Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Artist and the Killer: Frank Bender and Hans Vorhauer


Bender ran out of the shed and trotted across the grass to get a closer look at the man the task force was arresting. He had to be sure it was Vorhauer. The woman became hysterical, but the man was silent as deputies patted him down and put him in handcuffs. They led him to a waiting car, and Bender got a better look at his face. It was the face Bender had been living with for months, only this one was flesh, not concrete. And it was nastier. Bender felt that he had made Vorhauer too human.

Excerpt of quote, by Rapone
Excerpt of quote, by Rapone

In Vorhauer's wallet police found a Michigan driver's license under the name "Elmer Colombo." The address listed was on Fargo Road in Yale, Michigan. Authorities in Michigan were alerted, and police there found a sophisticated California-system methamphetamine lab, $37,000 in cash, and enough chemicals to produce 92 pounds of meth with a wholesale value of almost $400,000.

Police searched Phyllis Vorhauer's home on Wellington Street. Her diaries revealed numerous secret meetings with her husband since his escape from Graterford Prison.

Graterford Prison, PA
Graterford Prison, PA

Hans Vorhauer was finally caught, but Bender wasn't satisfied. He had been living with this man in his head around the clock for almost a year, and yet he felt that he didn't know Vorhauer at all. He needed to meet the man face-to-face. He had to look into Vorhauer's eyes.

The task force arranged for Bender to see Vorhauer when he was taken to the Federal Court House in Center City, Philadelphia. Vorhauer wouldn't look at anyone directly, and Bender was never introduced to him. Bender stood in a crowded room among the cops and federal agents, and Vorhauer probably just assumed Bender was one of them. Bender tried to get his attention, but Vorhauer ignored him. He was playing the part of the tough guy. His contemptuous sidelong glances said what was on his mind: To hell with all of you.

Hans Vorhauer, with blond hair
Hans Vorhauer, with blond hair

Tom Rappone sat across the table from Vorhauer, trying to interview him. "We know you've been involved in 17 murders, Hans -"

Vorhauer shook his head. "Thirty-three," he said with a smirk.

The room went silent.

Rappone kept a poker face and showed no reaction to Vorhauer's revelation. "You want to tell me some names, Hans?"

Vorhauer didn't answer. It was his secret to keep. He'd never been charged with murder, and he wasn't about to start confessing now. He had too much to lose.

Frank Bender, forensic artist
Frank Bender, forensic artist

Hans Vorhauer was reassigned to Huntingdon Prison, a maximum-security facility in north-central Pennsylvania, where he began to serve out the rest of his original sentence with time added for his escape. He was eventually transferred back to Graterford Prison, where he is today.

Frank Bender continues to work with law enforcement around the world, using his artistic talents and unique intuitive powers to age fugitives and identify corpses.

This story was based on interviews conducted with forensic artist Frank Bender.

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