The Power of Pain: Causes and Cure of a Serial Killer

Welcome to Real Life. In light of recent tragedies, I wonder, “How can a human being murder innocent people, even children? What causes a boy to grow into a serial killer?” My friend’s story provides rare insight into the causes … and cure.

The Power of Pain

Douglas Hainer’s Story (as told to Peggi Tustan)

My earliest memory is being struck in the head with the butt of a rifle. It was my fourth birthday. My older sister, jealous of the attention I was receiving, hit me so hard that I tasted my own blood. I assumed she’d receive the beating of her life. Instead, mother just said, “Don’t do things like that to your little brother.” My young heart felt the sting of injustice. Would no one pay for my pain? 

I grew up in a rough home. For fun, my siblings and I played a game where we stumbled about in our dark basement. Whomever we bumped into, we’d beat up with all our might. My mother used a board to keep us in line. During summer months, I waited until the red marks faded before going swimming. 

School offered little respite. I once confided in a teacher about the abuse I suffered at home. She spoke to my mother. The thrashing I received taught me to remain silent. In first grade, my face was smashed to the ground during recess. It was the first of many schoolyard beatings, taken and given, for I learned to fight back. Even in the classroom, when the teacher left the room, I was mocked and pushed around. I dealt with this by plotting revenge. One thought brought consolation: someday, someone would pay for the pain I suffered. 

Revenge grew into an obsession. I spent hours plotting to hurt others. It didn't matter who I hurt. In my mind, everyone was bad. This world held no love, nothing good for me. My thoughts escalated into planning random killings. How could I kill without being caught? What method would I use? Where would I hide the bodies? 

I even sought the help of evil. Throughout childhood, I experienced nightmares with strange beings in them. As a lonely child, I sought their company. Seven demons appeared in my bedroom, each with different, contorted faces. I asked them to kill for me. Though I feared demon-possession, I was attracted to their power. 

My violent thoughts erupted in violent acts. I killed small animals, started fires, and took a swing at my teacher. At nine-years-old, I threatened my father with a knife. Ironically, these incidents actually worked to improve my behavior. I realized that I needed to keep a low profile, so that when people began to disappear, they wouldn't trace the blood to me. No one would suspect a heinous crime of a well-behaved young man. 

A positive aspect of my life was that my family attended church. I knew the Bible stories, but considered them just stories. My view changed the summer after fifth grade. I spent a week at a Christian camp. One evening, a pastor spoke on Jesus’ crucifixion. He described it vividly, telling how Jesus was whipped, beaten, and abused until blood poured from his wounds. Why did he suffer so? Because he loves us so deeply that he was willing to die in our place, to suffer for our sins. I was attracted to the violent depiction. 

As the man spoke, I suddenly envisioned the cross before me. I was so intent on bloodshed; God allowed me to see actual bloodshed. Jesus’ face was beaten so severely that it resembled raw meat. His blood dripped down. For the first time, I understood. Jesus took my place, my punishment. Though I had never actually killed anyone, I had committed murder many times in my heart. Jesus died the death I deserved, a murderer’s death.

I prayed, “Jesus, I accept your sacrifice. Thank you for taking my place.” This time pain—Jesus’ pain—b
rought healing:
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)
That night at camp, the direction of my life radically shifted. I lost my thirst for revenge. I stopped planning murders. Instead, I sought to please the One who died for me. I made peace with my family. I attended the church youth group and memorized Bible verses. The pure truth of God’s Word worked to cleanse and renew my mind from all the evil that once filled my thoughts.

As I walked this new path, I learned that God wanted me to try my best in everything. Once a poor student, I now purposed to study hard. After high school, I attended a Bible College to seek God’s direction. I was interested in radio and switched schools to study broadcast engineering. I graduated at the top of my class.

After working in Christian radio in Guam and then Pennsylvania, I landed a position at Moody Radio in Cleveland. Though I work in communications, I am not a gifted communicator. Still, God kept directing me to speak publicly about my faith. I resisted. “Lord, I’ll do anything you want. Just don’t ask me to stand in front of people and speak.” But this is precisely what He wanted me to do.

Now in church meetings, rescue missions, detention facilities, and on the radio, I share how God transformed my life. I've learned that it’s not the polished messenger, but the message that gives hope. You really can begin again by the power of Christ. My life is living proof!

Taking it further ...

  • To learn more about beginning a new life in Christ, call 888-NEED-HIM. Or, find more information at
  • Listen to Moody Radio Cleveland, where you turn ... for life, online at

"The Power of Pain" was published in its entirety in Now What? Magazine.

Image "Blood of Jesus" from:


  1. Oh, dear God, thank you for getting to this man before he killed. What a story! Proof that all things work together for good. I'm saddened by his childhood experiences, yet, the people he can reach because of them are blessed. Again, what a story!

  2. Hi,

    I am so happy to finally be able to take the time to read your blog articles. This article is so encouraging. I believe many children become bullies because they are bullied at home and they have to learn how to protect themselves. This man's testimony confirms my thinking.
    Thank you for presenting it and I am so delighted that he found the truth and the light in Jesus Christ, our LORD and saviour.



Post a Comment

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

Popular posts from this blog

Autumn in the Neighborhood | November 2017

The Revelation of Jesus Christ | Revelation 1

In Loving Memory of My Sister!