Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bob Berdella: The Kansas City Butcher

Final Stages

Dr. Wecht reviewed everything sent to him and offered the Stoops family attorneys his medico-legal opinion. Having degrees in both law and medicine, and having practiced in Pittsburgh as both coroner and forensic pathologist for many years, he brought his entire experience to bear on giving a proper reading of the covert details of physical trauma behind the overt details offered in Berdella's confession. He also noted that Dr. Shelly Tepper, a board-certified forensic pathologist, had testified at the trial that Stoops had died as the result of a tear and subsequent infection in the anal wall. That's why he had gotten the fever and had become dehydrated. He had likely died from septic shock. This opinion, too, had been based on Berdella's description of events and on photographs of Stoops during the course of his deteriorating condition.

While it was impossible to determine the extent of the rectal injury without an actual examination of the remains, the symptoms matched what was known of such a condition. Wecht evaluated whether Berdella had realized that the act of torture could or would be fatal, and decided that with the administration of the antibiotics, Berdella's desire was to heal Stoops and keep him alive as a sex slave. The administration of Drano, too, indicated intent to keep him alive, because his stated reason for this gesture was for long-term captivity. Since Berdella had no medical background, he was just using what he thought might work, but he was wrong.

Dr. Wecht stated that, in his opinion, Berdella had not intended to kill Todd Stoops. The rupture of the rectal wall was unexpected, as was the subsequent fatal infection. "By definition," Wecht writes, "that is negligence."

On October 8, 1992, Berdella died in prison of a heart attack. For his four years of crimes against other men, he had served just four years in prison. On a Web Site,, an article written by someone who lived two blocks from Berdella's former torture house, it was suggested that recent evidence indicated that he had been poisoned. That evidence was not forthcoming, so the official manner of death remains "natural." Berdella was buried in the same gravesite with his father in Cuyahoga, Ohio, as detailed on the Find-a-grave Web site.

In 1993, Economy Fire and Casualty Insurance Company settled with the Stoops relatives for $2.5 million. (Another source says $18 million).


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