Billy Milligan: DID/MPD and Criminal Defense


Biography and Crimes

Billy Milligan is perhaps the most famous multiple charged with major crimes. Milligan, who claimed to have 24 personalities, committed several felonies including armed robbery, he was arrested for three rapes on the Ohio State University campus in Athens, Ohio and whose defense was that he wasn’t the perpetrator; rather it was one of his alters. His lawyers pleaded insanity. Incredibly, he became the first person acquitted of major crimes by this reason, instead of spending a decade in mental hospitals.

Milligan claimed he had been asleep for 7 years during the crime spree. When he awoke in jail,in 1977, arrested for the kidnapping and rape of three women,he was a shattered, frightened man who had no idea what he had done. Or what his personalities had done. Psychiatrists who interviewed with Milligan at the time of his trial diagnosed him with the disorder.

billy-milliganMilligan’s alters had distinctly different personalities and existed to serve different purposes. One alter named April, sought to kill Milligan’s stepfather. Another, a lesbian named Bad Lana, was responsible for the rapes that led to his arrest. Kevin dealt drugs and planned a robbery. Dana was the 8-year-old Keeper of Pain. Ragan was a thief. Christopher, a happy, earnest 13-year-old with a British accent liked to play the harmonicaTommy was a hostile 16-year-old teenager. Christine, who loved candy, learned to answer to the name Billy. Cathy, a toddler, was still learning how to walk. There were boys named Shawn, Philip, Jimbo and Arthur. There were Undesirables, whom Arthur, who was supposed to be a protector, “sent away” when they were “no longer functional.” The Teacher was the sole personality who “was able to put them all together.”

At times, Billy felt hurt if he felt his doctor was “sending him away.” Christine emerged to relay an incident in school many years before, where she had no idea where to sit. Two students warned her away from their seats. Her teacher, Mrs. Roth, had to help Christine find her seat. Christine left and when Billy emerged he was astounded to find himself in a classroom. Mrs. leoRoth thanked Billy for bringing her an apple, which confused him since he had no recollection of the incident. Arthur awoke in his place to find himself wearing two different coloured socks. Billy awoke and was startled to discover he had written a math test.

Milligan was considered “strange”. He often had trances that other people noticed.. Milligan decided he must be insane.


Leonardo DiCaprio who is preparing to portray Milligan in the film The Crowded Room.  Before he finally agreed to play the part, DiCaprio considered starring in the role for 20 years.

While preparing for the role, DiCaprio asked Milligan what being a multiple was like. Milligan’s reply was “imagine you are reaching for a glass in a cupboard then suddenly you are standing in a park with no idea how you got there.”


Milligan was allegedly abused by his stepfather, Chalmer Milligan. There was a great deal of instability in Milligan’s childhood; his mother, Dorothy Milligan, married 2 different men, the first being Dick Jonas. She had children with both of her husbands, and a common-law boyfriend. Dorothy divorced Jonas, re-married him, then divorced him one year later. Dorothy also lived with Billy’s biological father, a married man who was severely alcoholic and committed suicide when Billy was 4 years old. She then met and married the allegedly abusive Chalmer in 1973, when Billy was 8 years old. All in all it was not a pleasant childhood.

Milligan recalled an incident where Chalmer brought him outside near a tree and forced him to dig a shallow grave. He then sexually assaulted Milligan and told him if he told anyone, he would bury him alive. He buried Milligan and stuck a pipe in his mouth for air. Naturally the odd, abused boy was bullied by neighbourhood boys. Tommy, one of Milligan’s alters recalled an episode where he awoke in a pit and discovered a gang of boys hurling rocks at him. Ragan emerged and furiously climbed out of the pit with a switchblade, ready to stab anyone who tried to hurt him. When Chalmers heard of the incident, he beat the boy.

Years later, Dorothy recalled that Milligan would often appear to sleepwalk as he wandered away from home or school. She had to drive downtown when someone called her to retrieve Milligan and bring him home. Dorothy stated the school tried to tell her that his behavior was drug-related but “I knew it wasn’t.” Yet Dorothy never protected her son from Chalmer. She claimed she didn’t know her husband was abusing her son.


billy-painting-7-personalitiesMilligan drew and painted a number of work, including a beautifully depicted landscape.  Milligan also painted seven of his alters, including a woman and a little girl. He named them Allen, Tommy, Arthur, Adalana, Christene, Ragen, and Kevin.


Life remained unstable for Milligan after the trial. He was incarcerated for a time at the Athens Mental Hospital located in what was known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum. It is now named “The Ridges.” The centre core of the building has been transformed into the Kennedy Art Museum.Milligan died of cancer in the Massillon Mental Hospital on December 12, 2014, at the age of 59.