Home / A Flower-Growing, Church-Going Man

A Flower-Growing, Church-Going Man

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The pretty purple bloom above is from a cyclosecta plant. It’s a carnivorous plant like the venus flytrap. The cyclosecta traps insects with glue-like secretions.

The photo above was made by a guy named Terry W. Ratzmann [Google news], from Brookfield, Wisconsin. I confirmed to my own satisfaction that this cyclosecta was grown by the Terry Ratzmann I’m writing about when I read the following in a myway.com article about the same man:

“…Neighbors said Ratzmann built his own greenhouse, kept a well-tended garden and even used humane traps to free squirrels that got in the yard…”

Terry Ratzmann was also a religious man. He was a member of the fundamentalist Living Church of God.

Here are the bullet points that explain what the Living Church of God is all about:

  • Preach, to all the nations of the world, the Gospel of the Kingdom and the true name of Jesus Christ.
  • Feed the flock whom God calls, that all may be built to the stature of Jesus Christ.
  • Be examples to the world, and to the Church at large, of Christ’s way of life.
  • Learn and practice servant leadership in all our dealings with others.
  • Build an atmosphere of radiant faith within God’s Church.
  • Restore Apostolic Christianity, and all that this implies.

The Living Church of God believes we are now in the “end times” – the period preceding the return of God’s Kingdom to earth, the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Congregants of churches espousing such a philosophy prosletyze a great deal. It’s in the spirit of altruism, really – they feel they want everyone they care for to be with them in paradise.

You can look at it this way…they live for the end. They live for death, believing that it will transform them into creatures of paradise.

Yesterday, Saturday, March 12, 2005, Terry Ratzmann walked into the service his church was holding in a Milwaukee hotel and shot 11 people before turning the gun on himself.

Seven died, eight including Mr. Ratzmann. There was no note left behind, and so far news stories say only that the man was prone to depression, and he’d recently heard something in a sermon by his preacher, Randy L. Gregory, that so offended him he walked out “in a huff”. (Not my favorite expression, but it is a quote of what was said.)

I believe there is a theory that some mass murderers are actually suicides who have decided to settle what they think are scores before they go.

A man who raised flowers and grew vegetables, a man who set humane (non-fatal) traps for squirrels. Terry Ratzmann took the nicely composed photo of the violet-colored predatory flower above. A devout Christian…who was, we can surmise from his church affiliation, waiting for the end of times.

Have you ever tried to grow unusual flowers like the cyclosecta (I think they are also called butterworts) above? My mother could tell anyone the patience and forbearance such a pursuit requires.

I had to wonder as I read up on Terry Ratzmann and his sudden explosion in the middle of a church service how he came to such an end.

Depression and rage are, in men in particular, sometimes the same thing. Men will take their rage and use it as a substitute for the deep, unutterable sadness they feel. While mass murder is one of the ultimate antisocial acts, it is sometimes an act borne not out of lack of empathy and conscience and a surfeit of sick compulsion like serial murder, but an act of rage beyond rationality or control.

Based on his previous crimes and the calculated nature of his rampage, and the fact that he surrendered peacefully, a murder spree like the one committed by the Atlanta Courthouse Killer Brian Nichols [Google news] the Friday before Terry Ratzmann went insane in Milwaukee indicates not so much rage as psychopathic calculation.

But even if he was antisocial in his own right, a Terry Ratzmann was fulfilling his own version of that biblical event his church believes is just around the corner. He couldn’t take it anymore. Some articles say he was about to lose his job – like Nichols, ironically, it is said that Ratzmann was a computer tech – and now it appears he was even feeling betrayed by his church in some way.

So he decided to end time and take as much of the congregation as he could with him.

For all I know, both mass murderers were madmen. In fact, it’s arguable that anyone who will kill in such an explosive and heartless way is by definition insane – every person who died by Brian Nichols’s hand on Friday and Saturday was a law enforcement officer. It’s odd that he surrendered, because he must know now that he will likely die on death row. Maybe he just got tired. Most control-oriented psychopaths kill themselves after such an event as a final act of control.

And Ratzmann, maybe he was already tired. Maybe he was mired in this world a day too long for his taste. His longed-for rapture wasn’t coming.

Like a fly trapped on the sticky violet petals of one of his cyclosectas Terry Ratzmann felt as if he was being eaten by the real world. Stuck to a planet relentlessly turning and a society persisting. Felt that life was too much to take. That his God wasn’t coming through with the promised end to it all.

If he was finally insane perhaps he was seeing signs of that end everywhere…even the wall-to-wall coverage of Brian Nichols’s rampage here in Georgia might have seemed a step in that direction. But Ratzmann preached his own sermon with his gun. He decided to hasten his awful salvation. And he took 7 too many people with him.

Whatever the reasons, there were too many stories of men with guns in the news this weekend.

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  • RJ

    “I believe there is a theory that some mass murderers are actually suicides who have decided to settle what they think are scores before they go.”

    I believe this is largely true. These people don’t wanna go on living anymore, for whatever reason, but they also want to take their family/friends with them.

  • RJ

    You’ll note there is a distinction to be made between serial murderers and mass murderers.

    Serial murderers tend to want to evade capture. Mass murderers OTOH tend to either commit suicide, or commit “suicide-by-cop”…

  • Rob –

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, I’m VERY clear on the difference between mass, serial, and spree murderers, as well as a possible emerging subcategory, the “serial-spree” killer. A recent show I saw about Andrew Cunanan defined his rampage across the US that way.

    Serial murder is typically defined as three or more random murders, often sexual in nature, but not always, characterized by a “cooling-off” period between each murder.

    Mass murders are committed in a rage, typically entail the murder of a number of people of varying ages and genders in a short period of time, and yes, like you said, frequently end in “suicide by cop.”

    An example of a spree killer might be Charles Starkweather, who with his girlfriend went on a little tour of the midwest that happened to involve daily bloody murders of innocent folks who had the misfortune to have something Charlie and his girlfriend (forgetting her name at the moment) needed.

    I’ve spent a number of years reading up on all this, including texts used in the academic training of real profilers.

    There’s an element of voodoo in it all, but it is easy to talk about since the people who developed what we call profiling now did bother to sit down and codify and classify types of crimes.

  • RJ

    Oh, I know you are informed about this topic, SH. That’s very clear.

    I was actually posting that for the benefit of other bloggers here, who might not know the difference.

    Anyway, I always enjoy reading your posts. Keep it up! 🙂

  • Thanks, dude – sorry I misread. I reacted like I was still looking at one of those BTK message boards. Appreciate the add-on. I should have known!

  • RJ

    No prob, these comments can be so damn bereft of inflective context!

    Anyway, I’m taking 4 classes this Spring (my Senior year), and one of them is devoted to Serial Murder.

    The other three are, as you can imagine, rather dull in comparison… 😉

    So my mind has been on serial killers of late. And I love to impart my new-found wisdom on those who (like most people) are novices at this sort of thing.

    So, when I comment on your posts, please think of me as someone who is adding information (for the benefit of others) to your already-informative posts, as opposed to someone who is merely being an ass and sniping. 🙂