HOUSTON – It’s an industry many wouldn’t think existed, but one Houston man is on a mission to stop the dealing of "murderabilia."
Andy Kahan is the Crime Stoppers director of victim services and advocacy. He came up with the term “murderabilia,” which describes collectibles related to violent crimes.
"If you're under the impression criminals can't profit from criminal conduct, you're sadly mistaken,” Kahan said.
About 20 years ago, Kahan discovered the industry in which dealers would contact high-profile rapists, murderers and serial killers.
“I was dumbfounded that it’s legal, and like most people, I thought, ‘You can’t be doing this. You can’t be profiting from committing the most horrific crimes.’ Apparently, I found out that they were, and it was legal,” Kahan said. “I said to myself, ‘I got to do something about this.' I started investigating the industry.”
He found items such as hair, nails, CDs, artwork, dolls and other "murderabilia" that dealers were selling online.
“There are different types of items I’ve managed to procure over the last couple decades now, which I (use to) show people that the industry does exist,” Kahan said. “There’s no worse feeling in the world than to find out that the person who murdered one of your loved ones now has personalized items being hawked by third parties for pure profit.”
Kahan said Angel Resendiz, who was known as the “Railroad Killer,” would sell locks of his hair, foot shavings and letters while in prison. He was executed in 2006 for the death of more than a dozen people across Texas.
Kahan has been able to get so-called notoriety for-profit laws passed in eight states, including Texas, but said there need to be federal laws in place.
“So we’re still fighting to get laws,” Kahan said. “ ... The problem is, for the most part, you’re dealing with interstate commerce items that are shipped out via U.S. mail, (across) state lines."