A picture is worth a thousand words. No wonder Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap’s lawyers have tried to shine up the mass murderer’s visual appeal. A couple weeks back they released a video of a kinder, gentler Dunlap (inexplicably laughing) and pleading for the governor to act “humanely”, commuting his death sentence. In the courtroom also, Dunlap dresses the part of reformed wonder boy.
Local media has shown a seeming reticence to using the photo of Dunlap from the night of his gruesome crime, instead often publishing a more recent image of the killer beaming at the camera or dressed up for court.
But that image of reformed choir boy is wholly inconsistent with the truth about Dunlap, even in the years since he was convicted.
That sympathetic portrait of Dunlap is being countered by those who knew Dunlap when he committed the murders at age 19 and witnessed him after his arrest. Certainly Dunlap showed no remorse initially, infamously telling authorities that shooting his former co-workers was “better than sex.”
His callous behavior continued in prison. A December 2008 article in 5280 magazine recounts how former Arapahoe County prosecutors described that while Dunlap was awaiting trial, “he had torn a leg off a metal desk, sharpened it, and began to scrape away at the window ledge in his cell. They took pictures of Dunlap’s new jailhouse tattoos: One was ‘Crazy Horse,’ the new nickname he’d embraced; the other was a smoking handgun with the phrase ‘By Any Means Necessary.’”
Reporters have a duty to deal with this issue head up – both visually and in writing. An essential part of that is not hiding the shocking images of the stone cold killer on the night he brutally slayed four Coloradans.