This week, for Episode 73, Rachel heads to Salem, Oregon to talk about the one and only Jerry Brudos. Then, Emily tells a story that has everything. Learn all about Governor John Dawson, the perv. Moroni Clawson, the outlaw. And Jean Baptiste, the grave robber.
Story 1 – Jerry Brudos
Now, it’s time to talk about something not-so-awesome that happened in Oregon. But first, we start in Webster, South Dakota. Jerome Henry Brudos was born on January 31, 1939, the second of two boys to his mother, Eileen Brudos, and his father, Henry Brudos.
Unfortunately for Baby Jerry, his parents were not the nice, normal, Midwesterners they seemed to be. Eileen really wanted a baby girl as her number 2, and she punished Jerry because he had a penis. Yes, that’s right, this is a story in which most sources I read blamed the mother. And there are a lot of trigger warnings in this story, so be ready.
Just a quick reminder/disclaimer from Your Friendly Neighborhood Therapist: Child abuse is awful, and Eileen seems to have had her own mental health issues. And, most people who suffer from the kind of abuse that Jerry Brudos suffered from do not go on to become serial killers.
Okay, So, Eileen wants a girl, so instead of embracing her healthy baby boy, she starts physically and mentally abusing Jerry. Oh, and for the record, she’s really warm and maternal to Jerry’s older brother, Larry. That’s right, Jerry and Larry.
When he’s five years old, Jerry is playing in a junkyard, as unsupervised 5-year-olds are known to do, and he finds a pair of high heels. Jerry thinks these shoes are the bees’ knees. He sneaks them home and starts walking around in them.
Now, in my opinion, this is adorable. My kids love to wear my shoes and think it’s hilarious that their giant Minnie-Mouse size makes the kids stumble in this super silly way. But Eileen, as much as she may have wanted a girl, was furious. First, she told him to take them back from the dump, calling him “wicked,” in the process. Jerry thought instead he would hide them and Mommy Dearest would never find them. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Eileen Brudos took the heels from Jerry and burned them.
As most parents know, taking something away and smashing it does the opposite of nipping an obsession in the bud. And Jerry started to get reaallllll into women’s shoes. In first grade, he stole his teacher’s heels from under her desk. Later, a teenage girl, a family friend, came to the Brudos house. I’m assuming she frequented the home, as she felt comfortable enough to take a nap on Jerry’s bed. Horrifyingly, she woke up to little Jerry Brudos, trying to take her shoes off of her sleeping body.
When Jerry got a little older, he also started to get realllll into women’s underwear. When he hit puberty, he did that fun thing that serial killers often do in which he started to fantasize about sex intermixed with violence. Awesome.
The Brudos Family moved to Oregon in 1956, where Jerry’s sexual deviance and violence grew more out of control.
He stole underwear from his neighbors, resulting in Jerry going in and out of psychiatric hospitals, including Oregon State Hospital, which is now a museum. And his sexually violent behavior escalated from there. Teenage Jerry Brudos used to stalk teenage girls, knock them out, and then steal their shoes.
When he was 17, he kidnapped a girl, forced her to strip, and then took pictures of her, threatening to kill her if she didn’t comply. He was the epitome of a stupid criminal. This was all premeditated – Jerry had dug a hole on the side of a hill, in which he planned to keep multiple teenage girls as “sex slaves.” He’s a stupid criminal, but also a dangerous one. He was caught – I didn’t read by who, and then it was back to the Psychiatric Ward, where Jerry had a chance to work on his studies, which is very Ted Bundy of him.
Oh, but he also had time to tell doctors how much he hated his mom, as well as everyone else with a vagina. He told the doctors about his secret collection of stolen panties. Then, he shared his most disturbing fantasy. He wanted to kidnap girls and keep their bodies in the freezer. Then, he could rearrange their bodies into whichever sexual positions he desired.
But did the doctors lock him up? Of course not. They were all “Boys will be boys! He just needs to grow up a little. He definitely won’t kill anyone or dismember them or put any body parts in the freezer. Be free, young white man!”
And free he was. Jerry Brudos went on to graduate high school. He spent some time in the army, but was discharged for “bizarre” behavior.
After the military, Jerry Brudos became an electronics mechanic. He got married when he was 22, finding his orange sock in a 17-year-old Darcie Metzler, and having 2 children. According to All Things Interesting, neighbors described Jerry as pretty vanilla. They said he “neither drank nor smoked, and rarely, if ever, used profanity.” The end. He was cured.
Jerry kept up his sinister behavior, starting with Darcie. He demanded that she pose naked for him so that he could take pictures. He coerced her into cleaning the house naked, wearing nothing but high heels. I really feel for Darcie. Can you imagine marrying some controlling asshole when you were 17?!?!
After a few years, Darcie Brudos started to push back. She focused on their kids and told Jerry that she would no longer be complying with his sexual demands. She wasn’t into it, and Jerry started pouting. Obviously he needed a new outlet *eye roll.* Revisiting his teenage M.O., Jerry snuck into people’s homes, stole women’s underwear, and continued to fantasize about committing sexually violent crimes. Now, I looked for this information, because I’m curious. Maybe it was because of the culture in the 1960s, where women were not supposed to question men. But here is what I need to know: Where the fuck did he keep the underwear and women’s shoes?!?!? Did he have a secret kill chest like Dexter? Is it like a STAY OUT OF DADDY’S OFFICE situation!??! Or is Darcie just avoiding him because she knew he was the living worst?
Anywho, let’s jump forward to May, 1967. Jerry Brudos saw a woman walking home and followed her because he liked her shoes. He followed this woman into her home, strangled her until she was unconscious, and then raped her. He would later testify that he was turned on by the woman’s limp body.
I looked, but I could not find this woman’s name anywhere. This crime wasn’t even connected with Jerry Brudos until (spoilers) he was already imprisoned. Regardless, he left her unconscious in her home, but not before stealing some of her shoes and taking them home to his secret office or wherever.
On January 26, 1968, Jerry Brudos committed his first murder. Linda Slawson, a 19-year-old living in Portland with her family, was selling encyclopedias door-to-door. When she knocked on Jerry’s door, he feigned interest in her books, inviting her in to chat more about them. Once inside, Jerry hit Linda on the head, knocking her unconscious, then strangled her to death. One of the sources I read said that his family was upstairs while he was murdering her.
He moved her body into the garage, then dressed it up in underpants he stole from other women. Then, he used a hacksaw to cut off Linda’s left foot, keeping it in the freezer to try on different high-heeled shoes. When he had finished desecrating the rest of her body, he tied it to the engine of a car and dumped it in the Willamette River. Linda’s body has never been recovered.
I hope you’re ready for the next murder because it’s extra sinister in my opinion. In May of 1968, Jerry was in a parking lot of a department store, dressed as a woman.
Now, I don’t have any problem with people dressing in whatever clothing they feel best suits them, regardless of gender. HOWEVER, if you are going to rape and murder people, and you are a mediocre white man, dressing as a woman is crazy sinister, because our flags aren’t up. We literally are conditioned to fear men.
Side note, I saw this really great Tiktok the other day debunking the “not all men” thought process. I didn’t know this, because I’m not a person who knows a ton about guns, but it was talking about how the first rule of gun safety is to treat every gun like it’s loaded. Yes, you know all guns aren’t loaded, but you act as if they are until you are absolutely sure they aren’t to keep everyone safe. In the same way, we know that “not all men” are going to rape or murder us, but it’s important to act as if all men could until we are sure they won’t.
Anywho, dressed as a woman, Jerry Brudos abducted 19-year-old student Karen Sprinker at gunpoint from the parking lot. He forced Karen to his home in which he forced her to put on stolen underwear, and then he hung her up from a pulley in his garage, raped her, strangled her, then after she was dead, he raped her corpse. Then, he removed both of her breasts, creating plastic molds of them. He tied her body to a car engine, of which he apparently has multiple, and threw it into the river.
Growing confident that he hadn’t been caught, Jerry struck again in November of 1968. Jan Susan Whitney, a young woman who was driving home to spend Thanksgiving with her family, was broken down on the side of I-5 between Salem OR and Albany OR. Jerry saw her and stopped, offering to drive Jan back to his house so she could call a tow truck. Jan got into his car, where Jerry strangled her to death with a leather strap and then raped her dead body.
He took Jan’s body back to his garage, hanging it from a pulley system for several days. During this time, Jerry continued to rape her body, take pictures of it, dress it up in more stolen clothes, and, when he finally tired, he cut off one of her breasts, eventually creating a resin mold of it and turning said mold into a paperweight. When he was done desecrating her body, he tied it to a railroad iron and threw it into the river, along with Linda Slawson’s foot, which apparently had rotted by this point.
In April of 1969, Jerry Brudos abducted Linda Salee, a 22-year-old secretary at a moving company, most likely from a shopping mall again, as she was last seen buying a birthday present for her boyfriend. He again brought the young woman to the garage, in which he raped, strangled, and mutilated her body. He tied her corpse to a car transmission and threw it into the Willamette River.
This whole time, Jerry is murdering and mutilating young women in his garage, and his family is in their fucking house! He’s all, THIS IS DADDY’s MAN CAVE. DAMN IT, DARCIE!
Linda Salee was missed immediately – it was unlike her to no-show/no-call for work, and police found her car at the mall. Three weeks after she went missing, Linda’s body was found by a fisherman in the Long Tom River, tied to a transmission with a distinctive knot. Of course, police searched the river, and they found Karen Sprinker’s body, also mutilated and weighed down by a car part, tied with another distinctive knot.
Police were able to recognize that both of these women seemed to be about college age, so they went to Oregon State University to interview students. Police began to hear stories about a man who looked like a Vietnam vet who had been calling up coeds asking for a date. One of the woman police interviewed mentioned that she actually went on a date with this creeper. She described him as having light hair and freckles, as well as being heavyset, and stated that this man referenced the bodies that were found in the river and made a comment about how he could strangle her.
Police were all… “hmmmmm that might be him.” They asked this woman to set up another date with the mystery caller so they could check him out. Spoilers: it was Jerry Brudos. In May of 1969, police arrested him when he showed up for the date. They got a warrant to search his home, in which they found rope, pictures of the dead woman, and of course, the body parts Jerry Brudos had kept as trophies.
Jerry folded during the interrogation, confessing to all 4 murders, multiple kidnappings, and other assaults. He was found guilty of the murders of Karen Sprinker, Jan Whitney, and Loinda Salee. Like I mentioned, Linda Slawson’s body was never found, so Jerry was not prosecuted for her murder. Like many psychopaths, he claimed that he was not guilty by reason of insanity, but he was found sane to stand trial. He showed no remorse.
Darcie divorced Jerry Brudos in 1970 when he was arrested. She then changed her names as well as her children’s names and moved away. Interestingly, Darcie was charged with aiding and abetting in Jerry’s crimes. I’m not so sure about that, and she wasn’t convicted of murder. Jerry received 3 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
But, he continued to ask for women’s shoe catalogues while imprisoned, stating that they were his version of porn. He was denied multiple appeals.
Jerry Brudos served 37 years in prison. He died in 2006, of liver cancer, at which time he was the longest incarcerated inmate in the history of the Oregon Department of Corrections.
And that is the story of the “Shoe Fetish Slayer,” Jerry Brudos.
Story 2 – Easter Sunday Massacre
Let’s dig in and talk about THE EASTER SUNDAY MASSACRE of 1975.
It started like any other Easter Sunday in small-town Ohio. Children put on their Easter clothes – little frilly dresses for the girls – complete with Easter bonnets – and handsome little outfits for the boys. Families attended church and women made final preparations for hosting a grand meal. Some children hunted for Easter eggs – others probably cried, wondering why a giant bunny was sneaking into their yards and homes like a creep.
But, at the Ruppert home… things weren’t quite so quaint.
Let’s back up and talk about the main character in our story. James Urban Ruppert. Try to get inside that mind and see what made him who he is.
James was actually born near Easter time back in 1934. In 34 Easter was April 1, so James was only 3 days earlier, born on March 29. Like many of these tales we weave, he suffered a rough childhood. His parents, Charity and Leonard, were… not great. His mom often called him a “mistake” because she wanted a daughter – which, always just floors me that a parent would not only think this but also speak it out loud. James’ father, Leonard, was a violent man with a quick temper and couldn’t be bothered to spend time with his two sons. Speaking of, James had an older brother (Leonard Jr) who was two years older than him.
Leonard Senior died when James was about 12 and LJ was 14 and let’s be honest, no one really missed the mean old man. Of course, at this time, Leonard Jr. took on the role of head of the household and took the role seriously. And he ruled in a way that he had seen demonstrated to him… with an iron first and a biting wit.
He picked on his little brother incessantly. James wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack and didn’t do so great at school. He didn’t have many friends and was a shrimpy guy. As an adult, he was only five foot six inches and weighed 135 pounds. He had thick glasses and in general, just wasn’t a handsome dude – while Leonard Jr. had a strong jaw and looked like your typical all-American man from the 70s.
Sadly, James was so miserable that when he was sixteen years old he decided to take his own life and attempted suicide by hanging himself with a bedsheet. His attempt was unsuccessful and he pretty much decided that he couldn’t even complete suicide so he must just be doomed to living an unremarkable life.
As he got older, this unremarkable life continued – and in parallel, his brother Leonard succeeded greatly, which only made James feel worse and worse.
He failed college after two years, while Leonard earned a degree in electrical engineering and excelled in sports. James got a girlfriend, Alma, but… Leonard ended up marrying her. AND having eight children with her. If that’s not a kick in the dick I don’t know what is. Plus, Leonard had a great job with General Electric and James, although 41 years old by now, was unemployed and lived with his mother.
On top of it all, James owed money to his mother and brother, because he had borrowed large sums from them after losing what little he had in the stock market crash of 1973-1974. Of course, Charity was eternally frustrated with this “should have been a daughter’s” inability to keep a job and constantly berated him about it. This led James to drink and eventually, Charity told James she was going to evict him and force him to go get a real-life on his own.
James was – simply put – miserable. All the time.
So, in 1975, on James’ birthday, the birthday boy decided to do a little target practice. Why? “No reason. For fun. Ok. Leave me alone.” He took his .357 Magnum to the banks of the Great Miami River and shot cans off the fence posts. Just a little harmless target practice.
That night he celebrated more by heading to this bar – a place called the 19th Hole Cocktail Lounge for some drinks. The bartender, Wanda Bishop, did what all good bartenders do and talked to the sad man – asking him what he was thinking and offering a listening ear. Apparently, he talked about his mother’s demands on him and that she was threatening him with eviction. He seemed super depressed and mentioned that he “needed to solve the problem.” Ominous.
At one point, around 11 p.m., he left the bar. But he returned shortly after and when Wanda asked if he had “solved his problem?” He simply said, “Not. Yet.” He stayed until the bar closed at 2:30 AM.
The next day was March 30th, Easter Sunday, and the prodigal son, Leonard, and his wife/James’ ex-girlfriend, Alma, came over to celebrate the holiday. They towed their eight kiddos along with them to see their grandma Charity. At this point the children ranged from ages four to 17. The kids were named Leonard Rudolph Ruppert III, Michael, Thomas, Carol, Ann, David, Teresa, and John.
Although the festivities were in full swing downstairs, James stayed in bed upstairs, sleeping off his night of drinking. While he slept the others had a lovely morning. The kids did their egg hunt and the adults hung out chatting and enjoying each other’s company. Charity was making supper and everything seemed fine.
But it wasn’t fine. You see, James had woken up and – speculation here – hearing the jovial family chattering downstairs he finally decided to “solve his problem.” He grabbed his revolvers – the .357 Magnum from target practice the day before, a .22 caliber handgun, and an 18-shot rifle. With those in hand, he sauntered downstairs.
With his back to the kitchen sink, Ruppert fired first at his brother Leonard, who fell backward onto the floor; he then shot his sister-in-law Alma and his mother, who lunged toward him in a last futile effort to save her family and her life. His nephew, David, and his nieces, Teresa and Carol, were also in the kitchen. So, he killed them, too.
Before anyone had a chance to think, James rushed into the living room, where he killed his niece, Ann, and his four remaining nephews, Leonard III, Michael, Thomas, and John. He killed each of his victims by first taking a disabling shot and then finishing them off with a shot to the head or heart.
He fired 31 shots, stopping only to reload, and all of this took less than five minutes.
James sat in the house for three hours before he called the police. He said, “There’s been a shooting here.” Nothing more. The police obviously high-tailed it to the Ruppert house and when they got there James was waiting for them just inside the front door. The police described the scene as a “slaughterhouse.” There was so much blood splashed about that it was dripping through the floorboards into the basement. No bodies were restrained or tied up – in fact, there was no sign of a struggle at all other than one tipped over wastebasket.
Of course, James was immediately taken into custody and charged with eleven counts of aggravated murder. He refused to talk to the police and plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Plus, he refused to answer any questions and was very uncooperative, making it clear that he planned to offer an insanity defense and prosecutors even believed that he planned to plead insanity, go away for a short time, and then after being “cured,” be released to inherit his mother’s $300,000 inheritance.
My oh my did this series of events bring the morbid curious out in droves. This was a scrawny little quiet neighbor … how could they not have known he was a horrible homicidal maniac!?
For weeks, James Ruppert was the topic of conversation in town. Street sales of Hamilton’s only daily newspaper doubled; hundreds of neighbors congregated outside the Ruppert home, sometimes long past midnight. For six hours after the funeral, 400 cars carrying enthusiastic curiosity-seekers – some in taxicabs – cruised past Arlington Memorial Gardens, where Ruppert’s eleven victims were buried.
Then, during the trial, morbid curious began arriving early in the morning – some by six AM – to wait outside the courthouse for one of the sixty seats in its courtroom. They ran for the stairs or elevator, hoping to beat the crowds to the courtroom door. Those who couldn’t get seats stood around the walls of the courtroom or waited outside on benches in the corridors.
Throughout the proceedings, spectators in the hallway peered through the glass in the door, straining to get a glimpse of James who sat completely impassively throughout most of the trial. One reporter named Dick Perry later said, “It was a free show!”‘
Although this first trial did find James guilty of 11 counts of murder and sentenced him to life in prison, a mistrial was declared because it was determined that there was no way James was getting a fair trial in Hamilton – he was the talk of the town! So, they moved the second trial to Findlay, Ohio, about 125 miles north. The second trial began in June 1975.
Once again, he entered a plea of insanity. His Defense Attorney, H. J. Bressler argued that the very act Ruppert had committed was itself “insane” – that Ruppert had been insane for ten years and that he was incapable of controlling his actions. Several expert witnesses agreed.
Dr. Howard Sokolov described Ruppert as suffering from “a paranoid psychotic state,” one symptom of which was “departure from reality in terms of thinking and behavior.” Ruppert, he suggested, was inclined to be excessively suspicious, jealous, and angry.
Defense psychiatrists also testified that Ruppert was absolutely obsessed with the belief that family members, the police, and the FBI were involved in a long-standing conspiracy to persecute him. Which, I did read. Apparently, he had always been paranoid and thought that his mom and brother were whispering about him to the FBI – for example, that he was a homosexual or a communist. He also worried that Leonard had booby-trapped his old Volkswagen.
Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lester Grinspoon testified that Ruppert’s deadly reaction may have been uncontrollable: “His ego was just completely overwhelmed by this rage, this suppressed rage which had been accumulating over some ten years or more, actually since childhood, that there was no way in which he could avoid doing that act. In fact, if there had been more people in the house, they might have been killed also.”
Essentially, the defense attempted to show that James Ruppert had gone totally berserk – that he was a victim of self-delusion who had acted from sheer impulse; the perpetrator of a brutal yet purposeless crime.
But the prosecution called twenty-nine witnesses and presented two hundred exhibits to develop an entirely different line of thinking – that this was not a berserk random crime, but rather that he had carefully plotted and schemed to kill his entire family in order to collect more than $300,000 – money tied up in life insurance, real estate, savings accounts, and other investments owned by his mother and his brother, Leonard.
Prosecuting attorney John Holcomb argued that Ruppert’s arrest and indictment were actually part of his master plan “to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity … to be sent to Lima, a state mental hospital where he would eventually be declared sane and then walk out with $300,000 in his pocket.”
It was indeed reasonable to posit an economic motive. Under Ohio law, Ruppert could not have inherited his victims’ estate if he had been found guilty of murder. If, however, he had been declared innocent by reason of insanity, he could have gotten everything.
And, psychiatric testimony for the prosecution consistently emphasized the plausibility of the profit motive. Two psychiatrists and a psychologist testified that Ruppert was aware of what he was doing, knew right from wrong at the time of the slayings, and had the ability to resist his aggressive impulses.
Dr. Charles Feuss, Jr. told the court he did not believe the slayings were carried out in a robot-like manner; yet there simply was no explanation for the killing of the sister-in-law and the children, since they had never been implicated by Ruppert in the alleged conspiracy against him. Butler County Coroner Dr. Garret Boone called the Ruppert slayings “pretty much of a deliberate execution.”
In July, he received a new sentence of 11 consecutive life sentences in prison. Of course, James appealed and a new trial was granted in 1982.
In his retrial in 1982, a three-judge panel found Ruppert guilty in the deaths of his first two victims – his mother and his brother – but not guilty by reason of insanity in the other nine slayings, This decision suggests that Ruppert intentionally killed his two immediate family members for some reason like revenge or money, and the others he killed almost as though he were an automaton, just because they were there.
Between all of the legal battles and trial dates, the government had to figure out what to do with the homes of Charity and Leonard, since neither had an heir to pass it along to. So, in 1976, about a year later, Charity’s house was opened to the public and all of the contents were sold at auction. My creepy heart’s dream!
And, of course, the morbid curious showed up once again. Dozens of people came searching for bargains and bloodstains.
They wound their way through the tiny backyard into the living room and kitchen and up the stairs into Ruppert’s second-floor bedroom. An eyewitness, Nancy Baker reported in the local paper that it was an odd sight. There were carpets laid down to cover the bloodstains, but the eerily quiet home was just as it had been before the massacre – and now it was full of people snooping around. Nancy recalled, “Babies asleep in strollers … housewives in curlers … men smoking big cigars – all added to the carnival atmosphere.”
Once all of the items were sold, the home was actually rented to a family that was new to the area and didn’t know the history. They moved out pretty much immediately after moving in, claiming that they could hear voices and strange noises that they couldn’t explain. Lights turned on and off, doors slammed, and thudding footsteps were often heard coming down the stairs.
They were not the last to move in and quickly leave. A number of other families moved in and out of the house and none stayed for long. All of them reported sounds and voices that could not be explained. The house was abandoned for several years, but the last family that moved in reported nothing out of the ordinary. Whatever eerie haunting that had plagued the previous tenants was over at last.
And that is the story of the Easter Massacre told to you, well, YOU Rachel, on Easter Sunday 2022.