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"Reformed" Child Killer Richard Dobeski Arrested

(This entry has been cross-posted to In Cold Blog.)

Richard Allen Dobeski, age 59, has spent most of his life in prison. When he was just 16, Dobeski murdered a 6-year-old girl and her little brother, age 3.

On August 31, 2007, the 59-year-old Westville, Indiana resident was arrested again. His alleged crimes again involved children.

Police in Monterey, IN believe Dobeski offered two children age 11 and under up to fifty bucks to ‘pose’ for photos. Dobeski allegedly wanted to take the photos at a beach. Now the ex-con faces felony charges for enticing a child and “attempted criminal confinement.” His bail has been set at $100,000.

The Pulaski County (IN) prosecutor told the LaPorte County Herald-Argus that Dobeski asked the children he approached in Monterey if they wanted “to be models.”

The murders that saw the teen Dobeski supposedly jailed for life occurred on August 31, 1964. Dobeski’s arrest in Indiana occurred exactly 43 years to the day after he killed Shawn Johnston and her brother Cary.

If you’ve never heard of Joseph Edward Duncan III, the story of Richard Dobeski might sound new to you. If you’ve been through the archives related to Duncan at HuffCrimeBlog.com or even better, Jules Hammer’s The Cellar, (Jetd63.blogspot.com), then Richard Dobeski will be familiar. Too familiar…


Michigan State Police arrested Richard Dobeski on September 1, 1964 in New Buffalo, Michigan.
Troopers Darrell Wellman and Herbert Kuipers found the boy on the beach by Lake Michigan, in the Michiana Shores resort area. After authorities in Michigan and Northern Indiana hunted all night for Dobeski, someone tipped the State cops to a sighting of a boy walking on the beach. Wellman and Kuipers simply followed Dobeski’s tracks in the sand.

The tracks led to a tall, slender boy with a blond crewcut hiding in the dunes.

“Are you Richard Dobeski?”


Dobeski was arrested without incident.

The Dobeski family lived in Long Beach, IN, just south of the Michigan/Indiana state line. Their next door neighbors were Jack Johnston, an advertising executive, his wife Judy, and their children, Shawn and Cary.

Shawn and Cary didn’t come home on the night of August 31, 1964. By 8 p.m., an alarm was raised.

Richard Dobeski’s mother Lucille found the brother and sister around 10 that night. She opened a trap door covering a crawlspace beneath the Dobeski home. There, in a place Richard Dobeski called “The Pit,” were the brutalized bodies of the Johnston children.

Tightly knotted cords were around the siblings’ throats. Shawn Johnston’s hands were bound behind her back. An autopsy later showed that Shawn’s brother Cary died of multiple stab wounds to his neck and chest. Shawn was strangled to death.

Near the small bodies police found a blood-stained length of pipe, a pocket knife, and part of a brick.


He’d once been a “handsome teenage boy,” a “mathematics whiz and a regular churchgoer.”

In 2003 Richard Allen Dobeski was a fifty-something male with decades of prison behind him. A free man finally, he wanted a college education.

Allyn West, then a senior journalism major at Ball State University, believed that Dobeski deserved the chance.

Writing in a column titled “Charmingly Disheveled,” West briefly sketched Dobeski’s situation:

Dobeski was released from a Michigan City prison on Sept. 18 after serving half of his 80-year sentence.

People are trusting (or perhaps naive) to think that after 40 years in prison, Dobeski has been rehabilitated and changed. The weight of his crimes has sparred with his conscience since he was a teen-ager. Surely four decades of faithful, lonely incarceration have eliminated his threat…

West supported his argument:

Without a doubt, Dobeski has a dark, violent and frightening history, but that does not mean he will always be a dark, violent and frightening criminal.

The Indiana Department of Corrections thinks similarly. It has approved his release, and prison psychiatrists, with whom Dobeski spent years, have pronounced him “cured.”

The collegiate columnist took a preemptive strike at his school:

[Dobeski], and his application, will also be ridiculously (but rightly) scrutinized by the admissions office, the Muncie and Ball State news media and the city and university governance.

His leash is short enough that, if he gives authorities the slightest reason, he’ll be jerked right back into prison, probably for the rest of his life.

Dobeski poses no more threat to Ball State’s students and the surrounding neighborhoods’ children than rush-hour traffic, poisonous household chemicals or freak accidents. He is (and always will be) a convicted murderer. But the state’s professionals believe he is rehabilitated…

West’s faith in “the state’s professionals” was probably misplaced. “Professionals” had been wrong about Richard Dobeski before.


Richard Allen Dobeski’s need to molest, to harm children was already a problem when he lured the Johnston children into what Dobeski referred to as his “pit.”

Dobeski molested other children as early as 1961. He would have only been 12 or 13. Even though he was a highly intelligent, eminently presentable boy, his mother was finally convinced in 1963 that he needed to be institutionalized. She’d resisted for quite some time. An episode where Dobeski allegedly tied a young girl to a tree may have been the catalyst for Lucille’s acquiescence.

Dobeski spent 11 months being treated at the LaRue Carter Hospital in Indianapolis between mid-1963 and August, 1964. He was “on leave” from the Hospital when he murdered the Johnston children. After so much time under in-patient care, “professionals” at LaRue Carter believed their charge was making some headway.

Dobeski’s prosecution stretched through 1965. Interesting testimony was reported in October of that year. That was when three psychiatrists testified that Dobeski had a “character disorder.” The boy in the courtroom that day was not, in their estimation, psychotic.

It was not stated outright, but it seemed like these practitioners were talking about a psychopath.

A brief article published on September 4, 1964 supported such an inference. From UPI, by way of the Anderson, Indiana Herald — emphasis has been added:

Authorities Thursday questioned Richard Dobeski, 16, Long Beach, in connection with the slaying of two small children, while he laughed and smiled and showed no signs of remorse.

Richard Dobeski started early in life. Inside him two primal impulses were irrevocably fused. He was what he was, and he couldn’t change that. He could behave outwardly like any other kid, even while his own mother was trying to deal with the grisly scene she’d found beneath her pantry.

Dobeski was sentenced to life in prison in October, 1965.

Prison, if anything, may have made him an expert at seeming human.


From a thread in the Indianapolis forum at Topix.net, part of a post made on April 25, 2007:

The prison system and the philosophies it operates under is also a couple centuries old. It too needs an in-debth [sic] examination.

How can a state government think it is fair, proper, and conducive to rehabilitation to send its prisoner citizens 2000 miles away from their families — as in the case of the Arizona inmates being housed at the New Castle facility. And remember that Arizona is there because California backed out of a deal.

Indiana has also sent its inmates to New Mexico and Tennessee.

Maybe this is a warning call to get people questioning how their tax dollars are being spent.

From the arrest process (example: Chicago torturing confessions from suspects) through the trial process (example: this case only on “eyewitness” identification) and the subsequent incarceration after: The system need to be redesigned. There are just too many mistakes.

We may not be able to change the past, but do we have to continue doing the same old things into the future? Isn’t it time to bring “criminal justice” into conformity with the 21 st century?

The poster signed off:

Richard Dobeski
Executive Director
Indiana C.U.R.E.
Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants

It was a weirdly familiar refrain from an ex-con who had served time for violent, sexually-motivated crime. Read the following from a blog entry by Joseph Edward Duncan III, convicted serial killer of children:

I have been very patient with this whole injustice, telling myself that everyone suffers injustice of some kind. But I can feel it now starting to approach the limits of my tolerance. I can’t afford an attorney, and even if I could I don’t know if it would do any good. It seems the Law is dictated by popular opinion (and we all know how reliable that is) with no rationality. I feel close to cracking, and I don’t even know what that means. I keep feeling like I want to cry, I have not felt this stressed in a long time.

The message from both men seemed to be “I am an intelligent ex-con, and I know how to fix things for my brothers still behind bars.”

Viewed on the surface, Duncan and Dobeski might appear to share a sense of being called to assist others who have been in prison. A deeper look might reveal their pontificating on how best to reform “the system” as simply another expression of each man’s true self — the supremely arrogant, all-knowing stance of the psychopath, eternally a legend in his own mind.

Unlike Duncan, Dobeski seemed at first enough of a success that even the Indiana Department of Corrections saw fit to quote him in a press release. In the release written by Java Ahmed in 2006, Dobeski touched on the theme he later covered in his Topix post:

Richard Dobeski served 40 years in the state prison system. When he got out, he says, he got “$75 and a pat on the back.”

Dobeski was a teenager when he murdered a 6-year-old girl and her 3-year-old brother in the crawl space of his home in the affluent Lake Michigan community of Long Beach. He says he paid the price the state set.

“The prisons system in this state was about punishment and housing prisoners. There was no rehabilitation, no re-entry,” he said.

Dobeski was fortunate to have a network of friends and family members to support him when he was released in 2003. Now living in Michigan City, he’s staying out of trouble, but said other inmates who gain their release often have little support in finding jobs, a place to live, and counseling.

Was Dobeski really staying out of trouble?

That’s the question to ask.

Joseph Edward Duncan III certainly seemed like he was staying out of trouble. Right up to the moment he absconded from his address in Fargo, ND and went on to massacre the Groene family in Coeur d’Alene, ID.

After Duncan was arrested, it became clear that he might have been killing children since the mid-’90s.

Duncan got started early. He entered prison at age 17. He spent 20 years learning how to become an even better manipulator, a better criminal, and exited his incarceration ready to pick up exactly where he left off.

Arthur Shawcross and Ed Kemper followed similar patterns. Both committed violent crimes when they were young, and when they got out of lockup — or in Kemper’s case, “treatment” not unlike the treatment given to Dobeski — they simply started killing again. Profilers underestimated Shawcross’s age when he was still an unknown subject by nearly the same number of years he was incarcerated.

Even though Richard Dobeski began abusing children when he was still a child himself, even though he committed a truly horrific double murder at age 16, there is still a chance he was a perfectly upstanding citizen between his release in 2003 and his arrest on August 31, 2007. If he did attempt to take two children to the beach for “modeling,” it might have been a momentary aberration. Stress from elsewhere in his life might have sent Dobeski spiralling back into an inner place he tried to leave in his youth. Even the suggestion of the beach (again, if the charges are true) smacks of this.

I imagine, though, that authorities in Michigan and Indiana, perhaps nearby states like Illinois, are taking a hard look at any missing childrens’ cases, any unsolved murders of young people from the last 4 years.

A person who would laugh and talk normally with cops hours after he murdered two small children can’t really grow a conscience. They can, at best, only learn to restrain their predatory impulses, impulses as natural to them as breathing.

The state psychiatrists apparently considered Dobeski cured.

Maybe the state needs to cure itself of those psychiatrists, and any laws still on the books that might ever put another vicious double-murderer back on the street again.

Any updates will be added below.