The Bryan Fuller series Hannibal follows serial killer Hannibal Lecter as he lives in plain sight — and Fuller says he himself grew up in the shadow of a serial killer everyone feared, but no one was able to stop.
Fuller recently guested on The Kingcast, a podcast about the works of Stephen King, to discuss Salem’s Lot. He said he related to the book and 1979 miniseries — about a vampire who moves to a small town — because he lived through a spree of killings and disappearances at the time, known as the Lewis Clark Valley murders.
“An old world evil coming to small-town America… was very relatable to me at that age because I grew up in Lewis Clark Valley, and in the late ’70s through the mid-80s, there was a serial killer that was haunting the locals,” said Fuller, who was born in 1969.
Police have never conclusively linked the several killings and disappearances in the valley, which is named for the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition and crosses from Washington to Idaho, where Fuller grew up in the town of Lewiston.
On April 28, 1979, 12-year-old Christina White, 12, disappeared from the Asotin County Fair in Washington, the Spokane, Washington newspaper The Spokesman-Review reported. On the night of Sept. 12, 1982, 35-year-old Steven Pearsall was dropped off at the Lewiston Civic Theater in Idaho and disappeared. Jacqueline “Brandy” Miller, 18, and her stepsister, Kristina Nelson, 21, both also disappeared that night. The women’s bodies were found in 1983 about 27 miles northeast of Lewiston, but Pearsall has never been found. He is not considered a suspect, the Spokeman-Review reported in 2017.
In 1998, Lewiston police said the same suspect as in the other cases may have killed Kristen David, a 22-year-old University of Idaho student who disappeared in 1981 and was later found dismembered along the Snake River.
Fuller names a suspect on The Kingcast, but because no one has been charged, we aren’t sharing the name here. Fuller said he appreciated how Salem’s Lot juxtaposed the respectable, tidy surface of the town with the evil it tolerated.
“What Stephen King got right [was] a seediness and a depravity and a willingness and ability to hide in plain sight. And even though when communities are small, everybody tends to know your business, it was fascinating to see how the adults would react to pretty much knowing who the serial killer was,” he told Kingcast hosts Scott Wampler and Eric Vespe.
Fuller said parents would warn their children to avoid the man, even though no one made a move to have him arrested. He said the killer would cross jurisdictions, taking advantage of the fact that Lewiston is near the Idaho-Washington state line.
“This killer came into this community very smartly, because he knew he could kill somebody in one county and bury the body,” Fuller said. “Because of the lack of forensics and forensic science at that point he was able to get away with it.”
Fuller says he believed at least some of the local police were woefully undertrained. He said one chief of police “had no training, he just applied for the job as a local and got it.”
“What was so… fascinating was the way this serial killer would move, as if he was entering a community that was almost designed for him to get away with murder,” Fuller said. “And he did, and he’s never been caught.”
He said the killer eventually moved away.
“Finally, I believe in the late ’80s, early ’90s, all the adults knew who this guy was and they would advise the kids not to be alone with him. But there was no kind of Freddy Krueger, parents coming to wreak justice on on the the murderer in their midst. It was just, you know, don’t be alone with [him.]”
It isn’t hard to guess why Fuller, who also created Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and American Gods, would be attracted to macabre subject matter.
He also said on the podcast that he remains open to more Hannibal, which ended after a three-season run on NBC.
“There’s a lot left in that story to tell,” Fuller said.
Hannibal, created by Bryan Fuller and based on characeters created by Thomas Harris, is now streaming on Netflix. You can listen to Bryan Fuller on TheKingcast with Scott Wampler and Eric Vespe on Apple or Spotify or its Patreon.