Bob Berdella, Kansas City's most notorious serial killer, was most notably for luring young men to his home throughout the 1980s. He drugged them and tortured them, repeatedly experimenting to see how much pain he could cause them and still keep them alive. And when he went too far, his victims died. He cut up their bodies and set them out with the garbage. Finally, one victim jumped out a window and fled the house wearing nothing but a dog collar. With that incident, police broke the case, and Berdella confessed to six killings in a deal that spared him of the death penalty.
The story behind Bob Berdella is quite gruesome yet fascinating. When exactly did he go "bad"? Growing up within 15 minutes from where the serial killer lived I have grown a much fonder interest. Over the course of the past decade I have conducted many interviews and completed extensive research on the man himself.
At first sight Bob Berdella appears to be an ordinary man. To all those who knew him, either through work or some other association, say he was a very friendly man, kind, and courteous. He had many jobs and hobbies, Bob Berdella was a very busy man. He worked for a local news station in Kansas City, wrote restaurant reviews for the Kansas City Star, and ran his own booth at a Flea Market in Westport, the counter-cultural headquarters of KC. His booth was more of a little shop within the flea market. It was called "Bob's Bazaar Bizarrer". He had everything from human skulls to an extensive library on witchcraft and occultism. Bob lived at 4315 Charlotte, the picture on the side is what the house looked like in 1989, now the house is gone and an empty lot exists. While conducting an interview with an associate, I gained insight into one of his encounters with Berdella. Apparently one evening around 1987-88, my associate was leaving a bar, one that Berdella frequented, and they offered to give him a ride home since he was plastered. On the ride home Bob started telling them stories of men he'd had tied up and tortured at his house in the past few months, the guys brining him home thought he was just being an ignorant drunk and dropped him off without any hint of what they were soon to find out.
Bob Berdella murdered six young men, dismembered them in the tub and then put their bagged remains out on the curb for Monday morning pick-up. He apparently did all this on weekends, so that he could make trash day and have no remains left around the house. Of course, like all serial killers, he had to keep something: a box of hundreds of polaroids of his victims. (be forewarned, these aren't necessarily easy to look at, so think a bit before clicking away. also, i doubt a workplace around would consider these proper viewing material.)
Berdella "was the 39-year old owner of Bob's Bazaar Bizarre in Kansas City, a downtown novelty shop that specialized in lava lamps, replica skulls, incense, and other kinds of supplies that would appeal to potheads and weekend Satanists." "His many secrets had begun to emerge on the Saturday the Final Four tourney got under way, when a man wearing only a dog collar escaped from Berdella's home at 4315 Charlotte St. "Berdella later confessed to killing six men -- some by lethal injection, some by suffocation. He said he stuffed their bodies in plastic bags for the trash collectors. What police called torture, Berdella called "my darkest fantasies becoming my reality." "In the week that Kansas City coveted the sporting world's spotlight, more than a few visitors had to wonder: Is it safe? Berdella himself showed a twisted appreciation for the occasion by displaying four model skulls next to the caption "The Final Four" at his Westport curio shop, Bob's Bazaar Bizarre."
"On April 4, 1988, Robert Berdella was arraigned on seven counts of sodomy, one count of felonious restraint, and one count of first degree assault. Bail was initially set at $500,000, revoked the next day, when officers testified that one of the men in Berdella's photographs — trussed up and hanging by his heels — appeared to be dead. While excavation continued on Berdella's property and prosecutor's contemplated murder charges, homicide investigators started checking out their list of missing persons dating back to 1984. A bargained guilty plea on one count of murder consigned Berdella to prison for life, but authorities suspected him in at least seven other deaths. On December 19, 1988, Berdella pled guilty to first-degree murder in the death of victim Robert Sheldon, and to four counts of second-degree murder involving additional male victims. He was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment."
While he was in prison, Berdella came up with the peacemaking idea of setting up a fund for the families of his victims. When he complained about the roaches in his cell, a local station started the 'Bugs for Berdella' campaign, mailing hundreds of listener-donated insects to him. Four years into his sentence, Bob died of a heart attack, though recent revelations hint at him being killed. Even poisoned. He was shipped back to Cuyahoga where his dad is buried.
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