Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Gerard Schaefer

True Crime

Schaefer lost an admirer on January 24, 1989, when Ted Bundy kept his long-delayed date with Florida's electric chair. Around the same time, ex-girlfriend Sandy Stewart—now divorced mother Sondra London—picked up a copy of Ann Rule's The Stranger Beside Me, detailing Rule's friendship with Bundy, and decided to write a book on her relationship with Schaefer. London wrote to Schaefer on February 8, 1989, asking, "Remember me?" She pitched the notion of a book "about your experiences" and requested samples of his writing.

Gerard Schaefer in jail
Gerard Schaefer in

Schaefer responded enthusiastically, touting his case as "virgin territory," adding: "Naturally, I'm favorably disposed toward someone who has known me intimately." He recalled London as "a former great love of my life" and denied any hostility over their breakup. At their first prison meeting, London found Schaefer transformed into "a nebbish: portly, pale, balding and half-blind." He reminded her of "a middle-aged, deskbound clerk gone to seed."

There was nothing soft about Schaefer's stories, though. They sported macabre titles such as "Blonde on a Stick" and "Flies in Her Eyes." Between March and May 1989 Schaefer sent London seven grisly tales. She added drawings and fragments of writing seized from Doris Schaefer's home in 1973, releasing the lot as a volume of Killer Fiction in June 1989. A second book soon followed, along with independent stories, poems, sketches, and a "killer serial" that aimed to "satirize" Schaefer's own case. The leading character: a "rogue cop" who slaughters prostitutes in his spare time.

At Starke, a guard examined Schaefer's work and deemed it "pornographic filth," confiscating the latest manuscript as contraband "unsuitable for a prisoner." The work was released after Florida's attorney general admitted the stories played a role in Schaefer's latest legal appeal, but Schaefer himself was forbidden from keeping a copy in prison. Critics in the press and prosecutor's office branded Killer Fiction a "blueprint for murder," masking details of Schaefer's own crimes in the guise of "entertainment."

Schaefer worked hard to impress his ex-lover. On one hand, he claimed to be innocent, framed by drug-dealing cops and attorneys who feared his integrity, casting himself in a martyr's role. "I let Satan get control of me," he wrote. "I hated Evil. I wanted to destroy Evil. I went and immersed myself in the battle but destroyed myself in the process. God saved me by allowing me to be framed by corrupt people." A week later, he wrote: "My battle has been to overcome the problem [of serial murder]. I believe I have accomplished this through Jesus Christ." He added, "My own personal belief in Jesus...assures me of my future as a child of God, but that does not excuse me from helping my fellow man." This he sought to do by writing graphic tales of rape and murder, declaring that "My reward, if any, will be a spiritual one."

The bizarre flip-side of that pious façade was Schaefer's effort to pose as a leader of organized crime. On March 21, 1989 he wrote: "I am, factually, a captain of the Dixie Mafia...I have, factually, the power to have you killed. I have, in the past, used these powers." Three days later he added, "I am a Syndicate man... When I put on my [mob] subchief's hat I am 'Don El Tigre'...and I can scare the living shit out of you."

Where that left "child of God" Schaefer was anyone's guess, but he did not stop with claims of mob connections. Schaefer also insisted, on January 20, 1991, "I am the top serial killer and I can prove it." He was an expert hangman, Schaefer wrote, dispatching victims "so quickly that they wouldn't even pee on the rope." Furthermore, he added, "I never at any time required more than two strokes to behead a woman. Never. I was absolutely skilled at it." Schaefer was vague on numbers, but once estimated his body count somewhere between 80 and 110 victims. "One whore drowned in her own vomit while watching me disembowel her girlfriend," he smirked. "I'm not sure that counts as a valid kill. Did the pregnant ones count as two kills? It can get confusing."

Always, though, he balked at the notion of sex as a motive. "I did not have sex problems," Schaefer wrote on March 22, 1989. "A problem means you are unhappy, discontented." And again, on April 9, 1991: "A sex killer I was not. I am unique. I guarantee it."

Killer Fiction and its sequels flopped commercially, leaving London short of cash in early 1991. On January 18 Schaefer proposed marriage, noting that his wife could not be forced to testify "even if I were to show you a basket of severed heads." The next day, he reconsidered, blaming London for his crimes. "I will tell you here and now," he wrote, "that plenty of your women died because you couldn't help me solve my various crises in 1965. I tried to tell you about it but you couldn't deal with it. You bolted, abandoned me; that's when it started."

Prison officials began intercepting mail between Schaefer and London in March 1991. On May 16, guards opened a letter and discovered outlines for new stories. They filed a disciplinary report and Schaefer spent 30 days in solitary for "conspiracy to conduct a business" from his cell.

With book sales stagnant, London sought new avenues of income. Producers for the television show A Current Affair offered her $1,000 for a segment on Schaefer. Reluctantly, Schaefer agreed to an interview with reporter Steve Dunleavy. In place of his "frame-up" defense, though, viewers heard London proclaim, "He was normal, except he had a compulsion to kill." Robert Stone branded Schaefer "one of America's worst serial killers ever." Dunleavy called Schaefer a "monster" and a "diseased specimen," closing the segment with a prayer that Schaefer "find his hell on earth."

"We're through," Schaefer wrote London on April 12, 1992, after viewing the program. "You've tapped a Black Hole of genuine rage and it's focused on you... Just never speak my name to anyone, anywhere ever again... I've met a number of people from the Satanist underground. To express my appreciation for what you said [on TV] I've explained to them about your daughter. They'll probably get in touch with her personally... If you want to make an issue of this then the kid is gonna be the one to pay the tab. Am I clear?"

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'