The Heinous Crimes Of Robert Berdella – The Kansas City Butcher
Published in Jul 2021 / Updated in Sep 2021
Berdella was a very meticulous killer. He took many photos of his victims (both dead and alive) and made detailed notes of those he had raped and murdered. He quickly racked up many bodies and earned himself the fearsome monikers, The Kansas City Butcher and The Collector.
There was never a dull moment in his life, at least not in his adulthood. He even described the murders as his darkest fantasies turning into reality.
He was called a butcher due to the way in which he dissected and cut up his victims.
In 1988, a man dressed in nothing but a dog collar jumped out of a window and crashed to the ground below. He survived the daring fall, although he broke a bone in his foot.
In his panicked state, he went straight to the meter maid closest to him, shouting and asking that they call the police immediately. The man got his wish, and the police were soon on their way.
The house he had jumped from belonged to Robert Berdella, and he was his reluctant guest until he found an opportunity to escape.
The otherwise normal house had terrifying mysteries hidden within. When the police arrived minutes later, they found horrors inside the closet.
In the closet, they found a human skull and vertebrae. In the backyard, there were more sickening discoveries for them to unearth. Berdella had buried a human head in the ground, and part of it was already rotten.
The basement, naturally, had more appalling and gut-wrenching presences waiting for them. Here, they found large barrels of what could only be assumed to be human blood.
In this room of the house, the police also found the personal belongings of two men who had been reported missing.
The eeriest discovery of all was a pile of Polaroid photos of naked men undergoing sexual assaults or torture.
Among these grim discoveries was a stenographer’s pad that described in excruciating detail the abduction, torture, rape, and murder of six local men.
This was a rare peek into the life of Robert Berdella, the Kansas City Butcher. His 4315 Charlotte Street house became infamous after the terrifying discoveries.
With his red eyes, scars, and welts throughout his body, the distressed man was taken to the hospital in the company of another police officer. He was the luckiest of Berdella’s unfortunate victims.
How Was Berdella Brought Up?
Before he became a nightmare to his numerous victims, Berdella was a conceivably normal person. He was the first of two sons.
He was raised in Ohio in a strictly Catholic family in the early 1950s.
As a child, Bob Berdella was a loner. He also grappled with physical limitations, including nearsightedness, speech impediment, and high blood pressure. However, he was intelligent, although he rarely made friends.
Needless to say, he was an easy target for bullies due to his thick glasses. On top of that, his father would abuse him physically and verbally. Apparently, his father did not like the fact that he had no athletic skills, unlike his brother, who was incredibly good at sports.
In his teens, things began to look up for young Berdella. Although he did well academically, he was a difficult student and was often aloof.
Nonetheless, he was more confident than ever, and he also found out that he was gay. He was, however, not eager to share his sexual orientation with the world. In fact, he had a girlfriend for a brief period of time as a teenager.
Sadly, he displayed his newfound confidence in a rather disgusting way. Berdella spoke down to women and generally had a very rude attitude towards them. That would never change for the rest of his life.
His father died of a heart attack at 39, and Berdella looked for consolation in religion. Eventually, he had doubts about all religions. His mother soon remarried, and to Berdella, this was a form of betrayal. He withdrew even further from social life.
Berdella also saw the movie, The Collector, about a man who abducts a young lady he is attracted to and holds her captive. After many weeks, she died of an illness despite the captor’s attempts to keep her alive. Later, he admitted that this movie had a huge impact on him.
He really hit his stride after graduating from high school in 1967. From there, Berdella attended Kansas City Art Institute. He had dreams of becoming a college professor.
The freedom he enjoyed while there was unlike anything else he had ever witnessed before. Finally, he had an opportunity to express his sexuality freely.
When he was 19, he was put under arrest after trying to sell meth to an undercover police officer. He secured his release with a $3,000 bail and ended up getting a 5-year suspended sentence.
He showed some promise as an artist, but drugs got in the way, and he even turned into a low-level drug dealer. Berdella also picked up another hobby: torturing and killing animals. He also gave tranquilizers to a dog and became quite the anti-authoritarian.
Berdella soon discovered that not everyone was okay with him torturing and killing animals. He was also severely criticized for creating an art piece that featured a duck getting tortured, killed, and cooked.
The backlash made him leave college, and his next stop was a house in Hyde Park district’s 4315 Charlotte Street, Kansas City.
The Opening Of Bob’s Bizarre Bazaar and Intro into Murders
After deciding college life was now behind him, Berdella started a store known as Bob’s Bizarre Bazaar. He used it to sell antiques and jewelry from all over the world.
His knowledge of art, as well as a long list of pen pals he had created during his childhood, helped him get this business going.
In any case, his life in the 70s and 80s was spent with drug addicts, male prostitutes, runaways he said he was mentoring, and petty criminals.
However, rather than mentoring runaways, he was actually manipulating these young men to get sex. With his money and influence, he was able to reign over these runaways and bend them to his will.
Most of them had been victims of sexual abuse, and others had worked as prostitutes. Some of the acquaintances he made at this point in his life paid for their relationship with Berdella with their lives, such as Jerry Howell.
Jerry Howell, Berdella’s first victim, lost his life at his hands in 1984. He was the 19-year-old son of one of Berdella’s acquaintances in the art business.
Berdella offered to drive the teen to a dance competition in a nearby town. However, while heading there, he plied him with alcohol before drugging him with Valium and acepromazine.
Then he turned Howell into his captive at his house, where he tied him to his bed for 28 hours. During that time, he drugged, tortured, raped, and violated him using various objects.
Despite the desperate pleas, Berdella kept torturing Howell until he passed away. The teenager died of asphyxiation due to the gag in his mouth, drugs, and vomit.
Once Howell was dead, Berdella hung his body upside down and made cuts to his major arteries to drain his blood. After that, he dismembered the body using a bone saw.
Pieces of the dismembered body were put in separate garbage bags and left out along with other trash for the garbage collectors to pick up.
Curiously, Berdella also made notes of everything he had done to his victim on a stenographer’s pad. He did this for the rest of his victims.
Five Other Murders Followed
The next person to get tortured and killed was Robert Sheldon, a drifter who had shown up at his home begging for a place to stay in 1985. Berdella was no stranger to the 23-year-old, and he had taken advantage of him for several years.
Things were a little different with Sheldon. Berdella did not find him sexually attractive, and so rape was not involved.
However, he tortured him and started to conduct chemical experiments on him.
After tying him up with the piano wire around his wrists in an attempt to damage his nerves, he put drain cleaner in his eyes and then put caulk in his ears.
Berdella also tortured Sheldon by putting needles under his fingernails.
He then realized that workmen were supposed to come to his house. So, he suffocated Sheldon to death and dissected his body before getting rid of it.
After Sheldon, the third person he killed was Mark Wallace, whom he found trying to sleep in his shed. After drugging Wallace, he shocked him using high voltage electricity and then stuck hypodermic needles into his back.
Wallace endured a few days of this endless torture before he succumbed to this inhuman treatment. As with his other victims, Berdella dismembered his body and got rid of it.
Not long after that, Walter James Ferris, an acquaintance of his, got in touch wondering if he could stay at his house. Little did he know that Berdella had already killed three men.
Berdella granted the man’s request to stay at his house, but as soon as Ferris got there, he was tied to a bed, and his genitals were shocked using 7,700 volts of power for two days before he succumbed to the torture. Berdella noted that after continued abuse, Ferris could not sit up for more than 10 to 15 seconds and had “very delayed breathing” before he died.
In the following year, Berdella met Todd Stoops, a male prostitute he had stayed with before. He brought him back to his place, where he drugged him.
He kept Stoops in his house for weeks and made attempts to turn him into a sex slave. One of the methods he used was electric shocks to the eyes and unsuccessful drain cleaner injections to the larynx in an attempt to make him mute. All the while, he was raping and sexually assaulting him.
Stoops died of bleeding in his anal cavity due to a rapture caused by Berdella’s fist. By the time he died, he was so weak that, according to Berdella’s notes, he could not “breathe in a sitting position.”
In 1987, Larry Wayne Pearson, an acquaintance, made a joke about his tendency to rob gay men in Wichita. That was enough to make Berdella want to kill the 20-year-old.
Soon, he put his plan into action. He drugged the young man and used electric shocks, dry cleaner injections to the larynx, and binding to incapacitate him. Berdella also broke Pearson’s hand with a metal bar.
After six weeks of endless suffering, Pearson decided to fight back. He dug his teeth deep into Berdella’s penis while performing forced oral sex on him.
Berdella was quite angry, and he beat Pearson before strangling him to death. He later dismembered his body and stored his head in a plastic bag in his freezer before he finally buried it in the backyard. The ruthless murderer then went to the hospital for treatment.
The next person to meet the murderous Berdella was 22-year-old Christopher Bryson, a male prostitute. He solicited the man for sex, and as soon as Christopher got to his house, he was knocked unconscious with a metal bar and then tied up.
From there, he was tortured just like other Berdella victims.
However, Christopher had a trick up his sleeve. He managed to get Berdella to trust him, and he convinced him to tie his hands in front of him rather than tie them to the bed.
Then, using some matches Berdella had left behind, he burned through the ropes used to tie him down and made a dramatic escape through the window in the tensest manner. To the people on the street, he was a strange naked man in a dog collar.
Through his efforts, the police were immediately called, and Berdella was soon put under arrest.
Eventual Arrest And Death
Once the police got to Berdella’s house, they gathered all the evidence they needed, arrested him, and charged him with murdering six men.
He accepted a plea deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty. However, he had to do life in jail without the possibility of parole and reveal everything about the murders he had committed.
However, he died while still in prison of a heart attack at the age of 43 in 1992.
Berdella never expressed remorse for his actions, and on more than one occasion, he explained that the men he captured, raped, tortured, and killed were not human in his eyes once they became his prisoners. To him, they were just “play toys.”
He has also been featured in films like the 2009 feature movie, Berdella, and Bazaar Bizarre, a documentary.
When Alvin Randall, the judge who had presided over his trial, heard of his death in prison, he commented: “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”