Jerry Brudos killed several women in Oregon in the 1960s and kept gruesome testaments to each of them.
In 1944, when Jerry Brudos was five years old, he found a woman’s spike-heeled shoe at a junkyard. The shoe wasn’t even part of a matching pair, but Brudos was fascinated by it and brought it home as a trophy. The discovery sparked his infatuation with women’s shoes, an obsession that would turn deadly by the time he reached adulthood.
As a child, Brudos attempted to steal shoes from his teachers and his mother, in order to satisfy his fetish. His mother, already the mother of one boy, had been hoping for a girl before he was born. When she got stuck with Brudos, she continued to express her displeasure for his entire life. In order to bear with the fact that his mother openly hated him, he turned his anger inward, where it manifested it into a hatred not only of his mother but all women.
When he was 17 years old, Jerry Brudos attacked a woman for the first time. He abducted her and made her pose for naked photographs, threatening to beat her if she didn’t comply with his sexual demands. Though he assaulted her, he left her alive. Shortly after the attack, he was arrested and sent the psych ward. For nine months he lived at the Oregon State Hospital, where he underwent an in-depth psychiatric evaluation.
The evaluation diagnosed him with schizophrenia and determined that his rage was directed primarily against his mother. After his release, it was suggested he get out and begin to live his own life. He followed his doctors’ advice, and shortly after graduating high school, he became a mechanical and electrical engineer.
At 22, appearing to be healed by those on the outside looking in, Brudos married a 17-year-old girl from Salem, Ore. and moved to Portland. Soon though, it became clear that his nine-month psych ward stint had done little to quell his urges.
Brudos would often make his young bride clean the house wearing nothing but a pair of high heeled shoes, while he took photos. Despite the fact that the two had two children together, Brudos still found time to attack women and chase down his shoe fetish.
In 1967, Brudos attacked his second victim. He had been walking downtown when he noticed a pair of women’s shoes and followed the woman in them home. After she went to bed, he broke in, strangled her into unconsciousness, and raped her. Then, he took the shoes and left.
A year later, Jerry Brudos’ third victim found her way to him. Linda Slawson was an encyclopedia saleswoman, who dropped by on business. He pretended to be interested to lure her in, and eventually strangled her to death.
Unbeknownst to his wife, Brudos had a treasure trove of trophies taken from women in his garage. She had been warned against venturing into the garage without permission and had clearly had no desire to, as she’d never noticed it before. It was in this treasure trove that Brudos stashed Slawson’s body, dressing it up, and cutting off one of her feet. He used the foot to model high heels and he tied the body to a car engine before dumping it in a river.
In the fall of the same year, Brudos added another macabre trophy to his collection. After murdering college student Jan Whitney, Brudos cut off one of her breasts and had sex with her corpse on multiple occasions. Then, her body was tied to a car part and joined Slawson’s in the river after Brudos had grown bored with it. Before the next year would be up, two more women would meet the same fate.
In May of 1969, a fisherman discovered a body floating in the river, as he was scouting for fishing locations. Two days later police found another body. Both were mutilated and had been tied to car parts to help them sink to the bottom of the river. Though the river had washed away almost all of the evidence, the police found a lead in one of the dead women’s roommates.
She told police that the dead girl had received calls from an older man, claiming to be a Vietnam veteran looking for a date and that since her death he had been calling the roommates as well. One of them had responded but never saw him again because she felt strange after the date.
Police persuaded the roommate to plan another date with the man, who arrived to find not the roommate, but a team of police officers. They ultimately released him, not having much evidence, but soon a woman came forward saying that Brudos had attempted to attack her and that she had escaped. Police searched his home soon after.
In his hidden hideaway, police found evidence that proved beyond a doubt that he was their man. There was nylon rope, photographs of the dead women, and most horrifyingly the trophies he had kept from them. From the last two victims, he had taken breasts and turned them into grotesque paperweights.
Jerry Brudos was found guilty and given a life sentence which he served for 37 years, making him the longest-serving prisoner in Oregon before his death in 2006.
After his death, Netflix’s Mindhunter documented Brudos’ crimes and his bizarre criminal profile alongside Ed Kemper and the BTK Killer.