelight vigils. Across the country, the murder of Sarah caused an intense emotional reaction.
So much stuff was sent they had to give most of it to charity. But, unfortunately, no such thing occurred for any child victim of crime in neighboring Gary. As a result, Gary’s woes were seen and treated as being in another world instead of right next door.
People gathered at the crime scene; they even brought their own children. Thus began a campaign to teach their children about the dangers of talking to strangers. Expecting parents arrived, mulling over the scene with neighbors of the Paulsen family.
People were still thinking about Tim Buss, the man who kidnapped, raped, and killed a 10-year-old boy in Kankakee, IL, just a few weeks prior. Hearing about something like that in their community shattered their sense of safety.
GUILT AND SUSPICION
The security guard and manager at Hardee’s heard about the little girl’s murder. They thought about Eugene, whom they had sent away just a few moments before the murder occurred. On a hunch, Ms. Hubbard called the police. It was there that police learned about the green-colored Hardee’s uniforms. They kept the information obtained about Eugene close to the chest and contacted Gary’s police. They agreed that Eugene needed to be surveilled. However, Eugene was homeless.
Reports state he also stayed with his sister, Brenda, during this time. I can’t confirm or deny that. After Sarah’s murder, he relocated to another homeless shelter on 5th Avenue, Prayer House Deliverance Temple. This temple was headed by Reverend Clyde Smith and was only about 630 yards from the home of one of his next and possibly final victims, Betty Askew.
While at Prayer House, Eugene listened to gospel music and read the Bible. He befriended Reverend Smith, and they began to talk more about Eugene’s early life of violence and abuse. Reverend Smith and others saw Eugene as a compassionate man of very few words. They did not suspect that he could rape — let alone murder. However, Eugene began to suffer from guilt. It ate inside of him like a festering cancer.
The first week of September, police questioned Eugene about his whereabouts on the day Sarah was murdered. She gave investigators Eugene’s green uniform shirt.
On September 14, he drank an entire fifth of alcohol, three 40-ounce beers, smoked a whole pound of weed, and took a palmful of sleeping medication. Then, as he stumbled through the rough East Side of Gary, he came upon an abandoned house. After entering the house, he gathered up wire hangers left there and fashioned a metal noose. He wrapped it around his neck, with the other end around the iron bars of a security window.
He sat down, his body weight tightening the makeshift noose and choking him. Finally, the metal crushed into his neck, and soon after, he blacked out.
After a period, he woke up and began vomiting. Still, in a drunken fog, he found himself at 4th & Virginia. He walked east towards Miller. A South Shore freight train appeared in the distance as he arrived in Miller. As it got closer, he jumped in front of the train.
Instead of being crushed to death, the train knocked him aside a few hundred feet. He tumbled in the air, his right leg ripped open by the freight locomotive. The train went into emergency, and the crew ran to check on the person they hit. When he didn’t respond, the police were phoned.
He crawled towards a nearby fence in their absence and climbed over it. As soon as he began to clear the wall, 13 GPD officers arrived, all pointing their guns at him. They ordered him off the fence, yet he passed out from shock. It is unknown if GPD knew Portage PD was searching for him at this time.
Yet Eugene was injured and spent a day at Methodist Hospital in Gary, where he was patched up. However, the incident with the train required him to use a cane for the rest of his life. And just like that, his career of rape and murder was over.
Eugene then arrived at his sister’s house, Darlwin Britt. After seeing that Eugene was injured and asking questions, Eugene started a fight with her that was bad enough for Darlwin to call the police on her brother. She evicted him, and he was gone before GPD arrived.
Darwin was questioned about Eugene, and she provided investigators with his green Hardee shirt. Eugene returned later with workers from the Prayer House shelter, who accompanied him to retrieve his belongings. They were shocked that Eugene had up to 40 pornographic video tapes in a bag.
Eugene indicated that he had actually lost about half his collection, and pornography was all that he wanted to watch — if he watched anything. The workers found it extremely odd, but they didn’t know he was a rapist and didn’t tell anyone about the discovery.
After returning to Prayer House, now crippled, he began to confide in Reverend Smith again. This time what he told the preacher was far worse than the stories he told before. Reverend Smith was the first person to whom Eugene partially confessed.
The full extent of what Eugene said to Smith is unknown, but the reverend would later state that he was disturbed by Eugene’s rape conviction from 1978. Eugene constantly talked about women. If he saw a woman he liked, that automatically meant the woman wanted him in return.
Volunteers at the shelter reported that Eugene hurts people when angry. They noted he had a calm demeanor and polite mannerisms but had a sharp anger that was extremely easy to trigger. The shelter workers found him fascinating but knew they were dealing with a highly disturbed individual. Reverend Smith noted that Eugene’s anger was palpable, and his pain tormented him.
Portage police were on his trail. Eugene’s incident with the train put him on police radar. Portage began to share information they’d obtained about him with GPD. They didn’t have to worry about Eugene running off. So the PD started surveilling him at Prayer House, keeping tabs on his whereabouts by telephone while posing as a social worker. Eugene took the bait.
Reverend Smith wondered if Eugene had something to do with the Paulson case because of all the phone calls received by the shelter. Smith asked Eugene if he was running from the police. Eugene denied the claim. Yet Smith clung to hope that his gut feeling was wrong and his organization was not harboring a child killer.
By the beginning of November, police were ready to move in and arrest Eugene. On November 4, on his 38th birthday, Portage and Gary PD raided Reverend Smith’s church and arrested Eugene for the rape and murder of Sarah Paulsen. Eugene did not resist arrest. Sarah assisted PD in the capture of her killer. She grabbed Eugene’s shirt. The green fibers became trapped underneath her fingernails. The green fibers were then traced back to Eugene.
How? PD had asked Brenda Britt, his sister, to provide Eugene’s work uniform. She obliged, and this is how PD could tie Eugene to Sarah’s murder. Later DNA evidence would assist in his conviction.
One note is that the shirt was described in the press as green. However, Internet searches bring up blue or red shirts instead. Whether or not the Hardee’s shirt was green is a point of contention.
While interrogated by Portage PD, Eugene confessed to Sarah’s murder and ten others.
Most of them were done in Gary and were already known to PD… yet they couldn’t determine the cause of death in many victims, with some even marked as natural causes.
With his lawyer and Pastor Smith present, Eugene confessed to murders that GPD had not even heard of. He provided photographic memory-assisted details of murder scenes and addresses of places where these other bodies could be found. Three other women that Eugene killed were discovered towards the end of 1995.
November 8, 1995
The skeletal remains of Tonya Denes Dunlap, 24, were found by police inside or behind a former Humane Society building or laboratory at 6800 Melton Road.
November 9, 1995
Tonya Dunlap’s family reports her missing. They are informed that Britt has confessed to killing her the day prior.
December 2, 1995
The skeletal remains of Maxine Walker, 41, were found in a swampy area of Martin Luther King Drive in Gary. This murder was the first written about in this story. Walker’s body was half eaten by wild animals.
He confessed to killing one person, later confirmed to have been done by someone else entirely. That person is Cleaster McNair.
Other murders under similar circumstances were thought to have been done by Eugene; however, in later years, some of these murders were proved to be done by others. He also confessed to killing a man that had accosted him while fixing his bike, but the body of this man was never found.
Eugene Britt avoided the death penalty because of his low IQ (60) and mental disabilities. However, he pleaded guilty to all charges and is serving 245 years in prison. His father, Elmer Britt, died in 1998.
At least eleven lives were taken by this man’s hands. Some of the details of his murders were published in the newspapers, including possible last words from some of the victims. I will not go over them all; this story is dark enough, and, to be honest, I’m completely emotionally drained.
However, it’s essential that we not forget those who were unfortunate enough to cross paths with this sick man.
This information is put together from the following sources:
Dark Truths: Modern Theories of Serial Murder — Chris J. Kurtz (Chapter 3)
Nightmare Next Door — Discovery ID
The Northwest Indiana Times
The Post Tribune
Fruit Loops Podcast E166: Eugene Victor Britt
The Chicago Tribune
Gary Indiana Serial Killer Eugene Britt — Cemetary Visit (YT)
State of Crime Podcast: 15. Indiana — Eugene Victor Britt
The Indianapolis Star
Indiana State Department of Health
What Will You Do? Podcast: Case 48: Eugene Victor Britt
Britt Transcript — Denis Keyes.pdf (State of Indiana vs. Eugene Victor Britt-2010)
Britt Transcript — Ray Horn.pdf (State of Indiana vs. Eugene Victor Britt-2006)
Scripps Howard News Service — August 30, 2010
gary-letter.pdf (Daily Beast)