Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Allentown Massacres

Another Version

Nelson Birdwell III, headshot
Nelson Birdwell III, headshot

Benny Birdwell's parents, who were separated, drove to Michigan to be with him. He had a juvenile record for theft, but otherwise had not been in serious trouble, and they could not believe that he'd taken part in the murders. He confirmed this when he told them that he'd been forced into the incident and subsequent flight. Yet the "Berzerker" tattoo on his forehead proved his firm association with them. He described to them the trip to Wendy's and the theater, and told his mother how Brenda Freeman had ordered him several times to go home. Yet he'd always come back in.

Then Brenda and Bryan had gotten into a fight and Bryan ran into his room, obtained a steak knife, and came back out. Brenda tried to run, but Bryan caught her and he put his hand over her mouth and thrust the knife into her back. Brenda fell to the floor, but shortly after got back up, pulled the knife out of her back and advanced on her son. Bryan and Brenda struggled for the knife, but he regained control and stabbed her once more in the shoulder all the way up to the hilt. She tried to scream, but he stuffed a pair of shorts into her mouth so their father would not hear. Finally, she lay still.

When they had finished her off, they knew they had to kill Dennis and Erik as well. Birdwell said that he remained in the basement while the brothers did the dirty work. He said that Bryan told them that if they "pussed out" he was going to kill them next. Once Dennis and Erik had been killed, Bryan yelled for Benny to come upstairs, so he did. He saw that Bryan was covered in blood, but David bore little evidence of his involvement. Before they left, Bryan changed his clothes and David went into the backyard and vomited. Getting into the family car with around $200, stolen from Dennis's billfold, they argued about where to go and then fled to their friend's farm in Michigan. On the way, they discussed returning to make the whole thing look like it had been the work of an intruder, bent on robbery, but then they heard about the discovery of the murders the next day on the radio.

Donna Birdwell, Benny's mother, was outraged that her son had been forced into this situation, so she told a reporter for the Midland Daily News what Benny had said. The Freeman brothers read the article that night and realized that Benny was throwing the entire blame on them. Angry, they decided to retaliate. Bryan had yet to say anything, and now he was ready. It was one thing to protect their cousin, and quite another to have him so outrageously exonerate himself. They asked for attorneys and offered to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


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