Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Fetish Killer

Coming Up Short

Sheriff's office & courthouse
Sheriff's office & courthouse

On June 4, 1969, Jerome Brudos was arraigned. Charges in the Whitney and Salee cases were filed quickly thereafter. Brudos kept Dale Drake to defend him, who then teamed up with high-powered criminal lawyer George Rhoten. They all expected the trial to be fairly long and involved, since the prosecution had an extensive witness list and quite a collection of evidence. The defense attorneys knew they could not get around Brudos actual guilt, so they formulated a strategy based on a mental illness. Brudos pleaded not guilty, and more reluctantly (since he believed himself a genius) not guilty by reason of insanity. That meant he'd be processed through mental health assessments from both sides. And he was.

Jerry Brudos in prison
Jerry Brudos in prison

He attempted with whining and tears to convince the psychiatrists that he was himself a victim of a terrible mother, but most of them saw that he just felt sorry for himself. He added that in 1967 he'd suffered an accident. While repairing a device he had contacted a live wire, which had knocked him off his feet. He'd survived but had suffered afterward from severe headaches. He then began knocking women down to steal their clothing, and had committed a rape in a woman's home. In that situation, he said that he'd been unable to control himself. He said that he then began to fantasize about keeping female corpses in his freezer. He wanted to be able to dress and pose them however he liked, whenever he liked. In order words, he wanted a life-sized doll.

After his first murder he had purchased a large freezer. He had now activated his fantasy and he wanted to be more prepared in the event he had such an opportunity again. He was clearly a man who liked being in control. In fact, he insisted that if he were treated in a hospital, he would get better, and he was determined to get out and raise his own children. He was oblivious to the seriousness of his situation, but not confused or disoriented. He was arrogant and revealed no sense of remorse.

Seven psychiatrists who assessed him indicated that while he had a personality disorder he nevertheless knew what he was doing and that it was wrong. That is, he would not be considered legally insane. Antisocial personality, yes. Paraphilias of a deviant nature, absolutely. But he was not psychotic. He had certainly known what he was doing to these girls and that it was both illegal and wrong. Was he a danger? Definitely. Was his condition able to be rehabilitated? No.

After consulting with his attorneys, who saw no way out, Brudos changed his plea to guilty in the murders of Jan Whitney, Karen Sprinker and Linda Salee, all from Salem. He was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life imprisonment, with the chance for parole. He also admitted to a fourth murder in Multnomah County, but Linda Slawson's body was never found and he was not prosecuted in the case.

Then Brudos' wife was arrested and tried as his accomplice. One neighbor claimed she had actually seen Darcie help Brudos with a victim, but her testimony was discredited. Since there was no evidence that Darcie knew about or participated in any of the crimes as difficult as that was to believe she was acquitted. In 1970, she ended her eight-year marriage to Brudos, changed her name, and moved with the children to an unknown location. It's likely she just wanted to put the whole thing behind her, although she would probably never forget her inadvertent discoveries of his cross-dressing habit and the "paperweight." As Rule tells it, she, too, was a victim.

In August 1970, the Oregon Court of Appeals published an opinion on Brudos' petition for a rehearing. Gary Babcock had filed the brief. Brudos insisted that the court should not have accepted his guilty plea to three first-degree murders, and thus should not have imposed consecutive life sentences. His attorney argued that once a person has received a life sentence for an offense, all consecutive life sentences must run concurrent with it. The court responded that they could not consider the defendant's first claim of error on direct appeal, and the defendant had to instead present his grounds for setting aside his pleas of guilty within the appropriate legislative framework. Thus, his appeal, in total, was denied. As were all subsequent appeals, including the one in which he claimed he'd suffered from hypoglycemia when offering his guilty plea.

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