Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Joubert, Nebraska Boy Snatcher


The investigators showed Joubert the rope they'd removed from his room and car, noting that it was extremely rare.  He resisted this notion at first, but admitted that he'd gotten it from the scoutmaster, who had brought it back from Korea.  (As it happened, the FBI had just discovered that the rope was from Korea.)  He seemed taken aback that it could place him at a crime scene.

While he was vulnerable, Lieutenant Jim Sanderson of the Sarpy County Sheriff's Department approached him with a way to make an admission without fully committing himself to a full confession. He talked with Joubert about his "bad" side, the part of himself that compelled the good part to do something he knew to be wrong.  It wasn't long before Joubert was ready to admit to everything.

Photo: John Joubert
John Joubert

He said that he'd killed the two boys and told the detectives interrogating him that he would likely kill again.   He seemed relieved that they'd stopped him. The FBI confirmed that the rope in Joubert's possession and the rope used to bind Danny were microscopically identical.  Given how rare the rope was, it would make a solid case.  They also compared a hair from Joubert's car to both victims and found it to be consistent with Danny Joe's hair sample.  On January 12, Joubert was charged with two counts of murder and held for trial.  But the trial never happened.  On July 3, after initially pleading not guilty, he pleaded guilty to both counts. 

Photo: Headline of guilty plea
Headline of guilty plea

There were several psychiatric assessments of Joubert at this time, and Pettit includes three of them. Ressler discusses another.  He was variously labeled as obsessive-compulsive, sadistic, and suffering from schizoid personality disorder.  This meant that he had strange beliefs, but was not psychotic.  They noted how he managed to distance himself from the atrocity of his crimes and didn't care much about anyone.  He blamed his mother for many of his childhood problems, and had developed a ritualized approach to the murders.  Yet all of them concluded that he knew that what he was doing was wrong and that he had a certain degree of control over his behavior.  That made a mental illness qualification of his sanity untenable: He had not been psychotic at the time of the crimes.

A panel of three judges decided that, given the senselessness and brutality of the crimes, and the fact that he had killed the boys to evade detection, Joubert should be executed.

But the story wasn't over.   Joubert had lived elsewhere, and his case in Nebraska was making authorities in Portland, Maine, take another look at one of their own cases.  Ressler says that he was showing slides about the case to a group of police officers during the fall of 1984 and one of them recognized the similarity to an unsolved crime in his jurisdiction.  Ressler adds that while he'd initially said that the Eberle murder was the offender's first, he'd revised his opinion after learning more about Joubert. 


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