Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bob Berdella: The Kansas City Butcher

A True Victim

The nude man could barely talk and his foot appeared to be injured. His eyes were   swollen and red, and he seemed to have trouble seeing in the daylight. When the officers asked him what had happened, it was clear that he was in terrible distress and still shaken from some as-yet-unknown ordeal.

A parking meter man told police he had seen the man actually jump out of a second-floor window from a home directly across the street. The address was 4315 Charlotte Street. It was the meter man who had asked a neighbor to call the police.

Rites of Burial
Rites of Burial

On closer inspection, according to Jackman and Cole in Rites of Burial, the definitive account of the case, the dazed man bore scars around his eyes and mouth and on his wrists. The officers covered him with a blanket. When he was able, he told them his name, Chris Bryson, and then went into some detail about the place from which he had just escaped. For some reason, he lied and said that he had been picked up by a man and a woman, but he later said that it had just been one person.

4315 Charlotte Street, Bob Berdella's home
4315 Charlotte Street, Bob Berdella's home

The 22-year-old admitted that he'd been invited to a "party" by a man in a brown Toyota and was taken to this house. Because he did not want police to view him as a male prostitute, he did not tell them the area where he had been picked up—which was indeed where male hookers plied their trade. Bryson's encounter with the man occurred several days earlier, at around midnight on March 29. Since that time, he had been subjected to one form of brutality after another. With a show of emotion, Bryson said that he was certain he would have been killed if he hadn't escaped.

The driver, an older man, had said his name was Bob, and started drinking beers in the car. As they came to the house, Bryson saw that it was a three-story affair with the number clearly visible. He didn't expect to have any trouble with the man. At 5-foot-10, if they got into a scrap, he believed he could handle himself. Bob was taller than him but paunchy and out of shape.

Inside, the place was a mess. Junk was piled up in several rooms, and it smelled strongly of dogs and feces. Bob showed him around, saying he'd been an art student and he liked to collect things. He invited Bryson to go upstairs, using some excuse about getting away from his dogs. Bryson acquiesced and went up the steps first.

As he reached the top landing, he came in for a harsh surprise. A strong blow to the back of his head sent him falling forward. Dazed, he tried to turn and defend himself, but his host was fast. He felt the prick of a needle in his neck and knew that Bob was injecting him with something. But he couldn't fight. He couldn't move. In short order, he blacked out.

Bryson woke up and found himself on a bed, tied spread-eagle to the bed posts. He had no clothes on and he had no idea how much time had passed. As he fell back into blackness, he was unaware that Bob was placing the dog collar around his neck and tying him quite firmly into place with a sash-like material. He also did not know until later that Bob had taken his picture in various positions, had poked and prodded him, and had described the entire incident in shorthand in a journal.

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