When Deborah started creating trouble for Gary every now and then, he took her upstairs and when she came back she was quite and very unlike herself. Gary left. Prodded by others, she revealed – shivering and stammering with fear – that Gary showed her a pot on the stove with Sandra’s head in it, part of her ribcage that he was roasting in the oven, and also showed her an arm and other body parts of Sandra in the fridge. He warned her that if she did not behave herself, she could be the next.
Gary found another way of punishing the violators of his rules – electric shocks. So, he would connect one end of the wire to the power socket, and bring the other end in contact with the chains of the girl he was unhappy with. It was his way of disciplining the girls, and also served as amusement for him. Josefina was, of course, not subjected to the punishment because she was fast becoming his willing partner and accomplice rather than his victim. He started spending time with Josefina alone, and the duration of the alone-time kept increasing as his trust in Josefina got firmer. In March 1987, when Gary decided to punish the women, he not only spared the torture to Josefina, but also took her assistance.
It was the shock treatment again. But before bringing in the electrified wire, Gary asked Josefina to fill the pit with water, which she did. Women were pushed into the pit and the plywood was placed over the pit with dirt bags on it so that it could not be pushed open from underneath and remained in place. The women sat shivering with cold and dread in water. Through one of the holes made in the plywood the electrified wire was pushed in. And the moment the wire came in contact with the chain, it delivered a massive electric shock to all of them because of the water in the pit. The wire was pulled back and inserted again a second time. This time it touched Deborah’s chain directly making her absorb much of the shock. Deborah screamed hard and shook violently before hitting water face down. She was dead. Gary dragged her out, checked if she were dead. She was. He made sandwiches and came down to the basement with pen and paper and asked Josefina to write the date and time at the top and then detail what had happened in the basement and how she had assisted him in torturing women, resulting in the death of Deborah. She did as told. He made her undersign it before signing the paper himself. Then he told Josefina that if she ever went to the police, he could show the paper to the cops as evidence of her being a partner in killing Deborah. He was not convinced that now he had Josefina in his control completely. He asked her to go upstairs and change. This was the first time she found herself completely dressed in a span of four months. Deborah’s body was wrapped in plastic and kept in the freezer the next day.
Deborah’s death brought Josefina and Gary close and they started spending more and more time together with Gary taking her for outings and shopping. After Deborah’s death, Gary appeared to be a little kinder even on the other inmates of the cellar. So, they got blankets, pillows and mattresses, and also a television. As for Josefina, she got to share the bed of her abductor.
On March 21, 1987, when Gary and Josefina were travelling together, they came across a place outside New Jersey, and Gary thought it was a good place to discard Deborah’s body. He shared the idea with Josefina, and on the night after (March 22, 1987) Gary and Josefina loaded Deborah’s half frozen body into a Dodge van that Gary owned and drove down to the same area. Josefina stayed in the vehicle as Gary carried the body to dump it among the trees.
Once Deborah was dumped, Gary discussed with Josefina the need for a replacement the next day, and they went looking for one the same night. And it turned out to be a bad night for Agnes, who somehow agreed to go to Gary’s place, was stripped, raped and brought to the basement to be chained and kept with others.
The next day (March 23, 1987) proved lucky for Josefina. Gary was convinced that she liked being her partner, and had considerable faith in his companion. So, he gave in to her persistent request that she be allowed to visit her family though it was only after Josefina said that she could bring him a new “wife” as an addition to his “family” if she were allowed her wish. He let her go, and waited at the gas station they had agreed to meet at after she had visited her family. He expected her to bring a new ‘wife’ with her when she met him at the gas station. She did arrive. But before that she went straight to the house she shared with her boyfriend, and told him her entire story, which sounded incredible to him.
Despite finding it difficult to believe, her boyfriend called the police. Officers John Cannon and David Savidge arrived a little later, and Josefina retold her entire story to them while they heard it all in shocked disbelief until she lifted her jeans to display the scars on her ankles from the chains. Those were real, and such evidence of abuse could not be ignored. They accompanied her to the gas station where Gary was waiting for her in his Cadillac. He was immediately arrested.
Gary’s house was raided by a police squad under Homicide Lieutenant James Hansen. The door was taken apart, and the police went straight into the basement following Josefina’s directions. The two women that they found sleeping on the mattress there were covered only with a thin, dirty blanket despite the cold. When they were woken up, they started shrieking in panic and had to be reassured that it was the police. They were chained to the pipe and wearing nothing except socks and blouses. The police also found a nude Agnes in the pit covered by a plywood with bags of soil placed on it. The women were freed and taken to the ambulance, after which the police turned their attention to the house.
There was an aluminum pan on the stove with some yellowish, fatty substance in it. The industrial food processor on the kitchen counter appeared to have been recently used to grind raw flesh. And the oven had a roasted piece of bone resembling human rib. However, it was still not very clear to the detectives as to what had been happening in the house except that the girls found were being kept captive and had been sexually assaulted. That changed the moment officer Savidge opened the fridge. The freezer compartment had a human forearm waiting to tell the gruesome tale in a flash.
The police devoted several days to the search of the house, but after thoroughly searching they concluded that there were no more human remains to be found. They, however, did discover loads of pornographic magazines with pictures of black women. It also came to the notice of the investigators that Gary was quite rich with $550,000 in a Merrill Lynch investment account.
A probe into the background of Gary revealed that he had had quite an unhappy childhood. His biological parents divorced when Gary was still a child, and he together with his younger brother lived with their mother and her new husband. When he was grown up enough to go to school, the two went to live with their father and his new wife. Gary had a tough time there. Either he found himself arguing with his stepmother or being disciplined by his father, particularly for wetting bed. His father would ridicule him for wetting his bed, and would hang the wet bedsheet on the window for everybody to see the wet patch on it. When a fall from a tree left his head deformed, he was ridiculed by his fellow students at school.
When Gary grew up and joined the army, he did well for quite sometime, but was given an ‘Honorable Discharge’ on medical grounds with 100% disability pension after serving for four months or so. He had been diagnosed with “schizoid personality disorder”.
He went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, and was able to land a job in the University Hospital, but was fired due to deficient work. He also enrolled with Veterans Administration Hospital near Philadelphia for a course to become a psychiatric nurse, but was expelled from there on account of his unsuitable attitude. After this, Gary spent most of his time in mental institutions.
In November 1978, Gary was arrested and prosecuted when it came to light that he had taken his girlfriend’s retarded sister out of the mental asylum that she was in and had kept her captive at his place. Medical examination performed on her revealed that she had been raped and sodomized and as a consequence of the sexual activities performed she had been infected with oral as well as vaginal gonorrhea.
Gary was found “manipulative and psycho-sexually immature” in a psychological examination conducted under court order, but was pronounced guilty and sentenced to three to seven years in jail. The sentence was struck down in appeal. So, he ended up spending three years behind the bars and was released on April 12, 1983 with the condition that he would stay under the constant supervision of State run mental health program.
Gary had been into many relationships, and preferred black women, some of whom were retarded. He married Betty on October 3, 1985, but she left him because he always had multiple women in his house and bed, which shocked her in the beginning and she resisted, but later adjusted to it. But Gary mistreated her and beat her up repeatedly. Betty approached the authorities and Gary was charged with assault, indecent assault, spousal rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, but nothing came out of it because Betty did not appear before the court for preliminary hearing.
However, Gary’s luck had run out by the time his trial in the case involving Josefina and others commenced on April 23, 1987. The captives of Gary’s cellar, including Josefina testified against Gary. Josefina’s participation in the crimes was explained away by her being under constant threat, and her not being a willing partner was clear from the fact that she reported the matter to the authorities as soon as she could. And the plea of insanity didn’t seem to hold.
After deliberating for sixteen hours, the jury delivered the verdict on June 30, 1988. Gary was found guilty in terms of eighteen charges. Two counts of first-degree murder, five counts of rape, six counts of kidnapping, four counts of aggravated assault and one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and was sentenced to death on July 1, 1988 for killing Deborah Dudley and Sandra Lindsay.
It took the next 11 years for the appeals to die down, and Gary Michael Heidnik was executed at 10:29 p.m. on July 6, 1999 by lethal injection.
Originally written for and published in LAWYERS UPDATE as a two-part ‘Crime File’ in May 2014.