Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Fetish Killer


Jerome Henry Brudos was born January 31, 1939, in South Dakota. His parents traveled around a bit and ended up in Oregon. By all reports, his mother had not wanted him after she'd already had two boys, and had treated him with criticism and disdain. Apparently she had hoped for a girl, and if Brudos realized this, it could have influenced his development and sense of self. He'd attached himself to other women who were different from his mother, and had a childhood female friend who'd died. Often alone, he developed a fantasy life and habits that by the age of seventeen got him in trouble with the law. These generally involved a sexual fetish for women's shoes and underclothing.

"Exactly how Brudos became a foot fetishist is a mystery," says Harold Schechter in The Serial Killer Files. "One thing is certain, however; he began to manifest the obsession at a startlingly early age."

His discovery of a pair of women's spike-heeled shoes at a local dump when he was five years old was the starting point, though it was probably not due to the shoes themselves. It was more likely his mother's strong reaction to seeing him wearing them in his bedroom. She instantly grabbed them, destroyed them, and let him know that such things were wicked. She was highly agitated and inexplicably upset, which signaled to the boy that there was something about those shoes that was deliciously forbidden. It's likely that putting these shoes off limits attached to women's high-heeled shoes in general an aura that pervaded Brudos' developing sexuality. He also stole the shoes that his kindergarten teacher kept in her desk and received a reprimand.

Book cover: Serial Murderers and Their Victims
Book cover: Serial Murderers and Their Victims

"As he matured," says Hickey, in Serial Murderers and Their Victims and echoed by other authors, "his shoe fetish increasingly provided sexual arousal." The psychologists who later analyzed him tended to be in accord with this. Brudos continued in secret to collect shoes, hiding them from his mother and eventually adding to that stash a collection of women's underwear, which he stole during clandestine raids into nearby houses. Touching female underwear gave him some sense of comfort and the feeling of arousal. "They were mysterious and forbidden totems," says Vronsky, "arousing in him deep erotic feelings that he could not understand or explain."

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