A loner who was bullied at school and regularly beaten with a leather strap by his catholic father Robert Berdella had a seemingly uneventful life until his father suddenly died from a heart attack when he was 16 years old and that’s also when he started to be sexually abused by a coworker at the restaurant he was working at.
Not long after Berdella’s father died his mother remarried much to his dismay and he found it impossible to hide his distaste for his new stepfather. He began to develop an interest in art but the weirder the art the better and he would eventually become quite the artist himself which led to him being offered a partial scholarship at 18 years old to the Kansas City Art Institute.
He began his studies at the art institute in 1967 but by 1969 he was forced out of the school because his art projects had become extremely concerning, including when he killed a dog onstage as part of one of his performances. After leaving the school he began befriending local prostitutes, drug dealers and petty criminals with most of them viewing him as a sort of father figure.
• In July 1984, Berdella drugged his friend prostitute Jerry Howell and then kept him in his basement where he tortured and raped him until he ended up strangling him to death the next day.
• In April 1985, Berdella drugged his friend Robert Sheldon and kept him in his basement where he tortured him but then he had a change of mind about hurting him and he ended up taking him to the doctor so he could get his injuries treated but then he had another change of mind about hurting him and he returned Sheldon to his basement where he continued to torture him until he strangled him to death.
• In June 1985, Berdella found Mark Wallace hiding in his shed during a storm and he invited him into his home. After being drugged and enduring hours of torture he was strangled to death.
• In September 1985, Berdella who was openly gay went to a gay bar and picked up James Ferris. He invited Ferris back to his home where he held him captive and tortured him for weeks before killing him.
• In June 1986, Berdella’s friend Todd Stoops who was a prostitute was invited to Berdella’s home for lunch and sex but he ended up being held captive for 6 weeks where he was tortured until finally being murdered.
• The following year, Berdella bailed his new friend Larry Pearson out of jail and offered him a place to stay. Once Pearson was in his home, he held him captive and tortured him for 6 weeks before murdering him.
• In March 1988, Berdella abducted his last known victim, prostitute Chris Bryson but when Berdella was at work Bryson jumped out of a second-floor window and ran to safety at a neighbour’s house. Bryson was naked and only wearing a dog collar when he escaped.
The police investigation uncovered Berdella’s dungeon in the basement and second-floor bedroom, numerous photos of his victims and even some of his victims remains.
Berdella gave a full confession to avoid the death penalty. He was found guilty of 2 counts of first-degree murder, 4 counts of second-degree murder, 1 count of selling amphetamines, 6 counts of sodomy and numerous counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced to life without parole but 4 years into his prison sentence he died from a heart attack.
Rest In Peace Jerry Howell, Robert Sheldon, Mark Wallace, James Ferris, Todd Stoops and Larry Pearson.