Crime & Courts

Outrage – and insight – over Hesston shooter ‘murderabilia’

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911 calls from the mass shooting at Excel Industries Feb. 25, 2016 in Hesston. Cedric Ford killed three people and wounded 14 before he was shot and killed by responding law enforcement officers.
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911 calls from the mass shooting at Excel Industries Feb. 25, 2016 in Hesston. Cedric Ford killed three people and wounded 14 before he was shot and killed by responding law enforcement officers.

A website that sells “murderabilia” is offering items supposedly belonging to Cedric Ford – the shooter who killed three people and wounded 14 at a Hesston plant last year.

It’s part of a murderer-based industry that includes Wichita’s best-known serial killer, BTK, says a victim advocate who tracks what some see as true-crime collectibles.

The Florida dealer selling the Ford items said Thursday that the items “have nothing to do with the actual crime. ... People make money off of true crime,” the dealer said. “It is a very popular and fascinating subject.”

But some people are outraged.

“Anyone who goes out to profit on other people’s horrific victimization and losses, I think are despicable, and anyone who goes out and buys memorabilia like this is glorifying a murderer who absolutely devastated a community and destroyed families,” said Harvey County Attorney David Yoder.

“I’m appalled that there are people out there who think it is sexy or fun to do anything glorifying a murderer,” Yoder said Thursday.

“It’s just re-victimizing the family,” said Corinne Radke, co-founder and leader of the Wichita chapter of Parents Of Murdered Children. “It brings up old wounds. And in the life that we (survivors) now live, we’re trying to carry on and remember our loved ones in a good way,” Radke said Thursday.

Anyone offering or buying such items “has to be a sick person to do that,” she said.

Serial Killers Ink has several items that it claims belonged to Ford, the gunman who went on a shooting spree at his workplace on Feb. 25, 2016. He began shooting along a highway in Harvey County, then continued firing inside Excel Industries, where he was shot to death by Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder.

For almost 20 years, Andy Kahan has been tracking the murderabilia market because he condemns it and wants people to be aware of it. Kahan, a former parole and probation officer who is a victim advocate for the City of Houston, contacted The Eagle to let its reporters know that items supposedly from Ford are for sale.

The online site selling the Ford items is run by a Florida dealer out of a home, and the Florida man behind Serial Killers Ink is one of seven national murderabilia dealers, Kahan said.

The website says: “We burst onto the scene in 2008 and quickly became the leading and most popular true crime collectibles company worldwide.”

Kahan recalled seeing hundreds of BTK items “flooding the market.” BTK serial killer Dennis Rader was arrested by Wichita police in 2005. “And you still have items that are sold from BTK now,” including his “doodle artwork.”

Although Kahan believes in free enterprise and capitalism, he said, “I think you have to draw a line somewhere.”

To understand the nature of the industry and to have proof of its existence – proof that he could show at national crime victims conferences and when testifying to elected officials – Kahan bought some murderabilia items. He acquired some of Charlie Manson’s hair, formed into the shape of swastika.

Years ago, Ebay was the main conduit for murderabilia, but then Ebay ceased to allow it, Kahan said. The dealers just set up their own websites, he said.

Eric Holler, the 48-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., dealer selling the Ford items, responded to the criticism Thursday afternoon by saying: “That’s their right to be appalled or offended. Where the line is drawn is where people want to make something illegal because they find it offensive.”

“A very small percentage of society finds what I do offensive because most people see it as what it is,” Holler said. “You don’t have to look at it, and you don’t have to buy it. There is a large community of people who find joy in collecting pieces of history. It’s dark history, yes, but it is history.

“Yes,” he said, “I am profiting off crimes, but so are the true crime authors who write the books, so are the cable networks” and media.

According to his website offering, the Ford items were obtained “through a private citizen who was close to the situation and had access to various items owned by Ford.”

The items include hoodies, T-shirts, a cap, jewelry, a jewelry box and a lanyard.

One of the items, for example: an XL-size hoodie for $350 and a “Certificate of Authenticity” saying that it belonged to Ford and was left at his home and that “He is shown wearing this shirt in pictures found online.”

Because Ford was killed and not prosecuted, only a limited amount of his property was taken by authorities, so his property was released to his family or survivors, said Yoder, the county attorney.

Contributing: Amy Renee Leiker of The Eagle

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