Mass Killer Douglas Dean

In 1968 or 1969, Debbie Westenberger was 16 and killed herself with a Dean family .22 rifle in boyfriend Douglas George Dean’s bedroom. Police later claimed she was pregnant, though the Dean family said they never knew of any such thing.

Mother Hildegarde Dean was widowed on May 18, 1970 with the death of Warren Thomas Dean, and was employed at Wigwam Mills in Sheboygan. Warren was 50 years old. She did not drive and her son Douglas used to take her to work in her car. The same month as his father’s death, Douglas purchased a rifle from Mrs. Elwood Gusse’s gun shop.

Dean’s relationship with his mother had been deteriorating since his father’s death; they argued a lot and his mother threatened to have him committed. He told people he hated his mother. He was in need of money and he had no sources of income and often argued with his mother about the Social Security money which he felt he was entitled to receive.

Douglas Dean graduated from a Sheboygan high school in June 1970. After, he worked occasionally as a drummer in a local band but had no other job for some period of time. In September 1970, Dean enrolled in the Lakeshore Technical Institute but dropped out of school in February 1971. While at Lakeshore he dated a girl named Mary Ann Stier. Dean told her he could inherit $40,000 from his mother if he could make her death look like an accident. Specifically, he said he could build a shooting range in the basement and then if his mother walked in he could shoot her and say he slipped. He said he would probably be caught, but he expected he would only be imprisoned for around ten years. Mary Ann broke up with Douglas because of his LSD habit.

In the spring of 1971, he was 19 years old and lived at home with his mother. He had a married sister, Constance (Leroy) Schneider, and an older brother Warren Jr who was away at school.

In mid-July 1971, Dean returned to Sheboygan from a visit with Ann Rammer in Madison and stated he was going to ask his mother one more time for his Social Security money. He also participated in arguments between Ann and her mother concerning money for Ann’s college expenses. He had a close relationship with the Rammer family. Mrs. Rammer had paid his tuition to the Lakeshore Technical Institute. He was present during discussions of the Rammer family financial matters and was aware the Rammer estate was worth about $100,000; he also knew that a trust fund set up for the Rammer children was to be distributed when the youngest child reached 30.

At approximately 12:15pm on July 19, 1971, the pastor of St. George’s Church found Douglas Dean sitting on the back stairs of the church located in the town of Wilson, approximately six miles from Sheboygan. Dean was unresponsive and had a blank expression on his face. The pastor called the sheriff’s department for assistance and a deputy sheriff responded and went to the church where he found Dean sitting on the rear steps with his head down having difficulty breathing. An ambulance was called and Dean was taken to St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan. When asked if he had been in an accident, Dean shook his head. He was admitted to the hospital at approximately 1:00pm.

His identity was determined from his wallet and attempts were made to contact his mother, Hildegarde, at 1149 Cherry Lane, Sheboygan. When no response was received, the hospital called Dean’s sister Constance, also in Sheboygan. She was informed Dean was in the hospital and of their inability to contact his mother. She proceeded to the mother’s home where she arrived at approximately 2:20pm and entered through an unlocked front door. She found her mother’s body lying in her bed and noticed a large amount of blood on and around her mother’s head and pillow. The police were summoned and the first officer arrived at approximately 2:35pm. The officer went to the bedroom, observed Mrs. Dean’s body with two gunshot wounds in the right side of her face.

The door to Dean’s bedroom across the hall was open. There were two beds in the room, neither of which appeared to have been slept in. On one of the beds, the officer observed an empty cardboard carton for a .22 caliber rifle and also an empty .22 cartridge box. After discovering her mother’s body, Dean’s sister Constance contacted the family attorney, advised him that her mother had been found dead and her brother was in the hospital and incoherent; she asked him to go to the hospital to represent her brother. Constance would later say she thought of the attorney because of how the police had treated Douglas during the Debbie Westenberger situation and did not want that repeated.

The attorney proceeded to the hospital and refused to permit Dean to be questioned because of his condition. Even the attending physician, Dr. Jochimsen, was denied access to Dean. By this point, they had determined he was recovering from a large dose of LSD. Dean said he must have been given the LSD unknowingly. Dr. Larry Malewiski was able to obtain a medical history.

In the course of the investigation the police found that Dean was a very close friend of Ann Rammer and her family who lived about a block away from the Dean residence. Ann and Dean had been going together for approximately two years and Dean was known to have spent a lot of time at the Rammer home. Naomi Rammer, a widow, lived with her children, John, Paul, Thomas, and Ann, who was attending UW-Madison. The police were unable to contact Mrs. Rammer and then contacted some of her relatives and met them at the home at 8:10pm the same evening.

Officers from the Sheboygan police department entered the Rammer residence. Upon glancing up the stairs, an inspector saw the body of a small boy lying on the landing, covered with blood; the boy was Paul Rammer, shot through the right eye and through the middle of the front of the neck. He then proceeded to the first-floor bedroom where he found the body of Mrs. Rammer lying in bed; she had also been shot in the head and neck.

The inspector proceeded upstairs past the body of Paul and discovered the body of Thomas Rammer, 10, lying in the hall; he had multiple gunshot wounds in his right arm, right chest, neck and face. He then entered another bedroom on the second floor and found the body of John Rammer, 16, who had been shot in the left arm, neck, and head. Empty cartridge cases and cartridge cartons were found near the bodies. A .22 caliber rifle was lying on the floor in the living room. The rifle had been purchased by Dean and the cartridges strewn around the Rammer and Dean residences had been fired from that rifle.

On July 22, 1971, a complaint was issued charging Dean with five counts of first-degree murder and he was placed under arrest in his hospital room in St. Nicholas Hospital.

His trial began on November 1, 1971, and lasted for eight days. On the first day of jury selection, November 1, possible juror Anthony G. Teunissen collapsed and died of a heart attack. He was 52.

The jury panel was drawn up after the clerk of court sent questionnaires to 200 prospective jurors. On the basis of the response as to the questionnaires, 103 people were excused from the panel for reasons including health, occupational hardship, or personal hardship. Twenty-one were excused because they had formed opinions as to the guilt or innocence of Dean. The remaining 97 prospective jurors were ordered to appear for possible jury duty. From this group of 97, 68 were called and subjected to voir dire before the jury of 12 with two alternates was finally picked. The trial court prior to questioning the panel gave the standard jury instruction on the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt. The court conducted the initial questioning of the 68 prospective jurors; eight more were excused for various reasons. Only one had not heard or read about the case. Those who had were asked whether they had formed an opinion in this case and whether it would take some evidence to overcome this opinion. They were cautioned not to reveal what their opinion was and 26 were excused because they admitted they had formed an opinion and that it would take some evidence to overcome their opinion. None who admitted a preconceived opinion became a member of the final jury panel.

The family attorney did not represent Dean at the trial. Dean was represented by appointed counsel whose services had been requested by Dean. This attorney was assisted by two other attorneys from his firm. The state was represented by the district attorney and a special prosecutor appointed at the request of the district attorney.

A state crime laboratory tech testified she had examined Dean’s clothes he was wearing at the hospital and found no bloodstains on them. She microscopically examined his shoes and discovered on the sole of the right shoe minute quantities of human blood; it was not visible to the naked eye and if all the spots found were gathered together it would cover only an area the size of a pin head.

The prosecution called Kenneth Kregel, who had been an inmate in the county jail with Dean while he was awaiting trial. He said Dean had talked to him about the murders and “He said something about some kid was crying and he shot him once and he wouldn’t have shot him three or four times if he would have stopped yelling or crying.” He also testified Dean said, “He was going from one house to another and then back again or something like that.”

After the state rested, Dean presented testimony to establish at the time he was picked up on the steps of the church he was in a stupefied and dazed condition. According to hospital personnel, when he was admitted his body was rigid and tense, his pupils dilated and fixed, his respiration was shallow. He was completely disoriented, incoherent, irrational and starry-eyed. A doctor testified that the blood test showed he had not ingested alcohol but had taken a hallucinogenic-type drug and his disorientation was due to such drug ingestion. The doctor also testified that in taking LSD in normal dosage it usually lasted for five hours although sometimes the effects have lasted from ten to twelve hours. The doctor testified there is usually a gradual return to normality within eight hours of ingestion. At the time he was admitted to the hospital, Dean had in his jacket pockets six pieces of candy of the gum-drop type; two were found to have inserted within them tablets of LSD. One of the tablets in one of the pieces of candy contained approximately 132 micrograms of that drug.

Dean testified in his own behalf. He stated he had returned from visiting Ann Rammer in Madison on July 16 and claimed that prior to leaving Madison he had been sitting in the student union reading a paper when a stranger came up and asked to see the paper. When he gave it the stranger, the stranger asked him if he wanted a box of candy; he agreed and he gave him a box of gumdrops which he stated he placed in his pocket and he did not know they contained any drug. He said on July 18 he was at the Rammer home until about 11pm when he went to his own home. He said he stretched out on his bed reading a chess book, took the box of gumdrops from his jacket pocket, ate about half of them and stated that within a half hour his “thoughts started getting like he was playing chess with someone. I got all mixed up.” He said he began feeling tingly, his vision became impaired, things seemed to move and to vibrate, the colors were not normal. He remembered being somewhere warm and dry, and was walking between two white lines which seemed to stretch into infinity and the next he remembered he was talking to a friendly man and “a little monster near a steeple,” which would have referred to the dog that accompanied the pastor of St. George’s Church.

Dean testified he had never used hard or hallucinogenic drugs, only marijuana and hash. He said he often simulated the use of LSD and hard drugs with other people but he had never taken them. On direct examination he said he had split LSD tablets in half with his friends and gave them a half and he took half but at the first opportunity when the friend would not be looking he would spit it out. He said he often told people things to shock them and as an example he described an incident in Madison with a female friend in which he said he appeared at her apartment and told her he was on an LSD trip and that a person could be violent on drugs; he wanted her to show fear or to get some emotion from her and told her he could stab her. He told her he was a violent person and that he had a girlfriend two years ago who killed herself in his home; and then he said that to shock the friend, he told her that he was the one who had set it up, that he was the one who was responsible. He said the statements he had made to Mary Ann Stier about setting up the target and shooting his mother were made with the same purpose, to shock the listener.

He said he also told her that the year before his girlfriend had killed herself in his home, he also simulated drug experiences to shock her. As to the story about planning to kill his mother, he said, “I saw her and I thought I would conjure up a story to shock her. I saw her in the hall and I talked to her and I said I had this great plan, I would kill my mother, I would kill Mrs. Rammer and that consequently, because of this I would probably go to jail for I said 10 or 11 years.” He testified he thought if you went to jail for homicide you never got out, so the “10 years” was clearly a joke. He also testified his relationship with his mother was not good and he had disagreements with her concerning the social security money and the car. He was asked by his attorney if he hated his mother and he said, “I don’t think hate would be the word. I was frustrated with my mother, yes.” He acknowledged he had keys to the Rammer home and the Rammer automobile. On cross-examination he admitted that in March he had obtained 15 tablets of what had been identified to him as LSD; that he got them in Madison but he did not know from whom he obtained them; he paid $1 a piece for them. He would share them with people he knew and would pretend he took half of the pill and then would make references to colors, talk irrationally, speak about objects that were not there; he would say he saw his father. One time he told a friend he looked up and saw the girl who had killed herself in his home. He had told others that he had shown the girl where the gun and the ammunition were and that he had told people he had taught the girl how to use the gun.

In rebuttal the state produced testimony of a psychiatrist who had done studies with LSD. He testified the amount of LSD taken does not increase the duration of the effects or “trip.” In response to a hypothetical question framed by the prosecutor, including the observation that Dean’s pupils were no longer dilated and fixed by 7:30pm on July 19, 1971, the psychiatrist gave his opinion that the LSD had been ingested shortly before Dean was discovered on the steps of St. George’s Church.

On rebuttal the state produced the testimony of another jail inmate, who said the defendant told him it was the first time he had ever killed anybody and then said, “Holy Christ, I hope nobody heard me say that.” The witness testified that Dean said crime does pay if money is involved and if a person is willing to spend part of his life in prison or time in prison for it. Dean also questioned why Ann’s brothers had to get in the way between him and Ann.

At the conclusion of the case, three possible verdicts were submitted to the jury: Guilty of first-degree murder; guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all five counts of first-degree murder.

On November 12, 1971, a judgment of conviction was entered against Douglas Dean. He was sentenced to five consecutive life terms in the Wisconsin State Prison.

Passing sentence, Judge John Buchen stated, “You are appearing here today as a sane person who has been convicted of intentionally killing your mother while she was asleep in her bed by shooting her in the head at close range, by intentionally killing your girl friend’s mother while she, too, apparently was asleep in bed, and then killing her three sons, two of whom at least were also in their beds and one while trying to flee. You shot all of the victims in their heads, each being shot fatally, causing almost instant death for each one of them. There is absolutely nothing, as the District Attorney has stated, to mitigate your acts, whether or not you had consumed any drugs before the killings. Under the law you must be penalized for each intentional killing. The penalty provided for each crime of first-degree murder is life imprisonment. I am satisfied that you are a dangerous person. Society must be protected from you for as long as the law permits.”

In his decision on a motion to reduce the sentences dated January 22, 1973, Judge Buchen said, “It seems to be the position of Dr. Karl Menninger and Dr. Seymour Halleck, both noted psychiatrists and authorities in the field of criminology that rehabilitation is or at least should be the only goal of punishment. This certainly is the theme of Dr. Menninger’s book entitled `The Crime of Punishment.’ However, we still recognize the need to isolate dangerous persons. For the reasons I set forth at the time of sentencing I found that the defendant was and is a dangerous person. Dr. Halleck personally interviewed the defendant, but nowhere in his letter does he find or give an opinion that the defendant is not a dangerous person. I am fully aware of what is stated in `The Law of Criminal Corrections,’ by Sol Rubin, p. 355, `Experience in many systems shows uniformly that persons convicted of murder are good risks on parole, better than other offenders. It is extremely rare for a murderer on parole to commit another homicide.’ This is true because most murders are committed because of hatred for or fear of the victim and the perpetrator has no reason to kill again. However, I believe that this is one of the `extremely rare’ cases in which society must be protected from the defendant now and in the future. The magnitude of five separate killings of two women and three children required the maximum penalty permitted by law.”

At age 33, Dean petitioned to Governor Tony Earl to have his sentence changed from five consecutive life sentences to five concurrent sentences, as this would make him eligible for parole. He maintained that he still had no memory of the murders. At the hearing, roughly 25 people testified, including a priest, college professor, Doug’s brother Warren spoke in favor of Doug, with what the newspapers called “lavish praise.” Lewis Goldberg, a psychology professor from Oregon, was especially strong in his praise of Doug’s intelligence, decency and creativity. Barb Rammer of Sheboygan Falls, a niece of Naomi Rammer, also testified, and expressed her belief that the murders were planned months in advance and no amount of good character outweighs the crime. Other family members felt the same.

Douglas Dean is still in prison.

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