Homosexual Serial Murder Investigation

By Vernon J. Geberth, M.S., M.P.S.
Former Commander, Bronx Homicide, NYPD

©1995 Vernon J. Geberth, Practical Homicide Investigation
Source, Vol. 43, No. 6, June 1995

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Homosexual homicides are relatively common and may involve male victims killed by other males, or female victims, involved in some sort of lesbian relationship, who are killed by another female. Homosexual related homicides, like all sex-related homicides include, interpersonal violence-oriented disputes and assaults, killings that involve forced anal and/or oral sodomy, lust murders and other acts of sexual perversion, and serial killings. This article will address the subject of homosexual serial killers. It should be noted that uncomplicated homosexual male and female relationships as well as sexual orientation are not the subject of this article.

Homosexual Serial Killers in the U.S.
Homosexual serial murders involve sadomasochistic torture, lust murders, thrill killings, and child killings as well as robbery homicides which are homosexually-oriented. Homosexual serial killers can be loosely divided into three groups: (1) The homosexual serial killer, who exclusively targets other male homosexual victims, (2) The homosexual-oriented serial killer, who attacks heterosexual and homosexual victims, (3) The male pedophile homosexual serial killer, who attacks young males and boys.

It should be noted however, that these three categories presented by the author are not mutually exclusive due to victim opportunity and victim availability. For instance, JOHN WAYNE GACY and WAYNE WILLIAMS, who were basically homosexual male pedophiles, sexually assaulted and killed children and young adult males, who were heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. JEFFREY DAHMER, solicited homosexual young men, but he also was charged in the death of heterosexuals as well as a young boy.

The author's research yielded a listing of 37 known and documented homosexual serial killers, which represent 30 cases of homosexual serial murder. These 37 offenders were charged with the deaths of approximately 280 male victims and were actually suspected of murdering approximately 755 victims.

Seven of the offenders, worked in teams. Offender WILLIAM BONIN worked with three other males. Offender DEAN CORLL worked with two other males, and KELBACH and KEARNEY each worked with a partner.

The most frequent motivation was sadomasochistic sexual acts followed by male pedophilia. Lust murders and robbery accounted for the balance. Twelve pedophile homosexual serial killers were suspected in the deaths of 126 young males and boys. JOHN WAYNE GACY, for example killed 33 young men and boys. He was executed in 1994. DEAN CORLL, with the assistance of ELMER WAYNE HENLEY and DAVID BROOKS killed 27 young men and boys.

Homosexual Lifestyles - Investigative Considerations
There are some homosexuals whose appearance, dress and demeanor fit the exaggerated effeminate and butch gestures and dress of homosexuals or lesbians. These individuals are highly visible within the general population due to these attributes. Male and female homosexuals might dress as "bikers," and other macho types or "femme" and "fruit" depending upon what role they assume in their sexual exploits. These lifestyles represent specific subcultures within the subculture of homosexuality.

In addition, there are many male homosexuals, who engage in brief casual sex with multiple partners. They participate in what is called "cruising," as they seek out a homosexual pick-up or partner for a brief sexual encounter.

There are a number of "gay bars" which cater to different segments of the homosexual community. For instance, there are lesbian bars, leather bars, business suit bars, drag bars, dancing bars, etc. These locations provide gays, who have a specific orientation, a place where they can be themselves. However, there are other establishments which exist exclusively for cruising opportunities which make multiple sexual encounters convenient and easy. There are back rooms and stalls where patrons can participate in various sexual activities privately with a partner or publicly, while other patrons stand around and watch. It is not uncommon for some of the more active patrons to have several sexual encounters throughout the evening.

Cruising or tricking by male homosexuals, who hang out at gay bars, gay baths, rest rooms, bus stations, amusement parks, truck stops and other kinds of public places looking for casual sex represent a high-risk victim group. Serial killers, who "work" these locations can operate anonymously among their victims. The impersonal nature of cruising; where participants meet to engage in sexual acts with complete strangers, affords the clever serial murderer with a number of killing fields of opportunity. Approximately 70 of the victims were "cruising" before they got killed. Approximately 80 of the males were victims of thrill killings and were selected because they were homosexual.

JEFFREY DAHMER, who engaged in necrophilia, anthropophagy and other bizarre activities with the bodies of his victims, is recognized as one of America's most notorious male homosexual killers. He had managed to kill seventeen young men and boys over a thirteen year period before he was apprehended by authorities on July 22, 1991. Police found the body parts of eleven victims in Dahmer's Milwaukee apartment. There were four male torsos stuffed into a metal barrel, two heads in the refrigerator, two heads in a freezer and seven skulls. There were boxes of bones and severed hands, a man's genitals in a lobster pot, a freezer packed with lungs, intestines, a kidney, a liver and a human heart that DAHMER told police he was "saving to eat later." (Davis, p. 143.) He confessed to drugging, strangling, dismembering and cannibalizing his victims. Police found photographs of some of the victims in various stages of mutilation.

DAHMER had decapitated some of his victims, boiled their skulls to preserve them, and then painted the skulls, which he kept as trophies. DAHMER reportedly had tried to create homosexual love slaves or "zombies," by drilling holes in the victim's skulls and pouring acid into the holes while they were still alive. In addition, he performed sexual acts with some of the bodies of his victims after they were dead, including an act of anal sex with one corpse.

JEFFREY DAHMER was killed in prison on November 28, 1994 by another inmate, who was serving time for murder.

ROBERT BERDELLA, who killed six male victims, was also interested in creating "sex slaves." Police recovered 357 photographs at his residence which depicted twenty-three persons in various states of sexual torture. Six of these twenty-three people were identified as homicide victims. The other persons in the photos had been consensual partner's of BERDELLA, who engaged in sadomasochistic activities with his "guests."

BERDELLA established "Rules of the House" for his sex slaves, who were punished by beatings and electric shock. BERDELLA, who would put bleach into his victim's eyes and inject different types of drugs and caustics into his "slaves" recorded the effects in a diary. He experimented by injecting his captives with Thorazine, animal tranquilizers, curare, and other unknown type drugs. He also injected "Drano" into their throats. He anally raped his victims and submitted them to the insertion of foreign objects into their anal cavities.

LARRY EYLER, was responsible for the sadistic murders of 23 young men in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin. His killings started in 1982 and ended with his arrest in 1984. In a stunning jailhouse confession, which Larry Eyler made through his attorney on December 4, 1990, law enforcement authorities were provided with a vivid insight into the sadistic murders of young gay men by Eyler and an associate.

Eyler described how a young man named Steven was brutally killed during an evening of sadistic sex orchestrated by an associate, who was a college professor. The professor was subsequently acquitted of murder. The author will refer to him as John in this case history. Lt. Perry Hollowell, who had originally investigated the homicide in 1982 was provided with this information during an interview with Eyler and his attorney in December, 1990. Lt. Perry Hollowell, now with the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy and Trooper Frank Turchi, Indiana State Police provided the following details, which the author has edited for brevity and legal considerations due to the acquittal of the associate who is referred to as John.

Case History
According to Larry Eyler, he and John were driving around in Eyler's Ford pickup truck in an area frequented by gays. They had decided "to play a scene." John liked to play 'director' and create sexual scenes which he photograph. John liked everything to follow a sequence. They saw the victim (Steve) who they recognized to be homosexual. Eyler nodded his head at him and he nodded back. They made some small talk with the victim and asked him if he wanted to take a ride. They rode around for a while and talked about doing some sex. John said something about being horny and he wanted 'get his dick off.' The victim, Steve stated that he was also horny. According to Eyler, they asked Steve if he wanted to fuck around with them and the victim reportedly agreed. They told him that they were looking to get into 'bondage.' Eyler explained that they would tie him up and one of them 'would suck him off.' Steve agreed to participate. John told the victim that he would be paid for participating in the sex game. Both offenders then drove off with Steve sitting between them in the front seat of the truck. They made a brief stop so that John could pick up a bag. (Author's note: Murder Kit) The bag had rope, tape, handcuffs, knife, a beige wrap. John also brought along his cameras - a Polaroid and a Nikon camera with its own flash. All three end up at an abandoned farm house. John told Steve they were going to tie him up to some beams. Steve agreed and Eyler tied Steve to the beams. Eyler wrapped duct tape around Steve's head four or five times and then placed the ACE bandage around his eyes. According to Eyler, John had an erection at this point and he began taking pictures of Eyler removing Steve's clothes. John then switched cameras from the instamatic to the Polaroid camera. John told Eyler to "Get the knife." John then took pictures of Eyler holding the knife against Steve's stomach. After a few minutes John said, "O.K. kill the motherfucker." Eyler then stabbed Steve in the stomach. John took pictures of the stabbing. John then took the knife and he also stabbed Steve. According to Eyler, Steve's body went limp. John then started to masturbate over it. Eyler then cut the body down with John. Eyler stated that he suddenly felt this rage build up so he took a piece of wood and began to beat Steve's dead body. John then took pictures of this beating. They then took the body behind the house, where Eyler took out his knife and cut open the body open. John took pictures of the eviscerated body. Both offenders then "cleaned-up" the crime scene by collecting all of the evidence in plastic bags which they took from the scene. Eyler wore Platex gloves. Both offenders then went to John's house where they cleaned up and washed their clothes. According to Eyler, John kept the pictures of the murders in his bedroom closet. John would periodically look through these pictures and masturbate to them. Eyler stated that after he was arrested in Indiana the police went to John's house to search it for evidence and missed the box with the pictures of the murder victims.

LARRY EYLER was unknown to authorities in Indiana and Illinois, who were investigating a series of homosexual homicides in varying jurisdictions. In fact, during Christmastime, 1982 three different bodies including that of "Steve" were found in Indiana. A Multi-Agency Task force was formed to investigate these series of murders in Indiana. The body count continued to rise into the Spring of 1983. Many of the bodies were mutilated and disemboweled and in an advanced state of decomposition. In early June of 1983, a man who was upset with Eyler for taking his male lover, called the Task Force office and informed authorities that he believed that LARRY EYLER was responsible for the recent murders. Authorities began to "look" at EYLER, whose name appeared in a number of police reports. However, the evidence was at best circumstantial. The Multi-Agency Task Force began surveillance on EYLER and alerted various Troop Barracks to report any unusual activities of EYLER to the Task Force. An immediate problem occurred when a Indiana trooper observed LARRY EYLER and another male park a truck on the side of an Interstate and walk into the wood. The trooper, who went to investigate asked EYLER for identification. When the trooper called in the information, he was erroneously informed that "LARRY EYLER was 'wanted' by the Multi-Agency Task Force." At this time, EYLER was placed under arrest and brought into the barracks. The Task Force responded and EYLER was 'unarrested.' However, during the interview of the other male, it was learned that EYLER had made a homosexual proposition to the male. The authorities searched the pick-up truck with EYLER's permission. They siezed a pair of boots, surgical tape, rope and a hunting knife stained with blood. Unbeknownst to Indiana officials, LARRY EYLER was also quite active in Illinois. The body of Ralph Calise was found dumped in a field on August 31, 1983 in Lake County, Illinois. Calise had been bound with clothesline and surgical tape. He was stabbed 17 times and his pants were pulled down to his ankles. Ironically, the Calise homicide appeared to have the same signature of the slayings in Indiana. Authorities finally made the connection. The evidence siezed by Indiana authorities was forensically matched to the Calise case. EYLER was charged, but the evidence was excluded and EYLER was acquitted on the Calise case. On August 21, 1984 LARRY EYLER was arrested for the murder of fifteen year-old Danny Bridges, a street hustler in Chicago, Illinois. Danny Bridges, whose dismembered body had been wrapped in garbage bags and placed in a dumpster, had been lured by EYLER and an associate to an Eyler's apartment in Chicago. EYLER was convicted and sentenced to death on this case. LARRY EYLER died of AIDS while in prison in March of 1994.

Investigative Significance
It should be noted that in each of the three serial murders cases discussed in this article the behaviors of these offenders can appropriately be described as psychopathic sexual sadism.

There was a style and pattern to their killings which involved domination, control, humiliation and sadistic sexual violence. The murders were committed without the least sense of guilt or shame and the killers displayed a total lack of remorse. The victims were chosen at random and the murders carried out in almost an obsessive manner.

Sexual sadists rely heavily on fantasy and ritual to obtain sexual satisfaction. There is an element of compulsivity as well as an obsession on the part of the sexual sadist to keep trophies and recordings of the event. Photographs of the victims played a significant part in their rituals as well as their ability to recall their sadistic acts.

Therefore, the author recommends that any search warrant applications in these type cases should certainly reference photographs as well as any records, scripts, letters, maps, diaries, drawings, audio tapes, video tapes, and newspaper reports of the crimes as possible evidence to be seized.

The circumstances and dynamics involved in homosexual serial murder investigations require detectives to be able to effectively communicate with the homosexual community. They must be able to break through various subcultures in a non-threatening and non-judgmental manner in order to open up critical lines of communication in pursuit of the necessary information relating to the murder investigation.

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