How did Billy Milligan die? Acquitted serial rapist with 24 alters focus of Netflix show

How did Billy Milligan die? Acquitted serial rapist with 24 alters focus of Netflix show
Billy Milligan seen in his mugshot (Kettering police department/Netflix)

Billy Milligan's shocking acquittal from three major sexual assault allegations left many in America rattled. Back in the 70s, Milligan became the first person to ever be acquitted of a crime based on a defense that he suffered from multiple personality disorder. Milligan was arrested in 1977 for a string of rapes in the Ohio University campus - all of which he and his defense argued were committed by his other personalities and not the real Milligan.

Almost six years after his death, Netflix is trying to capture what went down with the crimes and Milligan's trial in the form of a documentary titled 'Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan'.

Milligan's case was the first-ever legal battle that saw the defense argue for a not-guilty verdict based on such shocking grounds of insanity. His life story was further popularized in mainstream media through Daniel Keyes's award-winning novel 'The Minds of Billy Milligan'.

Milligan's case is perhaps best represented by M Night Shyamalan's psychological thriller 'Split' where James McAvoy played the role of a man afflicted with the same disorder and has 27 different alter egos. The disorder, also known as dissociative identity disorder has, since Milligan's case, been highly debated as means to evade a guilty verdict in legal procedures.


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How did Billy Milligan die?

Milligan was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder during the course of his trial for the Ohio rapes. Before that, he had also committed a litany of other crimes including armed robbery. Milligan was sentenced to a decade in mental hospitals and finally discharged from the Ohio mental health system and the Ohio courts in 1991. By 1996, he was reportedly living in California where he owned Stormy Life Productions.

Milligan was reportedly going to make a short film that ultimately never materialized. Post-1996, his whereabouts remained unknown as former acquaintances allegedly lost contact with him. The next time people heard of Milligan was over a decade later, when he died at a nursing home in Columbus, Ohio. Milligan reportedly died from cancer at the age of 59 on December 12, 2014.


The trial of Billy Milligan

As the trial of Milligan went on, the biggest ground of contention was whether Milligan was lying through and through. Interviewees on national television claimed Milligan should be given an Academy award for the performance he has been showing, the Netflix documentary's trailer reveals. Netflix describes their upcoming show, with the official synopsis revealing: "In the late 1970s, an accused serial rapist claims multiple personalities control his behavior, setting off a legal odyssey that captivates America." And none of that is an exaggeration considering that's exactly how sensational the saga became. 

Milligan's childhood was a troubled one too; his alcoholic father died by suicide following which his mother took him and her two other children to Miami, and married a man who was later accused of abusing Milligan when he was a young boy. In his book, Keyes describes that although Milligan had several personalities from a very young age, his oldest three had developed when he was just five years old. 

The many faces of Billy Milligan, as seen in the upcoming documentary (Netflix)

Milligan's many alters

First imprisoned at the Lebanon Correctional Institution in Ohio for rape and armed robbery in 1975, Milligan was released on parole in 1977. He was required to register as a sex offender but in October that year, he was again arrested for raping three women on the university campus. One of his victims identified him from police mugshots and recounted he was nice but behaved like a three-year-old girl.

Use of a gun during the crime was in violation of Milligan's parole, which led to him being indicted on "three counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated robbery and four counts of rape." Admitted to the Ohio State Penitentiary, as his counsel prepared their defense, Milligan's psychological evaluation resulted in him being diagnosed with acute schizophrenia. Further, psychologist Dorothy Turner of Southwest Community Mental Health Center in Columbus, Ohio concluded that he suffered from dissociative identity disorder. His public defenders, Gary Schweickart and Judy Stevenson, pleaded an insanity defense, and Milligan was committed "until such time as he regains sanity".

Milligan's incarceration saw him sent to state-run mental hospitals, where he admittedly received very little help. At first, Milligan reported having ten different personalities. Later on, an additional 14 personalities were discovered. Some of his alters were Arthur, an Englishman well versed in science, medicine, and hematology; Allen, a manipulator; and Tommy, an escape artist, and tech-maniac. One of the alters Milligan blamed his crimes on was Ragen Vadascovinich, a Yugoslav communist whose Robinhood-like sentiments propelled him to commit robberies. And then there was Adalana, an affection craving 19-year-old shy and lonely lesbian who allegedly used to cook for the personalities and who also committed the rapes. 

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