Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Joubert, Nebraska Boy Snatcher

One More Interview

Having waited for the legal processes to be completed, Ressler went with another agent to interview Joubert as part of the prison studies being conducted by the BSU.  He'd learned that Joubert, now 28, had spent his time drawing on tissue paper renditions of his fantasies about violence with boys.  "One depicted a boy by the side of the road, hog-tied," he said, "and the second was of a boy on his knees as a man slid a knife into him."

Joubert was reluctant to talk, but did offer useful information about stresses he'd experienced before he'd begun to have such violent fantasies, and just before he killed.  In two instances, he had lost close friends, which had confused and frustrated him.  It confirmed Ressler's impression that stress had been instrumental in the development of violence.

When Ressler asked about the biting, Joubert explained his fantasies of cannibalism from childhood.  He had attempted to obliterate the impressions by slashing through them in each victim.  He admitted to getting excited by detective magazines at an early age, and had simultaneously learned from them what to do to avoid being caught.  The boys who had most attracted him had resembled him at the age when he'd initially been aroused by thoughts of murdering other boys.  In a sense, he was killing himself over what perhaps seemed most shameful to him.

As a favor, Joubert requested a set of the crime-scene photos, but Ressler would not comply.

Photo: John Joubert in 1996 before his execution
John Joubert in 1996 before his execution

In 1995, Joubert appealed his death sentence in Nebraska and the circuit court reviewed it.  Joubert's points included the fact that the court's wording of the aggravating factors was unconstitutionally vague.  A federal district court agreed, and the State of Nebraska appealed the decision.  Joubert cross-appealed, but his claim that the wording of aggravating factor of "exceptional depravity" was vague was found to have little substance, since he clearly had displayed sadism in his torture of both boys.  He had also, contrary to his denial, clearly killed them to avoid detection.  Joubert offered other complaints as well, including ineffective counsel and the idea that the death penalty is discriminatory, but the court did not take the latter point seriously.  One justice dissented, but the death sentence was upheld, and on July 17, 1996, John Joubert was executed.

Alex Kava, who had lived through the town's ordeal when she was just out of college, was inspired to write a novel A Perfect Evil.  She started it the year Joubert was executed.  "I was surprised," she says on her Web site, "to find how easily I could remember the raw emotions and the sheer panic surrounding those murders."  She watched a tape of Joubert's last interview, went over newspaper accounts, and read the available books in preparation to detail how such an event can paralyze and transform a community.

In the end, it seems, Joubert's short-lived rampage affected many lives. 


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