Lemuel Smith and the Compulsion To Kill:
The Forensic Story of a Multiple Personality Serial Killer

by Denis Foley

256 pages
Nonfiction True Crime
ISBN 0-9722383-0-1
6" x 9"
October 2003
Cover Price $16.95


This is a true-crime shocker about Lemuel Smith, one of New York State’s most notorious serial killers. Rapist, thief, and killer he brutally murdered five people from 1958 to 1977. Judge John Clyne imposed two consecutive life sentences and labeled him “the poster boy for capital punishment.” In 1981, while serving those sentences in Green Haven Correctional Facility, he murdered prison guard Donna Payant.

Anthropologist Denis Foley’s riveting narrative reads like a novel but is one of the most detailed and well documented accounts ever published on the workings of the mind of a violent, multiple personality serial killer. Forensic psychology exposed in Smith a pathological view of women, religion, and his place in society. That pathology played itself out through the actions of Lemuel’s imagined brother “John,” the monster that dwelled within his mind and, according to Smith, committed the rapes and murders.

Five of the six murders took place in the quiet, small towns and cities of central New York: Amsterdam, Schenectady, and Colonie. Lemuel Smith grew up right in our own back yard, Amsterdam, New York.

Lemuel Smith is one of New York State’s most violent killers. He’s still imprisoned in double caged isolation at the Elmira Correctional Facility having served the longest stint of solitary confinement of any prisoner in the state and probably the country.

This book challenges those who question the morality of the death penalty. The national debate on the morality of the death penalty rages on, especially as it relates to the mental capacity of the murderer. Lemuel Smith’s case still finds itself at the center of that debate.

FBI experts estimate that today a hundred serial killers exist, undetected, crisscrossing the United States, killing thousands. This book suggests a Multiple Personality Disorder may exist in some of these suspected serial killers; a diagnosis that can help law enforcement with their capture.

A revealing account of New York State’s criminal justice system, its failures, its successes, and then, with the killing of prison guard Donna Payant, its failure again.

Compulsion To Kill features a foreword by Hans Toch, Distinguished Research Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, SUNY, 39 black and white photos, two line drawings, a transcript of Smith’s taped confession to the Margaret Byron and Robert Hedderman murders, comprehensive endnotes, and index.

What they’re saying about Compulsion to Kill

"With chilling detail, Denis Foley provides a window into the warped multiple personalities of one of New York's most depraved and dangerous criminals. His brisk writing ensnares the reader, illuminating how savvy cops working relentlessly managed to stop Lemuel Smith's killing spree—though that pause would prove to be tragically temporary. After digesting A Compulsion to Kill, one is left wondering: Is anyone truly safe as long as a heart beats inside this monster's chest? Bravo to Foley for venturing into such a mine of frightening fact."
Joe Mahoney, New York Daily News, Albany bureau chief and former veteran crime reporter for the Albany Times Union.

“Denis Foley's long-awaited biography is a groundbreaking examination of one of New York's most notorious serial killers. The portrait of Lemuel Smith that emerges from Foley's dogged research, extensive prison interviews with his subject, and a thorough review of legal documents is a chilling and clear-eyed journey into the mind of a psychotic murderer.”
Paul Grondahl, Times Union feature writer and author of Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma

“This very thorough and careful study of a compulsive criminal is an important source for both psychiatrist and the public who want to understand. This understanding does not argue that our society should tolerate such evil; rather, it demands the opposite. Denis Foley is to be commended for this excellent book. One would expect to hear more from Denis in the future, reporting on other areas that stimulate the interest and curiosity of the anthropologist.”
Peter A. Mansky, M.D. Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Albany Medical College of Union University, Albany, New York

“While Albany slept, Foley collated his field notes and interview transcripts. The result is predictably awesome—an overwhelming, encyclopedic, omnivorous compendium. The book also easily reads like a fine novel. It is an immensely appealing book, with driving narratives, and passages of rare literary quality.”
Hans Toch, Distinguished Research Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, SUNY

About the Author

Denis Foley is the Administrator/Coordinator of the Albany County STOP-DWI Program. He is on the faculty of the Department of Anthropology of Union College, Schenectady, New York, and a former National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow at the Graduate School of Criminal Justice, Rockefeller College, The University at Albany. He began his research at the behest of the late Dr. Donald Newman.