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Introduction to Marcel Petiot: France’s Infamous Doctor of Death

Serial killers have been around for thousands of years, as far back as ancient Rome. However, Herman Webster Mudgett, also known as H.H. Holmes, was believed to have been early America’s first serial killer. This event dates all the way back to 1861-1896. The definition of a serial killer according to the FBI is someone who commits at least 3 murders for over a month and has “cooling off” periods where they do not murder anyone in between. It is thought that most serial killers have a sexual motive when choosing their victims such as Gary Ridgway, Ted Bundy, and Jefferey Dahmer. However, some killers are driven for other reasons, for example, revenge, trauma, or mental illness. Sexual reasoning behind some serial killers murders only mostly describes male killers, while female serial killers mostly have this twisted type of love or caring. Although their motives have remained the same, the way they have killed has changed to various types of ways. From a hammer to guns, killing for “fun” has always been around. Serial killers have been psychologically proven to start showing signs at a young age, as young as 5. From hurting animals to tearing apart dolls, this fantasy of killing and having control will stay with them. This fantasy gets more and more violent as they get older. They start to want more than just a fantasy, they want it to be a reality. Catching these killers has luckily become easier as we grow our technological advancements. We now use DNA samples, crime scene investigators, fingerprinting, and more. We also now have the internet, which can be used to pick targets nowadays. While serial killers are rare and are less than one percent of all murders in a year, they are real and very dangerous. As serial killers don’t change their targets, which is most of the time people that our society looks down among, and serial killers can be hard to stop if they don’t stop themselves. One notorious serial killer thought to have killed over 60 jews, Marcel Petiot, the French doctor killer.

Early Life and Signs of Psychopathy

Marcel Petiot was born in France on January 17, 1897. His parents were Felix and Marthe Petiot and his sibling was Maurice Petiot. He could be considered a rebel as he was expelled from multiple schools in France before graduating at a special academy at the age of 18. Some examples contain him as an eleven-year-old bringing his dad’s gun to school and trying to shoot it, as well as asking a girl to have sex with him. As a teenager, he robbed a post box and was charged with theft and damage to property. However, after a psychological evaluation, he was considered to have mental illness and the charges were dropped. After graduating he was drafted into the French army during World War One but was then injured on the front in 1917. He was once again proclaimed to be mentally ill and was sent for treatment. He then was caught stealing army blankets, morphine, and other army supplies and was once again charged for theft, he was then sent to a jail in Orleans. But the charges were again dropped because of his mental illness, which doctors described as “mental disequilibrium, neurasthenia, mental depression, melancholia, obsessions, and phobias.” He was then sent to a psychiatric ward for treatment for his illness. However, his diagnosis for this mental illness was not enough to keep him out of the war, as he was sent to the front again the following year, 1918. This time though he did more than steal blankets, he shot himself in the foot, earning himself yet another psychiatric evaluation. This time he was finally discharged from the army and even got a recommendation to go to an asylum. However, he went to an accelerated education program made for veterans, this is where he completed medical school and began his path to becoming a physician. He had joined a mental hospital in Evreux as an intern. After earning his medical degree he then moved to the small town, Villeneuve-sur-Yonne in 1921. Here is where he would murder and trick what is believed to be 60 jews. He earned money not only from his patients but also from the government for his services as a physician. He became a corrupt doctor as he would prescribe addictive medication that wouldn’t even help his patients. He got addicted to narcotics, consuming an illegal amount, and also got back into thievery. He became famous for this throughout the town. This is believed to have been when he had his first victim, Louise Delaveau, a patient’s daughter Petiot had an affair in 1926. When people realized she had been missing for a while, they grew suspicious of Petiot. The cops searched Petiot’s house and car, which supposedly some saw him putting something large in his trunk. But eventually gave up and said she had just run away. However, this same year he ran for mayor. He hired someone to disrupt his opponent’s speech. While in office he had spent all of the town’s funds. In 1927 he got married to Georgette Lablais and then had a son the following year. His thievery had not stopped and was accused of stealing taxpayer money as well as cans of oil and more. He was sentenced to three months in prison, but it was then overturned. He stayed in office even after four months of suspension and was accused more and more of thievery. Finally, in 1931 he was kicked from office, but about a month later was then on the general council for the Yonne district. Being Historically one of the youngest in that office. He was charged with the theft of electric power and was then fined and lost his seat on the council.

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The Murderous Scheme: Preying on Jews During WWII

He then moved to Paris and sought to make a strong and successful medical practice. He accomplished this goal and made a reputation as an amazing doctor in Paris. But all broke loose when he stole and harassed a police officer. He was sent to a sanitarium but was again released although his doctor said not to. Throughout the next years, he added more and more to his criminal record and psychiatric list. This is when he set up a false escape line for jews and criminals which was set up in Paris. He told them that he would transport them to South American countries in exchange for 25,000 francs. He took on the name Dr. Eugène and had a few people that helped him with the crime. He would then tell the escapees that the Argentinian government required them to get a shot to not bring in outside diseases. However, that shot was full of cyanide which would kill the victims. Petiot would then take all of his victim’s belongings and money then burn, dump, or bury the bodies. His neighbor then reported a horrid smell coming from his practice chimney. When the police arrived they found ten bodies in his basement. However, they believed Petiot’s story about the bodies being those of traitors and Germans. As soon as they released him he hid at his friend’s house and took on the name ‘Henri Valeri’. He had also joined the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) and had gotten to captain. A story then came out about Petiot working with the Germans, he was then being searched for once again. They then put captain “Henri Valeri” on the search, shortly after he was recognized and arrested. Petiot’s attorney could only say he was a resistance fighter and Petiot claimed to not have known about the bodies buried in his yard. However, the judge and jury did not believe him and he was charged with twenty-seven murders but claimed to have killed over sixty. He went onto trial on March nineteenth, 1946, having 135 criminal charges and walked out in cuffs with the death penalty. He was destined to be killed by the guillotine and his last words before placing his head down into the guillotine were, “Gentlemen, I ask you not to look. This will not be very pretty.” On May 25, 1946, this killer doctor was stopped before anyone else could be hurt.

Conclusion: Petiot’s Legacy and the Psychology of a Serial Killer

When doing this research about Marcel Petiot I learned so much about serial killers and Petiot. Before this project, I had never heard of Marcel Petiot before and was quite curious to see who this famous serial killer was. When I learned that he has tricked Jews to get their money I was shocked. I have heard of someone murdering for money, but never of a serial killer murdering for money. You always hear serial killers murdering for sexual desires, or the feeling of control or they have some twisted brain that tells them it’s okay. But rarely do you hear them kill for only money. I was shocked that even after multiple diagnoses of mental illnesses, he was still sent out to the army and even was allowed to become a physician. I found it interesting to learn about how Petiot used a different name when he thought he was about to get caught. I would’ve thought he would’ve left Paris, but instead, he stayed and even became captain of the FFI, which was brave and insane of him to do. I wondered how they didn’t actually know how many people he killed, because when researching I never saw anything say that it was confirmed he killed 60 people or more. I learned that these jews would do anything at this point to escape the Germans, even pay a ridiculous amount of money and trust anyone to help them. What Petiot did made me very upset because he took advantage of these helpless families and killed them. I read where families of the victims were able to recognize their luggage and that was used as evidence against Petiot. I had also read that his wife helped him do it, I was never able to find out if she got arrested or was sent to death by guillotine. But I am sure that their son felt horrible because of what his parents did. I feel that Marcel Petiot was an interesting serial killer as his motives and techniques were different from others, and he is said to have killed the most people ever.

Citations

  1. List of serial killers before 1900. (2020, January 3). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_serial_killers_before_1900.
  2. Meghan, Reveron, S., Spyros, & Ackerman, D. (2019, October 24). Dr. Satan: The Unbelievable Story of Serial Killer Dr. Marcel Petiot. Retrieved from https://cvltnation.com/dr-satan-the-unbelievable-story-of-serial-killer-dr-marcel-petiot/.
  3. PeoplePill. (n.d.). Marcel Petiot: French criminal (1897-1946) – Biography, Life, Family, Career, Facts, Information. Retrieved from https://peoplepill.com/people/marcel-petiot/.
  4. Who was Marcel Petiot? Everything You Need to Know. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/marcel-petiot-26238.php.
  5. What Defines a Serial Killer? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-superhuman-mind/201705/what-defines-serial-killer.
  6. Barcella, L. (2018, August 31). How Serial Killers Have Evolved Throughout History. Retrieved from https://www.aetv.com/real-crime/history-of-serial-killers-evolution-of-killers-technology.
  7. Serial Murder. (2010, May 21). Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder.
  8. H.H. Holmes. (2019, April 13). Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/crime-figure/hh-holmes.
  9. Norman, A. (2018, October 19). Meet The Despicable Serial Killer Who Preyed On Jews Fleeing The Nazis. Retrieved from https://allthatsinteresting.com/marcel-petiot.

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