The Killers Behind ‘Mindhunter’

In their growing catalogue of critically acclaimed shows Netflix has added the new series Mindhunter. Based off of the early years of John Douglas as he and his mentor Robert K. Ressler (or Holden Ford and Bill Tench as they are known in the series) as they pioneered the method of criminal profiling, turning it into the respected tool of law enforcement it is today. The first season was a massive success and a Season 2 has already been green lit. Naturally being the brainchild of David Fincher, Mindhunter is a brilliantly tense and dramatic series, where the protagonists find themselves locked in rooms with some of the most evil men of the 20th century. Having read the books John Douglas wrote about his career, the attention to accuracy and detail in the show is top notch. His series has naturally led to viewers wanting to know more about the infamous murderers featured in the show and why their names alone send chills up the spine. So here is a guide to the killers who have been featured in Mindhunter.  Of course since this article concerns the crimes committed by some of the worst individuals in recent history DISCRETION IS ADVISED.


Edmund Kemper: With a hulking frame, sanding at 6’9, possessing a high intellect and void of anything resembling a conscience, Edmund Kemper was by all definition a monster. Between the years of 1964-1973 he claimed the lives of 10 people that we know of. When he was a kid, Kemper murdered grandparents, whom he lived with at the time and was sent to a mental hospital for years because of it. While a patient, doctors pointed out that the young Kemper was a sociopath, but unlike other sociopaths he had a very high IQ and could possibly one day fit into society. Once he was an adult he was released from the hospital against the wishes of the mental health professionals who worked with him. His dreams of joining law enforcement were dashed due to his large size but he still hung out with police officers in the area at a bar called the Jury Room. Though he was now out on his own the lifelong issues between Kemper and his mother would continue to rear their nasty head, and when he had to move in with her, their arguments became known throughout the neighborhood for their ferocity. During this time he began to notice women hitchhiking in the area and began to pick them up, getting a sense of power by having these women under his control for that moment. It was only a matter of time before things escalated. In May 1972; Kemper picked up two college students, Mary Anne Pesce and Anita Luchessa, he drove them to a secluded area in the woods where he proceeded to murder them. With many of his victims who followed, Kemper would often take their bodies to his apartment, or later his mother’s house to further degrade the corpses before chopping them up for disposal. His killings came to an end in grand fashion in the spring of 1973, when he brutally murdered his own mother and his mother’s friend and spent the night desecrating their corpses. The next morning he drove to Colorado where he stopped and called his hometown police department to confess, they laughed it off as Kemper’s strange humor. He then called an officer he knew personally to confess, then waited patiently to be arrested. He is currently serving a life sentence in California.


Jerry Brudos: Growing up in a small South Dakota town, Brudos’ childhood was far from normal. His mother constantly abused him and reminded him she wanted a daughter instead of him and that he was a mistake. It was during these formative years, Jerry Brudos discovered a strange affinity for women’s shoes. As a young man he tried to abduct his first victim, but failed and ended up at the Oregon State Hospital for it. It was there doctors diagnosed him as being schizophrenic with a deep hatred for women stemming from the way his mother treated him. A few years after graduating high school he married, Darcie Metzler with whom he had two children. He ruled his house with an iron fist and his wife was completely subservient to his demands. His biggest rule was that the rest of the family was at no time allowed to enter the garage. As you may have already guessed, Brudos used this garage, separate from the rest of the house, as his personal torture chamber and slaughterhouse. Teenaged Linda Slawson discovered the killer’s bizarre method of evil the hard way when she became his first victim while selling encyclopedias door to door. After strangling Slawson, he chopped off her left foot as a trophy which he used to look at various women’s shoes on, when he was done having fun with the rest of the body he chopped her up and threw her into the Willamette River. In the following months, at least 3 other women met their horrifying deaths in Brudos’ infamous garage, after he was done with their remains he would dispose of the bodies in the Willamette River. He was arrested when police discovered the bodies of, Karen Sprinker and Linda Salee in the river and began the hunt for the serial killer preying on young women in the area. In the end Brudos was convicted of three murders and while in prison confessed to Linda Slawson making the total four. Yet many believe there are still victims of Jerry Brudos at the bottom of the river waiting to be discovered.


Richard Speck: Technically a mass murderer rather than a serial killer, Speck’s crimes were so horrendous he is often lumped in with this category. Before he was even a teenager, Richard Speck was an alcoholic with a criminal record. Throughout his life he was constantly in and out of prison, living up to his infamous tattoo which read “Born to Raise Hell”. In 1965 he committed his first major crime when he attempted to abduct a woman at knifepoint. She was able to fight him off and he was arrested by a clerical error somewhere in the judicial system allowed him to go free shortly thereafter. As you can imagine he did not take this as a sign to straighten out his life and continued to commit numerous crimes, at one point his mother had to hire a high priced lawyer to get him off an attempted murder charge after he stabbed a man in a bar. Later he began stalking a bartender at his favorite watering hole and before long she went missing and was found beaten to death at a shed Speck built for his job. Nothing was ever confirmed but it is believed she was his first murder victim. Shortly after the murder, Speck left town and headed to Chicago and it was here he would commit the crime he has gained infamy from. On July 13, 1966 broke into Jeffery Manor which was the dormitory for several nursing students. That night he found; Gloria Davy, Patricia Matusek, Nina Jo Schmale, Pamela Wilkening, Suzanne Farris, Mary Ann Jordan, Merlita Gargullo, and Valentina Pasion. He spent the night torturing and raping the young women and eventually murdered each one of them. There was one woman living in the dorms, Cora Amurao who remained hidden through that night of horros and was able to give police the information they needed to catch Richard Speck. Originally he was sentenced to death for his horrific crimes, but years later that was changed to life in prison. He died of a heart attack the day before his 50th birthday in 1991, but in 1996 an infamous video surfaced of him shortly before his death. This video showed that even in prison, Richard Speck had no shortage of access to sex, drugs, and alcohol; and most chilling of all still felt no remorse for what he did to eight innocent women all those years ago.


Dennis Rader: Known for decades only as the mysterious BTK, we never see this particular serial killer in action during the first season but we are introduced to him as he is set up for a bigger role down the road. In real life Dennis Rader was the Moriarty to John  Douglas’ Sherlock Holmes who outwitted him for three decades before being caught in very anticlimactic fashion. Unlike so many other serial killers, Rader had a fairly normal childhood growing up in Wichita, Kansas. Aside from a stint in the military, this is where he lived his entire life. He married a woman named Paula and had two children. On the surface he lived a normal life, but underneath there was a sinister urge driving him mad. In 1974 he finally acted on the nagging evil that has been driving him mad. He broke into the home of the Otero family; he strangled the members of the clan except for the daughter, Josephine Otero who he hanged from a drainage pipe in the basement who he hanged from the drainage pipe in the basement and pleasured himself as she slowly died. This was only the beginning as he claimed three other victims in the 70’s. He taunted the police through phone and mail signing off with the alter ego BTK standing for Bind Torture Kill. Law enforcement contacted John Douglas who consulted with the Wichita police, until Rader went on hiatus. Many thought the nightmare was over as the murderer known as BTK laid low for years, until 1985 when he claimed the life of Marine Hedge, beginning his period of murders in the 80’s and early 90’s. As Douglas and the investigators in Kansas kicked up the investigation once more, the killer known as BTK once again vanished. On the 30th anniversary of the Otero murders, Dennis Rader became nostalgic for the days when he could murder with impunity before his family got in the way. He began to once again send letters to the police signed “BTK”, this time he expressed a desire to join the new millennium and wanted to know if police could track him if he put his next threatening message on a CD-ROM. Naturally police lied and told the killer they did not have the technology to do this. This led to the arrest of Dennis Rader the BTK Killer who had terrorized Wichita, Kansas for three decades. With the infamous serial killer now in custody, FBI profiling legend John Douglas finally go to confront the man who had bedeviled him for so long. The story of his matching wits with BTK can be found detailed in the book Inside the Mind of BTK