Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Artist and the Killer: Frank Bender and Hans Vorhauer

Inspiration

No one shot at the garbage truck that night, and if Vorhauer was in the house, he didn't show himself. The hunt for him stretched on into the summer of 1986, and inevitably the task force became increasingly frustrated. They could feel Vorhauer's presence wherever they looked, but still he eluded them.

The photographs Bender took during the garbage-truck surveillance did not yield any solid clues, but Bender became more determined than ever to nail Vorhauer's image on the bust, so that the task force would have a clear image of their target. Bender was the only one with the perception to see Vorhauer in a crowd, and he felt that whole task force needed that ability. But every night as he stared at the bust in his studio, he knew something was missing. He just couldn't put his finger on it. He'd done his best with the information he had, but he knew he had to do better. He still hadn't captured the essence of Hans Vorhauer.

Vorhauer, early, pastel
Vorhauer, early, pastel

Bender went back over his notes and re-interviewed the cops and federal agents who had dealt with Vorhauer in the past. He pressed them for details, something, anything that would give him a clue to the natural attitude of Vorhauer's face. But everyone he talked to was puzzled by his insistent questioning. They said they'd already told him everything they knew. They didn't understand that what he needed was an insight into Vorhauer's personality, an inspiration.

Bender finally found what he was looking for when he talked to former FBI Special Agent Bill Fleischer, who once arrested Vorhauer. Fleischer told Bender that when the FBI was trailing Vorhauer, they frequently spotted him going into gay and transvestite bars. Vorhauer wasn't gay, Fleischer said, but he often used disaffected homosexuals as enforcers because some of them had no problem hurting heterosexuals. Vorhauer went to these bars to recruit fledgling henchmen. Fleischer suspected that if Vorhauer was up to his old tricks, he might go back to that same labor pool.

This sent Bender's thinking in a whole new direction. Up until this point he thought of Vorhauer as a staunch, taciturn lone wolf, someone who would always be true to himself no matter what. Bender couldn't have imagined him going into a tranny bar to chat up killer drag queens, and he couldn't have imagined the regular clientele at those places accepting him either. He just looked too straight.

But then something occurred to Bender. Vorhauer's father had been in the Gestapo. The Nazis believed that Aryans were the super race. Perhaps the Aryan look appealed to Vorhauer. Perhaps he could live with being a blond. He certainly had the coloring for it. And a bleached-blond man in his 40s probably would be accepted in a transvestite bar.

The more Bender thought about it, the more convinced he became. He could feel it. The next time he spotted Hans Vorhauer, the man would be bleached blond. Bender presented his theory to the task force, and they were skeptical. Nevertheless, he went back to his sketches and changed Vorhauer's reddish-brown hair to blond.

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