Fate was savagely cruel to Renae Wicklund. On December 11th, 1974, she was repeatedly raped by an intruder at her Clearview, Washington, home. The rapist was quickly identified as Charles Rodman Campbell, out on parole from a 15-year sentence for burglary. In January, 1976, he was given another 20 years for the attack on Renae.

The rape became a barrier between Renae and her husband Jack and eventually led to a separation. A year later Jack was attacked by an intruder in his bachelor flat, tied to a chair, doused with petrol and set on fire. Somehow he managed to survive and four months later, while he was still horribly scarred, and still wearing a rubber–type suit to protect his healing wounds, the car he was driving hit a telegraph pole and killed him.

On April 15th, 1982 – seven years after she was raped – Renae Wicklund was found dead, in a pool of her own blood, in her bedroom. Her throat had been slashed. Her killer had removed some of her clothing and used a knife to mutilate her genitals.

Her eight-year-old daughter Shannah was dead on the floor beside her, her throat also slashed. In the hallway was the body of Renae’s friend and neighbour Barbara Hendrickson, also with her throat cut.

Detectives speculated that Renae was killed first, while she was in the house alone and waiting for Shannah to come home. When the girl arrived the killer dragged her into her mother’s bedroom and killed her there. Barbara Hendrickson might have heard the child scream and hurried to investigate, only to be caught by the killer in the hall.

A check on the whereabouts of Charles Campbell revealed he was still in custody – a second check revealed that while he was still technically in custody he was out on a work-release scheme which allowed him to come and go almost at will, as long as every night he checked back into the half-way house to which he was confined.

A bloody palm-print on a glass at the Wicklund home was identified as his and led to his conviction on November 16th, 1982, for all three murders. While the penalty phase of the trial was being discussed, Campbell, sprawled in his chair, grinned at the jury, and growled at his lawyer, “Do we have to go through all that crap again?”

The appeal process that followed was long and drawn-out. It wasn’t until Saturday, May 14th, 1994, that it was finally completed and Campbell was ready for the executioner. At 16 stone he was a hefty client for the hangman, who misjudged the drop and nearly decapitated the prisoner.