Billy Milligan was the first person to successfully argue the insanity due to multiple personality disorder as a defense to a violent crime. The unusual defense caused widespread interest in his case from the public and psychologists offering their opinions on the matter. 

Milligan claimed that the three counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated robbery, and four counts of rape were committed by someone else. Upon extensive research, psychologists ruled that Billy had as many as 24 personalities which converged into one harmless one during therapy.

Billy is the subject of Netflix’s new documentary Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan.

Billy was a painter when he died of cancer in December 2014

Billy passed away on 12th December 2014 at a nursing home in Columbus, Ohio. His sister, Kathy, told The Los Angeles Times that Billy died due to cancer. 

Kathy declined to have her last name published, fearing potential backlash and wanting to preserve her family’s privacy. She also didn’t want to reignite ‘the insanity that surrounds everything involved in this case.’

After acquitting Billy, the court directed that he remain in state-run mental hospitals for help and evaluation. He revealed 24 different personalities during this time, 14 of which he labeled ‘The Undesirables.’ 

In July 1986, Milligan escaped from Central Ohio Psychiatric Hospital. He obtained fake documents identifying him as Christopher Carr and settled with Michael Madden in Bellingham, Washington. 

Authorities turned their attention to ‘Christopher’ after Madden disappeared for two months. Milligan fled Washington and was captured in Florida. 

He was sent back to Ohio, where he spent two years before an independent journalist ruled that Billy was no longer a danger to society. He was released in 1988 and remained under state supervision. 

Billy spent some time in California, where he formed a production company, hoping to create a short film. He failed and returned to Ohio to reunite with his sister. 

Milligan’s sister bought him a mobile home, which housed Milligan until he died in 2014. He was an avid painter in the latter stages of his life. 

He’d pledged to give back the $450,000 spent by the state to fund his therapy. A spokesperson for the Ohio attorney general stated Billy had paid &170,000 before his death. 

Billy’s multiple personality disorder diagnosis still splits mental health professionals

Even skeptical psychiatrists found Billy Milligan’s case hard to ignore. Billy could seemingly switch personalities on a dime. “I couldn’t tell you what was going on, but it was like I was talking to different people at different times,” Elliot Boxerbaum, the OSU police investigations supervisor, said.

Advocates Judy Stevenson and Gary Schweickart chose the insanity defense. They relied on a psychiatric report reading:

“A 23-year-old Yugoslavian called Ragen had taken over Milligan’s consciousness and decided to rob some people. But before Ragen could rob anyone, a 19-year-old lesbian named Aladana took over Milligan’s body and raped the women because she wanted to feel close to someone. The other personalities, including ‘Billy,’ had no memory of that.” 

The prosecutors questioned Billy and arrived at a similar conclusion. “I saw multiple personalities,” Bernard Yavitch said.

Those concurring with the multiple personality disorder diagnosis opined that Billy’s personalities started fracturing after he suffered abuse at the hands of his father. Some insisted that Billy was just one incredibly brilliant actor. However, the prosecution and defense agreed that Billy committed the crimes but was not responsible for them. 

Billy’s multiple personalities prevented him from holding down a job for sustained periods. He started his campus rapes shortly after spending time in prison for robbery.

Mental health experts differ on multiple personality disorder (now referred to as dissociative identity disorder). The issue with DID is that no technology can prove that a person has the disease. For a DID defense to succeed in court, there has to be ‘very solid’ evidence of its existence. 

Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis has studied DID extensively and serial killers such as Ted Bundy and Arthur Shawcross. She talked to Esquire about the evidentiary burden of proving DID:

“Some of the best evidence of its existence would be writing or drawing or artwork done by the person that you’re examining long before you ever set eyes on them. Very often what you will find in someone who really dissociates significantly, you’ll find that the handwriting is different.”