Murderer of Gifted Child Executed

Elissa Self-Braun was an 11 year-old gifted student who attended a school for the gifted in St. Louis, Missouri. Elissa was raped and murdered after she was kidnapped while walking to her bus.

This crime happened in 1991 and this week, 20 years later, her killer Martin Link was put to death by lethal injection. Martin Link had also raped other girls and had previously tried to abduct an eight-year-old.

However, the controversy over capital punishment raged on weeks before Link’s execution. Religious leaders asked for clemency as did those who took issue with the fact Link himself was horrifically abused as a child.

The prosecution had DNA evidence which ensured they had the right man. The police found Vaseline in Link’s car he had supposedly used in the rape. Link’s prints were on the lid and there were tiny flecks of blood inside–that blood proved to be a match to Elissa. Also, her body was found in a river Link was very familiar with and had frequented.

The area in which the death penalty debate got tricky was because some people felt sorry for Link. According to Jeff Stack, who writes for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Link’s mother’s boyfriend sexually abused Link when he was a small child. Jeff Stack wrote in a recent article, “(The boyfriend) physically abused the boy, including chaining him to a doghouse and forcing him to eat dog food. When he was about 7, his mother broke both his thumbs as he tried to fend off her blows. When she thought he was acting up, she frequently locked him in a closet.

“An older neighbor (sexually abused) Link daily for several years, beginning when the boy was about 5. When he was 11, Link’s mother grabbed her son’s genitals and threatened to tear them off if he did not do as he was told. In such a torturous upbringing, it is little wonder the youth turned to substances for escape, beginning at age 14 to experiment with marijuana, speed, sniffing glue and gasoline. He used alcohol and drugs heavily until he was 19.”

Martin Luther King once said, “Hate begets hate and violence begets violence”. While I agree Link’s upbringing is a tragedy in itself, it does not remotely excuse his behavior. The majority of children who are horrifically abused DO NOT go on to rape and murder children. What happened to Link may help explain his despicable behavior but it certainly does not excuse it.

Twenty years ago a young gifted child was taken from her family and from society. Who would Elissa had been if she had not been murdered? Who would Martin Link had been had he not been abused? We’ll never know but we do know Martin Link killed Elissa Self-Braun and this week Martin Link was put to death for that crime.

As a final thought I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to Missouri detectives Bill Roach and Mike Flaherty for their diligent police work in solving this crime. To read more of their incredible story click below:

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6 Responses to Murderer of Gifted Child Executed

  1. Sarah McUmber-House says:

    There is an important difference between offering excuses for someone’s behavior, and examining the reasons for that behavior.

    I no longer support the death penalty, personally, because it has too often been carried out on innocent people, wrongfully convicted.

    It seems clear that there is no doubt whatsoever that the man did this crime, and that he should never be set loose in the world again. Even those who ‘feel sorry’ for him, are not likely arguing that he was not guilty, or that he should not be punished to the full extent of the law. Understanding why someone does something horrible, (in this, and many other cases, because they were severely mistreated themselves, as children), is extremely important. It in no way absolves the man of his guilt, but gives us insight into how to prevent such horrors in the future, and a reason to genuinely pity the boy who could not overcome such mistreatment, and grew up to be such a horribly emotionally disfigured man. No excuse for his behavior. Just recognition of the reasons behind it.

    It is very important that we come to understand those reasons, and put serious effort into addressing the identified problems with respect to young children now being abused, so that they may not be propelled down such a destructive path.

    • sgarland says:

      So true, you make good points.

    • Caligula says:

      Decades ago you may have ban tight, but now with DNA and forensics as good as they are, they don’t make many mistakes anymore. No “innocent” man ends up on death row. People have past records and that’s how they end up in line ups and suspects of crimes. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. If God says that’s how it’s supposed to be done, that’s good enough for me.

  2. Beverly Graves says:

    I agree 100% with the death penalty for child molesters and killers. There are too many times they get short sentences and the next time they kill their little witnesses.

    I am a survivor who warned the new gf’s of my my moms ex bf who sexually abused me up to 3 x day from age 7 until i was 15. He was “convicted” and my abusive mother FORCED me to beg the judge to let “my daddy” come home, by “force” i mean she straddled me the night before and attacked me with a hammer, smashing it into the floor next to my head. I remember wanting to move my head into its path to just get it over with.

    He never touched me again but if we were coming in the door within mins of each other, him from work and me from after school programs she would start beating me screaming “where the f were you two? F’ing somewhere f’ing little cun*”

    A week after my 18th birthday she beat in the street while my younger sister held me. She kicked me out (thank God because i was NOT ALLOWED TO JUST LEAVE) i filled a paper giftbag leftover from a birthday gift with just random things because she was beating me. It was pouring out it was 8/12/87. She had lied to my first and only ever bf and my very best friend so i had nowhere to go. I finally convinced my bf to drive me to my molesters sisters home. My mom and her weren’t always on good terms and she had asked me once if her brother put his fingers in my bathing suit bottom when he threw me in the pool at her other brothers house, i just stayed silent i knew if i said yes she would tell my mom and things would get worse.

    My mother knew.

    So after i left she hunted for me. Nels (the bf/my abuser) left her a week later for “Donna” who i warned and she said she knew all about it and even went to court ordered counseling with Nels, she fully trusted him with her then 5 & 7 yr old daughters who had long beautiful brown blondish hair just like me and my half sister.

    I stayed in touch with Joanne (Nels sister) over the yrs so i could keep tabs on Nels and every gf he got after Donna had (2) daughters like a pattern. He abused Donna’s oldest girl, the next was a barmaid who myself and now Donna approached and gave her the court docs, she basically told us to f off!

    Then his mom passed and his other sister Fran and myself took his gf aside and told her of his past. She had no small children and was at this point a grandmother who had a huge pic of her granddaughter on her wall, i said what about her? She swore her 7 yr old granddaughter rarely visited.

    I have a now 28 yr old son, i have a daughter who just turned 8. We had to have IVF to have her. It escalated all of my autoimmune diseases to the point i amnow disabled.

    My little girl was born 10/30/09. There was a street fair we were there with her in the stroller just me and her on a beautiful spring day. I actually was having a hard time and depressed and undiagnosed but had post partum depression. Walking towards me “holding hands” affectionately i see Nels and a girl around 15 with long beautiful brown hair, he is rubbing her hand and acting flirty with her, before he sees me he moves his hand to her lower back and it was in her eyes, i could see it and i knew.

    I froze.

    He smiled and pulled his hand away so fast and acted like my long lost daddy. I was in such shock and introduced myself and asked who she is and up runs and i mean runs his gf i met 8 or so yrs prior who was mind you DISABLED but here she ran up so fast pulling her granddaughter away from me and pulling Nels away while saying “oh I’m so sorry but we have to go we have to be somewhere”. I stood there in shock i knew exactly what she did. She turned her head the other way just to have this pos child molester in her life. She traded her granddaughters body for this pos like at minimum 3 others before her had done.

    I just felt tears running down my face.

    These people never stop. They cannot.

    Think about what turns you on the most, a mans eyes? A womans curves? Whatever it is that makes you absolutely crazy!!

    Well these people are turned on by children, some only like babies, some 3-5 yr olds or whatever. Its rare that a child molester will molest either…they have preferences and it will never be changed!

    -The fact is the recidivism rate is 100% I don’t care what statistics claim.

    -70% of children murdered aged 5 and under are killed by moms bf. This is a FACT!

    -kidnapping from a home in the middle of the night while everyone is asleep is RARE!!! Very rare!

    -stranger abduction is RARE

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. I know it must be painful to talk about but your warning to others is so important. You have been through hell but you sound strong and determined. God bless you.

  3. Janice Kellar says:

    Ok truly all sad stories. I myself was raped at 14 cuz I thought I was street smart. No I didn’t report him (mom wanted me 2)cuz 45 yrs ago “I” would be put on trial 4 sneeking out and going 2 a party. BUT ONCE I had children if anyone would be touched them I would’ve killed them! Period! And 2 know someone is hurting children and not speaking up COMPLICATE! No excuses. And if my father or mother abused me I’d wait till they slept and beat there brains in w a hammer. At the very least run away fr home. Or pay a classmate or 2 to break their legs. Tell police or a teacher.Stick up 4 yourself or don’t complain.

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