Robert Andrew Berdella Jr. Describing his murders as being "some of my darkest fantasies becoming my reality",  : Berdella pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the first degree murder of one of his victims, Larry Pearson, in August , and would later plead guilty to one further charge of first degree murder, and four charges of second degree murder in December Berdella became known as "The Kansas City Butcher" due to his practice of extensively dissecting his victims' bodies, which he would then dispose of in garbage bags, and "The Collector" due to both the movie which he stated was the basis of the fantasies behind the modus operandi of his crimes, and much of the evidence subsequently uncovered by investigators.
As a child, Berdella was intelligent, but a loner who rarely played outside his home, and seldom had friends visit to socialize. He had a speech impediment and wore thick glasses from the age of five because he was severely nearsighted. He was also diagnosed with high blood pressure for which he took several medications. As Berdella's father valued sports and physical education, he viewed his older son's lack of interest in sports as a sign of failure, and often compared him unfavorably with his younger brother.
Occasionally, Berdella's father physically and emotionally abused his children, and beat them with a leather strap. Berdella performed well academically, though teachers often found him difficult to teach, in part due both his aloofness, and his being the recipient of bullying by other students.
Because of this, as a child, he also seldom socialized in social activities at school with his peers. When Berdella reached puberty, he discovered that he was homosexual ; initially, he kept this fact a closely guarded secret, and he did not become open about his sexuality for several years.
Nonetheless, in his early teens, he briefly had a girlfriend. That evening, Berdella's father had a heart attack at the age of Two days later, Berdella returned to Cuyahoga Falls by himself. When he arrived home his family told him his father had died. The plot of this movie revolves around a man who stalks and abducts a young woman he finds attractive, and holds her captive in his windowless, stone basement, viewing her as little more than an attractive specimen. After several weeks, the woman dies of a contracted illness despite her captor's efforts to keep her alive.
Berdella later stated this movie had formed a lasting impression on him. Shortly after the death of Berdella's father, his mother remarried. This act was met with resentment by her older son, who viewed the move as a form of betrayal against his father. As a result, Berdella became increasingly withdrawn, and further immersed himself in the solitary activities he had participated in since childhood such as painting, collecting coins and stamps, and writing to foreign pen pals.
Berdella would later claim that his hobby of writing to pen pals in countries such as Vietnam and Burma and the fact these pen pals would send him stamps for his collection, and photographs of mythical and historical icons, ancient cultures, and architecture would lead to his developing an avid interest in primitive art, photographs, and antiques.
From approximately , he would begin avidly collecting these artifacts; this practice would later inspire him to open his own business in Throughout his studies in high school, he had earned such excellent grades and displayed such potential that in , one teacher had placed him in an independent study program. There, he enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute , with aspirations of becoming a college professor. He also became acquainted with a clique of students who supplied him with drugs which he then sold to other students at a profit.
As such, he acquired a reputation among his fellow students as a minor drug dealer. In addition, he began regularly abusing alcohol. He also engaged in acts of animal torture on at least three occasions while a student at the Kansas City Art Institute; during two of these instances, he tortured a duck and a chicken in the presence of his peers, and in the third instance, he experimented with sedatives and tranquilizers on a dog. One month after this first arrest, Berdella and two other students were arrested for possession of marijuana and LSD in Johnson County.
On this occasion, Berdella could not post bond, and he spent five days in jail, although the charges against him and one of the other students would be dropped due to a lack of evidence. In , Berdella voluntarily withdrew from the Kansas City Art Institute after receiving harsh criticism from college administrators for killing, then cooking a duck for the sake of art. He chose to remain in Kansas City and in September of that year, he moved into an address within the Hyde Park  district: Charlotte Street.
These individuals he would typically befriend, then try to help free them from their drug addictions and general lethargic or criminal lifestyles, and he was adamant that, throughout much of the s, he had no physical contact whatsoever with any of these individuals.
To several of his neighbors, Berdella stated he gradually almost felt like a foster parent to many of these youths. He would retrospectively claim to have become increasingly frustrated at many of these individuals' ignorance to his efforts to assist them to steer their lifestyles away from harm and deterioration. To his neighbors, Berdella was considered a flamboyant, yet helpful and civic-minded individual, despite the generally unkempt state of his property, and his somewhat haughty attitude.
Berdella would also represent his neighborhood at fundraising events for a local public television station, although he would also disengage himself from these events by the mids. As a means of obtaining additional income, he also sold arcane items of art and antiques he had accrued and collected from contacts he had established in Africa, Asia, South America, and various Pacific Rim countries. Both his career and side-business gradually flourished, and by the mids, Berdella began working as a senior cook at several renowned Kansas City restaurants, also joining a local chefs' association, and helping establish a training program for aspiring chefs at a local community college.
Simultaneously, as his own business began to burgeon, he began to devote more of his attention to his own business as opposed to his work as a chef. By , he had established several contractual agreements with both national and international contacts for his own business.
He viewed this business as his full-time job and later ceased working as a chef. In , Berdella began renting his own booth at the Westport Flea Market. This store was named Bob's Bazaar Bizarre,   and primarily sold and traded primitive art, jewelry, and antiques. Although occasionally making a generous monthly profit, the income he typically generated via this business was often not sufficient to maintain his daily expenses and to make ends meet.
As a result, Berdella would occasionally have to either sell goods to fellow merchants at a financial loss, or steal or scavenge for items to sell at his booth. Additionally, he would often take lodgers at his home as a means of gaining additional income. At his work premises, Berdella became acquainted with a fellow merchant named Paul Howell, who operated a booth adjacent to his own.
Soon, Berdella became acquainted with Paul Howell's younger son, Jerry. Initially, Jerry Howell and his friends scathed and taunted Berdella over his overt homosexuality, although according to Berdella, Jerry Howell later confided in him  : 78—79 that he and his friends occasionally earned money as male prostitutes. By the early s, Paul Howell had relocated his business from the Westport flea market to a store within a building located close to the intersection of 39th and Main Street.
By the summer of , Jerry Howell had turned Berdella is believed to have killed his first victim on July 5, His first known victim was year-old Jerry Howell,  with whom he had become closely reacquainted in the year prior to his murder and whom he abducted on the promise of driving the youth to attend a dancing contest in Merriam.
He then injected Howell with a heavy tranquilizer before binding the youth to his bed. Howell was restrained to Berdella's bed for a period of approximately 28 hours. Throughout this period of captivity, Berdella repeatedly drugged, tortured, raped and violated him with foreign objects,  : repeatedly ignoring Howell's intermittent questioning as to why he was being treated in this manner, and pleas to be freed before, according to Berdella, Jerry "either asphyxiated on [his own] vomit, or the combination of the gag and the medicines were too strong for him to be able to catch breath".
Berdella would later state that he briefly attempted to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation upon Howell after he had died before dragging his body to the basement. He then suspended Howell's body above a large cooking pot and made several incisions to the youth's inner elbows and jugular vein , before leaving the body suspended in this position overnight to allow the blood to drain from his corpse.
These bags were later placed inside larger trash bags which Berdella placed outside for a garbage crew to collect and take to a landfill. Later questioned by officers investigating Howell's disappearance, Berdella claimed to have driven the youth to Merriam as promised, and that the two had parted company close to Howell's intended destination. Berdella further claimed he had not seen him since. As would be the case with all Berdella's murders, he kept a detailed log in which he documented each act of sexual and physical torture inflicted upon his victim.
On April 10, , a former lodger of Berdella's, year-old Robert Sheldon, arrived on his doorstep, asking if he could again stay at his house for a short period of time.
Berdella was adamant he held no firm malice toward Sheldon, but saw him as an individual upon whom he could "express some of the anger and frustration that I had toward other people on". Sheldon was drugged with sedatives and held captive in the second floor bedroom for three days, enduring forms of torture such as the swabbing of drain cleaner in his left eye,  : the insertion of needles beneath his fingertips,  : the binding of his wrists with piano wire with the intention of permanently damaging the nerves in his hands,  : and filling his ears with caulking to reduce his hearing capacity.
He later dissected Sheldon's body in the third floor bathroom. The following June, Berdella found Mark Wallace whom he vaguely knew via Wallace having previously helped him with yard work hiding in his tool shed to seek shelter from a severe thunderstorm. As had been the case with Robert Sheldon, Berdella invited him inside his house, and, noting Wallace's acute state of tenseness and depression , volunteered to inject him with chlorpromazine with the explanation this would "calm down and relax" him.
Wallace willingly accepted the offer and, 30 minutes later, Berdella decided to render him captive. Wallace was carried to the second floor bedroom where he endured almost a day of captivity and torture including the application of alligator clips to his nipples to facilitate electrical shocks to his body at any point at which Wallace began regressing into a state of unconsciousness.
According to Berdella, one hour after his "experimenting" with hypodermic needles by inserting them into various muscles upon his victim's back, Mark Wallace died through a combination of "the drugs, the gag, and the lack of oxygen". On September 26, , Berdella answered a phone call from an acquaintance named James Ferris, [n 3] who asked to stay at Berdella's home for a short time. Berdella accepted with the specific intention of kidnapping Ferris, whom he arranged to meet at a bar that evening.
The torture included repeated administering of 7, volt electrical shocks to the shoulder and testicles for up to five minutes in each instance, and acupuncture via hypodermic needles to the neck and genitals.
Ferris gradually became delirious,  : but Berdella continued his physical and sexual assaults until he noted in his log that Ferris was "Unable to sit up more than 10—15 sec[onds] ". The next entry read "Very delayed breathing", and finally, Berdella noted that Ferris died with a slang term he had used in his career as a chef, " 86 ", which Berdella later explained "meant anything from 'Throw it out' to 'Stop the project ' ".
Todd Stoops was a drug addict and sometime prostitute who, alongside his wife, had twice lived briefly at Berdella's house in Berdella would later stress to investigators he had been extremely physically attracted to Stoops, and this victim was held captive for two weeks before he died, with him gradually increasing his captive's terror to make him a cooperative and incapacitated sex slave. Berdella used electrical shocks through Stoops's closed eyes in an attempt to blind him and injected drain cleaner into his larynx to try to silence his screaming.
During the second week of his capture, Stoops asked Berdella for a soft drink and sandwich. When Berdella refused, Stoops burst into tears. By the final day of his captivity, Stoops was so weak Berdella later stated he had been unable "to breathe in a sitting position". In the spring of , Berdella became friendly with a year-old named Larry Wayne Pearson. This casual friendship began when Pearson entered his shop and explained to Berdella that, as a child, he had held an interest in both witchcraft and wizardry. Shortly thereafter, Pearson temporarily lodged with Berdella, and willingly performed chores around his home as a means of paying rent.
That evening, Berdella ensured Pearson became intoxicated before injecting him with chlorpromazine and moving him down to his basement, where he bound Pearson's hands above his head, then linked the rope he had used for this purpose to a brick column, before injecting Pearson's larynx with drain cleaner.
He then brought an electrical transformer to the basement. According to Berdella, Pearson was by far the most cooperative of his six murder victims. On the fifth day of his captivity, having by this stage endured torture such as the repeated administration of electrical shocks with the transformer, and the breaking of several hand bones with an iron rod to render him submissive,  : Berdella deduced Pearson had earned his trust as to his continued cooperation in his sexual and physical abuse.
As a form of reward, Pearson was moved to the second floor, with Berdella first informing Pearson that if he continued to cooperate, he would not continue to inflict as much pain upon him as he had done so while he had been held captive in the basement.
Throughout the latter part of his six weeks of captivity, Pearson trained himself to sleep without moving, in order that he did not antagonize Berdella and thus invite further torture or being returned to the basement. After six weeks of captivity, in an act of despair, Pearson deeply bit into Berdella's penis before screaming he could not continue to tolerate being treated in this manner. In response, Berdella killed Pearson by first bludgeoning him into unconsciousness with a tree limb,  then suffocating him with a bag and ligature, before driving to hospital to receive treatment for his wound.
Pearson's body was later dismembered in the basement, and his head initially stored in a plastic bag inside Berdella's freezer, before being buried in the backyard. Robert Berdella, conversing with Christopher Bryson. March 29, At Berdella's home, Bryson was knocked unconscious with an iron bar, then bound to Berdella's bed, where he was subjected to similar methods of abuse and torture endured by previous victims, although in Bryson's case, Berdella repeatedly swabbed his eyes with ammonia ,  before exclaiming to him: "The only things you need to think about are you, me, and this house.