On July 6th 1994, twenty-six year old Troy Kell, inmate and white supremacist gang member at Utah State Prison, killed Lonnie Blackmon, a black inmate, with 67 blows from a prison shank while prison guards videotaped the attack. The deed done, Troy wiped his hands clean of the blood and walked away, proudly yelling:
“Got some white power jumpin’ off around here!”
Later, in an interview with HBO for it’s documentary Gladiator Days : Anatomy Of A Prison Murder (2002), Troy explained his reasoning behind why he killed Blackmon.
“I went into the situation that I’m gonna hafta kill the guy – I’m not gonna…jus hurt ‘em, I’m not gonna stab him two times and say ‘yeah we’re even’, you know, cause the philosophy in prison is, you know, you stab me I kill you… I just stabbed the shit outta him, you know, until he didn’t move anymore.”
“I’ve seen guys hesitate…on not thinkin’ somethin’ was serious, and it was serious, and they get themselves stabbed up. Or they get themselves fucked off…they get themselves killed.”
A brutal view on life. Yet it’s not surprising to hear from an inmate who had been imprisoned for another murder since he was eighteen. Troy’s first murder was James Kelly [real name James Thiede], a twenty-one year old Canadian man in Troy’s hometown of Las Vegas. Troy, with the assistance of Sandra Shaw (fifteen at the time) and another friend, lured Kelly into the desert and ambushed him, where Troy shot Kelly six times in the face at point blank range.
Who was Troy? Where did he come from? What was the series of events that drove him to commit two murders, both of which placed him on death row?*
One of the most startling aspects of Troy, from watching the documentary, is just how intelligent, almost proverbially All American he comes across as. Troy was not some trailer trash kid, doomed for eventual incarceration.
“I was raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, little middle class family. I’m the only child.”
“I think I was probably just an ordinary kid on the block, I wasn’t any different, or anything from anyone else that I noticed.”
“My father’s into horses, and kinda a redneck background, country boy kinda thing, and we had horses and stuff.”
“I was expected…to be successful, you know, my family, you know, they’re not losers.”
His neighbourhood was middle class, his school was middle class. Troy was thoroughly middle class. So why did he, at eighteen, kill James Kelly? For the answer to that, we have to turn to Sandra Shaw.
Sandra was three years younger then Troy. They met quite early, when they were children.
“Troy’s been a part of our life, um, ever since I first came to Las Vegas. Um, since I was probably, like, six years old. We lived on one corner of the street and on the opposite street he lived at the other corner. And um, me and a couple of friends, two little girlfriends, were walking down the street and him and his little friends were sitting in front of their house on their bicycles and you know they were watching us googly eyed cause he’s three years older then me. So when we got all the way to the end of the street, towards the desert, you know, we turned around and said somethin’ real sassy and they chased us on their bikes and we ran and he jumped off his back and tackled me into the grass and you know it just became like a plaything. And since then he was like, ‘You’re gonna be my girlfriend’ and I was like, ‘No I don’t even like boys’.”
There was obviously some romantic tension going on between the two of them from a very young age. Though Troy and Sandy both refer to each other in a younger sister older brother dynamic, it’s clear that at least Troy felt a deep attraction to Sandy. Why shouldn’t he? After all, she was the quintessential girl next door whom eagerly spent time with him. Sandy was a cute little girl, and Troy was no slouch himself.
“His father was really really strict, and um, I remember one time on his birthday, we were, he was turning thirteen and I believe I was ten and I rode my bike all the way to the mall and I bought him a Nike outfit and he had to sneak out in his back yard and climb up on the brick wall for me give him his gift, because he was on restriction – he was always on restriction – just, for absolutely nothing.”
That’s an almost classical scene of romance, and one wonders how many other secret rendezvous Troy and Sandy had over the years.
In many ways Sandy herself was the counterpart of Troy – the proverbial All American girl; pretty, a cheerleader, precocious and outgoing – though her family was struggling on the line between middle and lower class (Connie Shaw appears to be a single mother). By all counts, Sandy was destined for a typical middle class life herself. Perhaps even with Troy.
“When I was thirteen years old I was spending the night at a friend’s house and her step father went into a jealous rage and shot and killed her mother and her mother’s two friends and then killed himself. It changed my life.”
That man was Alex Egyed, a budding computer entrepreneur who may have been a well recognized name today if he hadn’t gone on a rampage and left Sandy covered in blood, huddling in a bathtub with her friend. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only incident Sandy was going to have with extreme violence.
“Another episode happened to her; she’s walkin’ home from school, uh, sees this guy runnin’ up behind her, girl in front of her, sees the guy shoot…the girl, in the back of the head. She’s already gone through this. Now this is two. How many times – I mean, I’m forty-eight years old, I mean, I’ve never seen anyone, in my lifetime, get shot. She’s seen two.”
These episodes left Sandy a broken girl; a girl barely on the cusp of her womanhood.
“I detached myself from my emotions, I didn’t have a sense of life or death, it’s all the same to me.”
Yet she was still a significant part of Troy’s life. And Troy really needed love in his life, since his own family had self destructed.
“My parents got divorced and I kinda bounced back and forth between them. It was kinda a struggle for me for awhile but, it’s nothin’ outta the ordinary… Any other kid goes through it.”
“His father must have been very tough on him, very abusive, I believe, with him. And his mother was never around. I know they were separated. But I don’t think his mother came around too much, I don’t know if it was because of the father…or what, you know, but uh, I guess he looked at me, more like a mother figure you know because he’s always sent me, even till this day, sends me a bouquet of mother’s day flowers.”
Troy and Sandy were both set adrift at a young age, both from broken homes, both experiencing severe forms of trauma – albeit Troy’s were less extreme. Because of his need for love, Troy grew ever closer to Sandy while Sandy threw herself into an abyss. Like many traumatized girls, Sandy began to slip down into degeneracy and self abuse. She began to hang around shady men and casinos while barely being a fully fledged teen, and at the age of fourteen she ran into James Kelly at the Circus Circus casino.
“I met Cotton Kelly at Circus Circus eight months prior to this actual tragedy.”
“He ran some type of, um, adult entertainment business. He wanted me to pose nude for him.”
“He had started following me and calling my house constantly, harassing my family… And as a fifteen year old child, I made a very bad decision, a very immature request and I called upon Troy to beat the man up. To have him, leave me alone.”
A normal girl with a strong family could have resolved this situation with ease. A simple, hard talk by a good father with this James Kelly character would have spared everyone a lot of tragedy. Sandy, however, had drifted far away from being a normal girl and with nothing but a weak family at her disposal she allowed this situation to escalate and continue. Perhaps she even began to be sexual with Kelly, though she does not mention the full depth of their relationship.
In the end she turned to the one man she knew she could depend on.
“Me and a friend of mine from high school agreed to beat this guy up, because he was doin’ some things to some teenaged girls that we knew. She was a friend of mine, she was like a, a sister kind of, to me.”
“This guy, I felt, was takin’ advantage of a friend of mine, and she asked for my help… And…I…went, kinda overboard.”
Eight months. That’s how long Sandy allowed James Kelly to be a part of her life. How many nights did Sandy turn to Troy? How many nights did she cry on Troy’s shoulder, detailing the horrors that James Kelly inflicted on her – and which she allowed to be inflicted on her. How many times did Troy have to hear Connie, a powerless mother, express her grief and frustration over this older man taking advantage of her daughter? Troy loved both these women.
Troy decided to save them. He told Sandy to lure Kelly out to the desert. So one night, in 1986, Sandy did just that. She made Kelly stop the car, claiming that she needed to pee. She went out, came back, pretended to hurt her leg and when Kelly came out to help her Troy put six bullets in Kelly’s head.
“For a reason that I, uh, can’t really understand, I decided to bring a gun and shoot the man. And killed him.”
“I didn’t go to sleep that night.”
Troy Kell, eighteen, murdered a degenerate man. He did it because he loved the tragic but degenerate Sandy Shaw. Because they bragged about the murder, soon schoolmates were visiting Kelly’s body in the desert.
When asked if he thought about running Troy said; “Yeah, of course.” When asked why he didn’t, “I…I don’t know. I didn’t have anywhere to run too. I couldn’t just keep on runnin’ and runnin’.”
Troy didn’t run because everything he loved lived on the corner one street over from his house. There was nothing else in the world for him.
One of the children who visited the body in the desert told their parents, and soon the police had Troy, his accomplice and Sandy in custody. They would convict Troy.
Surprisingly, Sandy was also tried and convicted. These were the days just before peak feminism so women weren’t the infallible angels that they are treated as today but still, after hearing about her abuse and her tragic past, the jurors sent a fifteen year old girl to jail for over twenty years.
In order to survive in jail, Troy quickly joined up with the white supremacist gangs. Eventually this would lead to the second murderous ambush of his life. Troy and fellow gang member Eric Daniels attacked Lonnie Blackmon with Eric holding his legs and Troy stabbing Blackmon with a shank 67 times. For this second murder Troy himself is currently waiting to face death.
I reiterate once more; by all accounts Troy was a normal kid. There was nothing in his childhood that would have led anyone to believe that Troy one day would end up a murderer of two men while leading a white supremacist gang in prison. If he just had to weather a broken home, as far too many middle class children nowadays do, he may have had a chance to move on and become a man of worth; other men have suffered worse and managed to raise good families and live a good life. Unfortunately Troy had the tragic fate of loving a girl who also came from a broken home, and like most women from such situations Sandy did not have the inner strength struggle for normalcy. She gave herself to degenerates and came to Troy whenever she needed to use his love.
This is a theme all too familiar with young men today. Young men are struggling to find peace in their lives while having to deal with their broken female counterparts. Most men can’t help loving who they love, and far too many men pay too high a price for this once noble emotion. The tragedies surrounding Troy Kell and Sandy Shaw provide an extreme example of this – and in the case of Sandy her despair motivated self destruction is understandable – but the dynamic of good men who need love and the rotten women who use it is one of the great (and unnecessary) social plagues of the modern age. Perhaps it always has been, going back through every society since time immemorial.
It seems nowadays that there is an epidemic of men being destroyed because of single parent upbringings or broken women. Yet Troy was destroyed in 1986. Who knows how many potentially decent men in the past have been destroyed because of similar situations. Who knows how many more in the future we’ll have?
We know the symptoms – it’s time to cure the disease, or we can expect nothing but more and more unnecessary tragedies like Troy Kell’s to occur in the future. Do we really want to grow old and live in a society full of young men like that?
I end with a comment from the video’s youtube page,
“Troy Kell is one the one hand a despicable human being, a stone cold killer, a sociopath or near one and a racist. But he’s in some ways he’s likeable, even admirable: he’s articulate, intelligent and is absolutely honest with himself and for the most part unblinded by bullshit. I’m not saying that he should or shouldn’t be put to death. His circumstance is just a very sad waste of human potential.”
*As of this article’s publication, Troy is still awaiting his death sentence. He requested to be shot by a firing squad.
Read More: Sunday In The Park
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