Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Gerard Schaefer

Doing Doubles

At some point, Schaefer tired of killing victims singly. "Doing doubles," he later wrote, "is far more difficult than doing singles, but on the other hand it also puts one n a position to have twice as much fun. There can be some lively discussions about which of the victims will get to be killed first. When you have a pair of teenaged bimbolinas bound hand and foot and ready for a session with the skinning knife, neither one of the little devils wants to be the one to go first. And they don't mind telling you quickly why their best friend should be the one to die."

We cannot know when Schaefer started "doing doubles." Seven years after the fact, his name was linked to the disappearance of 21-year-old Nancy Leichner and 20-year-old Pamela Nater, Pinellas County residents who vanished on a 1966 picnic in the Ocala National Forest. The case remains unsolved and both women are still missing.

A better case exists for Schaefer's involvement in the murders of 9-year-old Peggy Rahn and 8-year-old Wendy Stevenson, in Pompano Beach. Both vanished from the beach on December 29, 1970. A day later, a clerk at a nearby convenience store reported a man buying ice cream for two young girls on the previous afternoon. The clerk identified photos of Peggy and Wendy, describing their companion as a white man in his 20s, six feet tall, around 200 pounds. The girls remain missing and Schaefer was never charged, though prosecutors publicly accused him of the crime in 1973. Schaefer denied the slayings publicly, but later confessed in a letter dated April 19, 1989. "I am annoyed by all this murder talk," he wrote. "Peggy & Wendy just happened along at a time when I was curious about [1930s cannibal Albert] Fish's craving for the flesh of young girls....I assure you these girls were not molested sexually. I found both of them very satisfactory, particularly with sautéed onions and peppers."

Schaefer was free on bond, awaiting trial for the Trotter-Wells abduction in Martin County, when his next known victims were murdered on September 27, 1972. The double slaying of Susan Place and Georgia Jessup would land him in prison for life and would be the only murders for which he was ever tried.

Less than four weeks after Place and Jessup vanished, on October 23, 14-year-olds Mary Alice Briscolina and Elsie Lina Farmer were added to the missing list. Farmer's family reported her missing on October 24, while Briscolina's waited another week, assuming she had run away from home. Farmer's skeletal remains were found on January 17, 1973 (eight days after Schaefer went to jail), at a construction site near Plantation High School. Briscolina was found on February 15, 200 yards away. (Both girls were identified by dental records.) Following the April search of Doris Schaefer's home, Farmer's relatives identified a piece of jewelry taken from the murdered girl.

Schaefer was never charged with those murders, but he later admitted the crimes, in a letter referring to one of his published stories, titled "Murder Demons." "What crimes am I supposed to confess?" he wrote on April 9, 1991. "Farmer? Briscolina? What do you think 'Murder Demons' is? Fiction? You want 'confessions' but you don't recognize them when I anoint you with them."

Schaefer was sentenced for the Trotter-Wells assault in December 1972, but he did not actually enter jail until January 15, 1973. One week earlier, 19-year-old Iowa residents Collette Goodenough and Barbara Ann Wilcox left Biloxi, Mississippi, hitchhiking to Florida. No trace of either girl was seen until April, when searchers found evidence of their fate in Schaefer's stash. Among the items retrieved were Barbara's driver's license, along with Collette's passport, diary and a book of poems. Skeletal remains of both victims were found at Port Saint Lucie in January 1977, but no cause of death could be found and no charges were ever filed.

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