Three…no. Five little birds

Thomas Charles Fuller II. Another important man in my life. I’ve never met him, I never want to meet him and I hope I never do meet him.  Thomas Charles Fuller is serving two consecutive prison terms of 70 to 99 years somewhere. I really don’t care where as long as he stays there. He was denied parole for the 13th time today with the Parole Board vote of 14-0 to deny parole. Good on them.

In the spring of 1968, I was five years old. I was going to be an opera singer. I drew, colored pictures, played in the grass with my dog, Susie So-So. Don’t ask me where I got her name, but she was my best friend. Mom told me, just in the last few weeks, that we got Susie from a cousin of Dad’s that raised Dalmatians, Tom Speer. Tom had been born with Cerebral Palsy and a heart as big as the world. I was lucky enough to work for Tom when he lived in a group home for which I was responsible. He passed away last month. He was a good man and I am better for knowing him.

As an only child (Mom was pregnant with my sister Tonya that summer) Susie was my best friend and at one point, which I can’t remember, she brought 101 Dalmatians home to me! She delivered a huge litter of puppies one season and I was in Heaven. I remember trying to contain all of the puppies my sandbox giggling and failing miserably all at the same time. A sea of sand, white ears and pink bellies all at once trying to tackle and lick me while trying to escape the sand pit. I think those puppies wore Susie out. I don’t remember what happened to her, but I know it wasn’t good. I just remember hugging her and loving her with all of my heart.

During that same spring 18-year old Thomas Charles Fuller was spending time with his 16-year old girlfriend’s family. The Cox family was a large one. They had 12 children, nine of which still lived at home in 1968. They lived in a farmhouse just off of Dole Road. Dole Road is the local name for a long road that intersects on the South end with Rt. 121 and crosses the Kaskaskia River on the North end. They lived about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile south of the river just above the floodplain. We lived about three miles just North and West of the river if you follow the roads. Their house is gone and has been for years. I just checked Google Maps and they have updated their maps recently because the house I grew up in is gone as well. You can still see where it had been from the tracks in the field. Time plows on.

On Saturday, April 27 of that year, Thomas Charles Fuller II was following through with plan to impress his girlfriend. He didn’t get to complete the plan, but he made an impression none the same. With nine kids at home, the Cox house was a busy place. There was shopping to be done and as on this day, someone was bound to get hurt. One of the girls burned herself on the stove and needed to go to the hospital for treatment. A couple of the boys had gone hunting. Apparently Thomas came in later in the day and told his girlfriend he had “killed five little birds” and asked her to come look. She didn’t approve of killing birds and wouldn’t come out. He went out and asked for a ride home from her mother saying he would come back later.

According to a written report by William Cox, father of the family, there was a call to gather the family at dinner. Of course, being children, not all responded to the call and scouts were sent out to bring everyone in the house. Theresa, age 9, and Mary, age 8, were found in the corn crib. Louis, age 16; Gary, age 7; and Kenneth, age 5 were found in the long grass about 15 feet from the corn crib. All had been shot. Thomas Charles Fuller II had planned to kill the whole family, so Louis’ twin sister would only have to love him. The final outcome to the proposed plan apparently was for him to lure another boy to the farm, kill him and blame him for the murders. Apparently, Thomas had as much luck trying to keep all of the Cox family in line with the plan as I was having trying to keep puppies in the sandbox.

Mom says she heard each of the gunshots that day out hanging laundry. It made an impression on her as it wasn’t hunting season and you pay attention to sounds like that when you live in the country. She also says that when she found out what happened, she felt my sister drop inside of her as if the sorrow was too great for the baby’s soul to handle. Apparently, people raced to our house because Mom was pregnant and they hadn’t found Thomas Fuller yet.

What I do remember is knowing my parents were extremely upset, all the men from the neighborhood and their families were at our house and we, the children were put in the room facing the garden to stay safe. Every man had a loaded shotgun or rifle, maybe a couple of the women as well. I don’t remember the interactions with the other children, but I do remember peeking through the blinds on the window watching for the bad man. Waiting for him to come and kill me too. We didn’t know much, and the adults weren’t going to tell us much, but kids hear a lot and we heard he killed kids.

Twelve hundred people showed up to pay their respects to the family. I can’t imagine what they went through, dealing with the loss of five children and having to deal with that many people. I know a large turnout is supposed to be comforting to the family, and it is, but it is also physically and psychologically draining. People come to comfort, some people come to see, and others come with their own agendas and expectations. Especially in situations like this.

I posted his picture here. Doesn’t look like a crazy fuck does he? No Charles Manson there. Do you realize Charles Manson didn’t actually physically kill anyone? This guy did. This guy looked into the faces of five children and shot them to make his girlfriend love only him. He looked at a five-year old, not just any five-year old, but one he knew, played with and cared for and pulled the trigger. Think about that when you look at your child, your niece or nephew, or grandchild around that age.

He looks just like someone you would see in line a Wendy’s or the fumbling bachelor trying to find items in the grocery store you help out. Not to seem too paranoid, but they walk among us all of the time. Most don’t carry out those dark, desperate plans best played out in the recesses of a socially diseased mind. Most just keep moving, reining in the desires and temptations that frighten even them. Not Thomas Charles Fuller II, he caressed those desires, fed the fantasies, danced with the demons that came to him and if his full plan had been completed, would have been shocked, shocked I tell you that anyone could have done such a thing. I don’t remember reading about regret, other than being caught, or remorse.

Mr. Fuller can stay in prison. He didn’t just kill five little birds, his actions spread like a stone in water. I know my life would never be the same after what he did and many other lives were changed as well. Crazy is as crazy does and that kind of crazy needs to be isolated from society.


16 responses to “Three…no. Five little birds

  1. Such a tragic story! I’m so sorry to hear of such a horrible person! It’s amazing how much detail you carry with you! Oh my heart hurts to read such news….


    • Oh, T. You have such a good heart. I have been following your posts and have become attached to you very quickly. Thank you for your thoughts.

      I am just sorry that the family has to go through this parole process every few years. I was only five at the time, but I have read accounts from the papers and the father of the victims over time. Life can be ugly, but its beauty always outshines the pain.

      I know my posts have been a bit on the downside, but I intend for there to be glimmers of hope and humor in them.

      Keep on posting your wonderful blog and I will continue to wish to go back to the Virgin Islands one day. I loved St. Thomas!

  2. How very sad….I am sorry you had to go through that as a child. I feel for the family as well. I think prison is too kind of a sentence for him….but I am VERY PRO death-penalty. I also happen to think he looks crazy. I think he has those sociopathic “dead eyes”,but perhaps I am jaded after working criminal defense for so long. WHat a sad, albeit too common, story.

  3. Hi. You don’t know me and probably never heard of me. You see I am engaged to William Cox’s grandson. He (William) was the father of those children. I say was because he died in 2010. I know this story very well. I also know the family. Lydia, William’s wife and mother to the children died in 2006. William was haunted to his death by the memory of his children. He used to tell me how much my children looked like them. I appreciate the true telling of their story. There have been a lot of people speaking ill of William. So thank you

    • Tina,

      It means so much for you to comment here. It’s not something I talk about often, but it is always with me and I never met the family, that I remember. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for the family to carry on with life after this horrible event. As I grew up I heard some of the ill rumblings that I am sure you speak of, but I never understood how people could judge someone’s perceived and rumored actions and life, when they could not even step into that person’s shoes, let alone walk in them.

      Strength is not measured by how tall you stand, how much you can lift, but sometimes how close you hold onto the ones you love, and that you continue to crawl through the hell that has been imposed upon you and not take the coward’s way out. I am so in awe of them that they faced the horrors that their minds and dreams must have brought. I am sure that the thought of joining their lost children was strong, but they faced life and were there for the rest of the family, honoring the memories of the other children.

      Again, thank you for reading my blog post and your comment. I hesitated to write something that would be so close to so many people, but actually, I wasn’t sure anyone would read my blog!

      God bless you and your family,
      Crystal (Durdel) Coffin

  4. I just read that it’s that time again, I was born in 1968 so I wasn’t even here when this happened. However, my older brothers went to school with several of the kids and knew them. I grew up knowing several members of the family and this family continues to suffer to this day. I read a book a few years back about this, the author tried to show Mr. Fuller in a “good light” that he has paid his debt…Heck no he hasn’t, he took 5 lives that day, he hasn’t even paid with 1 yet. I’m sure his family suffers as well, and I mean no disrespect to them, but he was sentenced to two 70-90 years…he should have to serve it all. My prayers to everyone affected by this tragedy.

  5. I read about this at Flora Ill. the other day where he was turned down for parole,i thought THIS IS inmate Fuller from MENARD prison where i worked in the 70’s-in 1974 he worked in the OFFICERS commissary and to show you how animals can look “normal” he worked 12 hours daily 7 days a week was COMPLETELY reliable and decent acting,NO problems.Out of curiousity i looked up his crime and was SICKENED!I had forgot about him till now 40 yrs later!

    • Thank you for your comment. I’m sure he might have been reliable and decent acting in such a controlled environment. Character can be defined by what you would do when no one is looking. We know what he did when no one was looking, best he be watched constantly.

  6. Just read this again after you re-posted it. I remember well the stories of those horrific murders from our childhood. You and Mom would re-tell them from time to time. I wasn’t technically “alive” at the time, but I honestly think that the events from that day affected me. I remember Mom telling me that when I was born, the doctors were concerned with the large dimple on the base of my spine. She was convinced that the stress of that day left a permanent mark on my body and I still have that sacral dimple and will for the rest of my life. I wasn’t even born yet and this man impacted my life. Trying to understand what that family went through is mind-boggling, but I carry them in my thoughts every day. All I have to do is feel the base of my spine.

  7. I hadnt thought about it at the time but i realize NOW,that the reason he wanted to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week in officers commissary at menard prison was because in the 70’s the prison was a prison not the gang bang heaven it is now-but the inmates back then had SOME sense of decency and he would have been beaten or killed because he murdered little children-but by being up front 12 hours a day he was pretty well safe-other cons were sleeping when he was in his cell and he was up and at work while they were awake- convicts werent running around back then-they were working or in their cell-LIBERALS have changed that!

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