In the late 1960s, Jerome Henry "Jerry" Brudos killed at least four women in Oregon — and used their corpses for his necrophilic fantasies.
Jerry Brudos became obsessed with women’s shoes when he was just five years old. The year was 1944, and the youngster happened to notice a pair of stilettos in a junkyard. Intrigued, he brought them home with him — much to the disdain of his mother.
When his mother saw him with the shoes, she became enraged and screamed that he had better take them back to the dump. Brudos tried to hide the shoes from her, but she found out — and burned them.
Something shifted in Brudos that day. He never looked at women’s shoes the same way again. Despite his mother’s obvious disapproval, he began to secretly steal shoes so he could create his own personal collection.
As Jerry Brudos grew older, his obsession became darker. What was once merely creepy soon became deadly. By the late 1960s, Brudos had murdered four women in Oregon — and mutilated their corpses in horrific ways. In perhaps his most horrific act, he chopped one woman’s foot off and kept it in his freezer, using it as a “model” for his collection of stolen high heels.
This is the chilling story of the “Shoe Fetish Slayer” of Mindhunter fame.
The Birth Of A Fatal Obsession
Jerome Henry Brudos was born on January 31, 1939, in Webster, South Dakota. He was the second son of Henry and Eileen Brudos. Initially, his mother hadn’t wanted another child. But she accepted her fate and hoped for a daughter.
Instead, she had a second son. Eileen’s obvious disappointment quickly translated into open hostility toward Jerry. She was domineering and critical of him — but warm and approving of his older brother, Larry.
When Jerry brought high heels home from the junkyard, she told Jerry that he was “wicked” for liking the shoes. Her reaction triggered something in the boy, as he quickly developed an obsession with women’s footwear.
In the subsequent years, Jerry Brudos tested the boundaries of his new fixation. In first grade, he stole his teacher’s high heels from her desk. And when a teenage girl visited his home, he attempted to steal her shoes as well. Since the teen was a family friend, she felt comfortable laying down on Jerry’s bed to rest. But then, she woke up to him trying to remove her shoes.
“As he matured,” wrote Eric Hickey in Serial Murders And Their Victims, “his shoe fetish increasingly provided sexual arousal.”
As Brudos added to his stolen shoe collection, he also stole underwear. These items, as Peter Vronsky explained in Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters, “were mysterious and forbidden totems, arousing in him deep erotic feelings that he could not understand or explain.”
Jerry Brudos may not have understood his feelings. But when he was 17, his most violent fantasies burst out of his head and into reality.
Early Signs Of Violence From Jerry Brudos
In 1956, Jerry Brudos attacked a woman for the first time. He was just 17 years old — and he had prepared well in advance for the assault.
First, he dug a hole in a hillside where he planned to keep girls as “sex slaves.” Then, wielding a knife, he abducted a teenage girl, beat her up, and forced her to take naked photographs for him.
Just like when he was five years old, Brudos was caught red-handed. He was then sent to the psychiatric ward of Oregon State Hospital for evaluation, where doctors noted his hatred toward his mother and other women.
In the hospital, Brudos’ secret obsessions came pouring out. Doctors learned about his collection of women’s clothing and — disturbingly — his fantasy of putting kidnapped girls in freezers so he could rearrange their frozen bodies into sexually explicit positions. But for some reason, the doctors didn’t think that there was anything seriously wrong with him.
Claiming that the boy just needed to grow up and mature a little, the hospital released Jerry Brudos back into the public.
Brudos graduated from high school. He joined the Army in March 1959 but was discharged by October — possibly due to his alarming obsessions. After a stint of living back at home, he met and married 17-year-old Darcie Metzler.
The new couple moved to Oregon, where they had two children. From the outside, Brudos seemed relatively normal. Friends and neighbors recalled that he “neither drank nor smoked, and rarely if ever used profanity.”
But Jerry Brudos’ sexual fantasies permeated his marriage. He demanded that his wife pose nude for him. He also asked her to clean the house naked while wearing high heels. And for a few years, Darcie complied.
All the while, a monster was stewing in Jerry Brudos.
How Jerry Brudos Became A Killer
After a few years of marriage, Darcie and Jerry Brudos’ relationship became strained. Darcie began to focus more on their two children, and she started to refuse her husband’s more unusual demands. Brudos, feeling rejected, started to prowl the neighbors’ houses for women’s shoes and underwear, looking for an outlet for his obsession.
In 1967, he found it.
Brudos had been walking downtown when he noticed a woman — specifically, her shoes. He followed her home and waited for her to go to bed. Then, Brudos broke into her house, strangled her into unconsciousness, and raped her. When he was done, he took her shoes and left.
This encounter proved irresistible to Brudos. He later testified that the woman’s limp body had aroused him. But the next time, Brudos didn’t have to go looking for a victim — someone came straight to him.
Linda Slawson was a 19-year-old encyclopedia saleswoman who came to Brudos’ home on business. Brudos saw his chance. He pretended to be interested in buying an encyclopedia to lure her inside. While his family was upstairs, Brudos hit Slawson in the head and strangled her to death.
After killing Slawson, Brudos stashed her body in his garage. He then cut off one of her feet and stored it in the freezer. In a sickening echo of his adolescent fantasies, he used the severed foot to model his collection of stolen shoes. Shortly thereafter, he tied Slawson’s body to a car engine and dumped it into the Willamette River.
The 18-month-long killing spree of “The Shoe Fetish Slayer” had begun.
While dressed in women’s clothes, Jerry 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 types of women’s underwear while he photographed her.
Brudos then raped her and hanged her by the neck from a pulley in the garage, strangling her to death. Horrifically, he had sex with her dead body several times before cutting off her breasts to make plastic molds. He then threw her body into the river, tied to a car engine to weigh it down.
In the fall of the same year, Brudos killed again. College student Jan Whitney accepted a ride from Brudos after her car broke down, whereupon he strangled her and raped her dead body in the car.
Brudos later hoisted her body from the pulley in his garage and had sex with her corpse multiple times. At one point, he cut off her breast and made a resin mold of it — so he could use it as a paperweight. He then threw her body in the river, this time tied to a railroad iron.
In 1969, Jerry Brudos abducted Linda Salee and brought her to his garage where he raped her, strangled her, and mutilated her body. Her corpse was also thrown into the Willamette River, tied to a car transmission.
All the while, Brudos collected trophies from his victims, which he kept in his garage. To keep his wife from finding out, he forbade her from entering this part of the house without his permission.
Catching The ‘Shoe Fetish Slayer’
A few weeks after Jerry Brudos murdered Linda Salee, her body was found in the Long Tom River, weighed down by a car part. As the police searched the river, they found another woman weighed down by a car part — Karen Sprinkler. Both bodies had been severely mutilated.
The police began to investigate the grisly crimes. After interviewing students at the nearby Oregon State University, they began to hear stories about a “Vietnam vet” who had called a few young women looking for a date. One of the women told police that he had mentioned the bodies in the river and had made an unsettling suggestion about how he could strangle her.
As it turned out, that man was Jerry Brudos. The police asked one of the girls to set up another date with Brudos. Then, they swooped in to interrogate him — and they quickly decided to investigate further.
After police obtained a search warrant for Brudos’ home, they found evidence that proved beyond a doubt that he was their man. There was nylon rope, photographs of the dead women, and — most horrifyingly of all — the “trophies” he had kept from his heinous crimes.
At some point during an interrogation, Brudos confessed to all four murders, as well as other attempted kidnappings and earlier assaults.
Jerry Brudos was found guilty of the murders of Sprinkler, Whitney, and Salee and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences. He escaped conviction for Slawson’s murder only because her body was never found.
As for Brudos’ wife, she divorced him after his arrest. She also changed her name and her children’s names and moved away to an undisclosed location. Although Darcie was charged with aiding and abetting her husband in his crimes, she was not convicted of murdering any victims.
Jerry Brudos died in 2006 in prison, having served 37 years of his sentence. He was largely forgotten after his death, especially since more prolific serial killers had emerged over the years. But in 2017, his crimes were revisited in Netflix’s Mindhunter — and viewers were reminded of his chilling story.
Now and forever remembered as the “Shoe Fetish Slayer,” it’s a fitting title for his horrific legacy.