Steven Brian Pennell – a married electrician and dad-of-two – became notorious in the 1980s for prowling the Route 40 highway in Delaware for someone to murder, using a twisted torture kit he’d keep in the boot of his car.
Finally caught in November 1988, he was convicted of abducting and murdering two women whilst being suspected of killing three others, crimes for which he asked to be executed – the only serial killer in America to ever make such a request.
And now, more than 30 years on, the inside of the now dilapidated home – thought to be where he carried out his despicable acts – has been photographed by an urban adventurer called Ben James who specialises in taking pictures of abandoned buildings.
Indeed, the images cast quite an eerie spell, from the house’s vine-strewn clapperboard exterior to its intact upstairs rooms with made beds, hanging drapes and sideboards – one of which even has a television set still on top of it.
The aforementioned dolls, still in their dresses but now dust-covered and faded by the sun, also sit on the window sill, next to what appears to be an old prayer book.
Downstairs, however, seems to have been hit much harder by the intervening decades, with mouldy peeling wallpaper, busted sofas and rubbish scattered across the floor, ankle deep in some parts.
But the property’s dreadful secrets were unknown Ben at the time he stumbled across it in a remote area of New Castle County, reports The Mirror.
“I do a lot of photography of abandoned houses in the States,” explained the snapper, who documents his adventures on his Instagram and TikTok pages, @places_forgotten.
“It was quite an eerie place because it’s in the middle of nowhere, and it’s just crazy how everything has been left on display.
“Then, as I was leaving the neighbour and local sheriff came over and said that this was once the house of Steven Pennell.
“I had no idea who he was but he was Delaware’s only known serial killer and this was apparently where he killed one or two of his victims.
“Apparently it’s been left like this for many years. I think it’s been left alone because people don’t want to think about the history.
“The place has a very sinister feel to it.”
The body of Pennell’s first victim, 23-year-old Shirley Ellis, was found partially nude at the side of the road in late ’87, her legs spread out, hands and feet tied with adhesive tape.
A former sex worker who’d been turning over a new leaf by helping AIDS patients at a nearby hospital, she was eventually identified by her tattoos. An autopsy revealed she’d strangled and struck repeatedly with a hammer.
Second victim, Catherine DiMauro, 31, was found dead the following summer when construction workers found her naked body on their building site.
Blue fibres found on her skin would match the carpet of Pennell’s Ford car, ultimately leading to his capture – a search warrant would also uncover the victim’s fingerprints, blood and hair.
Also discovered was the 34-year-old’s mobile ‘torture kit’, which included pliers, whips, handcuffs, needles, knives, adhesive tape and restraints.
Pennell was arrested on November 29, 1988 and, after dismissing his lawyer and representing himself in court, argued that he deserved the death penalty under the Bible’s laws.
He was sentenced to death on Halloween 1991 and eventually executed on March 14, 1992.