Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Fetish Killer

Troubled Teens

Jerry Brudos at 17
Jerry Brudos at 17

When he was 17 in 1956, his fetish grew dangerous. Having dug a hole in a hillside to "keep" girls as sex slaves, he used a knife to accost a 17-year-old girl, demanding that she remove her clothing so he could photograph her nude body. He even beat her up, but after an elderly couple caught him he admitted what he'd done. Clearly, this sort of encounter was not going to satisfy him. Not even after serving nine months for it on the psychiatric ward of Oregon State Hospital (though he still attended school). In therapy there, doctors became aware that his sexual fantasies were centered around hatred for his demanding mother and revenge against women in general. They also knew about his collection of women's clothing. As Hickey points out, his fantasies included "placing kidnapped girls into freezers so he could later arrange their stiff bodies in sexually explicit poses." Rule includes the psychiatric report from that hospital, indicating that the examining mental health staff did not believe Brudos was "grossly mentally ill." (In Murder Cases of the Twentieth Century, Frasier says that the diagnosis was borderline schizophrenia.)

It seemed that he'd had an "adjustment reaction" to adolescence and was not considered dangerous, although he had developed a fetish for female shoes and underwear, and for nude female photographs. He seemed immature and unable to deal normally with his developing sexuality. But that did not strike anyone as the foundation for violence. As Rule put it, the doctors believed that he simply had to grow up. They can hardly be blamed for this misjudgment. Not much was known in 1956 about the development of serial sexual predators.

Brudos went into the military, but Schechter says that he was discharged early because of his strange delusions (Frasier says for sexual obsessions). Once out again, he became an electronics technician. In 1961 when he was 22, he met a shy 17-year-old girl whom Rule calls "Darcie," Hickey calls "Ralphene," and Vronsky names "Susan," and they were married. (She is referred to here as Darcie, following Rule's example.) She went along with whatever Brudos wanted, including staying naked in the house, staying out of his workshop, and avoiding the attic. They had two children together and eventually Darcie declined to have sex any longer.

She seemed not to notice when Brudos stole out during the night to invade other people's homes to satisfy his underwear fetish, although she did sense some oddities in his character. Once, he even walked up to her dressed in women's underwear. She was reportedly shocked, and he seemed hurt by her inability to understand. He'd looked for a woman who would be compliant to his will and accept everything. She had disappointed him, so he returned to his secret world. They said nothing more to each other about it.

On another occasion Darcie discovered a paperweight in the house shaped like a woman's breast. That really bothered her, but Brudos had an explanation. Not knowing what else to do, she accepted it and forgot the incident, just like she did when she caught him developing photographs of nude women. It's unlikely that she would have understood the nature of Brudos' aberrant obsession.

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