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Money for 'Murderabilia'

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Several websites offer "Murderabilia" from famous criminals to the not-so-famous Several websites offer "Murderabilia" from famous criminals to the not-so-famous
Handwritten letter by Jeremy Strohmeyer for $25 on one site. Handwritten letter by Jeremy Strohmeyer for $25 on one site.
Photo of murderauction.com operator William Harder with Charles Manson Photo of murderauction.com operator William Harder with Charles Manson
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Would you ever buy a letter from a criminal? Or how about a piece of artwork? Believe it or not, it's big business for some who collect so-called "Murderabilia."

A few clicks of the mouse and one can have his or her hands on a piece of history - criminal history. For example, you can buy a Valentine's card from Jeffrey Dahmer that is going for $3,900; an oil painting of the Seven Dwarfs signed by John Wayne Gacy for $4,900; or how about a manuscript of Gacy's first book - for a whopping $50,000.

"To me, it's just terrible," said retired Metro police Capt. Daniel Barry, who spent 30 years on the force and witnessed too many crime scenes to count.

Barry has also seen his share of this Murderabilia - and there is some related to a case he once worked.

It is the murder of 7-year-old Sherrice Iverson in 1998. The girl was strangled in a bathroom at a Primm casino. A California man named Jeremy Strohmeyer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four life terms.

At a 1998 news conference, Iverson's mother, Yolanda Manuel, said, "That was my only child - 7 years old. Did nothing to no one."

Barry was a lieutenant at the time.

"Just seeing the scene and the horrific thing he's responsible for - who in their right mind would want to have anything to associate with him? It's mind-boggling," Barry said.

Yet, on a website called supernaught.com, for $25 you can own an eight-page handwritten letter by Strohmeyer, or for $30, a birthday card signed "love always."

"I personally don't think it's a normal thing. I think it's very strange," Barry opined.

One person who doesn't think it's strange is William Harder. He runs murderauction.com, where hundreds of items are listed and sold. Members pay $10 to join, and Harder says there are new crime enthusiasts joining every day.

"It's just like collecting stamps or collecting baseball cards," Harder told FOX5 via Skype. "It's just a different type of thing. More along the lines of say, civil rights memorabilia, or war memorabilia."

Harder has even sold rocks from crime scenes for $25 - yes, rocks. But even he says there's a line he doesn't cross.

"I don't allow pictures of offenders' children, pictures of victims' children, no 9/11 victim-related items or burial items," he said.

But names like Manson, Gacy and Ted Bundy are fair game - even David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam," for which a law earned its name to keep criminals from profiting off their dirty deeds.

According to recent data from the First Amendment Center, 34 states have active Son of Sam laws. Ten states, including Nevada, had the law, repealed it and then replaced it.

In the Silver State, NRS 217.007 was enacted to provide victims "to receive proceeds from material based upon or related to crime." That means criminals can profit, but victims and families can recoup those earnings - even though nothing can repay what was taken away.

"(Sherrice will) never be able to go to high school and accomplish her dreams that she wanted - that's what hurts me," Manuel said in 1998.

"I think the victims have suffered enough, and in the majority of these cases, the victim is deceased and the family lives on, but they never get through the torment," Barry said.

Barry added he wouldn't be surprised if some inmates are using third parties to sell their own items. Harder told FOX5 most of his items have likely passed through many hands before hitting the open market.

Harder has also received death threats from victims' family members, but in his mind, it's about capitalism and free enterprise and, in his words, to say he can't sell these items "is un-American."

The online auction site eBay is one that has forbidden the sale of true crime memorabilia.

Copyright 2013 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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