For Josefina, November 26, 1986 was a night that she will never forget. Angry after a fight with her boyfriend, she left their apartment in a slum area in north Philadelphia to go to work.
Braving rain and bitter cold, she noticed a silver and white Cadillac Coupe De Ville drive slowly past her and stop. She moved closer as the driver’s window slid down and a bearded man asked if she wanted a ride. He looked okay to her and she got into the car.
The man introduced himself as Gary and told her he had to make a stop; Josefina, agreed and shortly after they pulled into a nearby McDonald’s. She followed him as he went inside and bought coffee and sat with him as he drank it. With a quick appraisal borne of experience, Josefina studied her new companion. He was white, his face framed by a neatly trimmed beard below cold, blue penetrating eyes. Although he wore an expensive watch and jewellery and drove a luxury car, she noticed that his clothes were cheap and soiled. Grasping for things to say, she again asked him his name. “Gary Heidnik,” he said sullenly. Several minutes later, he finished his coffee and told her they were leaving. When she asked where they were going, he told her they were going to his house.
They drove to a dilapidated house in a seedy neighborhood. Josefina couldn’t help but notice another car parked in front of them; it was a 1971 Rolls Royce. He clearly had some money.
When they reached the door, Heidnik pulled out a strange key and pushed it into the lock. When Josefina remarked about it, he explained that he had cut the key into two pieces, half of which stayed in the lock preventing anyone but him from entering. The door opened into a kitchen, which was decorated by pennies that had been glued to half of its walls. Heidnik led her to a living room with sparse, aging furniture. He offered to show her around and led her up a narrow staircase. As she reached the door of his bedroom, she couldn’t believe her eyes, the hallway directly in front of it had been partially covered with one and five dollar bills.
Suddenly, Heidnik stepped behind her and began choking her with his hands. He released his grip but instead of letting her go, he pulled her arms behind her and handcuffed her wrists. He then led to a cold, damp basement room.
Heidnik dragged her to a dirty mattress, attached metal clamps to her ankles and connected them to one end of a chain. He then applied glue to the clamps and dried them with a hair dryer. The other end he fastened around a large pipe that was attached to the ceiling. When he had finished, he told her to sit up and promptly laid his head in her lap and went to sleep. When Josefina awoke there was enough daylight to see the small room that was her prison.
In the center of the room, a small area of concrete had been removed and a shallow pit had been dug into the ground underneath. When Heidnik returned, he set to work to widen and deepen the hole.
As she watched him working, he told her that all he had ever wanted was a large family and to that end had already fathered four children to four separate women but had lost contact with them for various reasons. He told Josefina that his plan was to get ten women and make all of them pregnant so he could raise his family. Then, to demonstrate his intent, he raped her.
Left alone a second time, Josefina loosened one of the ankle clamps and, after prying the covers from the window, stretched the chain to its full length and lifted herself halfway out of the window. Unable to escape fully, she screamed, hoping that a neighbor would come to her aid. Unfortunately, only Heidnik responded to her cries.
He pulled her back inside the basement and beat her with a stick until she quieted down. Then, pushing her down into the tiny hole in the floor, he forced her head onto her chest and covered her with a piece of plywood and stacked heavy weights on top of it. To make sure that her screams didn’t attract any outside attention, he set up a radio and tuned it to a hard rock station at maximum volume and left. As she lay half naked and cramped up in the freezing earth, Josefina struggled to breathe and waited to die.
Sandy and Gary Heidnik
From the confines of the pit, even though the radio was still on, Josefina clearly heard a woman complaining and the sounds of a chain dragging across the floor. A short time later, Rivera’s heart leapt as the board was lifted and Heidnik dragged her from the pit. Josefina looked up and saw another young, black woman, naked except for a blouse, chained to the pipe in the ceiling in the same manner, as she had been the first night. She stared at the woman who seemed to be completely oblivious to what was happening to her. Heidnik later introduced the girl as Sandy Lindsay before leaving them alone. As Sandy spoke to Josefina began to understand why the new arrival seemed so detached, she was retarded.
Sandy told Josefina that she had been a friend of Heidnik’s for several years since they had met at the Elwyn Institute, which was a local hospital for the mentally and physically handicapped. She described Gary as a good friend who always looked after her. In a voice devoid of emotion she described how she had often had sex with Gary and his friend Tony. Later she became pregnant, but had an abortion. When Heidnik learned what she had done, he flew into a rage and offered her a thousand dollars to have his baby. When she refused, Heidnik took her prisoner and brought her to the house. As she finished her story, Sandy dissolved into tears as she began to realize her predicament.
One day Heidnik told Sandy that her sister and two cousins had come looking for her but had gone away assuming no one was home. He later forced Sandy to write a note to her mother telling her that she had gone away and would call later. He told the women that he would post the letter from New York so her mother would think Sandy had run away. Although Sandy didn’t seem to understand the implication of the note, the street-wise Josefina understood that Heidnik’s intended to keep them prisoner indefinitely.
As the days dragged into weeks, Heidnik’s behavior became increasingly bizarre. He fed them sporadically and kept them semi naked so that he could indulge his sexual appetite when he felt like it, which was often. When he was absent, they huddled together for warmth and waited in fear for his return. On occasion, they tried calling for help, which resulted in savage beatings, which in turn caused them to cry even louder. Any deviation from his rules was punished by further beatings or a period of incarceration in the dreaded hole. Another form of punishment he devised was to attach the girls to an overhead beam by one arm and leave them suspended for hours on end.
While Heidnik was developing his skills as a torturer, Sandra’s mother was actively searching for her. The mother told an officer that she believed her daughter was being held against her will by a man she knew only as Gary who lived at 3520 North Marshall Street . She gave the officer all the information she had including a phone number but was unable to furnish a last name. The officer tried calling the number and even went to the house, but got no response and eventually dropped the inquiry.
Lisa and Gary Heidnik
Around Christmas, Gary Heidnik cruised the streets looking for another woman. As he turned into Lehigh Street , he found her. Nineteen-year-old Lisa was on her way to a girlfriend’s house when Heidnik pulled up beside her in the Cadillac. He leaned out of the window and made a suggestive comment but she became angry and told him she wasn’t a prostitute. He quickly apologized and offered her a ride instead. Mollified by the change in his demeanor and his impressive car she accepted.
He lured the young woman to his home by buying her a meal and some clothes and offering to take her to Atlantic City . Then he drugged Lisa with some wine and when she passed out, he raped her, handcuffed her and took her to the basement with his other “slaves.”
Now there were three young women of the ten that Heidnik planned to abduct. As they talked about their situation, they wondered how seven more women would ever be able to live in the small basement, let alone any children they might eventually have. Their only hope was that one of them or a future victim might be able to escape and get to the police.
Two More Victims of Gary Heidnik
Ten days later, Heidnik returned from one of his trips with another woman named Deborah Dudley, who at twenty-three, was not about to allow Heidnik to control her without a fight. From the time he had chained her with the others she began to question his authority at every opportunity, which generally earned her nothing more than a savage beating. Her arrival also created tension among the others, as whenever she disobeyed, Heidnik would punish them as well. Beatings became a regular event with Heidnik often appointing one of the girls to be in charge while he was out. When he returned he expected that person to tell him if the others had misbehaved. If they had, he would order the girl in charge to beat the others accordingly. If there were no infractions to report or if the beatings weren’t severe enough, he would beat them all. During this time, the worldly Josefina began to win his confidence by displaying a level of loyalty and obedience that convinced Heidnik that she actually enjoyed being one of his “wives.”
His sexual appetite also changed with the arrival of Deborah when, apart from having intercourse with all of them on a daily basis, he would often force them to have sex with each other while he watched. While personal hygiene did not seem to be a priority for Heidnik, he later provided a portable toilet for his captives and “baby wipes” to wash their bodies. Some time later he allowed the girls to have a bath after which he would force them to have sex.
The amount and type of food that he provided seemed to change according to his mood. Some days he would give the girls only bread and water. The following day it would be stale hot dogs or a peanut butter sandwich. He finally solved the problem by giving the girls canned dog food and beating them until they ate it.
On January 18, Heidnik went out again and returned with another girl. He had picked up a tiny eighteen-year-old named Jacqueline on the north side of the city and brought her back to the house. As before, he raped her and dragged her to the basement but when it came time for the chaining, he found that the shackles were too big for her tiny ankles and used handcuffs instead. Later that day, he bought everyone Chinese food and as an added surprise, a bottle of champagne. The occasion was the twenty-sixth birthday of the woman that was fast becoming his favorite — Josefina.
Josefina would later reveal that Heidnik was in good spirits because he had the idea that she and Sandra Lindsay had become pregnant by him when this was not the case.
Gary Heidnik’s Cellar of Death
In early February 1987, Heidnik found reason to punish Sandra Lindsay when he caught her trying to move the plywood that covered the pit. The punishment was severe. She was forced to hang from a roof beam by a single handcuff attached to her wrist for several days. During this time, her condition deteriorated and she refused to eat. Still believing her to be pregnant, Heidnik tried to force feed her pieces of bread. Towards the end of the week, even though she was vomiting and running a high fever, Heidnik continued to force feed her, often jamming food into her mouth and holding her mouth shut until she swallowed. The next day she lost consciousness. When Heidnik couldn’t rouse her, he became angry and unlocked the handcuffs, dropping her to the ground. He told the others that she was faking and kicked her into the pit and left her there while he served up ice cream for everybody and left. When he returned, he lifted Lindsay out of the pit and checked her pulse. She was dead.
After telling the girls that she had probably choked, he carried Sandra’s body upstairs. A short time later, they shuddered with horror when they heard the unmistakeable whine of a power saw. Their horror later turned to revulsion when one of Heidnik’s dogs walked into the basement carrying a long meaty bone and proceeded to devour it in front of the terrified girls. Investigators would later reveal that Heidnik had ground up Lindsay’s flesh using a food processor, and fed it to his dogs and the captives mixed with dog food. To dispose of the remaining parts of the body, he cooked them on the stove.
In the days following Sandra’s death, the girls began to notice a sickening stench that filled the entire house. Eventually, it would become so bad that Heidnik’s neighbours complained to the police. After several such calls, a patrolman was sent to the house to make inquiries but left after Heidnik assured him that the smell was caused by an overcooked roast dinner.
Following Sandra’s death, Heidnik’s behavior became increasingly bizarre. He urged the girls to inform on each other with the promise of better conditions for those who complied. During this period, the girls devised a plan to attack Heidnik and escape but the plan never came to fruition. Jacqueline would later testify that the attack never occurred because Josefina told Heidnik what they were planning.
Convinced that the girls were constantly plotting against him, Heidnik devised a plan of his own to prevent them from leaving. After cuffing each girl hand and foot, he hung them from a beam and gagged them. Then, taking several different sizes of screwdrivers, he gouged inside their ears in an attempt to deafen them. He believed that if they could not hear, they would be unable to hear him coming. The only one he didn’t touch was Josefina.
Later when Deborah Dudley began to cause trouble, he unchained her and took her upstairs. When they returned, Deborah was unusually quiet and solemn. After Heidnik had left, the others asked her what had happened. Stammering with fear, she told them that Heidnik had taken her into the kitchen and showed her a pot he had on the stove. Inside it was Sandra Lindsay’s head. He then opened the oven and showed her part of Sandra’s ribcage that he was roasting. Opening the fridge, he pointed to an arm and other body parts that he had wrapped in plastic and told her that if she didn’t start obeying him, she would be next.
Within a few days, Deborah had recovered her composure and continued to defy Heidnik’s attempts to “tame” her. As an added incentive to obey, Heidnik added a new punishment to his already cruel bag of tricks, his own version of electric shock treatment. His method was simple. He stripped the insulation from one end of an electrical extension cord and plugged the other into a socket. Then, turning on the power, he would hold the bare wires against each of the girl’s chains and watch with detached amusement as they wriggled and danced to escape the current. As before, Josefina was exempt from punishment.
As the weeks passed, Heidnik began to treat Josefina as more of a partner than a captive and spent more and more time with her alone. So much so that, on March 18, when Heidnik decided to punish the others, he enlisted Josefina to help him. The shock treatment was again employed with one added feature, water. After drilling airholes in the plywood cover, Heidnik ordered Josefina to fill the pit with water. The three other women, still in chains, were then pushed down into it before the cover was replaced and weighted down with bags of dirt. As they sat shivering with cold and fear, the bare wire was pushed through one of the holes until it briefly touched one of the chains sending a jolt of electricity surging through all of them. The wire was then pushed into the hole a second time, making direct contact with Deborah’s chain. Absorbing most of the voltage, Deborah screamed and shuddered uncontrollably before collapsing face down in the water.
Seeing their friend fall, Jacqueline and Lisa screamed until Heidnik removed the cover and dragged Deborah out. After ascertaining that she was dead, Heidnik calmly made sandwiches and told the women, “Aren’t you glad it wasn’t one of you.” He then left for a few minutes and returned with a pen and paper. Handing it to Josefina, he ordered her to write the time and date at the top of the page. When she had done so, he made her write a statement detailing how she had assisted him to electrocute Deborah . He then ordered her to sign it before adding his own signature. Holding up the letter, he then told her: “If you ever go to the cops, I can use this as evidence that you killed Debbie.” Satisfied that he had her completely under his control, he removed Josefina’s chains and told her to go upstairs and change. It was the first time she had been completely dressed in four months. The following day, Heidnik returned to the basement and, after wrapping Deborah’s body in plastic, placed it in the freezer and left.
Following Deborah Dudley’s death, Josefina became Heidnik’s constant companion, often accompanying him on outings to restaurants and on shopping expeditions. On one such outing, Heidnik told Josefina that if he was ever caught, he would act as though he was insane as he knew how to manipulate the testing procedures. He told her that he had been fooling the authorities for years so that he could qualify for disability payments. Heidnik also seemed to soften after Deborah died and began to provide additional comforts for his captives including mattresses, blankets, pillows and even a television set while Josefina, in a her role as trusted confidante, earned the dubious honor of sharing Heidnik’s bed.
On one particular trip, they were driving in the countryside outside of New Jersey when Heidnik stopped the car near a heavily wooded area and remarked that it would be a good place to hide Deborah’s body. The following night, March 22, Heidnik and Josefina loaded Deborah’s partially frozen body in one of his other vehicles, a Dodge van, and drove back to the area known as the Pine Barrens . While Josefina waited in the vehicle, Heidnik dumped the body in a grove of trees.
The next day, Heidnik told her that he would need to find a “replacement” for Deborah and suggested that they go out “cruising” together to find one. Later that night, the pair drove through the streets looking for a likely subject.
Heidnik found a new victim, Agnes, who he convinced to go home with them. Shortly after getting to the house, Agnes found herself stripped, chained and imprisoned in the basement with the others. To Heidnik, Josefina may have seemed like a willing participant but she had other plans and was happy to wait for the right time to implement them.
Her chance finally came on March 24 when after days of pleading and cajoling, she convinced Heidnik that if he let her go to see her family, she would bring him back a new “wife” for his collection. Heidnik, anxious to expand his “family” agreed on the condition that after visiting her family, she would pick up the woman and meet him at a gas station near her house at midnight. Later that evening, Heidnik dropped her near her house and drove off. Within seconds, Josefina was sprinting towards the apartment that she shared with her boyfriend, Vincent Nelson.
When Nelson answered the door, Josefina blurted out her incredible story. As she related how she had been taken prisoner, sexually abused and tortured, Nelson wondered if she had lost her mind. As he tried to quiet her down, she continued to describe scenes involving death, dog food and body parts until Nelson offered to go to Heidnik’s house and confront him. Scared that their interference would lead to the other girls being killed, Josefina convinced him to call the police.
Several minutes later, two police officers, John Cannon and David Savidge arrived. Again Josefina told her incredible story. Like Nelson, Cannon and Savidge also found it hard to believe until Josefina lifted the bottoms of her jeans and showed them the scars on her ankles where the chains had been. They were convinced and went to the gas station where Heidnik was waiting in his Cadillac. As they took out their weapons and approached the car, Heidnik raised his hands and asked if they were there regarding child support payments. He was told that it was a far more serious matter and placed under arrest. After four months of unspeakable horror, Gary Heidnik’s reign of terror was finally at an end.
Just before 5 a.m. on March 25 1987, a squad of police under the direction of Homicide Lieutenant James Hansen arrived at 3520 North Marshall Street . Unable to gain access via Heidnik’s intricate lock system, Hansen gave the order to break the door down. One of the first officers through the door was Dave Savidge, one of the men who had arrested Gary Heidnik. Following Josefina’s direction, he and his partner, Officer McCloskey went straight to the basement.
When Savidge entered the small room, he saw two women asleep on a mattress in the middle of the room. Despite the cold conditions, their only covering was a thin, dirty blanket. As he approached them they woke and screamed until Savidge assured them that he was a police officer who had come to release them. He noticed that the women were chained to a pipe in the ceiling and wore nothing except thin blouses and socks. When one of the officers asked if there were any more women in the house, they pointed to the sheet of plywood on the floor that had plastic bags filled with soil piled on top of it.
Pushing aside the bags and the board, McCloskey saw the nude figure of Agnes squatting in the bottom of the pit. After lifting Agnes out, the police removed the women’s chains and took them upstairs to a waiting ambulance. With the women freed, the police turned their attention to the search. In the kitchen, Savidge found an aluminium pot on the stove, which was badly scorched and contain a yellowish fatty substance. On the kitchen counter was an industrial food processor, which had been recently used, possibly for raw meat. Inside the stove, he found an oven dish containing a charred piece of bone that resembled a human rib. Up to that point, Savidge was still struggling to believe what had really occurred in the room, but when he opened the fridge, what he found removed all doubt. Lying on a shelf in the freezer compartment was a human forearm.
Over several days, police searched the house and yards detailing every piece of paper and material they found. They excavated the front and back yards but did not find any further human remains. In the house they found a closet full of pornographic magazines all of which featured black women. Although the house and surrounds gave the impression that the owner had been a disturbed person existing only on a veteran’s pension, they later discovered that Gary Heidnik was in fact a rich man, having amassed an amazing $550,000 in a Merrill Lynch investment account. While the search was continuing, Heidnik was being questioned in custody as police attempted to unravel the life and crimes of the scruffy individual the press was already calling ” a vicious madman.”
Gary Heidnik being led to court in
Early Life of Gary Michael Heidnik
Life started for Gary Michael Heidnik in November 1943 in Eastlake , a suburb of Cleveland , Ohio . Eighteen months later, Gary ‘s brother Terry was born. Six months later their parents, Michael and Ellen, divorced and the boys went to live with their mother and her new husband until Gary started school, after which they went to live with their father and his new wife. These were not happy times for the boys as they spent most of their time arguing with their stepmother or being heavily disciplined by their father. Heidnik would later tell psychologists that his father had continually ridiculed him especially when he wet his bed, which was often. At these times his father would hang the stained sheet out a second story window in full view of the neighbors.
Gary was also ridiculed at school after a fall from a tree left him with a misshapen head. His brother Terry believes the accident was the root cause of Gary ‘s erratic behavior. A curious comment indeed considering Terry himself spent much of his life in mental institutions and made numerous suicide attempts.
By the time Gary had reached the eighth grade he had developed two main obsessions, making money and becoming an army officer. So intense was the latter ambition that his father made arrangements for him to attend the prestigious Staunton Military Academy in Virginia . Gary lasted at the academy for two years attaining excellent grades but left suddenly in his junior year and returned home to live with his father. Within the next year he tried two different high schools but soon became bored and left after a few weeks. Finally, at age eighteen he joined the regular army. Heidnik later told prison psychologists that he left Staunton after visiting a psychologist but failed to indicate why he had felt he needed one or give details of his treatment.
Heidnik adapted readily to army life but made few friends. During his training, he was graded as “excellent.” Following basic training, he applied for several specialist training positions, including the military police but was refused. Finally he was sent to San Antonio , Texas to be trained as a medic. Again he did well and also developed a thriving business by lending money to other soldiers and charging interest on the loans. Unfortunately for him, this enterprise came to a swift end when he was transferred to a field hospital in West Germany . Within weeks of his new posting, Heidnik sat for a high school equivalency diploma scoring 96%. Things seemed to be going well for him until late August 1962 when he went to the sick bay complaining of dizziness, blurred vision and nausea. A neurologist later determined that Heidnik was suffering from gastroenteritis and also displayed the symptoms of a mental illness.
Dr. Jack Apsche, a noted Philadelphia psychologist, later investigated Heidnik’s history of mental illness and found that although the Army had not indicated if they considered him schizoid or schizophrenic, they had prescribed a heavy tranquillizer normally reserved for the treatment of serious psychotics or patients that experience hallucinations.
Within weeks, Heidnik was sent back to the states. Three months later he was given an honorable discharge and released from the Army on medical grounds and given a 100% disability pension. The official diagnosis was “schizoid personality disorder.” He had served only fourteen months. After leaving the Army, he settled in Philadelphia and qualified as a Licensed Practical Nurse and was issued with a state certificate. He later enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania and gained credits in a variety of subjects including anthropology, history, chemistry and biology. Eventually, with his nursing qualifications, he was able to get a job in the University Hospital but was later fired when the standard of his work declined. From there he enrolled at the Veterans Administration Hospital near Philadelphia to be trained as a psychiatric nurse but was asked to leave because of his bad attitude.
From then on, Heidnik’s life began to decline as he spent more and more time in mental institutions. In 1970, his mother Ellen took her own life by swallowing poison, which only served to exacerbate his already fragile state of mind. Numerous suicide attempts followed which ultimately resulted in more hospital time and so the vicious cycle continued. He would often spend long periods refusing to communicate which almost bordered on catatonia. In one of his more lucid moments, he was given a series of intelligence tests, which indicated that he was of “superior” intellect.
On one occasion, he was admitted to a mental ward after he attacked his brother Terry with a wood plane. When he later visited while Terry was recuperating, he told Terry that if he had died from his wounds, he would have soaked his remains in a bathtub full of acid to dispose of his body. With each admission to hospital, his behavior became more bizarre. He spent most days completely mute, only communicating by writing notes. He constantly wore a leather jacket, which he refused to take off. His personal hygiene was almost non-existent and he developed a series of mannerisms, such as saluting and rolling up one pants leg when he didn’t wish to be disturbed.
In 1971, while on a trip to California , Heidnik had the startling revelation that he should form his own church. Returning to Philadelphia , he registered the United Church of the Ministers of God and installed himself as “Bishop” Heidnik. At that time, the “church” had just five members, which included Terry Heidnik and Gary ‘s retarded girlfriend. In 1975, Heidnik opened a Merrill Lynch account in the church’s name. Over the next twelve years, due in no small part to his childhood interest in all things financial, he succeeded in parlaying his $1,500 investment into $545,000. During these times, he was in and out of mental hospitals or “ministering” to his parishioners, which were few.
As well as being a regular at mental hospitals, Heidnik had also become well known to the police. In 1976, he was charged with aggravated assault and carrying an unlicensed pistol. The charges were laid after Heidnik had fired a shot at a man who rented a house from him, grazing his face. The house was later sold and while the new owners were in the process of cleaning it, they found boxes of pornographic magazines and a hole dug in the concrete floor of the basement.
Eighteen months later he again came to the attention of the police when he signed his retarded girlfriend’s sister out of a mental institution on day leave and kept her prisoner in his apartment. The sister, also seriously retarded, was later recovered from a locked storage room in Heidnik’s basement and returned to the home. On her return to the hospital, she was examined and found to have been raped, sodomized and infected with gonorrhea, both vaginally and orally. Heidnik was later arrested and charged with kidnapping, rape, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and interfering with the custody of a committed person.
When the case went to trial in November 1978, Heidnik pleaded not guilty and took the stand in his own defense, claiming that he was innocent. After ordering a psychological examination, which found that Heidnik was, “manipulative and psycho-sexually immature,” he was found guilty and sentenced to three to seven years jail. A later appeal overturned the original sentence, which resulted in him spending almost three years of his incarceration in various mental institutions.
He was finally released on April 12, 1983 on the condition that he remain under the supervision of a state sanctioned mental health program. As in so many similar cases, if the state had realized the true state of Heidnik’s mind, they would never have released him.
Prior to his imprisonment, Heidnik had carried on various relationships with women. He seemed to prefer black women, some of them retarded. During these relationships his focus seemed to be on fathering children. His first partner bore him a daughter but left shortly after, taking the baby with her. The next was woman named Dorothy who was seriously retarded. According to neighbors, Heidnik treated Dorothy badly, often beating her, locking her up and refusing to feed her. Dorothy eventually wandered off and was later found living on the street in a dazed condition.
The next woman Heidnik selected was Anjeanette, the sister of the girl that Heidnik was convicted of raping. She was also retarded. When Heidnik returned from prison, Anjeanette was gone. A later police investigation failed to find any trace of her, leaving police with the impression that Heidnik was responsible for her disappearance.
For his next partner, Heidnik enlisted the aid of a matrimonial service. His selection criteria was simple, he wanted an Oriental virgin. A few weeks later he was corresponding by mail with a young Filipino woman named Betty. For two years, she and Heidnik communicated by mail and the occasional phone call. Eventually, Heidnik proposed marriage telling Betty that he was a minister. Betty accepted and travelled to Philadelphia in September, 1985.
After greeting her at the airport, Heidnik took her home to the North Marshall street house and showed her to her room. She was shocked to find a retarded woman sleeping in the bed that she was to occupy. Heidnik told her the woman was a paying tenant. Despite Betty’s misgivings about Heidnik and the living arrangements, she married him on October 3 in Maryland . For the first week, Heidnik treated her well and spoke of starting a family. A week later, she returned from a shopping trip to find Heidnik in bed having sex with three women. Horrified, she demanded that he pay to send her back home. He refused, telling her that he was the boss and having multiple sex partners was normal for him.
From that time on Heidnik was never without additional women in the house and often made Betty watch while he had sex with them. On the occasions that she complained, he would beat her and order her to cook for him and his partners at the time. As the days progressed, he became increasingly violent and constantly warned Betty that if she left he would find her and kill her.
One day in 1986 was the last straw for Betty. After she complained about the women he was bringing home, Heidnik beat her, raped her vaginally and anally, and again threatened to kill her. Because she only knew Heidnik and his friends, Betty was forced to turn to other members of the Filipino community for help. They convinced her that she should leave him so four days later, after pretending to go out shopping, she left and never went back. Two weeks later, Heidnik was picked up and charged with assault, indecent assault, spousal rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Luckily for Heidnik, the parole period for his previous sexual offenses expired the day before his arrest. His luck continued to hold when the charges were later dismissed when Betty failed to appear for the preliminary hearing. In 1987, Betty dragged Heidnik into court in an attempt to win financial support for her son, which had been conceived, unknown to Heidnik, from one of his encounters with Betty. During the case, the judge became aware of Heidnik’s medical history and ordered him to undergo a series of tests to determine his mental competency. By the time the tests were conducted, two of the girls he held captive in his basement “baby factory” had already died.
Was Gary Heidnik Crazy?
On April 23 1987, Heidnik appeared in court for the first time since his arrest. Beside him sat his counsel, Charles “Chuck” Peruto. Heidnik had selected Peruto, an experienced, sharp-minded defense attorney, based on his reputation for defending sensational cases. The reason for the appearance was to officially determine if the prosecution had the “probable cause” to hold Gary Heidnik for the crimes he had been charged with. For Assistant District Attorney Charles Gallagher, the preliminary hearing was a mere formality as he presented the state’s case against Gary Heidnik. Heidnik stood charged with murder, kidnapping, rape, aggravated assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent exposure, false imprisonment, unlawful restraint, simple assault, indecent assault and other associated offenses.
The most damning evidence against Heidnik was the testimony of the captives themselves. The first to be called was Lisa, who described in minute detail how Gary Heidnik had chained, beaten and raped her. Next to give evidence was Josefina. In a clear and confident voice, she related her story from the time she was picked up in Heidnik’s Cadillac until the time she was released. She was particularly graphic in her description of Sandra Lindsay’s death and the electrocution murder of Deborah Dudley, particularly when she admitted that it had been she who had pushed the power cord into the pit. Peruto later cross examined Josefina and accused her of instigating many of the beatings and the electrocution of Dudley . When Lisa was cross examined, she too accused Josefina of being Heidnik’s willing partner in his acts of death and depravity, however her evidence was refuted when Jacquelyn took the stand and told the court that Josefina only did Heidnik’s bidding when she was under threat of death or punishment.
The proceedings ended with Dr. Paul Hoyer of the county medical examiner’s office giving evidence regarding the body parts and other human remains found in Heidnik’s kitchen. In a hushed court room Dr Hoyer read out the items found like a gruesome shopping list — two forearms, one upper arm, two knees and two segments of thigh, all cut with a saw, the tissue, muscle and skin still attached. In all, twenty-four pounds of human remains were found carefully wrapped and stored in Gary Heidnik’s refrigerator. Gary Heidnik was indicted and held for trial.
The trial began on June 20, 1988 in front of a packed courtroom. From the outset, as Charles Gallagher outlined the prosecution’s case in all its gory detail, Chuck Peruto knew what his defense was going to be, he was going to plead his client guilty on all charges but was going to try and prove that Gary Heidnik was certifiably insane.
If the prosecution’s case had been strong at the pre-trial hearing, at the trial itself, it seemed even stronger. With both sides opening statements having taken only a few minutes, Charles Gallagher began calling his witnesses to the stand. For two days, the jury of six whites and six blacks, heard testimony from the captives themselves, their families, the police and the medical examiners. As the judge excused the last of the prosecution’s witnesses, Chuck Peruto requested that the charge of first-degree murder be removed on the grounds that intent to kill had not been proven. Judge Lynne Abraham’s reply was one that Peruto would become familiar with during the trial, “overruled.”
Chuck Peruto’s defense was centred around two men, Heidnik’s psychiatrist, Dr Clancy McKenzie and psychologist Jack Apsche. Unfortunately for Peruto, and Heidnik, when he called his first witness to the stand, he found that McKenzie had his own agenda. McKenzie, who had spent a total of one hundred hours with Heidnik, refused to answer direct questions, preferring instead to launch into intellectual discussion on schizophrenia and other associated mental conditions, which at times completely confused the jury. Eventually, Peruto managed to direct McKenzie to give his opinion on the most important aspect of an insanity defense. At the time of the offenses, did Gary Heidnik know the difference between right and wrong? McKenzie responded that Heidnik did not know the difference
Peruto then asked the judge to instruct the jury to consider the possibility that Josefina was actually an accomplice of Gary Heidnik’s. Judge Abraham answered that she would be prepared to do so as long as he understood that it would indicate to the jury that if Heidnik was capable of enlisting the aid of an accomplice then he was clearly not insane. Wisely, Peruto decided not to pursue the point. The following day, the defense case received another setback when Judge Abraham refused to admit most of Jack Apsche’s testimony on Heidnik’s mental history, ruling it inadmissible. Peruto was caught completely off guard by the ruling as most of his insanity defense was based on the testimonies of Apsche and McKenzie but in a short time, McKenzie had undermined his own credibility and Apsche was not allowed to table the results of weeks of painstaking research into Heidnik’s medical history, the details of which Peruto believed would prove that his client had been insane for most of his adult life.
Peruto then played his final card by calling Dr. Kenneth Kool, another psychiatrist. Kool was able to give part of his professional opinion regarding Heidnik’s sanity but in a closed session, Abraham ruled that his testimony was “confusing the jury” and ruled that most of it be stricken. Kool also had his testimony damaged in cross examination when he admitted that he had only spent twenty minutes with Heidnik and had “left in frustration,” when Heidnik refused to talk to him. When Gallagher asked what he had based his analysis on, he admitted that he had relied on Heidnik’s previous medical history.
As a parting shot at the already damaged defense case, Gallagher called an additional witness, Robert Kirkpatrick, Heidnik’s broker at Merrill Lynch. Kirkpatrick gave evidence that the Gary Heidnik he knew was “an astute investor who knew exactly what he was doing.” For the next few days Peruto and Gallagher called additional witnesses to prove and disprove each other’s arguments until there were no more witnesses to call and they began their final summations. The following day was taken up with Judge Abraham instructing the jury on the technicalities of the various degrees of murder and other legalities to help them reach a verdict.
Finally on June 30 1988, after sixteen hours of deliberation over two-and-a-half days, the jury was ready. As Betty Ann Bennett, the jury foreperson, stood to read their verdict, Chuck Peruto was confident that his client would be found guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder and thereby escape the death penalty. His hopes were dashed, however when Bennett began reading the verdict.
“For the murder of Deborah Dudley, guilty in the first degree. For the murder of Sandra Lindsay, guilty in the first degree.” And so the list went on. By the time Bennett had finished, Heidnik stood convicted on eighteen charges. Two counts of first-degree murder, five counts of rape, six counts of kidnapping, four counts of aggravated assault and one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
With the verdicts announced, Judge Abraham retired the jury until nine a.m. the following day when the prosecution and defense attorneys would have the chance to address the jury before the sentence was decided. By 12:15 p.m. the next day, the jury had made a unanimous decision; Gary Heidnik should be sentenced to death for the murders of Deborah Dudley and Sandra Lindsay. Just as he had throughout the trial, Heidnik showed no sign of emotion when the sentence was read.
Gary Heidnik in court
Epilogue of Gary Heidnik
To this day, Jacquelyn, Agnes and Lisa have various levels of hearing impairment thanks to the damage Heidnik did with his screwdrivers. Together with Josefina, they instituted civil proceedings to gain access to the funds in Heidnik’s Merrill Lynch account and divide them equally between them as criminal compensation.
Other parties as diverse as the Peace Corps and the IRS have also filed for access to the funds.
Gary Heidnik (AP)
For eleven long years, Gary Heidnik waited in jail until the normal legal hyperbole that inevitably follows a death sentence had diminished. During that time he made several suicide attempts and played very little part in the appeal process. Finally on July 6 1999, at 10:29 p.m., Gary Michael Heidnik was executed by lethal injection. After his death, no member of his family had made arrangements to claim his body.
(Article From Crime Library)
Gary Heidnik and His Cellar of Death
‘Any person who puts dog food and human remains in a food processor and calls it a gourmet meal and feeds it to others is out to lunch.’
A. Charles Peruto Jr – Heidnik’s defence attorney
Gary Heidnik had a final plan. He was on the slippery slope to self-destruction and required an urgent fix for his misery. By abducting women and victimising them thoroughly, he thought he might have found a solution, and he was going to make sure that he put them through as much pain and torment as he could conceive of before he imploded.
He has been described as “Philadelphia’s most dysfunctional citizen,” an edict that few who read the following will be inclined to dispute. He was also a fellow able, through his intellectual wizardry, to mastermind the acquisition of a fortune playing the US stock market. Bizarrely his manic energies even allowed him to run his own church. But it was his other, more private activities, which helped inspire Thomas Harris’ homicidal creation, Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, for which Heidnik will be remembered.
Only after people were already dead and the horrors perpetrated, would dwellers in the City of Brotherly Love, and by latter extension, the rest of the world, find out what Gary Heidnik had been doing in his basement.
It was 4.30 am on Wednesday 25 March 1987. A bitter wind had risen to compliment the chilly temperature as two police squad cars arrived at an address in North Philadelphia.
3520 North Marshall Street was a nondescript two storey residence, part of a long row of others just like it. Surrounded by a three feet tall chain link fence, the difference with this house was that it was set back from the street and actually had a garage. As visually unappealing as the hastily erected lean-to was, it was nonetheless a rarity in this deteriorating section of town.
By the eighties, the neighbourhood had declined to such an extent that it was now classed as a slum. It had once been inhabited by proud German immigrants who had taken as much pride in the jobs they held as the way their homes were tended, ensuring that their lawns were neatly manicured and their houses freshly painted and protected against the elements.
Those days were over. When their hard work had afforded them the opportunity to purchase new homes in the more affluent suburbs they moved on. More common now was the sight of a burned out car or a boarded up house, front yards strewn with rotting furniture and debris.
North Marshall Street, as with all the others in the area, had changed. The Europeans were mostly gone and the neighbourhood was now predominantly black and Hispanic. Many of the arriving families were poor and the efforts of the few who tried to keep community standards were soon quashed by those disinterested in maintaining their homes or keeping their streets free of crime. In very little time this part of Philadelphia’s north side had degenerated further, with muggings and burglaries soaring, as well as frequent acts of vandalism and the widespread peddling of crack and cocaine. It had even been nicknamed the “OK Corral,” after a feud between gun-toting drug dealers had once erupted in the street.
The purpose of the garage at 3250 North Marshall was simple; the owner had been the victim of crime. One time a band of young thugs had tossed a firebomb his way and after calling the police, told them that as he was very possessive about the vehicles he owned, the garage was a necessary precaution in keeping them safe. They also knew that the guy had plenty of money, though the outward appearance of his ailing abode and the neighbourhood in which he had elected to set up camp did little to convey this.
Now the officers quietly assembled in the cold, windswept street. Homicide Lieutenant James Hansen was running the show. He had earlier listened to a mercurial tale of rape, torture, death, dismemberment and even cannibalism, all allegedly occurring within the walls of the house standing before him. The poor girl recounting it had been out of her mind with fear, almost babbling, but a statement from her stunned yet more coherent boyfriend added gravitas to her claims.
It was quite a story. Apparently the man who lived here had kidnapped her and a number of other women and held them prisoner in his cellar. Over the course of a hellish four month period they had been repeatedly assaulted and raped, most enduring prolonged and horrible torture; some of the captives had died. Their kidnapper was a maniac she cried, like something out of a horror movie. Fortunately police had already arrested the man at whom these incredible charges had been levelled, just after midnight at a nearby gas station. He was safely in custody.
Attempting to gain access to the suspect’s home, the officers were temporarily thwarted by the elaborate lock system he had in place. As it was impossible for them to open the front door for themselves, despite having given been given a set of keys by the occupier, Lt. Hansen called for and was handed a crow bar, with which he busted the front door from its hinges.
One of the first inside Gary Heidnik’s house was Officer David Savidge. Savidge had arrested Heidnik several hours before. Sergeant Frank McCloskey was right behind him. The police had been told exactly where they needed to look and so headed directly for the basement.
Descending a narrow flight of steps into the small, dingy room, the officers immediately noted two women asleep on a grubby mattress in the corner. They were covered over with an abysmal excuse for a blanket and huddled together for warmth in the cold, dank chamber.
As they approached, both women snapped awake, eyes wide with terror. They began to scream. Doing his best to comfort them, convincing them that they were safe now, Savidge gently removed the blanket. The women were chained to a large pipe in the ceiling. Though they were clad in torn, dirty blouses, both were naked from the waists down. Their captor had also generously allowed them to keep their socks on.
When asked if there were any more women to be found in the house, the police officers were directed to a thin sheet of plywood laid across the stone floor, atop which were piled a number of plastic sacks filled with soil. Clearly the intention was to weight down the board. Wondering what kind of vault lay beneath the officers moved the sacks aside and kicked the board out of the way.
They peered into the gloom of the damp, makeshift pit carved into the floor. There, squatting at the bottom like a shell-shocked cave dweller was a nude woman. She was swaying from side to side, moaning softly, shivering with cold and fear. The police were surprised to find that so far everything they had been told they would find, they had. Consoling the woman in the hole, McCloskey and Savidge coaxed her into an upright position and lifted her from her prison. As well as her legs being shackled, both her hands were manacled behind her back. The cops had a handcuff key that fit but it would require bolt cutters to remove the leg irons, which were actually fashioned from muffler clamps – a metal rod bent in the shape of a U, more properly used to support car exhaust pipes.
Breaking into hysterical sobs of relief the rescued women shrilled their gratitude, smothering the officers with kisses. Once they were cut free of their bonds and taken away in an ambulance, the police turned their attentions to searching the rest of the house.
The place was littered with papers and documents, like a whirlwind in an office. The man that lived here was definitely a hoarder. He must have retained every last receipt he had ever been supplied with. Clearly a filing system was something he had not concerned himself with.
Downstairs, Hansen and McCloskey discovered a strangely juxtaposed video collection of horror and infantile comedy films. Upstairs, inside a bedroom cupboard was a large stash of pornographic magazines, all featuring black women.
The kitchen was where it was all happening though. Officer Savidge, a tough, veteran cop was still unprepared for what came next. On the grease-caked stove was a battered aluminium cooking pot. It was heavily scorched and inside was a yellowish lard-like substance, the unpleasant look of which was surpassed only by the disgusting way it smelled. Amidst the cluttered kitchen counter was an industrial food processor, which appeared to have been used recently. Shreds of what looked like raw meat were stuck to the inside. Again, the appliance stank.
The oven door hung open. Hunkering down, Savidge looked into its dark interior. There on a baking tray was a long, curved segment of bone, roasted almost black. Charred as it was, he thought it looked unmistakably like a rib, large enough to have come from a person. He opened the fridge, and quickly shut it again. Closing his eyes and leaning back against the wall, Savidge tried to get the image of the severed human forearm he had just seen inside, out of his head. He couldn’t. Dashing for the door he ejected himself from Gary Heidnik’s stinking kitchen, gulping deeply at the crisp early morning air. As a police officer of many years experience he was hardened to seeing ghastly things but still he felt his gorge rise. A number of times he came perilously close to vomiting.
When the papers got hold of the story, headlines screaming; “Man held in torture killings” and “Women Chained in Horror Dungeon,” pretty much set the tone of things to come.
It had started on the night of Wednesday, November 26 1986. Twenty-five-year-old Josefina Rivera, having argued with her boyfriend, stormed out of the apartment they shared together, to cool off. She later returned intent on apologising but the dispute flared again. This time when she walked, she did not come back. Her boyfriend would subsequently report her missing.
It was raining and bitterly cold but Josefina thought she still might ply her part-time trade as a prostitute. Confidently navigating the wet streets of North ‘Philly’ she watched as a silver and white Cadillac Coupe De Ville drove up out of the rain and slowed beside her. Josefina approached it. The driver’s window slid down and the man inside asked if she was “hustling.” She replied that she was indeed and the driver motioned for her to get in.
He introduced himself as “Gary” and after negotiating a sexual encounter at the cost of twenty dollars the pair drove to a nearby McDonalds, where the man ordered himself a coffee. In the brightly lit fast food restaurant, Josefina got her first good look at her ‘John.’ He was white, the dark beard he wore well-groomed, but this was the only thing about him that was. His wavy brown hair looked matted and unwashed and the inexpensive wardrobe he had on, consisting of grubby slacks, an open-necked shirt and tasselled “cowboy-style” suede jacket, looked as though it had been hanging off him for weeks. He appeared tired, with a sallow complexion. Apart from his long, straight nose the only feature that really stood out were his steel-blue eyes. Framed by dark circles, they rarely blinked. Around his neck was a gold chain bearing a cross, and on his wrist was a thick gold Rolex watch. The jewellery was an odd contrast to his cheap-looking, dishevelled clothing.
The man was not much of a conservationist either, she noted. Instead of bantering as most customers did, he seemed content to sip his coffee and stare at her. When he had finished he announced that they were leaving. This suited Josefina. The sooner she was through with this depressing individual with his zombie-like gaze, the better.
“Gary” then drove them to the house on North Marshall.
As they pulled into his garage, Josefina noticed a 1971 Rolls Royce parked in the shadows. A costly ride she thought. Evidently the man was not low on funds.
At the front door he produced the weirdest looking key she had ever seen. It was cut in half. As he used it in the lock she asked him what this was all about. He duly explained that the other half always stayed in the lock so unless someone else got hold of his key, they were not picking his lock and getting in.
So he was the paranoid type as well.
Entering the house via the kitchen, Josefina noticed that for some strange reason half of one wall was plastered with pennies. Leading her through the living-room, the man asked her if she wanted to watch a movie. Josefina declined, preferring to get on with what she had come here for. This obviously irritated him, and so as not to upset him further, she explained that she had to pick up her daughter soon and so could not stay out all night.
Seemingly pacified by the untruth “Gary” led her upstairs to his bedroom. As she reached the first floor landing an even more surreal money-made décor greeted her, this time in the form of a one and five dollar bill collage, stuck to the wall. It looked like he was still working on it.
After perfunctory but energetic intercourse, Josefina rose from the bed to get dressed. That is when things took a sudden nose-dive for the worst. No sooner had she put her blouse on, she felt a pair of strong hands lock around her throat. Gasping as the man behind her applied more pressure, her vision blurred and her surroundings began to dim. Just short of rendering her unconscious the man released his grip a little and instructed Josefina to place her hands behind her back. She felt cold steel on her wrists as he locked a pair of handcuffs in place. Grabbing her by the back of the neck he shoved her out of the bedroom and down the hallway. Gary Heidnik had his first “slave.”
As she was led into the small room below the house, Josefina quickly registered how frigid the air here was. She was dressed in just her blouse, the one item of clothing she had been allowed to put on before Heidnik “went nuts” and attacked her. Dragged across the room she was pushed down onto an old mattress and instructed to cooperate or face a severe beating. Handcuffed and helpless, Josefina had no choice but to go along with whatever this person had planned for her.
Metal clamps were then attached to her bare ankles and connected to one end of a length of chain. Working quickly and quietly, Heidnik proceeded to glue the clamps shut, sealing them with concentrated blasts from a hair dryer. The chain was then wrapped around a pipe attached to the ceiling and secured. With Josefina Rivera half naked and tethered to a basement wall, Heidnik lay down beside her, rested his head in her lap and went to sleep.
When he later awakened it was to go to work on something else in the room. What could only be described as a shallow pit had been dug into the earth below the cellar floor. As Josefina watched, Heidnik grabbed a pick and shovel and commenced widening and deepening it.
The whole scene was something her mind was having a hard time dealing with. The man in the pit looked up every now and again from his labour, giving her a fragmented rundown of his “master plan.” He complained about not having a family. He said he had four children with four different women but sullenly informed Josefina that the kids had been taken away from him now and it was unlikely that he would ever get a chance to raise them.
Since what he said he really wanted was to have an extended family, he would take it upon himself to secure ten “brides.” Ten was a good number he thought, and since they would not be coming to him willingly, this hole in his floor needed some serious expansion. He had to have somewhere to put his slaves in between sex sessions.
Josefina had had plenty of time so far to ascertain that this was not a well man and so his outrageous scheme did not exactly surprise her. He seemed capable of just about anything. As if to demonstrate, Heidnik climbed up out of the hole and forced himself between her legs. After the rape, Heidnik got up, smiling contentedly.
When he had gone back upstairs, Josefina had a desperate go at one of her ankle restraints. She was able to loosen it enough to ease her foot out. Not far away was a window, allowing a narrow shaft of light to filter through. The chain stretched enough for her to not only get to it, but half way through as well. This was as far as she was going on her own. Knowing that her captor could be anywhere in the house, she decided she must take the risk that he might hear and began screaming for help.
He did hear, and when he returned he was carrying a piece of wood. Josefina was dragged by her hair back into the basement and smashed to the ground with the makeshift weapon. Realising that the more she yelled the harder he hit, she sobbingly ceased. Warned not to make any further noise she was whacked again for good measure and then tumbled into the shaft in the ground. Shoving her down so that her body was bent almost double, Heidnik covered her and the hole over with a piece of plywood. Josefina could hear and feel weight coming down on top of the board. It looked as though she was going to be left here for a while.
Many times Josefina Rivera felt claustrophobia trying to take over and she did all she could to combat it. Driven almost insane by the cramped confines all she had to listen to were her own renewed screams and the sound of ‘heavy metal’ rock music blaring away upstairs. Heidnik had turned his radio up to full blast in order to drown out her cries.
There would be other women brought down into Gary Heidnik’s basement. They like Josefina would be chained half naked, periodically raped and beaten, and confined to “the hole” for indefinite periods if ever they tried to escape or attract attention. Following the arrival of Heidnik’s second captive a new element was introduced; torture.
Sandra Lindsay was mentally retarded and had known her kidnapper for some years. Up until he decided to abduct Sandra and confine her in his basement – now a dungeon used strictly for the purposes of sex and violence – Gary Heidnik had been very nice to her. He had visited her many times at the care home where she lived. He looked after her and made sure she was all right. In fact he had done such a good job at paying special attention to her that Sandra had ended up pregnant with his child.
She was soon persuaded by her family and friends that an abortion was the best recourse. Gary Heidnik, who felt otherwise, tried desperately to convince her not to go through with the operation. He failed.
It was time to get even. Like Josefina, Sandra Lindsay was black, and like Josefina, the first thing Heidnik did when he got her into his cellar was chain her to a pipe. In the coming days, Heidnik would periodically hide out in the basement, keeping his captives gagged and intimidated whenever there was a knock on his door. On a couple of occasions his visitors were relatives of “Sandy,” as Lindsay was known. They wondered if she had gone somewhere with Gary Heidnik. In the end, he forced Sandra to write a note to her concerned family saying that she had decided to leave town. Heidnik would post the letter from New York City, for authenticity, he said.
In the meantime his beatings of the pair were becoming more ferocious. Rapes were a daily occurrence, and then there was the torture. One excruciatingly painful punishment involved suspension from a ceiling beam. The unlucky recipient would be left to dangle by one handcuffed wrist, for several hours at a time.
By now both women had been held in Gary Heidnik’s cellar for a few weeks. Sometimes he would forget to feed them; permanently he would keep them semi-naked.
In December he brought a third woman, nineteen-year-old Lisa Thomas, back to 3250 North Marshall Street. After buying her dinner, with the promise of new clothes and more good times, Lisa had agreed to accompany Heidnik home. The idea was to share a bottle of wine and perhaps have sex. As soon as she passed out from the wine he had drugged, Heidnik raped her. Lisa Thomas was then placed in handcuffs and carried down to the basement to join the others. Seven more to go and Heidnik would have his dream harem.
Just over a week later he grabbed girl number four. Her name was Deborah Dudley. She was 23-years-old, and a fighter. Strongly rebelling against being chained like an animal in Heidnik’s basement, from day one she gave him as much trouble as she could. In return, he gave her as many beatings as he thought her transgressions merited. As a result Deborah was battered and bruised throughout her long ordeal, but Heidnik had not succeeded in breaking her spirit.
Since he had imprisoned her, Gary Heidnik had grown quite fond of Josefina Rivera. He demonstrated his growing respect and trust of her by having her “watch over” the other women whenever he had to leave the house. Call it Stockholm syndrome, or the pretense thereof, but Josefina certainly seemed to be coming to identify with her captor. Though a bright man, almost certainly recognizing that on some level he was being manipulated, Heidnik seemed to want to run with Josefina’s newfound loyalty to him. If he thought it was contrived, he never showed it. One of the perks of being Gary Heidnik’s favourite was being spared frequent beatings and torture sessions. Repeated rapes, exceptionally poor diets and living conditions, was something she continued to endure with the rest.
Though there were some days when Heidnik did not bother to feed his captives at all, bread and water was the norm for a while. As a rare treat he would come up with several day old hot dogs or sandwiches. In the end, for reasons only he knew, Gary Heidnik started feeding them tinned dog food.
Forcing the women to perform oral sex on him was something Heidnik had practiced from day one but clearly seeking bigger thrills he often insisted that they copulate with one another as he watched. His rapes were still a regular humiliation for them all, but the girls all thought this sordid new twist even worse.
For hygiene purposes, something Heidnik did not seem to place too much stock in, the girls were allowed to use moisturised towels to cleanse themselves as best they could. Occasionally a warm bath was allowed, though they would have to carry their chains up to the bathroom with them. No sooner were they out of the water, Heidnik would rape them. He also allowed his captives a portable toilet and some tampons. That’s where it ended.
In January, a fifth girl, named Jacquelyn Askins, found herself trapped in Heidnik’s cellar. He had picked up the petite eighteen-year-old whilst traversing his regular cruising zone on the north side of town
Like the others, Jacquelyn was chained, raped and abused. At some point Heidnik believed he had impregnated two of his captives, one of whom being his favourite, Josefina Rivera.
One day it seemed there was cause for celebration. It was Josefina’s twenty-sixth birthday. As such the girls were allowed to dine on Chinese takeaway and sip champagne Heidnik had bought. Needless to say, the malnourished prisoners wolfed down their food. Heidnik watched them as he drank from his own glass of champagne, smiling softly at his girls, the first of whom would soon be dead.
On Saturday February 7 1987, Gary Heidnik noticed that Sandra Lindsay had attempted to move the plywood and weights that covered the hole in the ground. After a brief but savage beating, he decided that an extended period of torture would be apt punishment for her. Sandra was suspended by a single handcuff from a roof beam. For two days.
When Heidnik finally let her down, she was barely conscious and had vomited. Her condition quickly worsened and she was soon running a fever. The vomiting continued. Sandra was the other woman that Heidnik thought was pregnant, and the last thing he would tolerate was for his unborn child to die. This was all about “family” after all. If Sandra Lindsay did not wish to eat voluntarily, Heidnik would soon see to it that she ate anyway. Slapping her and ranting, he would stuff pieces of dry bread into her mouth and manipulate her jaw until she chewed and swallowed.
The next morning Sandra Lindsay was dead. The other captives had tried desperately to rouse her for fear of more beatings all round but Lindsay just lay there, face down and chained. When Heidnik had checked for her pulse and found that there wasn’t one, he hauled Sandra from the pit and threw her body over his shoulder. Then he disappeared upstairs.
Heidnik’s hard rock music was not turned up to full volume that day and the women heard very clearly the sound of a power saw coming to life. They quailed. Upstairs, Gary Heidnik was dismembering Sandra Lindsay. Her head went in the big pot on the stove, her rib cage in the oven. Her hands and feet were refrigerated, the concept being to cook them later. With the parts of the body deemed unsuitable for his current purposes so consigned, Heidnik began cutting the flesh from her torso. He has never confessed to eating any of this himself, but with documented knowledge of his later deeds it must remain a strong possibility that he sampled Sandra Lindsay’s flesh. As Heidnik worked he called for his two dogs, Flaky and Bear. It was dinnertime.
In the basement, Heidnik’s “harem” was in for a shock. The sound of the dog scampering down the stairs caught their full attention. What Bear had clamped between his jaws caused them to scream. It was a bone, it looked human, and it still had scraps of bloody meat attached to it. Bear settled himself in full view of them, gnawing at it.
Upstairs in the kitchen Gary Heidnik loaded his food processor with handfuls of Sandra Lindsay’s flesh and ground it down to mush.
In the days following Sandra’s death, the girls would wince whenever their captor came near them. The stench of burning flesh had seared itself into his clothes, his skin and hair. The man himself seemed not to notice, but the neighbours did.
The next day there was a knock at Heidnik’s front door. A policeman was standing there. What was the problem with the horrible smell coming out of his place, he was asked? The neighbours thought he had died in there.
Taking a moment to turn down the Hard Rock station on his stereo, Heidnik explained that the odour was attributable to his incinerated dinner of the previous evening. The policeman decided to believe this and left Heidnik to it. In the pot on the stove, Sandra Lindsay’s head continued to simmer.
The women who were now Gary Heidnik’s slaves had to cope as best they could with the idea that their “master” had sawed up Sandra Lindsay and fed her to his dogs. What they did not know was that Heidnik had come up with another idea; he had decided to mix pieces of Sandra’s flesh with the dog food he had been feeding them. The girls ate their food, not knowing that Sandra Lindsay was part of it.
In the aftermath of the first death to occur in his basement, Heidnik experimented further, devising new psychological games for his captives. The girls were encouraged to inform on one another if ever any plans to escape were afoot. There were incentives, such as better living conditions and more generous food rations. Heidnik delighted in this further exercising of his control over them. Josefina Rivera took the lead in supplying her “information,” when she later heard the others plotting to jump Heidnik and escape. They would regret this.
One day Gary Heidnik came down into the basement with a selection of screwdrivers. Knowing something bad was brewing, the women began to tremble as he approached. Heidnik bound each of them, hand and foot, with handcuffs and ankle shackles. Then he hooked them up to a ceiling beam and suspended them. A plastic bag was stuffed into each of their mouths and electrician’s tape wound tightly around their heads. Eyes bulging with panic, they groaned into their gags as Heidnik sifted through his assortment of tools.
The screwdriver Heidnik settled on promptly ended up in the ear of the nearest immobilised captive. Gripping the handle firmly, he twisted the sharp metal deep enough to penetrate the eardrum. He followed the same routine with the other girls, whose muffled, agonized screams endured for some time. Josefina Rivera looked on as Heidnik did this. One wonders what her thoughts were.
So this was their punishment for conspiring to overthrow his sadistic regime and get the hell out; Heidnik’s demented way of maintaining loyalty. The extra advantage in deafening them was presumably that they would be unable in future to hear his measured tread on the cellar stairs.
When Gary Heidnik’s “problem child,” Deborah Dudley, continued to display her rebellion later that week, Heidnik removed her shackles and took her upstairs, for a lesson.
Marching her into the kitchen, she was shown the severed head of Sandra Lindsay, still boiling in the pot on the stove. In the oven was the smoking stack of her ribs, in the refrigerator, an arm, a pair of hands, and both her feet, wrapped in plastic. Did she want to be next, Heidnik enquired? Dudley slowly shook her head and was led back downstairs.
Heidnik’s torture routine now included electroshock attacks. Heidnik would take a length of extension wire, strip the insulation from one end of it and plug the other into the wall. Then the bare wires would be placed against the girls’ chains and Heidnik’s own brand of entertainment would begin.
Josefina Rivera watched with him, again exempt from the barbaric proceedings.
Josefina Rivera watched with him, again exempt from the barbaric proceedings.
Heidnik now openly regarded Josefina as a partner rather than a captive and spent more and more time alone with her, having sex in his bedroom or watching movies. So close had they become that on 18 March, when Heidnik decided that his slaves needed punishing, he had Josefina help him. Since his penchant was for electrocution he got ready with his wires. This time he wanted to generate larger current. Taking a drill, he bore a couple of holes in the plywood cover used to seal off the pit. Josefina’s job was to fill the hole with water.
The victims, bound as ever with chains and handcuffs, were dragged over to the water-choked basin and kicked in. Once the board with its newly customised “air holes” was back in place and the girls were submerged beneath, Heidnik repositioned his sacks of dirt. With his captives thus ensnared, he seemed content. Inserting the stripped wire through the first of the holes, Heidnik knew there would be one hell of a struggle down there. He did not want any of them to avoid the action.
The first jolt of electricity galvanized the water, sending powerful shockwaves throughout the glacial darkness. Anguished screeching drifted up into the cellar, especially from Deborah Dudley. The wire had made direct contact with one of her shackles and her body thrashed around as the brunt of the voltage surged through her. When the wire was withdrawn, Deborah violently convulsed and hit the muddy water face first. She was dead.
The remaining girls, Lisa and Jacquelyn, yelled hysterically until Heidnik withdrew the board. Unperturbed by the sudden death of Deborah Dudley, Heidnik left the room, returning with dog food sandwiches for lunch. He also had a pen and paper.
As the bewildered women consumed their food, Heidnik turned to Josefina, ordering her to write the date and time at the top of the piece of paper, then a detailed statement as to what had happened. She was to include acknowledgement of her own involvement, then sign it. Apparently satisfied, Heidnik added his own signature beneath Josefina’s. They were now partners in crime and if the cops came later she would be arrested too. If he was going down, she was coming with him.
To further enhance the credibility of the document, he had the other two girls sign it as well. Heidnik left the corpse of Deborah Dudley in the basement overnight, with Lisa and Jacquelyn. Josefina was allowed out of her bondage and slept with Heidnik in his bedroom. The next morning Deborah’s body was carried upstairs, encased in plastic and stored in Gary Heidnik’s freezer.
Josefina Rivera, now Heidnik’s “girlfriend,” received more and more of his attentions, including being taken out for meals, sharing his bed, and having clothes and presents bought for her. Apparently she did not make any serious attempt to run when out with him either. One time she “went out” with Heidnik, it was to help bury Deborah Dudley’s body.
Four days after her death, under cover of darkness, Josefina helped Heidnik carry Deborah’s partially frozen corpse, wrapped in a blanket, out to the garage. Heidnik had his Dodge Dart van idling there. Loading the body into the boot, they both got in and Heidnik drove off.
Arriving at their destination, a desolate area outside of Philadelphia known as the ‘Pine Barrens,’ Heidnik dragged Deborah’s body from the vehicle and carried it into the woods. Josefina remained in the van.
The very next day Gary Heidnik decided to “increase” his slave intake and find a replacement for Deborah Dudley. Now two were dead and Rivera was more of a full time accomplice, he had another eight captives to take before his envisioned harem was realised. With Josefina Rivera beside him he again set out to cruise the streets of north Philadelphia, looking for another victim.
Her name was Agnes Adams. She was twenty-four-years-old and a prostitute. She knew Josefina from their days together working as strippers at a local club. After agreeing to accompany Josefina and her new “boyfriend,” Agnes ended her evening chained naked in the basement. Gary was very pleased. His helper said she was too.
It was not until 24 March 1987, almost four months to the day her imprisonment began, that Josefina Rivera finally got a chance to implement the plot she had been formulating. She needed a clear shot at getting away from Gary Heidnik. The man was far too dangerous to risk anything less. She did not want to go out the same way as Sandra and Deborah, so she had bided her time.
Feeling that she had earned Heidnik’s full trust, carefully nurturing his affections for her, she asked if she could visit her family, saying that if Heidnik allowed this she would bring him back a girl to add to his collection. Remarkably Heidnik agreed. He would drop Josefina off near her home and wait for her at a local gas station, then take her and the new slave she had promised home with him.
Big mistake for Heidnik, but the man’s logic was somewhat impaired at this stage. Two girls had died at his hands and yet he showed no signs of abandoning his crazy plot to create a huge mix-raced family. Though he was unravelling mentally, he clearly was not going to stop himself. That’s where Josefina planned to intervene.
As soon as she was out of Heidnik’s car and he had driven off down the block, Josefina burst into a delirious sprint for home. Fuelled by adrenalin and sheer delight at being free she dashed to the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, Vincent Nelson. He was the first to hear her frightening tale. The police were the next.
Gary Heidnik was arrested after midnight at the gas station where he fully expected Josefina Rivera to meet him. Back at the Sex Crimes Unit building, Heidnik asked casually if this was to do with overdue child support payments. His interrogators assured him that it was a good deal more serious than that.
Police digging in Heidnik’s basement. His female captives were horrifically tortured and sexually abused here. Heidnik eventually murdered and dismembered two victims.
He was born Gary Michael Heidnik on Monday 22 November 1943. His middle name was his father’s first. The family home was in the quiet suburban enclave of Eastlake, in Cleveland, Ohio. The turbulence started early for young Gary. When he was just two years old, his parents divorced. Despite the fact that his father had cited Ellen Heidnik’s descent into alcoholism as one of the prime reasons for their marriage disintegrating he allowed Gary and his infant brother, Terry, to live with their mother and her new husband. Just after Gary had started school however, both brothers were moved in with their father, a tool-and-die maker by trade, who had also remarried.
From the start the boys did not get on with Michael Heidnik’s new wife, perceiving her as the archetypal wicked stepmother. Intolerant of the frequent squabbles they would have with her, their father chastised them harshly. Matters were exacerbated when his eldest son was unable to control his bladder at night. Michael would taunt him over this, going so far as to hang his soiled bed sheets from an upstairs window, explaining that it was so all the neighbours could see what a dirty little boy Gary was.
It did not stop here. According to Heidnik himself, urine-soaked sheets were not the only thing his dad hung out the window when Gary had been “bad.” The child found himself hanging by his ankles on more than one occasion as Michael Heidnik held his legs, furiously shaking the small boy.
Things worsened after Gary fell from a tree, smashing his skull and laying unconscious for a time. The serious tumble caused cranial misshaping as well as what some believe contributed to a marked behavioural aberration in the boy. Much of this was manifested in the temper tantrums and violent quarrels he had with his brother, which led to further mauling from his aggressively disposed father.
The early years at school were hard for Gary Heidnik, despite the discovery that he was one of the brightest pupils there. He was often cruelly labelled “football head” by his peers and consequently was painfully shy and preoccupied with his appearance. Though not unattractive, the regular jibes about the shape of his head had a lasting impact. Gary Heidnik decided that in order to compensate for his perceived physical shortcomings, he would concentrate on achieving material greatness.
By the age of twelve, as he pondered on how best to achieve this, he did most things that others his age would. He joined the boy scouts and worked hard at summer jobs to earn money. He even dated a few girls, though his shyness often interfered. He sought refuge by pursuing his fantasy of wealth and power. Soon comics were abandoned in favour of the financial sections of newspapers. Young Gary had decided that he would use his sharp brain to make himself rich. The aspiring walking success story allowed this notion to obsess him, telling everybody who would listen that one day he was going to be a millionaire. That and the most decorated of soldiers.
In a rare display of support for the son he so often tormented, arrangements were made by Michael Heidnik, for Gary to attend the esteemed Staunton Military Academy in Virginia. Though happy with this, the ambitious boy longed to make it one day to the legendary West Point.
He stayed at the academy for two years. His grades were exemplary and for a time it looked as though the lad was destined for great things; the American Dream personified. Then a mysterious but obviously necessary visit with mental health professionals prompted Gary to give it all up and go back to the care of his father. After a spotty period of drifting from high school to high school, dissatisfied and desperate to be doing something more substantial with his life, Heidnik finally joined the army.
He quickly proved adept at this and became a great soldier, ready to take on any challenge and provide unfailing respect to his superiors. In short, Heidnik was able to follow orders unquestioningly. His basic training period had earned him excellent grades and he decided to apply for a position with the military police. He was refused, perhaps because of his psychological history.
San Antonio, Texas was next on the agenda. The young soldier travelled from Ohio intending to become a medic. This time he was successful. On the side, he had another idea ready to launch. Having accumulated enough capital, he operated his natural “business head” and it was not long before he had developed an efficiently organised money-lending arrangement. His clients were his fellow soldiers.
In May 1962 this booming personal financial institution was curtailed when he found himself suddenly shifted to a different country. Given the role of an orderly he was posted to the 46th Army Surgical Hospital in Landstuhl, West Germany. Heidnik was most incensed at the unexpected upheaval. He had more than $5000 left to collect on his loans, which he would most likely never see again due to this faraway new placement.
Better news came in the form of his high school equivalency results. The intellectually gifted young man scored ninety-six per cent. As with most things in the life of Gary Heidnik though his “rolls” never lasted, and the good times again took a dip when in August 1962 he wound up in the army sick bay. With striking shades of the early military life of Fritz Haarmaan, Heidnik would shortly find himself removed from the army life he so loved, due to his inability to control the problems with his brain.
He complained to doctors of blurred vision, dizziness and vomiting. He also exhibited a pronounced tic, intermittently jerking his head to the side. Neurologists later diagnosed him as suffering from gastroenteritis. As if this were not sobering enough, it was also determined that the capable young soldier was manifesting all the hallmarks of a degenerative mental illness.
The doctors seemed unable to decide whether his was a schizoid personality or whether he suffered with schizophrenia. In any event, things were only going to get worse if he didn’t receive treatment. Stelazine, a powerful tranquilizer reserved for use with extreme and delusional psychotics, was considered the best way forward.
Suddenly the future did not look so good for the young man who just wanted to be a soldier, albeit one day a wealthy one and he was sent back to the States. Three months later Gary Heidnik was honourably discharged and released from the United States Army. Due to his medical difficulties, he was granted a full disability pension. He had also been latterly diagnosed as suffering from a “schizoid personality disorder.”
Heidnik had been in the forces for just over a year.
He travelled to Philadelphia to pursue a new vocation. Despite his mental difficulties his sharp academic acumen and drive was not significantly diluted and he quickly qualified as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Subsequently enrolling at the University of Pennsylvania he went on to gain credits in such diverse subjects as history, anthropology, biology, and chemistry. Thanks to his qualifications in nursing, he managed to get a job at the University Hospital.
It did not last. His performance notably slackened until his employers had no choice but to dismiss him. He next appeared at the Veterans Administration Hospital, just outside Philadelphia, where he set himself up to train as a psychiatric nurse. Perhaps he displayed one too many psychological problems of his own, as he was deemed unfit to be supervising the mentally ill.
Gary Heidnik was out of a job again and it was just a matter of time before he began resurfacing in the same hospitals he had trained to be employed at; this time as a patient. Attempting to assuage some of his problems by reconciling differences with his family he returned to Cleveland to patch up a life’s worth of difficulties with his father and stepmother. They didn’t want to know. Chastened, Heidnik set off home to the city he was coming to know well, Philadelphia. An unpleasant event was waiting for him there.
On May 30 1970, his cancer-ravaged mother took her own life via a bottle of Mercuric Chloride. She had acquired the poison from her job as a beautician. Heidnik appears to have been most distraught by her death and it would soon be him that made an attempt on his own life, the first of many suicidal forays for Gary Heidnik. His methods ranged from hanging, munching crushed glass, overdosing on his medication prescriptions, and driving his motor cycle straight into the path of an oncoming truck. Each time he would be unsuccessful, and each time he would be hospitalised. Whilst a patient he would frequently retreat into himself, his vapid gaze and uncommunicative countenance closely resembling catatonia.
One of many tests he underwent was to gauge the measure of his intelligence. The patient was responsive to this and he was found to possess a “superior” intellect.
Around this time Gary’s younger brother, Terry, was being hospitalised for mental problems as well, so it seems there is some hereditary argument in the case of the Heidniks.
With each admission to hospital, Gary Heidnik’s behaviour worsened. He spent most of his days in complete silence, communicating solely by writing on scraps of paper. In addition, the leather jacket he so loved was now permanently welded to his torso. If asked to remove it he became aggressive. Heidnik’s desire to shower was also absent and he often had to be coerced into bathing. Odd habits such as executing military salutes and rolling up one leg of his trousers, to signal that he was not to be approached, became a regular occurrence.
The patient appeared to be making little progress, but despite his erratic behaviour he seems to have been able to temper his illness sufficiently, as senior staff at the hospital concluded that he was fit for release.
Back on the streets, Gary Heidnik paid a visit to his brother and battered him with a wood plane. Far from recalcitrant over the assault, Heidnik informed Terry of what would have occurred had he expired from his injuries. As his brother listened in disbelief, Gary calmly intoned how he would have placed Terry’s body in an acid-filled bath tub and left it there to slowly dissolve. Terry noted that Gary’s main concern seemed to be that the acid must not do any lasting damage to the drain pipes.
Females were a weakness of Heidnik’s. He rigorously pursued as many sexual relationships as possible, his preference being Afro-Caribbean women. It helped if they were retarded also. This gave Heidnik more control. Even then his objective was to father as many children as he could and as such the concept of birth control was anathema to him.
When one of his earlier girlfriends became pregnant, Heidnik was ecstatic. His joy did not hold. Upon giving birth to a daughter, she took the baby and left him.
To the retarded women he dated, he was a menace. His handicapped partners, who he should have been caring for, were treated appallingly; often sexually degraded, beaten and deliberately underfed.
Heidnik had a brush with the surreal during the spring of 1971. Not a religious man prior to an apparent “revelation” from God, Heidnik drove to Malibu Beach, California, to gaze at the sunset and “commune with the Lord.” Hospitalised yet again, it was while undergoing treatment that he set about establishing his very own church.
Back in Philadelphia, he applied for and was accepted to incorporate the United Church of the Ministers of God. There would be a five member board representing the “Church of Heidnik,” to include Gary’s equally disturbed brother, Terry, and a mentally-handicapped girl Heidnik was seeing at this time. In October of the same year he had begun referring to himself as “Bishop” Heidnik.
In 1975 Gary Heidnik opened a Merrill Lynch investment account in the church’s name. Over the next decade he would demonstrate his financial prowess by shrewdly accumulating more than half a million dollars. He had invested just fifteen hundred.
His mental problems nonetheless showed no sign of abating and he would be continually in and out of hospitals around the city, taking enough time to salt his investments and “minister” to his parishioners before being hospitalised again. His name was also becoming known to the police.
Heidnik owned a rundown property in an equally rundown neighbourhood in West Philadelphia, a stone’s throw from the University of Pennsylvania, and not unusually in the life of Gary Heidnik, the “incident” unfolded in the basement.
In the fall of 1976, he was renting the house to a young man named Robert Rogers, whose girlfriend Heidnik had had a dispute with. Retribution was to be sought against Rogers himself, so one evening Heidnik hid in the cellar, armed with a rifle and a pistol, waiting for the man to come home from work.
It was the pistol he used. Aiming at the terrified Rogers’ face, Heidnik squeezed the trigger. The bullet skimmed the man’s cheek. He had Heidnik’s dreadful aim to thank for being alive. Incredibly, he managed to calm the gunman and Heidnik agreed not to fire a second time. The police were not quite as accommodating as Heidnik had been when asked to relinquish his weapon to his intended victim. They charged him with aggravated assault and carrying an unlicensed pistol “on the public streets” and took him away. For some reason the charges were dropped one week later.
Grimly foreshadowing what was to come, the basement where the botched attack had taken place was found to have had a hole dug into its concrete floor. When asked about it Heidnik would not elaborate.
The law caught up with this increasingly disturbed man again in 1978. Upon visiting his mentally handicapped lover’s sister at the institution where she resided, Heidnik signed her out on day leave, withholding the fact that she would not be coming back at the end of it. Instead, she found herself a prisoner in Heidnik’s home. She was later discovered locked within a storage room in Heidnik’s basement. She had been raped and sodomized.
Heidnik was arrested and charged with a multitude of crimes, ranging from kidnapping and rape, to false imprisonment and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. He also faced charges of “interfering with the custody of a committed person” and reckless endangerment to that person.
It looked as though Heidnik himself had infected the poor girl with gonorrhoea as well, but when he was later tested was found not to have the disease.
Claiming he was innocent of all charges, “Bishop” Heidnik maintained this stance at trial, where he insisted on waiving his right to an attorney and defending himself. The court chose not to believe him and he was sentenced to three to seven year’s imprisonment.
A subsequent psychological examination, found Heidnik to be “psycho-sexually immature.” He was also branded manipulative and devious. Despite this last it was a hospital at which Heidnik spent most of his time serving his time, not a jail.
Gary Heidnik in custody following his March 1987 arrest.
Consenting to remain under the supervision of a state sanctioned mental health order, psychotic and violent criminal, Gary Michael Heidnik was loosed again upon the citizens of Philadelphia. It was April 1983 and of course a terrible mistake had been made.
Shortly thereafter Anjeanette Davidson, Heidnik’s mentally impaired girlfriend, went missing. Though never admitting to having caused Davidson harm, Heidnik will always be a strong suspect in her disappearance.
Out and about again, and determined to implement his every plan, the church-owning, budding stock-market player next set his sights on acquiring an “oriental bride.” His chief requirement was that she be a virgin. Heidnik had little trouble acquiring exactly what he wanted by mail order. Her name was Betty Disto. The young Filipino woman spent some time corresponding with “Bishop” Heidnik before agreeing to travel to the US to be with him. It was understood that upon her arrival, they would be wed. Despite what would follow, this happened on 3 October 1985.
The very first time Betty Disto entered the house Heidnik was now living in at 3250 North Marshall Street, she knew that she had misjudged her husband-to-be. Fast asleep in Heidnik’s bed was a young woman.
Though he seemed to think that having another woman in his bedroom was perfectly normal, Betty did not; as with the time she came home to find him romping in their marital bed with three other women. What was the problem, asked Heidnik? When Betty told him he refused to have any of it, confirming that he was the one wearing the trousers in this set up and if she persisted he would dish out a beating to prove it.
As time went on the couple would frequently row over Heidnik’s outrageous conduct. Forcing Betty to watch as he had intercourse with multiple partners and attacking her physically if ever she objected, was becoming quite the unwholesome ritual in the Heidnik household. As with many battered women, Betty eventually found a way out of the abusive world her husband had created for her. Her friends in the Filipino community saw to it that she had all the support she needed in breaking away from Heidnik’s nutty realm.
In 1986, repeated threats against her life, in tandem with a particularly heinous sexual assault drove Betty from the house on North Marshall. She would never return.
In 1986, repeated threats against her life, in tandem with a particularly heinous sexual assault drove Betty from the house on North Marshall. She would never return.
The next thing he knew Gary Heidnik was back in court again. Fortunately for him his parole had since expired and so despite being charged with a number of sex offences, he was not in violation of the previous legal requirements. In addition, Betty Heidnik inadvertently smoothed matters for the accused by failing to show before a preliminary hearing.
Betty made a second attempt the following year, to gain financial support from him for their infant son, who had been conceived unbeknownst to Heidnik.
He was furious. Again, here was another of his children, who he had no access to, and yet was expected to pay for. The abyss was laid out before him and another step would see him careen over the edge.
He would meet Josefina Rivera while the civil case that Betty Heidnik had brought was ongoing and what nobody knew was that her estranged husband was already working on starting a new family, in his basement, with women he had kidnapped.
Heidnik’s behaviour had an escalating effect, principally stemming from his inability to control many areas of his life. His imagined physical and actual mental inferiorities and concomitant inability to self-counsel, led him to the bleak conclusion that he was helpless. He thought that by fathering many children and creating life outside of his own, that he would be able to finally have the control he so desperately sought, completely unconcerned as to whether or not this was to the detriment of the mothers involved.
His hostility and resentment toward women in general – exacerbated by those few he felt had denied him this – eventually bubbled over and Heidnik was ready to cross the line and forcefully take charge. Once crossed however, the line blurred and he achieved the total opposite of what was intended. As each day passed the more out of control he actually became. His method of combating this lay in ratcheting up the level of pain and terror he was creating for his victims in projecting his inadequacies onto them. He had to hurt them as a means of transference, at the same time purging his personal suffering.
Heidnik’s physical expression of this was inherent in his savage rapes, experimentation with torture, mutilation and cannibalism. As degenerative as it was augmented, the magnitude of his acts enveloped him. And is it possible that his astonishing acceptance of Josefina’s Rivera’s promise to actually return once she was safely out of his clutches is demonstrative of a need at some level to be put out of commission?
This is entirely possible. With each new horror perpetrated Heidnik was burning himself out. Lacking the conviction to halt the madness himself, he would subconsciously seize on an opportunity presented by Rivera. Had Heidnik not been caught, the cycle would have continued, become even more abhorrent and culminated in further massive psychological damage to him. Hatred and fury, working in tandem with his attenuating mental defects, had turned him inside out and there was nowhere left to go.
On trial for murder, amongst many other despicable things, there was always going to be speculation over such a man’s state of mind at the time the crimes were carried out. Standing accused of wilfully causing the deaths of people who were then either buried or chopped to pieces and fed to dogs and worse, forced upon unsuspecting human beings, was certainly cause to question the defendant’s sanity.
The gruesome “list” of body parts found in the man’s kitchen included two forearms, a bicep, two knees and accompanying thigh segments, complete with muscle tissue and skin. Some twenty-four pounds of human remains had been carefully stored in Heidnik’s refrigerator. He had been boiling, frying and roasting other body parts and was able to breathe in and live with the horrendous stenches this created. He had been pulverising human meat and more than likely dining on some of the proceeds himself, as well as preparing it in meals for others. Surely all this pointed straight at a damaged mind indeed?
The trial began on Monday 20 June 1988, before Judge Abraham at Philadelphia’s City Hall. Heidnik’s counsel, Charles “Chuck” Peruto Jr, chosen specifically by the defendant due to his experience in trying “sensational” cases, had the job of convincing the jury that his client was insane and as such not guilty of the crimes he had been indicted for.
Going against this though was the shattering testimony of Heidnik’s living captives. As part of the pre-trial proceedings they had painted a clear image of a man who despite orchestrating some especially heinous acts was someone who appeared in control of himself at all times. He was able to assault them arbitrarily; his rapes and torture of them were considered and clinically executed. His covering of himself by having them all sign what had effectively been Deborah Dudley’s death certificate and deliberately implicating Josefina Rivera, reinforced this.
Rivera herself came under heavy fire after a couple of the other captives pointed the finger at her, stating that she had been Heidnik’s willing accomplice. Jacquelyn Askins however refuted this, advising that Rivera had only acted under duress from Heidnik.
After much esoteric psychiatric testimony on the subject of schizophrenia and various other psychotic illnesses, the jury seemed more confused than anything else. Prosecution witnesses, among them those that had observed how astute an investor Heidnik had been with Merrill Lynch, stated that in their view his mind had been ticking along fluidly for years despite his frequent hospital stays.
The chief responsibility of the defence lay in creating the semblance of a man hopelessly a victim of his own radically warped mind. Even the prosecution were not arguing that Heidnik suffered from a personality disorder. Clearly his acts spoke for themselves. But was he so mentally ill that he was unable to appreciate the quality or quantity of his crimes? Absolutely not. Their firm position was that Heidnik was evil. A cunning predator, with a stratospheric IQ, who had rejoiced in the terrible things he had done, and took concerted steps to cover those things up.
In final arguments Peruto reiterated that Heidnik was mad rather than bad. The jury were invited to decide. On 30 June 1988, having deliberated for sixteen hours, over a two-and-a-half day period, they did.
Gary Heidnik was found guilty of two counts of first degree murder in the cases of Deborah Dudley and Sandra Lindsay. By the time the jury foreman had finished, Heidnik had been found guilty on eighteen separate charges and now faced the death penalty.
Judge Abraham delivered this sentence the next day, just after lunch. Gary Heidnik, like so many other convicted killers, showed no emotion as the judge mortally condemned him.
Heidnik was housed on Death Row for the next eleven years, while criminal compensation proceedings were launched to get at his sizable finances, with cases being brought by his victims, two of whom to this day have serious hearing impairments thanks to their attacker’s efforts with his screwdriver.
During his incarceration, Heidnik remained true to form, attempting suicide on a number of occasions.
Death finally came for him at 10.29 pm on Tuesday, 6 July 1999, in the form of a lethal injection. Gary Heidnik was executed for what he had done to Deborah and Sandra. It is doubtful that many, especially those survivors of the room beneath the house on North Marshall Street, shed a tear at his passing.