Bob Berdella

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Family and early life

Opening the Bazaar

Murders committed

Arrest and confession

Guilty plea

Death row and premature end


Additional victims

Official protection

Involvement of others

Political connections

Kansas City power structure

See also


External links

  • Rites of Burial by Tom Jackman and Troy Cole (1992)
  • Kansas City Pitch, "The Lighter Side of Torture", 2004/09/04
  • Contemporaneous news stories
    • Sedalia Democrat, "Dogs used to investigate home of torture suspect", 1988/05/01: "Tracking dogs have been pressed into the search for evidence at the home of Robert Berdella, a Kansas City man charged in a sexual torture case. Authorities said the dogs, which were borrowed from the Texas Department of Corrections, were used initially to search a farm near Drexel, Mo., in nearby Cass County, where Berdella used to ride horses. The dogs specialize in finding bodies. One of the dogs sniffed around the yard at Berdella’s house Thursday, but authorities would not say whether the dogs had turned up any evidence."
    • UPI, "Prosecutor confirms identity of skull found in house", 1988/05/10: "A skull found in the house of a man jailed on sex abuse charges has been identified as that of a California man who apparently used to live in the house, a prosecutor said Tuesday. Police identified the skull found in Robert Berdella's house as that of Robert A. Sheldon, 23, Jackson County prosecutor Albert Riederer said in a late afternoon news conference. [...] Sheldon was one of 22 men pictured in the more than 200 photographs confiscated from Berdella's house, police said. Sheldon's mother, who lives in Arleta, Calif., near Los Angeles, has told reporters she had not seen her son for five years after he left for the Midwest. In February 1985, Sheldon listed his address at Berdella's house, police records show."
    • New York Times, "Macabre Mystery Surrounding Death of 2 Men in Kansas City", 1988/06/25: "The police then arrested Mr. Berdella at his shop and searched his house, where, besides the skull of Mr. Sheldon, they found the pictures, the torture journal, pornographic magazines and an extensive collection of primitive art as well as a recording of a satanic ritual, a black mass. They then turned their attention to the yard, where excavation produced the skull of Mr. Pearson. [...] He came to this city in 1967 to study at the Kansas City Art Institute, where he was considered a talented student, as he had been in Ohio, but he dropped out two years later. At various times before opening the Bazaar Bizarre, he also worked as a cook in several clubs, including two of the city's most exclusive, the University Club and the Carriage Club. [...] But Mr. Berdella began to seem more withdrawn about four years ago, the neighbors said. What they didn't know at the time was that he was under surveillance by the police, who were responding to complaints from the father of Gerald Howell, the young man shown in one of the macabre photographs. The father told the police his son was last seen with Mr. Berdella. But the police said they dropped the investigation because it never yielded any clues about the young man's fate. Mr. Berdella's record includes two arrests in 1969 on drug charges. One case was dropped for lack of evidence, and he received a five-year suspended sentence on the other."
    • Associated Press, "Berdella Sentenced To Life In Prison Without Parole", 1988/08/04: "Surprising the judge and prosecutors, a man decided at the last moment to plead guilty to first-degree murder in the death of a former boarder whose decomposing head was found buried in his backyard. After the plea Wednesday, Jackson County Circuit Judge Alvin C. Randall sentenced Robert Berdella to life in prison without probation or parole for the August 1987 murder of Larry W. Pearson, 20, of Wichita, Kan."
    • Associated Press, "Man Pleads Guilty to Five Torture-Murders", 1988/12/19: "A man already convicted of one murder pleaded guilty Monday to the torture slayings of five other men, whose remains he dismembered and put in curbside trash bags to be hauled off to the city dump. It would be an impossible task, so no effort would be made to find the bodies of the victims of Robert A. Berdella, said Albert Riederer, Jackson County prosecutor, following the court hearing."

Background and connections

  • From p.248 of Programmed to Kill: "After college, Berdella worked as a chef at many of the most renowned restaurants and country clubs in Kansas City."
  • From p.248-249 of Programmed to Kill: "Berdella also helped set up a Neighborhood Watch program, and then served as the liaison to the police and to a couple of nearby youth homes."
  • From p.249 of Programmed to Kill: "Many of Berdella’s young protégés later said that he frequently claimed to know powerful people who were able to “get things done.” He reportedly did have a rather large network of connections for an owner of a flea market stand, including contacts in Africa, Asia, South America, and along the Pacific Rim."
  • IMDB trivia about Bazaar Bizarre (2004): "A municipal judge in Kansas City used to put transient youth in Berdella's protective custody for drug rehabilitation and referred to him as "Dr. Berdella"."
  • Elites in Kansas City who might have known Berdella
    • Dick Berkley a.k.a. Richard L. Berkley a.k.a. Richard Berkley - mayor of Kansas City from 1979 to 1991
    • Marcia Walsh - judge who sent Berdella court-appointed boys for drug rehab, including victim Todd Stoops
      • From the article "The Lighter Side of Torture": "At the time of the murders, [Karen] Blakeman covered the courts for The Kansas City Times. Her work led her to an extraordinary conclusion about how Berdella met his victims. Conventional wisdom said the killer found them loitering downtown, specifically at the seedy corner of 10th and McGee. To an extent, this was true. But Blakeman learned that at least one victim, Todd Stoops, had been sent as part of his probation to Berdella by a municipal court judge. How Berdella's name came to be included on a list of court-approved drug counselors has never been verifiably reported.

        Less than a week after Judge Marcia Walsh delivered Stoops to Berdella for drug counseling, Berdella himself was arrested for trying to sell marijuana to an undercover police officer, Blakeman reported.

        Blakeman also revealed that in 1984, Stoops had told police he suspected Berdella in the disappearance of his friend Jerry Howell and that he believed drugs probably had been used to sedate Howell. Four years later, when Berdella was arrested, Howell became known as his first victim.

        "Although he was the subject of both drug and missing persons investigations, Robert A. Berdella was able to manipulate Kansas City's criminal justice system," Blakeman wrote in March 1989."
    • Howard Haynes - owned multiple group homes in Kansas City with his partner Bill Harris
      • According to Roger Coleman, Berdella was acquainted with Haynes
      • Haynes shared many interests with Berdella: collecting bead jewelry, museum pieces, artifacts, art, etc.; AIDS awareness; community fundraisers; supporting Mayor Berkley; being on the same local committees; horseback riding
      • One of the group homes that he owned was Questover at 3530 Charlotte Street, for at-risk youth who were mentally challenged
      • United States Department of the Interior, "NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES INVENTORY -- NOMINATION FORM" for the Hyde Park Historic District, date unknown but at least 1979 - mentions 3530 Charlotte St. as the address of "Haynes Howard" and "Haynes, Howard D." and "Questover" and "Haynes Investment Corp."
      • Brentwood Alumni Association newsletter vol. 5 no. 2, "SPOTLIGHTS ON ALUMNI: Howard D. Haynes 1953", 2008/08: "In Kansas City, he founded "Questover," a residence program for first time juvenile offenders who were also mentally challenged. In 1985, he co-chaired the first Aids Benefit in Kansas City, which was held in City Hall and raised $85,000. He co-founded the North America Riding for the Handicapped and served as president for three years. In San Miguel, he and his partner, Bill Harris, restored and helped maintain the park in Guadiana and restored 23 of the 43 historic public fountains in San Miguel. In 1995, he donated his family's Thomas Hart Benton collection to Baker University."
      • KHOU, "Americans living in Mexico among voters electing the next president", 2012/06/30: "When voters in Mexico elect a new president on Sunday, some of those casting ballots will be Americans, dual citizens who live in Mexico. I think it s great that I m now a Mexican citizen because I can actually contribute, said Howard Haynes, a San Miguel resident since 1997. San Miguel de Allende, has long been a favorite with tourists but hundreds of Americans also make their home in the colonial city. [...] Haynes also favors Pena Nieto. [...] None of the three Americans mentioned Andres Manual Lopez Obrador of the leftist PRD party who narrowly lost the 2006 presidential election."
      • Atención San Miguel, "San Miguel philanthropist receives honorary doctorate", 2014/05/16 (Brentwood HS alumni newsletter from August 2018 that includes a copy of the article): "In the 1970’s Howard owned three homes in Kansas City that he converted into co-ed boarding and education residences for at-risk youth. While working with the Kansas City mayor and the mayor’s leadership team over a ten-year period, he became a foster parent to over 400 court-appointed first-offender youths. While involved with this program, he provided for the care, feeding, health and education of those in his charge. He employed four Baker alumni to assist in the daily operations of this program. In 1995, the program was adopted by the Juvenile Court System of Jackson County, Kansas City, Missouri, where it continues today.

        His community activism, involvement and vision were directly responsible for the revitalization of one of Kansas City’s oldest neighborhoods, Hyde Park, which was designated as the first Historic District in Kansas City by the National Trust."
      • Rhonda Wiley-Jones, "Behind the Gates of San Miguel (part 3)", 2015/07/09: "Their invited friends, Bill Harris and Howard Haynes, was a couple who actually had lived in San Miguel for eighteen years of the forty-one years they had been together. They loved their city, their life, the fresh mountain air, the artists and the arts, and especially the blended community of both Mexicans and North Americans. Howard, a philanthropist, told us of ways he had gone about getting money from people who didn’t have a heart for others, as well as those who enjoyed giving to their community. He held a strong ethic for giving back to the place and people wherever he had lived. His partner, Bill, a quieter man, but just as convivial, pursued his passion as a gemologist and artisan jeweler. Artist and businessman, he owned a studio in their home. Muriel explained that his studio was not a “drop-by” storefront; one must have an invitation to come to see his artistry. We were deflated that we couldn’t stop and shop the next day. Howard and Bill brought guests visiting them from Kansas City. Bill and guest Jim roomed together in college decades ago. With Jim’s partner, Damon that made twelve of us who enjoyed each other’s company behind one of the gates of San Miguel, as new and old friendships merged."
    • Roger Coleman - preacher who met Berdella several times prior and allegedly did the wedding of his friend Morgan
      • From p.251 of Programmed to Kill: "Bob was allowed one frequent, though quite clandestine, visitor—a Reverend Roger Coleman. The two men had a longstanding relationship, as evidenced by the fact that Coleman had been at the grand opening of Bob’s Bazaar. In a bid to get him released from prison, he offered to let Berdella stay at his home, with his family, if the state agreed to release him on bond. Coleman later held a press conference and arranged a public television interview on Berdella’s behalf."
    •  ??? - judge who arraigned Berdella
      • IMDB review of Bazaar Bizarre (2004) by 4cshore on 2005/04/10: "The interesting fact the Judge Charlie that arranged him and the Detective Chester that was #2 in the investigation and Bob were at my wedding - I have a photo of them all in one photo together, this was less than a year before he was caught. I was even the one that Phil Whitt from channel 4 interviewed - they incorrectly stated that I was Berdellas BEST FRIEND - Son of a B*t*ch lied to me. Ever notice how big Phil's butt is - it's really really big looks deformed."
    • Kansas City mob - linked to Berkley
      • Leon Jordan, an influential black politician and civil rights leader in Kansas City, was assassinated in 1970. A 2010 investigation by the Kansas City Star found that Jordan was killed on behalf of the North End political faction which had come under mob influence. Kansas City crime family boss Nick Civella did not personally organize the hit but gave his "blessing" to it.
      • UPI, "Spero death follows 10 years of violence", 1984/01/10: "Carl Spero, killed by a bomb Monday, had a criminal record that spanned three decades, but he was best known for his clashes with the powerful Civella crime family following the 1973 slaying of one of his brothers. [...] Sources told the Kansas City Times that animosity between the Speros and the Civellas stemmed from the 1973 gangland slaying of Nick Louis Spero, a former Teamsters union official whose growing influence bothered the Civellas. [...] Spero was left partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair following an attack at a tavern in 1978 in which one brother, Michael, was killed and another injured. Joseph Spero, injured in the attack at the tavern, died in 1980 in an explosion in a south Clay County storage shed. Authorities ruled that deathan accident, concluding he had been making a bomb and that it exploded. [...] Carl Spero's wife, Antoinette LanFranca Spero, choked on a piece of food and died in April 1982 about a week after testifying in a court case in which Carl Civella was accused of planning to bomb a car outside a Kansas City, Kan., club that Carl Spero frequented. Carl was survived by a sister and two brothers, Vincent Spero of the Kansas City suburb of Excelsior Springs, Mo., and Sam Spero of Chicago."
      • Ch.9 of Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans by Stephen Pizzo, Mary Fricker, and Paul Muolo (1989) (excerpted in WhoWhatWhy, "Fired WSJ Reporter Connected to Iran-Contra Arms Dealer", 2017/06/23)
        • "The board of directors of the Indian Springs bank was unhappy with the bank’s lackluster performance, so they hired William Everett Lemaster, 56, away from a rural bank in Lexington, Missouri, because he had “impeccable credentials,” a former chairman of Indian Springs State Bank told an American Banker reporter.

          One of Lemaster’s first moves was to hire former local attorney Anthony Russo (whose credentials were anything but impeccable), who reportedly told Lemaster he could drum up all kinds of new business for the bank.

          [...] Russo was plugged into centers of power in Kansas City from his years as a prominent criminal attorney there, and Lemaster may have wanted to use those contacts to invigorate the Indian Springs bank. The kind of contacts Russo had, however, were not necessarily the best medicine for a small financial institution. According to an official of the Kansas City Crime Commission, Russo had defended organized crime figures in Kansas City, in particular the Nick Civella crime family. [...]"
        • "Bank records showed that Lemaster’s plan to make Russo a bank officer was met with dismay by bank regulators in Kansas City, who knew about Russo’s reputation and his 16 months in prison. The Kansas City regulators passed the application along to Washington with a strong recommendation to deny approval. Inexplicably their warning was overruled by Washington and on August 19, 1981, the FDIC’s board of review authorized Russo to be an Indian Springs officer but restricted his activities to “new business development.” Russo’s job at Indian Springs was to locate new depositors from among his wide-ranging business and personal contacts, and he had plenty to offer in that capacity."
        • "At about the same time, Iranian-American businessman Farhad Azima, 39, was invited to be a bank director. Lemaster had met Azima when Lemaster was an “advisory director” for Global International Airways, owned by Azima and headquartered in Kansas City. Russo was also an “advisory director” for Global. Lemaster and Russo’s role as “advisory directors” was to assist Global in finding financing.

          In 1978 Azima had founded Global International Airways to ship cattle to Iran, he told a Kansas City Star reporter, but when the Shah of Iran was ousted in 1979, Azima had to adjust his business plan. With money borrowed from an Arabian international bank, Global International quickly became one of the nation’s largest charter airlines, with 900 employees worldwide and twenty planes, including seventeen 707s, two 727s, and one 747." - very reminiscent of Maverick International Airlines from the Golden State Killer case
        • "Global International developed a reputation among intelligence community insiders as one of the CIA’s secret charter airlines. Former Air America pilots (2) showed up on Global’s pilot roster and logs show them flying arms and other supplies to Ecuador, Peru, Nairobi, Thailand, Haiti, and Pakistan. All the flights, Azima later claimed, had State Department approval. Although at first Azima issued (facetiously, he told us) “no comments” when asked by reporters if he had worked for the CIA, he later denied that he or any of his companies knowingly did work for the agency."
        • "It is undisputed, however, that Global did a significant amount of business with persons connected to the CIA. [...]"
        • "When Russo and Azima were appointed to positions at Indian Springs State Bank in 1981, Global International Airways was at the height of its activities out of the Kansas City airport. Whether Azima got Indian Springs State Bank directly involved in Global’s activities, we could never determine. However, the following year Russo received a $25,000 check from Global, and later when he was questioned about the check in court (Russo was on trial for tax fraud), he gave the following explanation: [...]"
        • "Although Azima claims he ultimately lost at least $400,000 investing in the bank’s stock, Indian Springs State treated Azima well before it was seized by regulators. According to bank examination records, his companies’ accounts at the bank were frequently overdrawn even as bank examiners demanded — on at least three occasions — that the loans be paid down. Each time examiners returned they found the loans still on the books and still in arrears. Regulators also noted that Global was overdrawn at the bank by about $150,000 a day. [...]"
        • "Three years later a bankruptcy court judge allowed Indian Springs State Bank to take over Global CDs and other investments held by the bank, reducing Global’s debt to $62,000. After Global declared bankruptcy, Azima’s name turned up in the Iran-Contra affair. A group of private individuals, including Adnan Khashoggi, who played his familiar middleman role by raising $15 million, sold arms to Iran and used the profits to fund the contras. In July 1986, according to the National Security Archives, an airline owned by Azima’s brother and sister-in-law (who also borrowed money from Indian Springs State Bank), RACE Airways, carried 23 tons of arms to Iran, via Spain and Yugoslavia, as part of the Iran-Contra deal. RACE Airways had leased aircraft from Azima and Global."
        • "Azima also had other connections at Indian Springs State Bank. According to federal bank examination reports, President Lemaster claimed that Azima had sponsored the Dunes Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for an unsecured loan of about $200,000 in 1982. The loan was guaranteed by Dunes owner Morris Shenker. (Though Azima admitted knowing Shenker, he strongly denied sponsoring the loan.) Shenker was the millionaire St. Louis defense attorney who in the early 1980s was chairman and controlling stockholder of the Dunes Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas."
        • "Federal organized crime investigators said Shenker was an associate of the Nick Civella mob family in Kansas City. (6) Regulators found the Civella family at Indian Springs State Bank too. They were part of that “new business” they said Tony Russo brought to the bank. [...] Their accounts were “habitually overdrawn,” a bank examiner complained in one examination report. At the end of 1982 regulators alleged that bank officers kept a loan to a Civella current by rolling it over (renewing it) and increasing the amount of the loan at each renewal to cover the interest costs the loan had accrued since the last renewal."
      • Wayne Madsen, "FBI Killed Franklin Scandal Investigator And His Son", 2014/06/23: "The FBI used the Kansas City mob to intimidate high-level witnesses and investigators of the Franklin scandal."
      • Kansas City Star, "Mob rule", 2014/07/10: "In 1957, Civella came to national attention as one of only two Kansas City men who attended a notorious summit meeting near Apalachin, N.Y., of mob bosses from across the country. By 1966, The Kansas City Star was pointing to Civella as the chief figure in the Kansas City mob. [...] By 1973, Nick Civella and his associates evidently thought their sternest test was coming from four brothers named Spero — Nick, Michael, Joseph and Carl. One by one over the years, the Spero brothers were thrust aside, each time with bloody, headline-making results. In April 1973, Nick Spero’s body was discovered in the trunk of a 1966 Cadillac convertible parked along a secluded street in the Village of Oakwood in Clay County. The 37-year-old Spero — who appeared on the Kansas City Crime Commission’s 1970s list of the organized crime family and whose occupation was listed as a truckdriver — had been shot twice by a .38-caliber weapon. [...] In May 1978, Michael and Joseph Spero were sitting in a booth at the Virginian Tavern on Admiral Boulevard, and Carl Spero was standing at the bar. Men wearing masks entered, walked up to the booth and opened fire. Michael Spero, 39, was killed. Joseph Spero was wounded. Carl Spero, who tried to escape, was shot as he crossed the street and wound up paralyzed from the waist down. [...] in June 1980, a bomb exploded at a Clay County storage shed, hurling Joseph Spero 50 yards through the wall of the shed, killing him instantly. At first authorities thought Spero, 48, accidentally set off the bomb. A decade later, an FBI agent quoted an informant as saying the dynamite had been booby-trapped on orders of the Civella organization. The feud carried on until January 1984, when the last surviving Spero brother died in an explosion at a used-car lot owned by his cousin on East 12th Street."

Others involved

  • From p.248-249 of Programmed to Kill:

        Berdella also helped set up a Neighborhood Watch program, and then served as the liaison to the police and to a couple of nearby youth homes. According to neighbors, he had a constant flow of young men coming and going from his home. Many of them lived in the home for varying periods of time. One twenty-five-year-old former boarder said that at times as many as four boarders lived at the house, and that large groups of young men regularly attended parties there. These boarders and visitors were a constant feature of the home throughout the 1980s. During that time, an indeterminate number of young men were tortured and killed in the house. Officials claimed that none of the boarders were involved in any of the crimes.
        One of Berdella’s boarders, a young hustler identified as Freddie Kellogg [Eric Gibson], took a rather interesting route to reach Bob’s house. Kellogg was picked up by an unidentified man who handcuffed and then brutally assaulted him. The assault was stopped by a second unidentified man, who then introduced Kellogg to Berdella. Kellogg thereafter served as what was described as Berdella’s “liaison to the streets.”
        Many of Berdella’s young companions, perhaps significantly, regularly signed up as volunteers for unspecified ‘medical experiments’ at the nearby Quincy Research Center. One group of such volunteers reportedly staged a party at Bob’s house to celebrate the completion of a thirty-day program at the center. [...]
  • From p.250 of Programmed to Kill: "Bryson initially claimed that Berdella had been assisted in the abduction by a blond woman; that fact was later expunged from the official story. He also reported that Berdella had told him that there were others with whom he would later be shared. Bob had also warned him that he might be sent off to a remote location in Wyoming where his abuse would continue indefinitely."
  • Kansas City Times, "Berdella to reveal names and places, police tell family" by Karen Blakeman, 1988/12/13 (pages 1, 6): "Sheldon said he wanted to know whether anyone else was involved in the murders and whether any police officers or other officials "either participated or observed." Sheldon, Sanders, and Paul Howell, Gerald Howell's father, each said they were concerned that law enforcement authorities may have tried to conceal information about the investigation."
  • paper unknown, title unknown, date unknown: "The murder cases should have gone to trial so the whole truth could come out, she said. She still suspects other persons were involved in the crimes with Berdella, she said."
  • Kansas City Star, "Berdella referred to ranch, victim alleges in civil lawsuit" by Lane Beauchamp, 1988/12/03 (pages 1c, 2c): "Robert A. Berdella threatened to send a man he held captive and sodomized to a ranch in Montana, where Berdella said he sent other young men, according to court papers filed Friday. [...] The ranch is mentioned in a civil lawsuit filed by the man who underwent four days of torture and sexual abuse inside Berdella's house earlier this year, thus prompting a police investigation into the Westport merchant. [...] The sodomy victim contended in a motion filed Friday that he had earlier agreed not to sue Berdella because he feared Berdella's associates in Kansas City might inflict the same kind of torture on him. The motion said Berdella repeatedly told the man that he had friends in town who enjoyed the “same perverse pleasures that defendant Berdella enjoyed.” If the man failed to cooperate, Berdella said, he would “call these friends and they would come to the house and help torture” the man, according to the court papers. [...] The mention of the Montana ranch and Berdella's friends were included in a response to Berdella's request to throw out the civil lawsuit."
  • Manhattan Mercury, "Few, if any, will mourn for mass killer Berdella", 1992/10/11: "[Fellow inmate Herbert A.] Chastain. who repaired Berdella's typewriter and supplied him with writing materials, said Berdella spent most of his time in the prison library preparing lawsuits and prison complaints. "He said people would be surprised if they knew of the whereabouts of other people out there like him," Chastain. said. "He said there are a lot of cults, groups like him out there that trade information like they do at a Tupperware party."
  • brorth post on 2015/02/08 in a ChiefsPlanet discussion about Bob Berdella: "I had a pretty free run around the second floor at police headquarters at the time. Detectives had to view the tapes that were confiscated, many of them were "snuff films" taken from a first person perspective. That man killed way more than the six he was allowed plea to. He was just a cog in a sick fucking scene that really rich people get off on."
  • Gary Jenkins post on 2017/01/17 of a Gangland Wire episode about Bob Berdella - has a comment by Jerry Cox on 2017/01/18 that says: "There was a guy a couple doors down from him. A lawyer threw big 12 parties and hired us for security. No one should show up if we were not there. After Berdella died went thru and destroyed a lot of the evidence. Freaky stuff!"
  • John Robinson a.k.a. John Edward Robinson - another serial killer from Kansas City known as the Slave Master or the Internet Slavemaster
    • Anyone You Want Me To Be: A Shocking True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet by John Douglas and Stephen Singular (2003)
    • ...
  • William S. Burroughs - lived in Lawrence KS, not far from Kansas City, since 1981; a counterculture icon who was good friends with Allen Ginsberg, a supporter of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA); allegedly attended the same Scientology meeting in England during the 60s as the de Grimstons who founded the Process Church

Investigating officers

  • Kansas City Police Department, "ANNUAL REPORT", 1988 (archive) - lists a Certificate of Commendation for Sergeant Troy D. Cole, Detective Linnie V. Cunningham (most likely the same Lynn Cunningham who surfaced in the Franklin scandal), and Detective Ashley K. Hurn
  • Ashley Hurn
    • Kansas City Times, "U. S. ATTORNEY SWORN IN HERE", 1970/01/06: "Bert Hurn was sworn in yesterday as U. S. attorney for the western district of Missouri. [...] Hamilton noted that Hurn was in his second term as Newton County prosecuting attorney when he was appointed by President Nixon and confirmed by the Senate. In the crowded courtroom for the ceremony were Hurn’s wife, Mrs. Dixie Hurn, and their two sons, Marcus Hurn and Ashley Hurn."
    • Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District, no. WD 66035: STATE v. BANKS, appeal decision, 2008/04/15: "At the plea hearing, the prosecutor informed the court that Banks had been a suspect in two other rape cases for which the State had declined to file charges as a result of the plea bargain.   The prosecutor explained that some of the State's evidence would not have been admissible at trial due to the misconduct of a police detective, Ashley Hurn, in investigating a series of rape cases in the Westport area during 1990."

Evidence of cover-up

  • Kansas City Star, "Search resumes at Berdella house" by Jeffrey Spivak, date unknown: "A police mix-up Wednesday left the house unguarded for more than an hour. The house had been secured with a padlock, but investigators were checking to determine whether the deck was tampered with while police weren't there."
  • From the article "The Lighter Side of Torture": "There also was a Kansas City Times reporter back then who tried to explain, in a limited but illuminating way, how these crimes happened. She'd discovered remarkable things about the Berdella case that implicated at least one high-ranking Kansas City official. Then one day she collected her notebooks and tapes and clippings about the Berdella saga, deposited them in a landfill and left forever."
  • From the article "The Lighter Side of Torture": "Meade mentions Cole, the KCPD investigator who admits on camera that his initial impression of the beaten and delirious Bryson was that he'd been involved in a lovers' quarrel. "Which implies that gay people who are lovers, when they quarrel, they torture each other," Meade says. "That's a hell of a thing to say. That's similar to seeing a woman naked, beaten, running down the street and thinking her and her husband are just having a fight.""
  • From the article "The Lighter Side of Torture": "[Kansas City Times reporter Karen] Blakeman told Meade about a prison visit she made to interview Berdella in 1991, following the arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer, whom Berdella reportedly had deemed an "amateur." At Berdella's request, Blakeman brought two tape recorders, then listened as he told her how he had fooled the court system. At the end of the interview, Blakeman says, prison officials confiscated her tapes for review. Later, they told her the tapes had been inadvertently destroyed.

    "I think people wanted her to leave Kansas City because of what she was digging around and found," Meade says.

    In the film, Meade holds up Blakeman's story as proof that local authorities wanted to be done with the Berdella ordeal, even if it meant ignoring the possibility of more victims."

Fate of case evidence

  • At the auction of Berdella's property, all of it was acquired by local millionaire Delbert Dunmire who later destroyed it
  • Chicago Tribune, "Killer Auction", 1988/12/07: pages 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Deseret News, "NEIGHBORS WANT MURDER SITE RAZED", 1992/08/20: "But the fate of the house is uncertain. Dunmire has never indicated his intentions since buying the property three years ago, and repeated attempts to reach him for comment went unanswered. Neighbors have also attempted to contact Dunmire, who has used his money in the past to buy guns for drug enforcement agencies and prairie dogs for the Kansas City Zoo. Rumors have circulated that he planned to turn the structure into a museum of the macabre or sell property rights to Hollywood producers who might want to make a film of Berdella's story."
  • Delbert Dunmire a.k.a. Del Dunmire background
    • The Daily Journal (Flat River MO), "Former bank robber now flashy philanthropist", 1987/01/20
    • St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Boy Made Good, Shows His Class", 1987/08/14
    • People, "Ex-Bank Thief Delbert Dunmire Busts Loose with a Classy High School Reunion in the Bahamas", 1987/08/31: "Buoyed by the success of his $20 million aircraft-parts firm, Growth Industries Inc., Dunmire, now 53, in the past year has pledged about $2 million to charities, not including gifts he’s slipped to friends and causes in need of a quick fix. [...] Restless and disappointed in himself, Dunmire joined the Air Force and became a fighter pilot. He also ran up $5,000 in gambling debts, which led, he says, to the biggest mistake of his life. On an October day in 1958, Dunmire left Schilling Air Force Base in Kansas, drove to nearby Abilene and robbed a bank of $2,461. Twenty-two minutes later he was arrested, and in a matter of days he was sentenced to 50 years. “I was humiliated,” says Dunmire, who considered suicide while jailed. [...] He read a lot and made friends with parole officers, which paid off when his sentence was commuted in 1960. After studying aeronautical engineering at the University of Kansas, he opened a machine shop in his Kansas City garage in 1966, making small parts for Bendix, Bell Labs and eventually TWA and other airlines. Although overexpansion in the late ’70s almost cost Dunmire his business, he is again prosperous. And still unconventional. Last year the entrepreneur and his fiancée, Debbie Lunsford, then 29—they wore $5,000 clown outfits to their engagement party—invited all of Kansas City to their wedding."
    • Independence Examiner, "Dunmire's latest donation", 1988/04/25: "Delbert Dunmire, former bank robber, successful Grandview businessman and flamboyant contributor, has made headlines again, this time for donating semiautomatic rifles to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Dunmire, you will recall, has spread the concept of spreading the wealth by contributing $60,000 to the Jackson County Drug Enforcement Task Force, $100,000 to Missouri Democrats, $300,000 to a losing Kansas City mayoral candidate and gosh knows how much to take his entire high school class on a cruise."
    • Kansas City Star, "Del Dunmire, a larger-than-life millionaire, dies at the age of 82", 2016/07/07: "Once free, he founded Growth Industries Inc. from the garage of his Grandview home. The company, a worldwide seller of aviation parts, became the source of Dunmire’s fortune."

Untimely death

  • Andreas Ahrens, "A short history on all of the worst serial killers in the world!", 1997/11/13: "Robert Berdella (7+) Another from the maniac-with-a-heart-of-gold file. Bobby was a strange but harmless fellow, or so his Kansas City neighbors thought. That is, until April 2, 1988, when a man ran out of his house wearing nothing but a dog collar and babbling a frightening tale of sadism and sexual cruelty. It seems that Rob liked to pick up drifters and male prostitutes, take them home and strap them into his custom-made torture bed. There he would experiment with electroshock and injecting all kinds of household cleaners into them. He kept a detailed log of how his victims responded and had a collection of two hundred pictures of naked men in different stages of suffering. Bob liked to extend the life of his victims for a few days before tying a plastic bag over their heads. On December 19, 1988, Berdella pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life. A few years later he died in prison of poisoning or a possible heart attack." (TODO: Ask Ahrens about poisoning source)
  •, "THE BUTCHER OF KANSAS CITY", 2003/10/31: "Just two blocks down from my apartment is the house that Bob built. [...] Four years into his sentence, Bob died of a heart attack, though recent revelations hint at him being killed. Even poisoned."
  • Savage Cinema, "Berdella" (earliest archived copy is from 2005/03/02): "Four years into his sentence, Bob died of a heart attack, though recent revelations hint at him being killed. Even poisoned."
  • From p.27-28 of Serial Killers: Horror in the City by Nicky Martinez (2013) (also posted on the Ancestry forums on 2008/10/04): "On October 8, 1992, Berdella died in prison of a heart attack. For his four years of crimes against other men, he had served just four years in prison. On a Web Site,, an article written by someone who lived two blocks from Berdella's former torture house, it was suggested that recent evidence indicated he had been poisoned. That evidence was not forthcoming, so the official manner of death remains "natural.""
  • Huffington Post, "Robert Berdella: The Butcher of Kansas City", 2015/10/29: "Robert Berdella died of a heart attack in prison in 1992, after writing letters claiming that prison officials were not giving him his heart medication. Other accounts have since implied that Berdella was poisoned while behind bars, but no official investigation of his death was ever conducted."

Other curiosities

  • Quincy Research Center background
    • Dr. John Arnold a.k.a. Dr. John D. Arnold
      • page for John David Arnold: "John David Arnold, M.D., was born in Bradford, Ohio on May 4th, 1922. John attended medical school at the University of Chicago. He then went into the Army's Medical Research Program. In 1953, John was awarded the Legion of Merit for the development of Primaquine for treating Malaria. John [...]"
  • As noted on the Johnny Gosch abduction page, Berdella was at one point considered a suspect in the kidnappings of Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin
  • Oliver North connection
    • From Chapter 14 of Rites of Burial: "Scanning his log slightly faster, Berdella noted that July 8 "was the first time I allowed him to perform oral sex on me. Cooperated. No hassle. Next notation is 7-9 A.M., again oral sex. No hassle. And I think my notation is that while this was going on, Ollie North was on television." "While he was orally copulating you?" Hall asked. "Yes," Berdella said. "This would have not been a planned event. We just had the TV on, and apparently something about Ollie North came on." Berdella’s notetaking began to be less detailed, and on most days he didn’t keep any notes at all. Several pages in the log tracked the amounts of antibiotics that Berdella had given Pearson, and one page noted the color of his urine and the quality of his voice."
    • From Dave McGowan's interview in Issue #38 of PARANOIA: The Conspiracy Reader:
      • "Hidell: What about serial killer Bob Berdella's alleged connection to Lt. Col. Oliver North? Is there any evidence to back this claim?"
      • "McGowan: Certainly no "smoking gun" evidence, but much of the evidence in the case was suppressed. Berdella was a Dahmeresque cannibal killer who kept numerous souvenirs of his exploits. Like Dahmer, he kept a photographic record of his victims. Berdella also kept very detailed written logs to document, among other things, the duration and intensity of the various forms of sadistic torture that he inflicted on his victims. Among the notations in those logs were specific references to a certain Lt. Col. Oliver North."
      • "Hidell: What was the nature of the references? Did they suggest that Berdella may have known North, or were they more the form of general rantings?"
      • "McGowan: I don't know that it can be determined with any certainty what the exact nature of the references was, but when that information leaked out, the entries created quite a stir, enough so that they were specifically addressed and explained away in Berdella's supposed 'confession'-which was obtained under very unusual and carefully controlled conditions. Interestingly, the police detective who led the investigation obtained Berdella's confession, and then coauthored a book on the case-in other words, the man who shaped the public's perception of the Berdella case-had previously been employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. As for Berdella, he took all his secrets to the grave not long into serving his prison sentence. That is yet another common thread that runs through the stories of many serial killers, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert "The Boston Strangler" DeSalvo, and Richard Chase."
    • Alex Gantos connection
      • Passantino Bros. Funeral Home, obituary for R. Darlene Spero Gantos, 2013: "Darlene was born June 4, 1938 in Kansas City, MO. She held a deep love and passion for animals and was generous in supporting various animal charities. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Joseph Spero Sr.; her second husband, Alex Gantos; and two sons, Nick Spero and Carl “Michael” Spero. Darlene is survived by her children, Joe Spero Jr., Cecilia Izzo and husband Jeffrey, Carla LaGalle and husband Jared, Vince Spero, Stephen Spero and wife Julie; her grandchildren, Michael Spero, Christina Spero, Joseph Spero III, Matthew Spero, Cecilia Savala, John Savala, Rachel Izzo, Natalie Izzo, Michael Spero; her great-grandchildren, Sage, Camber, Julia, and Lucy; and her sisters, Dorothy Dutcher, Dora King, and Rosalie Nakashima."
      • Bendix Corporation in Kansas City MO - where Gantos allegedly worked
        • New York Times, "NUCLEAR WEAPONS SITES IDENTIFIED IN RESEARCH GROUP'S REPORT", 1982/01/22: "As for the Air Force, the report says nuclear weapons are present at its 19 Strategic Air Command Bases and nine intercontinental ballistic mis sile sites in the United States. The report says the major nuclear weapons productions facilities are at the Rocky Flats plant in Golden, Colo.; the Kansas City, Mo., plant of the Bendix Corporation; Monsanto's Mound laboratory at Miamisburg, Ohio; General Electric's Pinellas plant at Clearwater, Fla.; Union Carbide's plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Du Pont's Savannah River plant at Aiken, S.C.; and the Pantex plant at Amarillo, Tex."
  • Potosi Correctional Center mind control