Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods



Jamelske home
Jamelske home

Jamie Gumm was the fictional name author Thomas Harris gave to the demented killer in Silence of the Lambs. Gumm kidnapped women off public streets and held his victims at the bottom of a well in the basement of his isolated home. There he prepared them for the indescribable tortures to come. The character of Jamie Gumm was actually a composite of several real-life killers whom Harris studied in order to accurately portray his behavior in the novel. In Silence of the Lambs, several unfortunate victims fall into the clutches of Gumm before he is finally stopped by a rookie FBI agent.

As it is frequently said, however, real life can be much stranger than fiction.

During the spring of 2003, an eccentric, 67-year-old millionaire in upstate New York was arrested and charged with the kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl identified only as "Kirsten" (not her real name). At first, it seemed to be a routine case of sexual assault. But as the sickening details emerged, the full horror of what had transpired in an affluent section of Syracuse during the previous fifteen years made Silence of the Lambs seem tame by comparison.

Book Cover: Silence of the Lambs
Book Cover: Silence of the Lambs

His name was John T. Jamelske, a rather ordinary, frail-looking man who was accused of abducting five women off the city streets of Syracuse and turning them into his own personal sex slaves. As part of his plan, Jamelske built a fearsome concrete prison under his home where he chained his victims to the floor and forced them to have sex, sometimes several times in a single day. The victim's ages ranged from 14 to 53 years. They were imprisoned for two months to as long as three years and in such squalid conditions, it was a miracle any of them survived. While he popped Viagra pills to keep himself stimulated, Jamelske forced the women to perform in sex videos, fed them crumbs once a day and held them captive in the frightening darkness of his gothic dungeons.

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