WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
On June 19, 1984, 17-year-old Ricky Kasso, otherwise known as "The Acid King" murdered his friend 17-year-old Gary Lauwers. 2 of their other friends were present. All 4 of them were high on what the believed, at the time, to be mescaline, but was most likely LSD.
The murder took place during the "Satanic panic" and thus generated extreme media attention. The alleged torture of Lauwers and supposed occult aspects of his death brought about heavy public concern, as people believed that heavy metal music and games were attributing to the youth's murderous obsession with Satan.
ABOUT RICKY KASSO
Kasso, a New York teen, as the son of a high school history teacher and a football coach at an affluent high school. For reasons unreported, he was thrown out of his home a lot as a teen and got used to living on the streets, sleeping in the woods, or finding a place to shelter himself in cars, garages, and backyards of friends houses. (1)
He started out as a pretty normal kid, his father said. He was a "model child and a young athlete". But that changed when he got heavily involved in drugs, including marijuana, LSD and PCP. (2)
Classmates claimed he would go to cemeteries and hang out, and get extremely high trying to get in touch with the devil. (2)
He "dabbled in the occult and Satanism", sometimes hanging out with a group of weed dealers who called themselves the "Knights of the Black Circle". Obviously, this information was extensively spread after Kasso's arrest, along with his alleged participation in occult ceremonies at the famous Amityville Horror House. He told friends he was interested in the Satanic Bible. (1)
At least once, perhaps more times, his parents admitted him to the South Oaks Psychiatric Hospital for psychiatric care and rehabilitation. (1)
About a year before the murder, Kasso was arrested for digging into a grave in the local cemetery. Weeks later, he got pneumonia and was in the hospital for awhile. During his stay, his parents tried to get the doctors to commit him for psychiatric care, but given that his antisocial behavior was not nearly enough to involuntarily commit someone, he was released once he had recovered. (1)
THE MURDER AND AFTERMATH
Earlier on the day of Lauwers' death, he had stolen 10 bags of PCP from Kasso's jacket after he had passed out at a party. When Kasso confronted him for it, he immediately returned 5 of the 10 bags, and promised to pay him back for the other 5 bags he had already used. (1)
Their friendship wasn't perfect before then, however, as witnesses stated that Kasso had gotten physical with Lauwers, beating him up on at least 4 different occasions. (1)
On the night of the murder, Kasso invited Lauwers to get high with him and their 2 friends, Troiano and Quinones. They walked to an area in the woods, set up camp, and started doing a bunch of drugs, which I've said twice in this article already, but they thought it was something else but it was probably LSD. They also did some PCP and tried to start a fire, but the firewood was wet and wouldn't ignite, so Lauwers offered his socks and the sleeves from his jacket to get a fire started. (1)
In another account, Lauwers did not offer his clothes, but was demanded by Kasso to do it. When he refused, that is when the attack began. (2)
Regardless, at some point during what was shaping up to be a peaceful, drug-filled night in the woods, things turned violent. Kasso got into a scuffle with Lauwers, and he bit him on the neck and then syabbed him in the chest. Quinones claimed that Troiano helped hold Kasso down during the attack, but he later recanted that statement. (1)
Kasso continued his attack on Lauwers, stabbing him between 17 and 36 times and even slicing his eyes out. According to the witnesses, who either helped hold him down at worst or did nothing at all at best, Kasso commanded to Lauwers, "Say you love Satan" to which he responded "I love my mother", but ultimately gave into his friend's command, perhaps believing it would stop the attack. (1)
After he was dead, the 3 covered his body with leaves and branches and left him in the woods. (1)
Lauwers was well-known for running away or not coming home, that they didn't assume he was missing and didn't bother to call the police. They just assumed he was away doing what he normally did. (2)
Kasso bragged about the murder to his friends and claimed that Satan had shown up to him as a black crow after the murder and cawed, a sign of approval for the murders. He even lead people who didn't believe him to the body a couple of times before he and Troiano buried the remains in a shallow grave. (1)
Despite 2 people being there with him, multiple people being told about the crime and people literally being taken to the site of the body, it took 2 weeks for an anonymous tip to come in about the murder. Dogs were sent to the woods and they recovered the mutilated remains of Gary Lauwers on July 4, 1984. (1)
Kasso and Troiano were arrested the next day, and 2 days later, on July 7, Kasso hanged himself in his cell, killing himself. (1)
Troiano signed 2 confessions, but later recanted, however, he was charged with second-degree murder and went to trial for it. Quinones conflicting witness accounts, coupled with his drugged state at the time of the crime, brought his credibility into question, and ultimately, Troiano was acquitted in his April 1985 trial. (1)
The murders inspired many works, including books, documentaries, films and songs. Because Kasso was arrested while wearing an AC/DC shirt, many people associated that band, and others like it, with Satan worshipping, leading primarily Christian adults to be concerned about their kids, or area kids, who listened to heavy metal music. They believed that Ricky Kasso was just 1 mere member of a murderous, AC/DC-shirt wearing Satanic cult in their New York suburb. (1)
Heavy metal groups dismissed the association, with Ozzy Osborne of the Black Sabbath joking about how he and his bandmates had to all sleep in the same room together after seeing The Exorcist movie. "That's how black magic we were," he said. (2)
The real concern in the area should have been what really lead to Lauwers' death: drugs. The community should have been more concerned about if their children were using drugs or becoming addicted to drugs, an event that turned Kasso from an average teen to a killer, instead of if they were worshipping Satan.
Perhaps Kasso was a devil worshipper, or perhaps he was just a misguided teen in a boring suburb, constantly high on drugs and looking for attention or purpose or something. Kasso had likely been so high for so long that he didn't realize what he was doing, and his continued drugged state after the fact could have hindered him from seeing the gravity of the situation. His few days in jail may have been his first few days of clarity, which is why he decided to kill himself. No one knows.
But it doesn't matter. He murdered a person. Lots of people use drugs in the amounts that Kasso did. Lots of people consider themselves Satanists (I will say, their name is kind of a misnomer. They are kind of a wholesome group of people.) Anyway, lots of people do the same things that Kasso did but didn't end up brutally murdering their friend, mutilating him beyond recognition. The drugs you choose to do can't be an excuse for the actions you may not necessarily choose to do, but still do.
I unfortunately could not find any information on Gary Lauwers, beyond that he was the victim of Ricky Kasso. He seemed to be a troubled kid who his parents struggled to keep in line, but saying that he loved his mother as he died makes me believe he had a good heart. Just like being a drug addict doesn't excuse you from your murderous acts, it also doesn't exclude you from sympathy. His lifestyle wasn't the reason for his death, and I hope his family knew that.
The Satanic Panic was a weird time, and we still try to associate unrelated things to try to make sense of them (a la violent video games = school shootings). AC/DC shirts never did, and never will, lead to death. It happened with the Columbine shootings as well, believing goth clothing to be a sign of a school shooter.
It really appears to be a way to explain situations without having to actually deal with anything. Believing that listening to heavy metal is the reason someone was murdered instead of confronting teen drug addiction in the area is easier. Believing that gothic clothing, or violent video games, are the reasons for school shootings instead of confronting mental health and gun control is easier. And it is easier to believe it couldn't happen to you. "My kid doesn't listen to heavy metal, or play violent video games, so he would never do it."
Gary Lauwers' death was a result of a drug-fueled fight with a drug-fueled attacker. No bands, no underworld. Just a troubled kid doing drugs that made him more troubled. Nothing Satanic to panic about, here.