Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Gary Heidnik: To Hell and Back


Following Deborah Dudley's death, Josefina became Heidnik's constant companion, often accompanying him on outings to restaurants and on shopping expeditions. On one such outing, Heidnik told Josefina that if he was ever caught, he would act as though he was insane as he knew how to manipulate the testing procedures. He told her that he had been fooling the authorities for years so that he could qualify for disability payments. Heidnik also seemed to soften after Deborah died and began to provide additional comforts for his captives including mattresses, blankets, pillows and even a television set while Josefina, in a her role as trusted confidante, earned the dubious honor of sharing Heidnik's bed.

On one particular trip, they were driving in the countryside outside of New Jersey when Heidnik stopped the car near a heavily wooded area and remarked that it would be a good place to hide Deborah's body. The following night, March 22, Heidnik and Josefina loaded Deborah's partially frozen body in one of his other vehicles, a Dodge van, and drove back to the area known as the Pine Barrens. While Josefina waited in the vehicle, Heidnik dumped the body in a grove of trees.

The next day, Heidnik told her that he would need to find a "replacement" for Deborah and suggested that they go out "cruising" together to find one. Later that night, the pair drove through the streets looking for a likely subject.

Heidnik found a new victim, Agnes, who he convinced to go home with them. Shortly after getting to the house, Agnes found herself stripped, chained and imprisoned in the basement with the others. To Heidnik, Josefina may have seemed like a willing participant but she had other plans and was happy to wait for the right time to implement them.

Her chance finally came on March 24 when after days of pleading and cajoling, she convinced Heidnik that if he let her go to see her family, she would bring him back a new "wife" for his collection. Heidnik, anxious to expand his "family" agreed on the condition that after visiting her family, she would pick up the woman and meet him at a gas station near her house at midnight. Later that evening, Heidnik dropped her near her house and drove off. Within seconds, Josefina was sprinting towards the apartment that she shared with her boyfriend, Vincent Nelson.

When Nelson answered the door, Josefina blurted out her incredible story. As she related how she had been taken prisoner, sexually abused and tortured, Nelson wondered if she had lost her mind. As he tried to quiet her down, she continued to describe scenes involving death, dog food and body parts until Nelson offered to go to Heidnik's house and confront him. Scared that their interference would lead to the other girls being killed, Josefina convinced him to call the police.

Several minutes later, two police officers, John Cannon and David Savidge arrived. Again Josefina told her incredible story. Like Nelson, Cannon and Savidge also found it hard to believe until Josefina lifted the bottoms of her jeans and showed them the scars on her ankles where the chains had been. They were convinced and went to the gas station where Heidnik was waiting in his Cadillac. As they took out their weapons and approached the car, Heidnik raised his hands and asked if they were there regarding child support payments. He was told that it was a far more serious matter and placed under arrest. After four months of unspeakable horror, Gary Heidnik's reign of terror was finally at an end.


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