Dexter Made Me Do It

23 Sep

That’s the defense used by 18-year-old Andrew Conley in his bid to avoid a life sentence. There is no doubt that Andrew strangled his 10-year-old brother to death. He confessed that. He confessed to being driven to do it. He said it was like being hungry for a hamburger. After he killed his brother he visited his girlfriend to give her a “sweetheart ring.” Somewhere between touching and psychopathic.

It turns out that Andrew has fantasized about killing people since he was in the eighth grade. He said he once stood over his sleeping father, knife in hand, and contemplated killing him. He apparently was a big fan of DEXTER and identified with everyone’s favorite serial killer. After all, Dexter killed his brother, too. What’s a boy to do? Of course, like Dexter, his brother was a serial killer, while Andrew’s brother was simply a young man with a future.

Dexter aside, if the facts are as reported, young Andrew might to be a serial killer in the making. The fact that he fantasized about murder for years, the fact that he considered killing his father, the fact that he did kill his brother, and the fact that after the murder he went about the seemingly normal task of giving a ring to his girlfriend, all point toward a lack of empathy and a large dose of sociopathy. I don’t know what Andrew’s ultimate penalty will be but I would suspect longer rather than shorter might be the safer route.

One more thing: DEXTER returns Sunday


Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Interesting Cases, Multiple Murderers


17 responses to “Dexter Made Me Do It

  1. Camille Minichino

    September 23, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Creepy. I don’t want to be in the same room with Andrew, but I’d love to have lunch with Dexter.


  2. Digital Dame

    September 23, 2010 at 8:51 am

    I have never seen the show “Dexter”, and frankly the appeal baffles me. Why are we now turning mass murderers into anti-heroes? Am I the only disturbed by this? I don’t think the show really had much to do with this Conley kid murdering his brother, sounds like he was well on the path to becoming a homicidal maniac anyway, but why do we glorify this stuff? I swear the mothership dropped me off on the wrong planet, I can’t really be part of this race. It’s too gruesome.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      September 23, 2010 at 9:39 am

      Dexter is an odd and very complex character and that’s what makes him so popular. Jeff Lindsay did a great job creating him and the TV series carries on that effort very well. His redeeming quality is that he channels his sociopathic deeds toward those who evade justice. And casting Michael C. Hall as Dexter was a stroke of genius.


      • Jonathan Quist

        September 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm

        In many ways, Dexter is a classic tragic hero. He is fatally flawed – but because the Fates conspired against him; it’s not of his own doing.

        A mild spoiler follows, though anyone who has Googled Dexter likely already knows this back story:

        Traumatized as a young child, Dexter witnesses his mother’s brutal murder, and is discovered sitting in a pool of her blood. The homicide detective who find Dexter sees something in him, adopts him to raise as his son, and keeps watch through the years. As the classic warning signs of a potential serial killer appear, Dexter’s adoptive father makes a choice: rather than institutionalize Dexter for a sociopathy that was forced upon him, Detective Morgan decides to teach Dexter to survive in the “normal” world, to blend in. And to observe a strict code, killing only those who deserve it.

        To borrow from Stan Lee: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

        Change a few details, perhaps toss in a radioactive spider or bats, and you’ve got a standard 20th-century super hero. Instead of a journalist or a millionaire with a hotline to police headquarters, Dexter is incognito as a blood spatter analyst contracting to the police. Bruce Wayne slid down a pole. Clark Kent dashed into a phone booth. And when Dexter enters a plastic-lined room, you know the stuff is about to hit the fan.

        And it won’t be pretty.

        I can’t speak for the books; in the TV series, Dexter’s back story is revealed gradually. We don’t know at first why he kills; Michael C. Hall’s charm must carry the character long enough for the audience to develop any sympathy. That’s a stretch for some viewers, and I for one cannot blame them.

        Dexter is not for everyone. His sister’s foul language is more than enough to turn some people off. (In one episode, she uttered “f—” in nearly every sentence.) And for the sake of all that’s sacred, parents, don’t let young children watch Dexter. (Like the song said, “Mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to be Dexter”…) But before condemning Dexter as evidence of society’s fall, know that it cannot be evaluated in terms of black and white – the story is painted in far more complex shades of gray.

        And pink.

        And red.

        More or less the same palette as Hamlet.

        Or real life.

        My wife and I recently watched seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. (Yes, with a long break between the two.) Taken together, they form a rather Wagnerian arc. My (grown) daughter advises that season 3 can be easily skipped. Season 4 contains some truly outstanding performances, including those of John Lithgow. Anyone who wants to give it a try, I’d suggest season 1, and stick with it all the way through.

        As Doug mentioned, season 5 starts Sunday.

        Hmmm… Dexter, or Jets vs. Dolphins.

        I can watch football another day.


  3. L.J. Sellers

    September 23, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I love Michael C. Hall and the first few seasons of the series captivated me. In the first episode of season four, I suddenly lost interest. I think it was partly because Dexter had a family and a child and it all seemed too weird.

    Still, I hope they put this young man away for good.


    • Andrew

      August 5, 2012 at 11:44 am

      The only cure for cold blooded murders is death. “Have no pitty” says the lord


  4. Ruby Johnson

    September 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I saw one or two episodes of Dexter, and just couldn’t stomach it. Too much gore and I couldn’t get past the main character being a serial killer. Plus, I kept thinking of Michael Hall in a previous role on Six Feet Under.


  5. Tony Burton

    September 24, 2010 at 4:29 am

    Quite frankly, if Dexter merely found these people who “just need killing” and put a single bullet through their craniums, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Execution is one thing, but vivisection is something quite different, and rhapsodizing over it, glorifying it, is a sick thing.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      September 24, 2010 at 9:14 am

      It’s fiction. Dexter is no worse than Hannibal or Tess Gerritsen’s Surgeon or Michael Connelly’s Poet. And compared to Dahmer and Bundy he’s a choirboy.


      • Tony Burton

        September 24, 2010 at 9:57 am

        Yep, it’s fiction. So is kiddie porn, snuff porn, or torture porn. Dexter is just another type of pornography. If you, or anyone else, chooses to read the book or watch the show then that’s fine—it’s obviously up to you. Doesn’t change my opinion on it.

        Then again, I wouldn’t read Hannibal, or the other two books you mentioned, either. But Dahmer and Bundy were reality—nobody wrote scripts for them. One might say that society formed them, if one wanted to take away their responsibilities for their actions, but it doesn’t make what they did any less depraved. Depravity is sick, whether it is reality or fiction.

        Then again, I realize my opinion is not shared by everyone. Their choice.


      • D.P. Lyle, MD

        September 24, 2010 at 11:24 am

        I agree but without depravity how would we fiction writers create our villains?


  6. Tony Burton

    September 24, 2010 at 11:56 am

    That’s a point, true. I suppose it all lies in how we represent, more than what we represent. We can write a story about a murderer without showing the murder taking place. We can tell the story of a child abuser without showing it happening. We can write a story with a rape victim without showing penetration and violence. And in any case, we can do it without making the depraved person into some sort of warped “heroic” figure—and I use that term in a very broad sense.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      September 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      I agree. In fact avoiding graphic descriptions of violence and focusing on its consequences to me is better and more suspenseful writing. Would still love to have dinner with Hannibal—so long as I wasn’t on the menu.


  7. Jonathan Quist

    September 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    It’s overly simplistic to characterize Dexter as pornography, at least in the same breath as the others mentioned. Crime fiction in general asks questions, like “what if?”… For example, “What if someone was traumatized by violence at an early age?” It then goes on to explore some possible results and consequences.

    Pornography, on the other hand, makes the simple statement, “Here it is, enjoy!”

    There is a world of difference in that distinction.

    Yes, there will be viewers and readers who get some cheap thrills from explicit violence in the series. But Dexter Morgan is also engaged in constant interior dialogue, and at times inner struggle, over the events unfolding around him. That dialogue is far more interesting, to me at least, than any of the on-screen or implied violence. Inviting the viewer (or reader) to confront the evil, rather than pretend it does not exist, seems to me the very antithesis of pornography.


    • Tony Burton

      September 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm

      It’s overly narrow in interpretation to NOT characterize the Dexter show as pornography. Pornography is not only sexual; strictly speaking, pornography is “a description or portrayal of any activity regarded as obscene.” (From Thorndike-Barnhart… there are similar definitions in other locations. See Merriam-Webster: )

      Now, in that context, what Dexter does is obscene. Vivisection of a human is clearly obscene—perhaps not in a sexual sense, but certainly in a humane sense, in the same way that torturing a puppy is obscene. Simply because it may be portrayed in a sympathetic context where the “poor soul” agonizes over whether or not he should actually continue cutting people up who have escaped legal punishment does not nullify its obscenity.

      If so, we could have a run of sexually pornographic movies where a rapist commits rape each week, portrayed on the screen, and then finds some willing priest to hear his confession, and tell why the woman was raped. We could excuse it by saying, “Oh, but this man was brutalized by his mother over and over when he was small!” Then again, that could be a hit show, given the tenor of much of the present viewing public.

      The fact that the internal dialogue, ruminations, and angst of Dexter or any other warped person who commits heinous acts is fascinating and engaging does not change what the show is: pornography of violence. Much of society will excuse it as “theater” but so were the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome, and I’m pretty sure we don’t want to reinstitute those… even with after-the-fight interviews where we might hear the winners’ inner thoughts on whether or not he really WANTED to kill the other fellow.

      By the way, I’m not pretending such heinous acts don’t exist. After all, I both write about and publish crime fiction. I’ve seen the results. I’ve seen how people look after being beaten, or purposely burned, or killed. My feeling is that we are creating callouses on our emotions, and making situations where we are empathizing with a killer who is just as evil as those whom he kills… worse, perhaps.

      Does intent (to punish the ones that got away) always excuse the act (a tortured death at the hands of someone who is not legally free to administer justice)? It’s a slippery slope.


  8. Dave Carew

    September 1, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Always, as is the case in most crime dramas, the description of some anatomical subject matter is incorrect. The only show I found had the forensics correct was the earlier Law and Order Criminal Intent. I wonder is this to upset us out there with some working knowledge of anatomy? In the first season Dexter comes across a severed foot and says it was surgically separated at the Tarsal/ Metatarsal joints, yet it has been sawn off at the distal leg through the Tibial and Fibula, so obviously contrary to his description. The show is great though and Michael C Hall is an intense actor with obvious skill at reproducing what we might expect from someone of his ilk.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      September 2, 2012 at 6:51 am

      It’s called poetic license. Sometimes story takes the front seat and science the back seat since TV is an entertainment medium. Mistakes such as the one you point out however shouldn’t happen since getting it right in this circumstance doesn’t alter the story a bit. To paraphrase a line from the greta movie Chinatown–It’s Hollywood, Jake.



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