South Carolina

Serial killer who murdered SC teen featured on new season of Netflix’s ‘Mindhunter’

The second season of Netflix’s true crime show “Mindhunter” features a serial killer with a South Carolina connection.

That person is William “Junior” Pierce Jr., a Georgia native who was convicted of killing Sumter teenager Margaret “Peg” Cuttino in 1970 along with eight other people, according to Newsweek. The girl was the daughter of a former South Carolina state representative, James Cuttino.

Mindhunter is based on the work of real-life FBI agents who built psychological profiles of serial killers by interviewing notorious murderers such as Charles Manson, Son of Sam and Ed Kemper.

Pierce, who is played by Michael Filipowich in the show’s latest season, is originally considered a suspect for the Atlanta Child Murders. An edited version of a real-life picture of Pierce — standing in his cell posing next to snack food — appears in the show after FBI Agent Jim Barney gives Pierce candy in exchange for him talking to the agents.

The photograph used in the show is real, except actor Filipowich’s face is edited in instead of Pierce’s, according to Esquire Magazine.

Pierce drove to Sumter County in December 1970 and abducted Cuttino, 13, from a hamburger stand, according to court documents and news reports. Pierce then took Cuttino to Manchester Forest in Sumter, where investigators believe he killed and buried her body under leaves and branches the same day.

Pierce was convicted and sentenced to life in April 1971, according to news reports by The State.

While the show does not dive deep into Pierce’s rap sheet, reporting by The State during that time shows communities were divided over the outcome of Pierce’s trial.

When contradicting testimony and eyewitnesses emerged following Pierce’s murder conviction, The State reported some saw him as a “scapegoat” for a series of heinous crimes, including a West Columbia strangulation and a Beaufort ax murder during the same time. Others saw him as a cold-blooded murderer.

South Carolina courts, which took second and third looks at the Cuttino case in subsequent years, landed on the latter opinion and upheld his conviction.

Correction, 2:24 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that “Mindhunter” characters were the real-life FBI agents who developed psychological profiles of killers.

Isabella Cueto is a bilingual multimedia journalist covering Lexington County, one of the fastest-growing areas of South Carolina. She previously worked as a reporter for the Medill Justice Project and WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. She is a graduate of the University of Miami, where she studied journalism and theatre arts.