Crime: Slaughter in the College of Beauty

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Last summer's macabre mass murders in Chicago and Austin seemed irresistibly fascinating to Robert Benjamin Smith, 18, studious, reticent high school senior in Mesa, Ariz. (pop. 50,000). Three months ago, Bob Smith began to concoct his own nightmarish schemes for multiple murder. After toying with several other likely sites, he settled on the Rose-Mar College of Beauty, a mile and a half from his home, because of the number of potential victims—student beauticians and housewife customers—to be found there.

His plan was to bind the women, tie plastic bags over their heads, and watch them while they suffocated. After mulling it over for weeks, he set out from his home early one morning last week with a brown paper bag containing 200 ft. of nylon cord, a package of big plastic sandwich bags, two hunting knives and, for good measure, a .22-cal., single-action six-shooter that his parents had given him.

Wheel of Death. Once inside the school, Smith brandished his pistol. No one paid any attention so he fired one shot into a mirror and ordered everyone there—five women, a three-year-old girl and a baby—into a back room. One woman shouted, "There'll be 40 people here in a few minutes." Smith replied: "I'm sorry, but I didn't bring enough ammunition for them." He found to his dismay that the sandwich bags were too small to pull over a person's head, but he still had his knives and his pistol. So Smith ordered his victims to lie down in a circle like spokes in a wheel—their heads at the center, their feet on the perimeter.

They complied. As unconcernedly as if he were taking potshots at pop bottles, Smith squeezed off his bullets, aiming carefully at the head of each person. Mrs. Joyce Sellers, 27, mother of the two children in the circle, lurched about after he had shot her, so Smith stabbed her in the back to be certain she was dead.

"Popping Noises." In the midst of the massacre, Mrs. Eveline Cummings, operator of the school, entered the building, heard a man's voice and "funny popping noises" coming from the back room. She called the police, who arrived to arrest Smith while he was still standing not far from the bloody bodies of his victims.

The young killer blithely announced, "I wanted to get known, just wanted to get myself a name," then reconstructed his crime before horrified policemen. But there was little to say. Mrs. Sellers and her daughter, Debra, 3, were dead on the floor; three other women died a short time later; another lay in serious condition in the hospital. The baby, Tamara Lynn Sellers, had been shot in the arm, but survived because her mother's body had shielded her from Smith's bullets.