Home > NewsRelease > Entering Cuckoo Land with Serial Killers and Criminals: Vonda Pelto’s March in as Jailhouse Counselor Shocked Her to the Bone
Text Graphics
Entering Cuckoo Land with Serial Killers and Criminals: Vonda Pelto’s March in as Jailhouse Counselor Shocked Her to the Bone
Vonda Pelto, Ph.D. -- Serial Killer Expert Vonda Pelto, Ph.D. -- Serial Killer Expert
Los Angeles, CA
Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Vonda Pelto's Entered LA Men's Central as an Innocent and Left, Well Not So Much

We all have our moments of truth when entering the point of no return, that time when a journey starts that has a volition all by itself and everything that happens afterwards signifies a new life, a new existence, a new mindset, a new world.  That moment came with jarring intensity when Vonda Pelto, a budding young clinical psychologist, strolled into the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail for new job keeping serial killers and notorious high profile criminals alive as they awaited trial. 

Within minutes the smell, sounds, verbal abuse and stress nearly made Vonda sick to her stomach, but she had to persevere in order to complete the task of getting licensed to practice clinical psychology privately and, as a single mother, she had two daughters to support. "I was a babe in the woods, a real rube walking into the jungle to take on a task that would change my life forever.  I had worked with minor league sex offenders in Orange County, California, just south of Los Angeles, but now I was going into the major leagues and really didn't know what to expect," said Vonda.    

Vonda Pelto, Ph.D. gives the reader a real sense of that shock in the opening pages of her book, Without Remorse; The Story of the Woman Who Kept Los Angeles' Serial Killers Alive.


What's a Nice Girl Doing in a Place Like This?

I stepped through the portal slowly, cautiously, as if I were stepping into quicksand, and immediately froze. There was a deafening roar. Metal doors slammed, voices screamed out from unseen loudspeakers, and feet with chains attached to them dragged along the cement floors. The jail was ripe with the stench of stale cigarette smoke, rank body odor, feces, disinfectant, and burnt toast. And there was a heaviness to this foul, repugnant combination of smells that added to the oppressiveness of the atmosphere.

Momentarily, I thought I would be sick. Stranger in Paradise bellowed out from an unseen speaker system, and I worked hard to stifle a nervous laugh. Elevator music in a men's jail? Totally insane! Looking around, I struggled to take in this alien world.

A loud clang sounded. The heavy steel door engaged and was grinding closed behind me. I was inside a men's jail! Me, a girl from Needles, California; a town of forty-five hundred people located on the edge of the Colorado River, where my father worked for the Santa Fe Railroad and my mother clerked for JC Penney.

My impulse was to turn and run, but there was no escape; the gate had slammed and locked behind me. I felt tentative and rubbed my sweaty palms along the sides of my skirt. My heart pounding in my ears, the muscles in my neck drawing into a knot.

Directly across from the gate I had entered, six male inmates dressed in yellow jumpsuits sat along mustard colored walls on backless wooden benches. Each man had a manacle fastened to his right ankle. Shackles ran from the steel ankle bracelets to metal cylinders that supported the benches anchored into the concrete floor. Two of the inmates looked at the ceiling as if they were praying. Two others glared at me as if they had never seen a woman. One inmate mumbled and gestured wildly, responding to unseen voices inside his head. The inmate seated at the end of the bench had his jumpsuit unbuttoned to the crotch, urinating noisily into a Styrofoam cup. He faced the long hall, unconcerned that I stood only a few feet away.

I stayed motionless, turning only my head to observe the dingy hallway hoping someone would notice my hesitation and come to my rescue. Half a dozen inmates dressed in blue jumpsuits scrubbed the walls with wooden bristle brushes, some on their knees, others stretching to reach the upper portions.  The slamming of the gate had alerted them to my presence. Wolf whistles followed. Someone screamed out, "New meat! Fresh pussy!"

I felt hot and disoriented. Vonda, get hold of yourself. I mumbled under my breath. Turning to the right about a football field away, another gate of bars blocked the exit.  Metal panels dotted the ceiling with long fluorescent tubes providing bright, monotonous light that bounced annoyingly off the highly polished concrete floor. Intermittent metal doors punctuated the hallway, portals into the sheriff's administrative offices.  And the High Power Module.  A module that houses some of the most notorious serial Killers.

Voices reverberated down the austere, concrete hallway. I assumed they belonged to the inmates. Unexpectedly, a loud, coarse voice called out above the rest of the fray. "Yo, sweet little mamma, you wanna f---?"

Startled, I turned to watch a line of inmates being herded toward me like cattle. They were shackled together with leg irons, the chains dragging along the cold cement floor, scraping and rattling as they moved.  Many of the men still pimply faced not looking old enough to be out of high school. Probably not much older than my own two daughters.

Studying the fish line, I spotted a wily smile on a fleshy black face that told me he was the offender. He blew a kiss in my direction, and his rotund frame went into motion. He sensed my panic and laughed at my fear. His small, deeply embedded eyes almost disappeared as his face contorted into a lecherous grin.

I thought of my Southern Baptist father's strong sense of proper decorum around women. He would have been incensed at this affront and told the inmate so in no uncertain terms. The line of inmates stopped opposite me. The hall seemed to shrink as their leering eyes roamed over my body like hot sweaty hands exploring every crevice. I wanted to disappear. Finally, a deputy called out to them. "On the wall, home boys! Don't mad dog the lady" The inmates turned and pushed face first into the cold wall.

Now they stood quietly. The deputy leading the line walked over to the deputy's booth and after a short conversation returned to the inmates.

"Okay, ladies, move it!" he shouted. With that command, the line continued on down the hall, the men laughing and whispering.

"Thanks," I said to the guard who had spoken up for me.

"Yeah, sure thing, babe"

Caught off-guard by the inmate's remark, I couldn't remember what the deputy had told me to do. What did he say? Oh yes, the key, check out the key. Catching my breath, I walked what seemed like a hundred miles to the deputy's booth. Actually, it was only ten feet away. "Excuse me, sir, am I in the right place?"

"Don't know, sweet cheeks, depends on what you want"

Laughter bellowed out from the other deputies sitting in the darkened booth.  My face burned hot.  "The office key, please" With less hassle than I had endured earlier, the deputy added my name to the roster, and I took possession of a single silver key. It lay cold on the palm of my hand—a powerful key that opened doors in a jail that housed more than six thousand inmates, and was part of the largest jail system in the world.

Each time you leave the jail, you are to turn the key in at this booth. If you don't check it back in at the end of each workday, we will come to your house and retrieve it from you. Understood?" The deputy's voice sounded like he was reciting a mantra. "Yes, sir" I dropped the power symbol into the side pocket of my skirt and prayed that I would remember to turn it back in when the day was over. Visions of a swat team breaking down my front door and tear gas pouring out of my broken windows flashed before me.

I reminded myself to pay close attention to what the dark shadow on the other side of the glass was saying, uncertain of what to do next.


For more info go to www.WithoutRemorseBook.com.

Vonda Pelto Interviewed Recently on Crime Watch Daily TV Show:


News Media Interview Contact
Name: Brad Butler
Group: E.B. GO Vision Media, Inc.
Dateline: Los Angeles, United States
Jump To Vonda Pelto, Ph.D. -- Serial Killer Expert Jump To Vonda Pelto, Ph.D. -- Serial Killer Expert
Contact Click to Contact
Other experts on these topics