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Robert Berdella: The Horrifying Story Of Torture, Rape, & Murder By The "Kansas City Butcher"

Robert Berdella was an American serial killer who brutally raped, tortured, and murdered his victims from his home in Kansas, Missouri. The psychopathic murderer kept detailed notes on his victims and took chilling photographs before he killed them.

Robert Berdella mug shot and the skull of Robert Sheldon discovered in his property
Robert Berdella was dubbed "The Kansas City Butcher" for his heinous crimes.

On a normal spring night in Kansas City's Hyde Park in 1988, the tranquil atmosphere was shattered when a naked man, wearing nothing but a dog collar around his neck, jumped from the second-story window of Robert Berdella's house where he had been held prisoner. He crashed into the floor and ran as fast as he could to a nearby meter maid, who immediately called the police.

Police quickly got a search warrant for Berdella's house, nothing could have prepared them for the horrors that awaited them inside. Inside a second-story closet, they discovered a human skull as well as human vertebrae, showing the distinct marks of where they had been cut using a bone saw.

Hidden in the backyard, authorities discovered another human head that had been buried and was partly decomposed.

In the basement, they found large barrels covered with bloodstains as well as the personal belongings of two missing people. They also found a large collection of polaroid photographs that showed naked men being tortured and sexually assaulted.

In the property was also a stenographer's pad, which had detailed notes about the abduction, torture, rape, and murder of six young men from the local area.

The property sat at 4315 Charlotte Street, and belonged to a man who would later be known as "The Kansas City Butcher", one of the most disturbing serial killers ever known.

Early Life Of Robert Berdalla

Born Robert Andrew Berdalla Jr. on January 31, 1949, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Berdella was raised in a deeply religious Roman Catholic family.

Robert Berdella was a loner from a very young age and struggled with local bullies, he suffered from high blood pressure, was severely nearsighted, and had a speech impediment, this made him easy pickings, even his own father would verbally and physically abuse Berdalla for his lack of athleticism.

When he hit his mid-teens, Robert Berdella had discovered that he was gay, even though he kept this completely secret, it gave him a certain level of self-assurance. This newfound confidence quickly transpired into a bad attitude towards women, frequently being condescending and rude towards them, this is a trait that he held onto for the entirety of his life.

In 1967, Robert Berdella graduated from high school and went on to enroll at the Kansas City Art Institute, while at college, he felt the ability to be able to freely express himself and was open about his homosexuality.

This is where the life of Robert Berdella started to take a somewhat twisted route, he started using drugs and even got involved in some low-level drug dealing. Chillingly, at this point in his life, he also started to torture and kill animals.

He submitted an art piece where he tortured, killed, and cooked a duck. He received a strong backlash from the administration of the Institute for this, which led him to leave college and move into a house in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Kansas City.

Robert Berdella's Murder Spree Begins

Robert Berdella then opened a store called Bob's Bizarre Bazaar, where he sold jewelry, antiques, and art from all over the world.

Throughout the 1970s and early 80s, Berdella spent most of his free time with drug addicts, petty criminals, runaways, and male prostitutes whom he claimed he was mentoring. In reality, he was engaging in manipulative sexual relationships with young men.

Robert Berdella used his money to create a power over his relationships that he would use to control these young runaways, many of which had previously been victims of sexual abuse or had worked as prostitutes.

It was in 1984, that Robert Berdella, "The Kansas City Butcher" claimed his first victim, a man by the name of Jerry Howell.

Jerry Howell was 19 years old at the time and he was the son of Paul Howell, one of Berdella's acquaintances who he knew from his art dealing business. On July 5, 1984, Robert Berdella offered to give Jerry Howell a ride to a dance competition in a neighboring town.

During the journey, Berdella plied Jerry Howell with alcohol before drugging him with Acepromazine and Valium. Berdella kept Howell tied to his bed for the next 28 hours, during this time he repeatedly raped, tortured, and violated the teenager with foreign objects.

19-year-old Jerry Howell and a photograph taken by Robert Berdella whilst he held him captive
19-year-old Jerry Howell and a photograph taken by Robert Berdella while he held him captive.

Jerry Howell pleaded with Berdella to stop and let him go, but he continued to brutally torture the young man until he died from asphyxiation caused by a combination of the drugs, being gagged, and his own vomit.

After the death of Howell, Robert Berdella hung his corpse upside down, cut his major arteries, and left him overnight so the blood would drain from his body, he then dismembered him using a bone saw.

Berdella then put his body parts into separate rubbish bags along with other items and left them outside for the bin men to take away.

Robert Berdella documented everything that he had done to Howell on a stenographer's pad, detailing how he had raped and tortured him, this is something he continued to do for all his future victims.

Robert Berdella's next victim was 23-year-old Robert Sheldon, a drifter that Berdella had taken care of and exploited for years. On April 10, 1985, Robert Sheldon knocked on the front door of Berdella's and begged him to let him stay.

Berdella never found Robert Sheldon attractive, he claimed that this is the reason he never raped him, however, he did torture him. Berdella used Sheldon almost like a test subject, he experimented on him using various chemicals to weaken his victims and leave them defenseless against his attacks.

Robert Sheldon had needles pushed under his fingernails, was bound by his wrists with piano wire in an attempt to permanently damage the nerves, had his ears filled with caulk, and drain cleaner put in his eyes.

Robert Berdella had workmen scheduled to do some work on his house, so he decided to suffocate Sheldon, dismember his body, and dispose of him before they arrived.

The following June, Robert Berdella killed his next victim, Mark Wallace, another one of his runaway acquaintances whom he found trying to sleep in his shed. Berdella drugged Wallace, stuck hypodermic needles into his back, and subjected him to high voltage electrical shocks.

After several days of horrific torture at the hands of Robert Berdella, Mark Wallace died, his body was then dismembered and disposed of.

Photograph taken by Robert Berdella before Mark Wallace died
Photograph taken by Robert Berdella before Mark Wallace died

The following month, Walter James Ferris, another acquaintance of Berdella's contacted him asking if he could come and stay at his house. When he arrived he was tied to his bed and tortured by shocking his genitals with 7,700-volts of electricity for two days until he died from the horrific abuse.

Walter James Ferris whilst being held captive by Robert Berdella
Walter James Ferris whilst being held captive by Robert Berdella

The following year Robert Berdella came into contact with a former male prostitute who had previously stayed with him, Todd Stoops. Berdella brought Stoops back to his home for lunch.

Once there, he drugged him and held him captive in his house for weeks. He attempted to incapacitate him through electrical shocks to his eyes and injecting drain cleaner into his larynx in an attempt to render him mute. He repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted him, his goal with Stoops was to turn him into his submissive sex slave.

After weeks of brutal torture and sexual assaults, Todd Stoods eventually died of blood loss after his anal cavity was ruptured by Robert Berdella.

Todd Stoops Robert Berdella
Two photographs taken of Todd Stoops whilst being held by Robert Berdella

In 1987, Robert Berdella found his next victim, this time it was 20-year-old Larry Wayne Pearson, a young man he had become acquainted with while working at his shop.

As with the other victims, initially, Pearson was drugged, he was then used by Berdella to continue practicing his torture techniques aimed at incapacitating his victims, he was bound, subject to electric shocking, and injected with drain cleaner, he also had one of his hands broken with a metal bar.

Pearson endured six weeks of torture and rape before he finally attempted to fight back, during an incident of forced oral sex, Pearson bit deeply into Robert Berdella's penis. This was a final attempt to secure freedom, however, it failed, and as a result, Berdella beat and strangled Pearson to death.

Victims of Robert Berdella

Robert Berdella abducted his last victim on March 29, 1988, this was a 22-year-old male prostitute named Christopher Bryson who he had solicited for sex.

When Bryson arrived at Robert Berdella's home, he was quickly knocked unconscious with a metal bar and tied up. Christopher Bryson suffered the same abuse and torture methods that the previous victims endured.

Somehow, Bryson managed to gain the trust of Robert Berdella, even persuading him to tie his hands in front of him, rather than to the bed. Then, when Berdella left a box of matches in the room, Bryson grabbed them and managed to burn through the ropes, leading to his dramatic and unexpected escape through the second-story window.

Following the search on the property, authorities quickly arrested and charged Robert Berdella with the murders of six men.

Berdella took a plea deal, where he would plead guilty and reveal everything about the horrific murders in exchange for life without parole, thus avoiding the death penalty.

On October 8, 1992, Robert Berdella died of a heart attack while imprisoned at the Missouri State Penitentiary, he was aged just 43 at the time of his death.

This was the end of "The Kansas City Butcher," and the closing chapter on one of the most brutal serial killers of all time.

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