By Chris Bunton
I traveled to Kansas City, Missouri recently to investigate Robert Berdella, A.K.A. The Kansas City Butcher.
Robert Berdella, was born on January 31, 1949. He committed his crimes between between 1984 and 1987. He raped, tortured and murdered at least 6 men, whom he captured by various means and kept them trapped in his house at 4315 Charlotte Street.
Berdella grew up in Ohio. He was not athletic, and seemed to be a disappointment to his father. He was bullied, and was homosexual; which he kept a secret.
He graduated from High School and moved to Kansas City to enroll in the Kansas City Art Institute. It was here that that he first began his drug addictions and torture of animals. He was also arrested for selling drugs.
Apparently his arrests and his dropping out of college led to him trying to help addicts, criminals, and runaways escape that life style.
He moved into the home at 4315 Charlotte Street, and his house was a location where his “friends” would come and stay or hangout. He had homosexual relationships with several, and possibly used money or drugs to control them.
He was active in his local community, and worked as a chef. He also had an antique business.
But, Berdella began to have a darker side.
He would drug, capture, and torture men whom he had some relationship with. Then, he would kill them to avoid capture, or they would expire due to the extremes of torture.
His first victim, Jerry Howell died due to asphyxiation from the drugs Berdella had given him. It was July of 1984.
Investigators know this, because Berdella kept logs on all his victims, the torture he administered to them, and the efforts he made to get them to break. He seemed to want to make them complacent enough that he no longer needed to keep them chained to his bed. This desire, led to his downfall.
In April 1985, Berdella tortured and murdered Robert Sheldon. He kept Sheldon chained to his bed for days torturing him with various means.
Berdella seemed to enjoy swabbing his victim’s eyes with drain cleaner, administering electric shock, and putting needles under their finger nails, among other things.
Sheldon was eventually smothered in order to prevent discovery when a repairman showed up to do work on the Charlotte Street house.
Berdella’s other victims include Mark Wallace, James Ferris, Todd Stoops, and Larry Wayne Pearson. All of whom came to Berdella seeking assistance of some kind or a place to stay.
Berdella would drug them, and then capture them. Raping, torturing and murdering each. He then disposed of the bodies by chopping them up and burying them in his backyard, spreading them out around town, or putting them in trash bags for the garbage men to take to the landfill.
In 1988 Berdella abducted Christopher Bryson, whom he proceeded to torture and rape like the other victims before him.
Bryson was able to escape. He befriended Berdella and pretended to be compliant. As stated earlier Berdella had some kind of desire to turn these victims into compliant slaves. Bryson played the part, and it saved his life.
Bryson quoted Berdella as saying,
“You did not choose to be here, but you are. For you to survive being here, and for you to, you know, make it, it could either be rough or it could be easy. If I grow to like you, and to trust you, then I could do special things for you, such as buy you cigarettes, pick up a movie on the way home from work and so forth. Don’t try to fight me, or you’ll just get more of what you had earlier. You see, what you got, is nothing compared to what you can have.”—Robert Berdella.
Bryson told the police what had happened and a search warrant of the property was allowed. During the search, human remains were found, along with blood stains. They also found Polaroid photographs, and the logs detailing everything Berdella had done.
This led to the arrest of Berdella.
In order to avoid the death penalty, Berdella confessed to the murders, and gave detailed information on what he had done. He claimed that the movie The Collector written by John Fowles and screenplay adapted by Stanley Mann, had greatly impacted him.
During his imprisonment, he ironically complained of the conditions of his incarceration. As if he listened to the pleas of the captured victims he tortured.
He died in prison in October of 1992, of a heart attack.
I went down to the Hype Park neighborhood where Berdella lived. It was a very nice middle class neighborhood.
It borders Hyde Park, which is a very well kept green space. The whole area looks like a safe place to raise a family.
The neighborhood is full of very closely built houses, one right after another. Until you get to 4315 Charlotte Street, where there is a hole. A house is obviously missing here. There is nothing but a drive way. Sources say the house was purchased in 1988 and demolished later.
It’s always odd, that when I travel to these locations, the neighborhoods are often very safe looking. Which brings up the question, is there really such a thing as safe looking?
Sources and further study:
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Bio: Chris Bunton is a Writer Poet and Blogger from Southern Illinois.