I am a Killer season 1, episode 8 recap: Hunted


Episode 8 of Netflix series I am a Killer looks at the double-murder case of Robert Shafer. Was his crime motivated by greed or hatred?

In 1990, 19-year-old Robert Shafer fatally shot Jerry Parker and Denny Young, a gay couple. Though Shafer never contested his guilt and expresses regret, he seems to ignore the concept of it possibly being a hate crime. There are possibly complex reasons for this, as this episode of I am a Killer gradually reveals.

The killer

Shafer was born in Salina, Kansas in 1970, to a military family. He tells I am a Killer that his father’s death in 1977 led to a downward spiral. He says he became a miscreant, taking to drugs and alcohol at the age of 9.

He also stole a few cars. He and his pal David Steinmeyer were increasingly about partying, cocaine, meth, and mischief. Shafer says he initially didn’t want to do robberies, but that he came around. It was his downfall. Three months after his 2nd car theft, the fate-determining murder case was born.

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April 29th, 1990

On this day, Jerry Parker and Denny Young were hanging out at Blanchette Landing, St. Charles, Missouri. They were the designated targets — supposedly picked out because, in Shafer’s words, they’d be easy victims.

Shafer and Steinmeyer got a ride with the two men, then threatened to rob them. One of them got out and a struggle ensued, which escalated it to a kidnapping at gunpoint. Ultimately, Shafer shot both men as they attempted to flee.

Later on, Shafer and Steinmeyer turned themselves in, claiming the victims made sexual advances on them. Initially, both were charged with the murder, but Shafer ultimately took the bulk of the responsibility.

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Philip Groenweghe, the Prosecuting Attorney, was always skeptical of Shafer’s account. He didn’t (and doesn’t) believe they were fending off attackers.

He also argues that two men being attacked weren’t necessarily weak. Instead, Groenweghe thinks Shafer regarded the killing of two gay men as a mitigating factor.

That is, he allegedly believed the sentence would be reduced due to his targets. Whatever the motive, it’s clear that Shafer wasn’t on the safest path one could tread. 3 years after his arrest, Robert was found guilty of both murders.

Richard Shafer’s flawed family life

Juliette Shafer, Robert’s sister, says their family wasn’t a happy one. The 11 kids in the household didn’t get hugs and “I love you’s” and the parents fought a lot. The idea is bandied about that Robert’s mother singled him out for hatred (and, inf a family with 11 kids, that perhaps takes on a deeper significance).

It’s insisted that there were no happy holidays or happy times, except when the kids played. They all enjoyed school because it wasn’t home. Despite all this, Juliette says Robert was always smiling, even when he got in trouble for stealing. When he came to live with her in St. Charles, she never knew he would end up a murderer.

I am a Killer then talks to Aubrey Martin, one of Shafer’s buddies in Salina, Kansas.

He says Robert was a wild child, that he climbed on running trains, jumping from one cart to another, and that it wasn’t the first time they stole from gay men in a park.

It’s also not the first hint of Shafer’s violence, according to Martin. He says Robert hit women sometimes, but they still like him for being a “bad boy” to them.


According to Richard Kiel, the nephew of Jerry Parker, his uncle was a nice guy, and wouldn’t want hatred between his family and the murderer. In fact, Richard forgave Robert in a letter and reminds us that Robert was only 19 at the time.

While that argument doesn’t stand firm legally, Kiel seems to understand the flawed thinking young adults from troubled backgrounds.

In response to this sentiment, Robert confessed to killing both men and admitted that no sexual advances were made. However, interestingly, Richard Kiel didn’t know Robert had confessed to police earlier in 1992.

Now he says he shot Parker because he had already shot Young. Robert Shafer now has the attitude of someone resigned to his fate. He waived his own trial and requested the death penalty, thinking it might somehow result in a reduced sentence.

In a way, it worked, as his death penalty was commuted the sentence to life without parole in 2004.

Possible root causes

Phillip Shafer, Robert’s brother, couldn’t believe Robert killed anyone at first. However, he comes around to make a previous point — that their mother “hunted” Robert down to give him special harsh treatment.  According to Phillip Shafer, she would call her boys anti-gay slurs (and you’ll probably know which ones).

If that’s not enough, Aubrey Martin says Robert was molested as a boy, and that they would hang out with a local child molester, getting paid to perform sex acts on him. He thinks Robert killed the two men because of these earlier experiences. His sister also says Robert was sick of being called gay, so that’s why he killed.

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Nowadays, Robert says he did abnormal things, and that the shooting was impulsive. He claims he waived the trial because he couldn’t face the victim’s family. He also apologizes to David Steinmeyer, who served 11 years.

On the bright side (and I am a Killer dabbles in those), Robert says Richard Kiel’s letter changed his life. Indeed, it may remind us that, rather than being a weakness, forgiveness can be a different kind of strength, and something the world shouldn’t forget.

That’s it for this I am a Killer recap! What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!