There is a new Netflix series out on serial rapist Billy Milligan. He’s the guy from Columbus who beat the rap on three rape charges by claiming to have 24 different personalities.
I never believed this for one minute. Billy Milligan had two personalities – serial rapist and weirdo.
Fortunately for him, I guess, he was able to pull off the multiple personality ruse and escape conviction. When I was covering the crime beat for the Columbus Dispatch, I heard numerous stories from police officers of Milligan sitting in his cell in the Franklin County Jail and reading the book, Sybil, which was about a woman who allegedly had multiple personalities.
Billy was apparently rehearsing for his performance before the psychiatrists.
Milligan’s life of crime began in 1975 when he went to prison for rape and armed robbery. Apparently, he had only one personality at the time.
After being released from prison in early 1977, he was arrested again in October of that year and charged with raping three women on the Ohio State University campus. Claiming multiple personality disorder at his trial, Milligan was subsequently found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a mental health center. I recall at one point he was given weekend passes from the institution. Apparently, that’s how we protect women from rapists in Ohio.
In the 1980s, when I was on the investigative team for the Dispatch, I was at the office of then-Ohio Public Defender Randy Dana, working on an in-depth story about a man who I believed had been wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death. One day, a guy walked into the office where I was working and dropped off the mail. I looked at him, realizing that I should know who it was, but was drawing a blank.
After he left the room, the defense attorney who was helping me with the story grinned and said, “Do you know who that was?”
“Help me out,” I said.
Dana had hired Milligan as an office boy. So now the guy who escaped conviction for three rapes was drawing a state paycheck. Lovely.
I spent much of the next month at the public defender’s office, reading a voluminous trial transcript and working on my story. Every time Milligan saw me in the office, he wanted to stop by and chat. He spent much of this time haranguing me to write a story about him and the injustice he had suffered.
This went up my spine like a flare. I said, “Injustice? It was the justice system that kept you out of prison, remember? You raped three women and claimed it wasn’t your fault because of all that multi-personality mumbo jumbo.”
He did not take kindly to my description of his alleged multiple personality disorder. I certainly didn’t want to be friends with Billy Milligan, but I must admit that it was interesting to hear him ramble on about one thing or another.
Sometime after that, I was at the Rhodes State Office Tower working on another story when I happened upon a reception being held in conjunction for an art exhibit by Milligan. Not only did we give this rapist a state paycheck, but we were sponsoring his art exhibit.
I will give Milligan this – he was a talented artist. I was looking at one of his paintings when he spotted me and walked over. It was a Rube Goldberg-type painting of a chain reaction. The final scene was a candle burning through a rope that was holding a grand piano over a baby in a cradle.
He said, “Makes you think, doesn’t it, Yocum?”
I said, “It sure does, Billy. It makes me think that you’re even more bizarre than everybody thinks you are.”
Again, he wasn’t amused.
On July 4, 1986, Milligan escaped from the Central Ohio Psychiatric Hospital and ran to Bellingham, Wash., where he was living under the alias, Christopher Eugene Carr. He moved into the same apartment building with Michael Madden, a student at Western Washington University.
Madden disappeared Sept. 3, 1986. Big surprise here, Milligan sold Madden’s car after he disappeared and cashed Madden’s $7,000 disability check. Not long after that, another big surprise, Milligan disappeared from Bellingham.
I received a phone call from Lt. David MacDonald of the Bellingham Police Department, who was trying to locate Milligan. MacDonald gave me information for a story on Madden’s disappearance and Milligan’s possible involvement. He said Milligan was the only suspect in Madden’s disappearance. I wonder which of his personalities was capable of that?
To my knowledge, Madden’s body has never been found. Milligan was never charged in connection with the disappearance.
Milligan was eventually captured in a hotel bar in Florida and sent back to an Ohio mental institution.
He was released in 1988 and died of cancer in 2014.