Larry and Danny Ranes: Serial Killers in the Same Family
Ranes was charged in only the Smock murder, with other charges in reserve pending the results of the trial. Mounted posses from the sheriff's department combed the area west of Kalamazoo where Ranes had indicated he had killed Smock, looking for physical evidence of the shooting. Ranes had indicated that as he was robbing Smock, he had tossed a flashlight from the car. They did not find it.
At the end of September, the trial began in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court. Assistant Prosecutor Donald Burge had prepared a set of twenty color slides depicting the body of Gary Smock. Eugene Field objected to their graphic nature, stating they would inflame the jury. The judge admitted twelve of the slides.
The courtroom battle centered largely around the question of Ranes' sanity. Through Field, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and several psychologists testified that he had committed murder during periods of temporary insanity that had occurred thanks to his rage against a father who had beat him mercilessly. In fact, Ranes' father had once been a gas station attendant, which supported this defense, as did the fact that his victims had resembled his father.
Hilberry read the trial transcripts and was able to summarize Ranes' approach to life. During prison interviews, Hilberry perceived that Ranes needed to manipulate and control, and his pre-prison violence had been impulsive and lacking in direction or support. "There was never a plan," Ranes admitted about his murders. "It was a natural thing. It always seemed to me like I was an actor in a play..." He even expressed a somewhat technical interest in what happened to his victims when shot: the blood flew farther than he expected on one case, and another young man "bounced a couple of feet in the air." He had no remorse for what he had done.
Ranes was convicted of Smock's murder and given a life sentence. He appealed it, based on the fact that the prosecutor's psychiatrists had started to examine him before he was properly represented by counsel, and he won a new trial in 1971, but when it became clear to him that his insanity plea was not very strong, he pled guilty and received a new life sentence. The concession he received was to be allowed to change his name, and he chose "Monk Steppenwolf," based on a novel by German author Herman Hesse that had impressed him.