Gerard Schaefer Jr.
The odds that someone would know someone who disappeared, let along murdered is rather slim. The odds that one person would know several people who had either disappeared or were murdered and not be the one responsible is even more rare. Gerard Schaefer, who died in prison in 1995 after another prisoner stabbed him, would proclaim to not be a serial killer. In fact, he attempted to sue anyone who said that he was. And yet, he was convicted of murdering two women and not only bragged about killing others, but at least four other women that he personally knew either mysteriously disappeared or were found murdered.
Today there has been significant studies into the behaviors of serial killers but back in the 1960's there was not a lot known. Today we know that serial killers often have a somewhat obsession with killing animals. We know that their criminal activities, although not always caught, start early. Male serial killers are often found to have been “peeping toms” when they are young. We know that they generally have issues with fitting into society or maintaining jobs. These things were all true about Gerard Schaefer but his story would have a bit of a twist to it. Schaefer had been able to work in a career that gave him much access to the victims he liked most, young women.
In the late 1960's Schaefer was a teacher for a short period of time. All I could find on this would say that he was “soon fired for 'totally inappropriate behavior.'” In 1971 he went to work as a patrolman for the Wilton-Manor police department in Florida but he did not last long and was fired soon after. After other attempts at working as an officer he was hired in June of 1972 by the Martin County Florida Sheriff's department. He had been hired partly from the “glowing” recommendation of his bosses from Wilton-Manor. It would later be discovered that recommendation had been forged.
In July of 1972 two teenage girls were out hitchhiking when they were abducted, taken to the middle of the woods, and tied to trees. The abductor was a police officer. The abductor threatened them and likely had more plans for the two girls when a call came across the police radio. The man left the girls tied to the trees and promised to return. While he was gone the girls were able to escape and found their way to the nearest police station which happened to be the same station in which Gerard Schaefer worked out of. Schaefer was identified and brought in. He would seemingly admit abducting the girls but tried telling his superiors that he had done so to scare the girls from hitchhiking. He would be immediately stripped of his badge and arrested. He was charged with false imprisonment and assault. He would post bail and be released.
On September 27, 1972 seventeen year old Susan Place and sixteen year old Georgia Jessup would disappear. While some reports state that the girls were hitchhiking, others state that one of the girls' mothers saw them drive away with a man that she would later identify as being Gerard Schaefer. In December of that year Schaefer would plead guilty to one count of aggravated assault for the girls the previous July and would receive one year in prison. The following April the bodies of Susan Place and Georgia Jessup would be found buried on Hutchinson Island, very near the place in which the girls had been assaulted in July. The bodies indicated that they too had been tied to a tree prior to their deaths and because of this and the location of the bodies Schaefer was an immediate suspect. A search warrant for the home Schaefer had shared with his mother was obtained.
Evidence found at the home was plentiful. Investigators would find many personal possessions including jewelry, diaries and even teeth belonging to at least eight women and girls that had been reported missing, including both Place and Jessup. Investigators would also find “stories” written by Schaefer that he would claim were fictional but that while referring to the women as “whores” and “sluts” described acts of rape, torture and murder. They found these stories to all but be testimonials of acts that he had committed.
In October of 1973 Schaefer would be found guilty in the deaths of Place and Jessup and would receive two life sentences. And, while these would be the only murders that Gerard Schaefer would be charged with, let alone convicted, but no where near the only victims that investigators believe Gerard was guilty of. In fact, at the time of his death in 1995 investigators were in the process of preparing to charge him with at least three more murders. So, just who are his other suspected victims? And, what made investigators believe he was responsible?
It appears that investigators believe that Schaefer's first two victims were two twenty year old women, Nancy Leichner and Pamela Ann Nater. They disappeared on October 2, 1966 from Altoona Florida. According to reports Schaefer told a fellow inmate that he had abducted and killed the two girls. A witness at the park in which they disappeared pointed to Schaefer as been seen in the area on that day.
In December of 1969 twenty-two year old Carmen Hallock disappeared. She had once been a girlfriend to Schaefer. Her body would never be found but items belonging to her would be found in Schaefer's home.
Also 1969 Leigh Hainlin Bonadies vanished after she told her husband she was headed to Miami and would see him later in the day. Her skull would be found in April of 1978 but due to decomposition an identification would not be made until the following month. The skull contained several bullet holes. Bonadies had been a childhood friend of Schaefer's.
Investigators believe that Schaefer's next two victims were likely his youngest. They were nine year old Peggy Rahn and eight year old Wendy Stevenson. They too vanished in 1969 and were never found. Witnesses claim that they last saw the two girls with a man who fit Schaefer's description buying them ice cream. Their bodies have never been found, but one of Schaefer's high school girlfriends, Sondra London, who would later become a true crime writer claimed that Schaefer confessed both in a letter and vocally to killing and cannibalizing the two girls. Publicly Schaefer would never confess to these murders. It seems that Schaefer often contradicted himself when he corresponded to London. He would claim to be innocent of not just the murders he was convicted of, but of any murders but then would later say he started murdering women in 1965. London would have her own issues with Schaefer later when she would stop talking to him and began a correspondence with fellow serial killer, Danny Rolling. Schaefer would threaten her life often and also attempted to sue her for the information that she published about her relationship with him and the things that he had said.
While some reports state that Collette Goodenough, 19 and her friend Barbara Wilcox, also 19, who disappeared in January of 1971 were from Iowa, they disappeared in Port St. Lucie while hitchhiking. Their remains would be found a few years later but the connection to Schaefer came from items belonging to both girls, including a passport and a drivers license found in his home.
In February of 1972 thirteen year old Debora Sue Lowe disappeared while walking to school. Although nothing seemed to be specific it was said that she had ties to Schaefer.
In April of 1972 twenty-two year old Belinda Hutchens disappeared. Like Hallock she had also dated Schaefer at one time. Also like Hallock, Hutchens' body was never found but personal items were found in his home.
In October of 1972 two fourteen year old girls, Mary Briscolina and Elsie Farmer disappeared while hitchhiking. Their bodies would be recovered later. Jewelry belonging to one of the girls was found in Schaefer's home in the 1973 search.
Schaefer would be described later as a police officer who was obsessed with writing traffic tickets as he found this as a way to find victims.
After his conviction Schaefer would become known for what many considered to be frivolous lawsuits that he filed from prison. Many were against crime writers who described him as a serial killer. All would later be dismissed without merit.
In December of 1995 Gerard Schaefer would be found dead in his cell in a Florida prison. Fellow inmate, Vincent Rivera was found to be responsible. He was convicted in 1999 and given a sentence of fifty-three years. Rivera never confessed to killing Schaefer and was already serving a sentence of life plus twenty years. Schaefer's sister would claim that her brothers murder was an elaborate cover up. She would claim that at the time of his death her brother was attempting to verify a confession that fellow inmate, Ottis Toole, had given in the infamous Adam Walsh case. At the time of his death authorities in Fort Lauderdale were considering filing three murder charges against him in order to keep him in jail.