Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Brookey Lee West stuffed her dead mother into a garbage can and left her in a Las Vegas storage unit until the remains were discovered by someone who couldn’t stand the smell. West denied she’d killed her mom, but a jury didn’t buy it: She’s serving life for murder.
So, want to buy Brookey’s fingernail clippings?
West has joined the creepy canon of killers who are collectible. Convicted felons whose personal belongings — their art, their letters, their photographs, their fingernail clippings — are hoarded by fans who fawn at the feet of death row’s pop stars. This is the murderabilia industry.
The clippings from West’s right hand are being sold for $19.99 (free shipping worldwide!) on a site
that also sells West’s artwork:
prisonboundserialkillers.com. The site’s owner, a guy named Randall from Massachusetts, urges his customers to “go ahead and try to find a better deal.” He also reminds them to “stay evil 24/7.”
Randall started selling West’s stuff about eight months ago and is one of the first collectors to introduce her to the niche murderabilia market. He says he’s sold a drawing of Jesus by West for $175. He says he has had a few inquiries about the fingernails, but no takers. Like most dealers, he gets his merchandise through correspondence with the killer. Some people ask for products point-blank, but Randall never said a word to West — he figured she knew what he was after anyway. She sent him her clippings unsolicited.
She also sent a painting of three girls, and the white T-shirt she wore while painting it. On the shirt she wrote with ballpoint pen: “There is nothing like a comfortable cotton tee shirt. I cut the sleeves off and wear the shirt for one art project. This shirt I wore when I finished painting the 3 flower girls.” Then she signed and dated it, like any artwork.
The shirt is part of Randall’s private collection.
West’s Web presence is not the first time a Nevada killer has been bought and sold. A different murderabilia Web site was selling pictures of Jeremy Strohmeyer, arrested 10 years ago for raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl in a Primm casino bathroom. When that site’s owner found out in January that the Sun was interested, he threatened to sue the newspaper. Randall isn’t that defensive. He also sells Strohmeyer stuff — he’s got a scrap of prison paper with Strohmeyer’s signature on it that he’ll send you for $3.99. And Randall’s hardly apologetic about his hobby.
“I don’t feel bad for doing it, I don’t feel like I am doing nothing wrong,” he said. “Some people collect baseball cards. I like to collect material from high-profile cases.”
When the Nevada Corrections Department this year examined the site selling Strohmeyer’s stuff, officials determined they couldn’t stop it. Some states have passed “notoriety for profit” laws criminalizing the sale of such collectibles, but Nevada hasn’t. And the original “Son of Sam” law, designed to prevent killers from profiting by selling their stories, was overturned years ago, after the Supreme Court determined it was a violation of free speech protections.
Randall’s been writing West for about two years. In that time, they’ve gotten to know each other, and West has always maintained her innocence. She’s always insisted she didn’t kill her mother. Stuffed her in a garbage can? Sure, not even her attorney denied it. But did she kill her mother? No.
Of course, innocence would reduce the value of West’s work. So Randall, asked if he believes Brookey, has an easy answer: “Naaaa.”
Editor's note: This story was changed to correct the first name of Jeremy Strohmeyer.