Robert Berdella


The Butcher of Kansas City, Missouri




Information researched and  summarized by

Ryan Fisher, Ashley Aust, Danielle Bisset, Timothy Jamba, John Jones, Audrey King, Jennifer Kowalski, Elizabeth Krell, and Jaclyn Layton


Department of Psychology

Radford University

Radford, VA  24142-6946








Life Event

Jan 31 1949


Robert Berdella was born in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

May 1956


Brother, Daniel, was born



Berdella was baptized as a Catholic

Dec 1965



Father dies of a sudden heart attack at age 39.  Mother remarries soon after.  Berdella resented it.


Raped by a man he worked with in an Ohio restaurant.

Stopped attending church services

Watched the movie “The Collector” which was about a man who kidnapped a woman and kept her captive. He would later admit that this movie left a lasting impression on him.

Aug 1967



Enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute.


Began to abuse and sell drugs and alcohol.

Jan 1968



Arrested, and plead guilty, for selling amphetamines to an undercover agent.  He received a five year suspended sentence.

Feb 1968

Arrested for possession of LSD and marijuana.  After spending 5 days in jail the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.


Began to work as a short-order cook.

Sep 1969


Bought a house where he would live until his arrest

Dec 1969

Dropped out of art school



Became more accomplished as a chef and worked for many well-known restaurants and country clubs. Joined local chefs association where he helped set up training classes for aspiring chefs.

Helped organize local crime prevention and neighborhood watch association

Began renting space at the local flee-market where he sold oddities, antiques, and artifacts.

Became open about his homosexuality



Quit work as a cook and begin to work full time at his shop, which he named “Bob’s Bazaar Bizarre”.



Became seriously emotionally involved with an unstable Vietnam veteran, however, the relationship did not last long.

Began picking up young male prostitutes.  He would become a friend with many of them, often allowing them to live with him in exchange for helping with housework.  He tried to get many of them to quit prostituting and get their lives in order.



Began hanging out with 19-year-old Jerry Howell, one of the young prostitutes.

July 5

Drugged Howell with animal tranquilizers.  Bound and gagged him to a bed and sodomized him repeatedly. During this time, and subsequent crimes he took numerous pictures and kept a detailed log.

July 6

Howell died from asphyxiation.  Berdella hung Howell upside down in his basement and cut slits in the body in order to drain the blood.  He then dismembered the body, put the pieces in trash bags, and left them on his curb.  Garbagemen then unwittingly took the trash to the dump never to be found again.

Apr 10 1985


Allowed an acquaintance, Robert Sheldon to stay at his house for a couple of days.  Injected him with drugs with the intention of “keeping him” like he did to Howell.

Apr 11

Decided not to “keep” Sheldon and took him to the doctor because Sheldon was complaining of soreness from the drugs.

Apr 12

Sheldon got drunk and Berdella again decided to “keep” him.  He then drugged him with sedatives and tranquilizers and then bound and gagged him as he had done with Howell.  He then sodomized and tortured him repeatedly for days.

Apr. 15

A workman arrived to do some roofing work for Berdella.  Berdella then suffocated Sheldon with a plastic bag so that the workman would not hear him.  He then placed the body in his bathtub and made incisions to allow the blood to drain.  He then dismembered and disposed of the body as he had done with Howell, except this time he kept the head and buried it in his backyard.


Met Mark Wallace after he had help with some yard work for him.

June 22

Berdella found Wallace in his tool shed seeking shelter from a violent storm.  He invited Wallace inside and drugged him.

June 23

Berdella tortured and sodomized Wallace for several hours until he died from asphyxiation.  Berdella then disposed of the body as he had done before.

Sept 26

Picked up an acquaintance, James Ferris, at a gay bar and took him back to his house.

Sept 27

He then drugged, bound, and tortured Ferris as he had with the others until he died from asphyxiation. He disposed of the body as he had before.

June 17 1986


Met a male prostitute he had known for a couple years named Todd Stoops and invited him back to his house.  He then drugged and tortured him for weeks.

July 7

Stoops died from blood loss as a result of the torture.  Berdella disposed of the body as had the others.

June 5 1987


Bailed a friend, Larry Pearson, out of jail and invited him to live with him.

June 23

Drugged and tortured Pearson in his basement for 6 weeks.

Aug 5

Berdella went to the hospital after Pearson had bit his penis.  Berdella was told that he would have to stay in the hospital for a couple days.  Before his stay, he went home and suffocated Pearson with a plastic bag.

Aug 7

Returned home from the hospital and disposed of Pearson’s body.  He kept his head and buried it in the backyard.  He also removed Sheldon’s previously buried skull and put it on display in his house.

Mar 29 1988


Picked up a 22 year-old male prostitute, Chris Bryson, and took him back to his house. He drugged and tortured him as he had done with the others for 5 days.

Apr 2

While Berdella was at work, Bryson freed himself by burning through the ropes that bound him, and jumping out of the second story window.  Bryson then ran to a neighbor’s house wearing nothing but a dog collar around his neck.  Police began to care for Bryson and listen to his story of repeated torture when Berdella arrived home.

Apr 2-4

Police searched Berdella’s house and found his torture logs and pictures. Berdella was arraigned on seven counts of sodomy, one count of felonious restraint and one count of first degree assault.  Initally, bail was set at $500,000.

Apr 5-Sep 13

Bail was revoked when an officer testified that one of the men in the photographs from Berdella’s house appeared to be dead.  Berdella remained in jail while police found more evidence of his crimes; this included digging up his backyard where they found Pearson’s partially decade skull.

July 22

Grand jury indicts Berdella for the murder of Larry Pearson

Aug 3

In order to avoid the death penalty Berdella pleads guilty to Pearson’s murder.

Sep 2

Grand jury indicts Berdella for the murder of Robert Sheldon

Sep 13

Berdella plea-bargains to life in prison in exchange for a full confession of his crimes.

Dec 13-15

Berdella confesses to investigators to his crimes in vivid detail.

Dec 19

Berdella pled guilty to 1st degree murder in the death of victim Robert Sheldon and to 4 counts of 2nd degree murder involving additional male victims. Berdella confesses in court and is sent to the state penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri for the rest of his life.  He also announces that he has set up a trust fund in the amount of $50,000 for the families of his victims.

Jan. 1989


Gives an interview with a local television channel in which he blames police and media for distorting him and his crimes.

Jan. 1992


Todd Stoops’ mother wins wrongful death civil suit against Berdella, and is awarded a record $5 billion. Because Berdella can’t pay this amount, Stoops’ mother would have a claim on any future earnings Berdella might make.

Oct. 8 1992


Berdella dies in prison from a heart attack.

General Information





     Number of victims

6 killed, 1 escaped

     Country where killing occurred

United States

     States where killing occurred

Kansas City, Missouri

Childhood Information

     Date of birth

January 31, 1949


Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

     Birth order

1st of 2

     Number of siblings




     Raised by

Both parents

     Birth category


     Parent’s marital status


     Family event

Death of Father (Heart Attack)

     Age of family event


     Problems in school?

Yes, teachers felt that he was hard to teach, though he earned excellent grades

     Teased while in school?


     Physically attractive?


     Physical defect?

Severe nearsidedness, forced to wear thick glasses sense age 5.  Also spoke of having surgery to improve his jutting jaw

     Speech defect?

Yes, he had a slight lisp

     Head injury?


     Physically abused?

Yes, father would beat him with a leather strap

     Psychologically abused?

Yes, it also appears that his father liked his younger brother more than him.

     Sexually abused?

Not by parents, but claims to have been victim of homosexual rape at age 16 by a co-worker.

     Father’s occupation

Dye setter for the Ford Motor Company

     Age of first sexual experience

Raped at 16

     Age when first had intercourse

No record found, however he was rarely sexually active until after age 30. 

     Mother’s occupation


     Father abused drugs/alcohol


     Mother abused drugs/alcohol


Cognitive Ability

     Highest grade in school

Junior year of Art School in Kansas City

     Highest degree

High school diploma

     Grades in school




Work History

     Served in the military?




          Type of discharge


          Saw combat duty


          Killed enemy during service?


     Applied for job as a cop?


     Worked in law enforcement?

No, but did help organize, and chair,  his neighborhood crime prevention association

     Fired from jobs?

No record

     Types of jobs worked

Cook, shopkeeper

     Employment status during series

Self employed, owned an antiques and artifacts shop called, “Bob’s Bazaar Bizarre”



     Sexual preference


     Marital status


     Number of children


     Lives with his children


     Living with

Mostly by himself, though occasionally he would take on roommates for brief periods of time.


     Animal torture

Yes, killed a chicken and a duck while in Art School. Also tested various drugs on a stray dog prior to killings

     Fire setting

No record

     Bed wetting

No record

Killer Psychological Information

     Abused drugs?


     Abused alcohol?


     Been to a psychologist?


     Time in forensic hospital?




Killer Criminal History

     Committed previous crimes?

Yes, arrested at age 19 for selling amphetamines to undercover agents.  Also arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and LSD, but charges were dropped 

     Spend time in jail?

5 days for the second drug charge

     Spend time in prison?


     Killed prior to series?  Age?


Serial Killing

     Number of victims

6 killed, 1 escaped

     Victim type

Male prostitutes and drug abusers

     Killer age at start of series


     Gender of victims


      Race of victims


      Age of victims


      Method of killing

Asphyxiation and drug overdoses

      Type of serial killer

Disorganized thrill

      How close did killer live?

Generally would pick up victim in his car and entice them into his home with drugs.

      Killing occurred in home of victim?


      Killing occurred in home of killer?



Generally, used drugs to knock the victim unconscious

Behavior During Crimes


Yes, repeatedly and with various methods

     Tortured victims?

Yes, repeatedly and with various methods

     Stalked victims?




     Quick & efficient?


     Used blindfold?

Yes, sometimes

     Bound the victims?


After Death Behavior

     Sex with the body?


     Mutilated body?


     Ate part of the body?


     Drank victim’s blood?


     Posed the body?


     Took totem – body part

Yes, kept two of the victim’s skulls.

     Took totem – personal item

Yes, kept wallets and identification

     Robbed victim or location


Disposal of Body

     Left at scene, no attempt to hide

Not usually, however he did put one skull on display in his house after it was buried for years.

     Left at scene, hidden


     Left at scene, buried

Not usually, however he did bury two skulls in his backyard.

     Moved, no attempt to hide


     Moved, buried


     Cut-op and disposed of

Yes, left for garbageman to unwittingly take away

     Moved, too home




     Date killer arrested

April 2, 1988

     Date convicted

Plead guilty on December 19, 1988


2 life sentences, no parole. 4 life sentences, with parole.

     Killer executed?


     Name and state of prison

Jefferson City, Missouri. Maximum Security Facility

     Killer committed suicide?


     Killer killed in prison?

No, Died of a heart attack in 1992, though there is speculation that he was poisoned.

Date of death



Ellroy, J. (2004). The story of Bob Berdella. Retrieved November 10, 2004 from

Geberth, V. (1995). Homosexual serial murder investigation. Retrieved November 8, 2004, from

Gravino, P. (January 8, 1992). Jury Awards $5 Billion to Family of Murder Victim. Associated Press.

Retrieved November 14, 2004, from Factiva database.

Horst, C. (December 19, 1988). Sex Killer Pleads Guilty in Five Deaths. Associated Press. Retrieved

                November 16, 2004, from LexisNexis database.

Hughes, T. (April 6, 1988). Police flooded with calls in sex torture case. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved

                November 16, 2004, from Factiva database.

Hughes, T. (April 10, 1988). Tale of torture focuses on neighborhood leader. St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

                Retrieved November 16, 2004, from Factiva database.

Jackman, T., Cole, T. (1992). Rites of burial. New York, NY: Windsor Publishing Corp.
Ramsland, K. (n.d.). Robert Berdella: An interactive story. Retrieved November 12, 2004, from

Selsky, A. (1988). Neighborhood Leader's Home Had Torture Devices, Severed Head. Associated Press.

                Retrieved November 16, 2004, from Factiva database.

Serial Killer Central. (2003). Retrieved November 3, 2004, from

Sheils, J. (August 4, 1988). Berdella sentenced to life in prison without parole. Associated Press. Retrieved

                November 16, 2004, from LexisNexis database.

Website, Robert Berdella. Retrieved November 3, 2004, from


Website, Robert Berdella. Retrieved November 6, 2004, from

Website, Robert Berdella. Retrieved November 11, 2004, from