Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Gary Heidnik: To Hell and Back

Sick Trick

Gary Heidnik (POLICE)
Gary Heidnik
(Police Photo)
For Josefina, November 26, 1986 was a night that she will never forget. Angry after a fight with her boyfriend, she left their apartment in a slum area in north Philadelphia to go to work.

Braving rain and bitter cold, she noticed a silver and white Cadillac Coupe De Ville drive slowly past her and stop. She moved closer as the driver's window slid down and a bearded man asked if she wanted a ride. He looked okay to her and she got into the car.

The man introduced himself as Gary and told her he had to make a stop; Josefina, agreed and shortly after they pulled into a nearby McDonald's. She followed him as he went inside and bought coffee and sat with him as he drank it. With a quick appraisal borne of experience, Josefina studied her new companion. He was white, his face framed by a neatly trimmed beard below cold, blue penetrating eyes. Although he wore an expensive watch and jewelry and drove a luxury car, she noticed that his clothes were cheap and soiled. Grasping for things to say, she again asked him his name. "Gary Heidnik," he said sullenly. Several minutes later, he finished his coffee and told her they were leaving. When she asked where they were going, he told her they were going to his house.

They drove to a dilapidated house in a seedy neighborhood. Josefina couldn't help but notice another car parked in front of them; it was a 1971 Rolls Royce. He clearly had some money.

When they reached the door, Heidnik pulled out a strange key and pushed it into the lock. When Josefina remarked about it, he explained that he had cut the key into two pieces, half of which stayed in the lock preventing anyone but him from entering. The door opened into a kitchen, which was decorated by pennies that had been glued to half of its walls. Heidnik led her to a living room with sparse, aging furniture. He offered to show her around and led her up a narrow staircase. As she reached the door of his bedroom, she couldn't believe her eyes, the hallway directly in front of it had been partially covered with one and five dollar bills.

Josefina, victim
Josefina, victim
Suddenly, Heidnik stepped behind her and began choking her with his hands. He released his grip but instead of letting her go, he pulled her arms behind her and handcuffed her wrists. He then led to a cold, damp basement room.

Heidnik dragged her to a dirty mattress, attached metal clamps to her ankles and connected them to one end of a chain. He then applied glue to the clamps and dried them with a hair dryer. The other end he fastened around a large pipe that was attached to the ceiling. When he had finished, he told her to sit up and promptly laid his head in her lap and went to sleep. When Josefina awoke there was enough daylight to see the small room that was her prison.

In the center of the room, a small area of concrete had been removed and a shallow pit had been dug into the ground underneath. When Heidnik returned, he set to work to widen and deepen the hole.

As she watched him working, he told her that all he had ever wanted was a large family and to that end had already fathered four children to four separate women but had lost contact with them for various reasons. He told Josefina that his plan was to get ten women and make all of them pregnant so he could raise his family. Then, to demonstrate his intent, he raped her.

Left alone a second time, Josefina loosened one of the ankle clamps and, after prying the covers from the window, stretched the chain to its full length and lifted herself halfway out of the window. Unable to escape fully, she screamed, hoping that a neighbor would come to her aid. Unfortunately, only Heidnik responded to her cries.

He pulled her back inside the basement and beat her with a stick until she quieted down. Then, pushing her down into the tiny hole in the floor, he forced her head onto her chest and covered her with a piece of plywood and stacked heavy weights on top of it. To make sure that her screams didn't attract any outside attention, he set up a radio and tuned it to a hard rock station at maximum volume and left. As she lay half naked and cramped up in the freezing earth, Josefina struggled to breathe and waited to die.

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