Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Gerard Schaefer

Control

On April 24, 1992, Schaefer wrote to London, "I'm poised to sue everyone... I may not win but I'll break everyone's bank and make the lawyers richer." A month later, on June 19, he wrote again, this time announcing that he had sold book and film rights to the "true story" of his frame-up to "a major publisher." Schaefer could not resist signing off with a warning: "The very next time you say or do anything that causes me problems...I am going to encourage my dope addled Satanist pals in Georgia to go pick up your slut daughter and teach her some sex education."

London returned to Starke in February 1993, but not to visit Schaefer. This time, the object of her attention was condemned "Gainesville Ripper" Danny Rolling. Looking beyond his grisly crimes, London found Rolling handsome, charming, and "really quite wonderful." The feeling was mutual: the couple soon announced their engagement although the warden vowed there would be no marriage. Undeterred, London wrote a book about Rolling's case, splitting the proceeds from his prison prose and artwork with Danny's brother.

Schaefer learned of London's new romance from prison sources and fired off another letter on February 13, 1993. It read, in part: "Hello, Whore. The word on the yard is that the Queen of the Sluts was...romancing Danny Rolling ...Valentine, you're mine...I know what you're up to: money. You're gonna get Danny Boy fried while you make a buck off his misery. Right? Well, go for it! Just make sure you keep my name out of it." This time, instead of Satanists, he threatened London with reprisals from the Ku Klux Klan.

London's relationship with Rolling galvanized Schaefer, precipitating his first wave of frivolous lawsuits. Pleading poverty to avoid filing fees, Schaefer issued a series of handwritten complaints, expanding over time to sue virtually everyone who had publicly called him a serial killer. Most of his claims alleged libel, but some claimed "civil rights infringement," pretending that published "false charges" had stalled his parole. Despite reminders from the state that he was ineligible for release until 2017, courts ranging from the Florida to Indiana and New York accepted Schaefer's pleadings and began the slow, expensive process of reviewing each in turn.

Cheated of the sadistic pleasure he had once derived from hanging women, Schaefer now had found another way to make his victims dance. The jailhouse lawyer cherished an illusion of control over his enemies.

One of the first to suffer was Patrick Kendrick, a paramedic and would-be author who spent five years researching the case, concluding that Schaefer had slain at least 11 women. Schaefer sued him for $500,000 over comments in a private letter to a friend of Schaefer (posing as a journalist), wherein Kendrick stated that Schaefer had once been accused of 36 murders. That was libel, Schaefer claimed, since Prosecutor Stone had mentioned only 34 victims in 1973. Worse yet, Kendrick's letter described Schaefer as "a middle-aged, pale and doughy, bookish kind of wimp." Raging from his cell, Schaefer told reporters, "People think prisoners are powerless, that we can't do anything. But I'm showing you I can do a lot. I'm showing him I'm not a wimp."

And so it went. In swift succession, Schaefer sued true-crime authors Joel Norris, Michael Cartelis, Jay Nash, Michael Newton and Colin Wilson. Robert Ressler was sued for writing about Schaefer's case and for mentioning him in lectures on serial murder. Forensic dentist Richard Souviron, who identified Carmen Hallock's teeth in 1973, received a summons for providing photos and fragments of Schaefer's writings to a British magazine. Kentucky academic Ronald Holmes included Schaefer on a list of serial killers, appended to journalist Anne Schwartz's book on Jeffrey Dahmer. In response, Schaefer sued Schwartz, her publisher, Holmes and the University of Kentucky (urging that Holmes be fired to defer litigation).

Despite Schaefer's frequent claim that he never lost a lawsuit, the very opposite was true. Across the board, his claims were dismissed as frivolous or untimely, filed after the statute of limitations for libel actions had expired. In Schaefer v. Colin Wilson, Schaefer's loathsome reputation was declared "libel proof under the law." July 1994 saw him formally branded "a serial killer undoubtedly linked to numerous murders" by Judge William Steckler, in the case of Schaefer v. Michael Newton. Steckler went on to note that Schaefer "boasts of the private and public associations he has had based on the reports that he is a serial killer of world-class proportions, and it is only arrogant perversity which propels him toward this and similarly meritless lawsuits."

Sondra London bore the brunt of Schaefer's malice. He sued her three times (all dismissed) and tried to have her arrested for stealing his literary works valued "in excess of $110,000" (likewise dismissed). London fought back, petitioning for a protective order, weighting her brief with 500 pages of Schaefer's death threats and murder confessions. Finally barred from writing to London directly, Schaefer penned a furious letter to her publisher on December 5, 1993. Referring to a fellow convict—"an Anointed Fourth Prince of the Hand of Death"—he raved: "All I need to do is ask this gentleman to have SL and her kid murdered and it would be done. SL is alive at this moment because I choose to allow it."

As it happened, though, Schaefer had survival issues of his own. Following dismissal of his last two lawsuits in Florida, he wrote to the appellate court: "While working in the prison law library Plaintiff was attacked by another inmate and stabbed repeatedly in and about the face, body and hands. Due to the trauma sustained incidental to this attack, Plaintiff is now unable to prosecute his appeal; therefore Plaintiff withdraws the appeal in this case."

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