The True Story Behind Jerry Brudos, Mindhunter’s Shoe Fetish Killer

Published April 9, 2018
Updated January 30, 2020

Jerry Brudos killed several women in Oregon in the 1960s and kept gruesome testaments to each of them.

Brudos Portrait

Jerry Brudos lived a seemingly normal life while carrying out his depraved sexual fantasies.

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.

The discovery sparked his infatuation with women’s shoes and throughout his childhood, Brudos attempted to steal shoes from his teachers and his mother in order to satisfy his growing fetish—one that would grow into a deadly obsession.

John Brudos’s Youth Lays The Foundation For A Murderous Lust

A fixation on women’s shoes is typically little more than a harmless sexual fetish and had John Brudos’s proclivity stayed there, he’d have remained entirely unknown outside his circle of family and acquaintances.

Tragically, it did not.

His mother, already the mother of one boy, had been hoping for a girl before he was born. When Brudos was born, however, her disappointment turned into open hostility—one she would continue to express for the rest of her life.

When she later discovered his fixation with women’s shoes—she found him wearing the shoes he found as a boy—she took them away from him and destroyed them.

Granted, given the sexually repressive atmosphere of the era, this would likely have been the response of most parents of the time but this further rejection of his sexual expression could only have fueled the intersection of hatred with his sexuality.

Openly and repeatedly rejected by his mother and further repressed sexually, he turned his pain and anger inward, where it manifested it into a hatred not only of his mother but twisted itself into a vicious misogyny.

Later, he started breaking into the homes of neighbors to steal women’s underwear and his sexual fantasies started taking a disturbing turn into violence.

Turn Toward Violence And Psychiatric Evaluation

Jerry Brudos Child

YouTubeJerry Brudos as a child, before he escalated to murder, when he was just stealing shoes.

When he was 17 years old, Jerry Brudos attacked a woman for the first time.

Taking a knife, he abducted a teenage girl and forced her to pose while he took naked photos of her. Reports differ, but he may have beaten her or threatened to do so if she didn’t comply with his sexual demands.

Though Brudos assaulted her, he didn’t kill her and soon after he was arrested for the assault. He was subsequently sent the psychiatric ward of Oregon State Hospital.

For nine months, he lived at the hospital but still attended school during the day while 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. He reportedly served in the military during this time, though he was discharged due to his obsessions.

The Appearance Of Normalcy Hides The Darkness Within

Jerry Brudos

YouTubeJerry Brudos maintained a normal public life as an electrician and family man–while mutilating his victims in the family garage.

At 22, Brudos married a 17-year-old girl from Salem, Oregon and moved to Portland to begin what looked like a “normal” life. Soon though, it became clear that his nine-month psych ward stint had done little to quell his urges.

Jerry Brudos indulged in his sexual fetishes in his married life, often taking pictures of his young bride while she cleaned the house naked. It isn’t known whether this was consensual or forced, but there is some indication that she may have been somewhat brainwashed by her husband.

The question about his wife’s complicity in his later crimes is an open debate since his fixation with wearing women’s underwear around the house and his fetish for women’s footwear eventually became more than she could handle.

After a few years, the two stopped being intimate, which suggests that his wife had some presence of mind of her own.

Jerry Brudos’s Fantasies Turn To Murder

Brudos And His Victims

Jerry Brudos and his victims: Linda Slawson (t. left), Karen Sprinkler (b. left), Jan Whitney (t. right), and Linda Salee (b. right).

It isn’t know whether Brudos acted out his more violent fantasies during this time or whether this sexual rupture with his wife was a predicate for his return to violence, but Brudos attacked his second known victim in 1967.

He had been walking downtown when he noticed a pair of women’s shoes and followed the woman wearing 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 escalated to murder. Linda Slawson was an encyclopedia saleswoman who came to Brudos’s home on business. He pretended to be interested to lure her in, and eventually strangled her to death.

Brudos began collecting trophies taken from women in his garage. He warned his wife against venturing into the garage or the attic without permission, and if she needed to enter for whatever reason, she was required to ask Brudos over an intercom system and wait for his permission.

It was in this garage that Jerry Brudos stashed Slawson’s body, dressing it up, and cutting off one of her feet. He stored her foot in a freezer and used it to model high heels he had collected. Soon thereafter, he tied Slawson’s body to a car engine and dumped it into the Willamette river.

Brudos’s 18-month-long killing spree had begun.

Ralphene Brudos On Trial

Bettman/Getty ImagesAccompanied by her court-appointed attorney, Mrs. Ralphene Brudos leaves Circuit Courtroom after pleading innocent to a charge of first degree murder in connection with her husband’s murder of Karen Sprinkler.

Dressed in women’s clothes, Brudos kidnapped his next victim, Karen Sprinkler, at gunpoint from the parking lot of a department store. In his garage, he forced Sprinkler to put on several different women’s underwear while he photographed her.

He then raped her and hanged her by the neck from a pulley in the garage, strangling her to death. He had sex with the woman’s body several times before cutting off her breasts to make plastic moulds from them. He then threw her body into the river tied to a car engine to weigh her down.

In the fall of the same year, Brudos added another macabre trophy to his collection. Stranded on the highway after her car broke down, college student Jan Whitney accepted a ride from Brudos, whereupon he strangled her and raped her dead body in the car.

He hoisted her body from the pulley in his garage and had sex with her corpse on multiple occasions. He cut off her breast and made a resin mould of it and used it as a paperweight. He then threw her body in the river as well, tied to a railroad iron.

He attempted to abduct two more women who got away, but Linda Salee wasn’t so fortunate.

She was abducted in 1969 and brought to Brudos’s garage where she was raped, strangled, and her body similarly violated like his earlier victims. Her breast was not cut off but her body was also thrown into the Willamette River, tied to a car transmission.

Brudos’s Grizzly Murder Spree Comes To An End

Jerry Brudos Arrested

MurderpediaJerry Brudos following his arrest for multiple murders.

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 the form of 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, and when Jerry Brudos arrived to pick her up, a team of police officers was waiting for him.

During his interrogation, Brudos confessed to all four murders, attempted kidnappings, and earlier assaults.

Brudos In Netflix Mindhunter

Jerry Brudos being interviewed in prison by an F.B.I. agent in the Netflix serial-killer drama Mindhunter

Having been identified by an earlier assault victim in a police line-up, Police obtained a warrant for a search of Brudos’s home. There, 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.

Jerry Brudos was found guilty of the murders of Sprinkler, Whitney, and Salee and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, of which he served 37 years before his death in 2006. He escaped conviction for Slawson’s murder only because her body was never found.

After his death, Netflix’s Mindhunter documented Jerry Brudos’ crimes and his gruesome criminal profile alongside Ed Kemper and the BTK Killer.

After learning about serial killer Jerry Brudos, check out the story of Richard Speck, who killed eight women in one night. Then, read about Robert Ben Rhoades, the “Truck Stop Killer.”

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