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S2 / EP14: The Monster Preacher: Gary Heidnik

Gary Heidnik decided in 1986 that he would capture, imprison, torture and rape women in the basement of his Philadelphia house. Two of those women never made it out of his basement alive.


Gary tried to plead insanity, but his lifestyle of acquiring fancy cars, racking up stocks worth over half a million dollars, being an actual bishop of a church, and a life filled with manipulation, proved otherwise.


This episode will provide some background on Gary's upbringing and initial life experiences that may have caused him to do the atrocities that he did to the women in his basement...or it could simply be that he was just pure evil.

 

Check out our INSTAGRAM for additional photos related to case!

 

Transcribed Episode / S2 EP14: The Monster Preacher: Gary Heidnik


[Host]

This podcast includes content that may not be suitable for some listeners - listener discretion is advised. Be sure to head over to thecrimeshack.com for all available episodes, merchandise, and show notes and also listen and subscribe to us for free wherever you get your podcasts. Also a special shout out to our newest Patreon members Misty Gomez and Amanda Lee! Thank you for your support and for being amazing fans of The Crime Shack! Check out our website and become a Patreon member to get access to exclusive content, crime scene photos, additional episodes and more!


[Intro Music Begins / Fades]


[Host]

Welcome to Season 2 of the Crime Shack! Thank you for coming along with me on this journey, I look forward to bringing you more true crime cases this season. So let’s get into our first case of the season, this is a story that may seem all too familiar to you….

A single man buys a house with a basement...in that basement he has dug a four-foot-deep large pit in the ground. His intention is to hold women captive in that pit. If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen the movie Silence of the Lambs. As good as that movie was, and it definitely is one of my favorites, we all know it wasn’t true. Buffalo Bill - the man who was hunted by Clarice Starling and who kept the senator’s daughter in a pit in his basement - was a fictional character….However, this story I’m about to tell you is very real, and was part of the inspiration for the Buffalo Bill character. Now let’s dive into the case of the monster preacher who was, Gary Heidnik...


["60 Minutes" Interview with FBI Agents: Gary Heidnik]


[Gary Heidnik]

They go down in the hole in the morning, board goes over the top of the hole with the sandbags and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and then they stayed down there until roughly about 8 at night.

I consciously knew I was trying to hide the evidence.

Nothing was working, I was trying to find something that worked that would make them shut up and stop hollering...(inaudible).


[FBI Agent]

Like an aggressive kind of infliction of pain on these women?


[Gary Heidnik]

I was trying to find something that would make them behave.


[FBI Agent]

But it was painful to them?


[Gary Heidnik]

I hope so!


[Host]

Michael and Ellen Heidnik lived in Eastlake Ohio. Eastlake is a suburb of Cleveland Ohio with a current population of about 18,000. On November 22, 1943 the Heidnik’s had their first son, Gary Michael. A couple of years later they had another child, Gary’s younger brother Terry. Shortly following the birth of their second child, Gary’s parents divorced in 1946.

Ellen Heidnik moved out with her two boys and raised them alone for the next four years. She soon realized that she couldn't raise the boys on her own, so Michael Heidnik and his new wife took the two boys in. According to Gary and his brother Terry, their father was emotionally abusive. Gary suffered from bed wetting the majority of his life, and the times he would wet the bed, his father would humiliate him by forcing him to hang his stained bed sheets from his bedroom window so that the neighbors could see them.

As Gary entered school, he immediately had issues. He would act socially distant from the other students and avoided eye contact. Gary had an oddly shaped head which Gary and his brother attributed to him falling out of a tree when he was young. The shape of his head, mixed with his odd and sometimes aggressive behavior, caused him to be teased by his classmates.

A fellow female student once asked him “Did you get the homework done Gary?” He responded to her by yelling at her and told her that she wasn’t “worthy” enough to talk to him.

Even through the teasing and social awkwardness, Gary did fairly well in his studies. He was tested, and had a high IQ of 148.

He attempted public high school but ended up dropping out his freshmen year. His father then enrolled him at the Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Virginia. He studied there for two years, but then left due to “mental problems.” He went back to public school for a brief period, but again, ended up dropping out during his senior year. He enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 17.

He would serve in the Army for 13 months. During basic training, he was graded as “excellent” by his drill sergeant. After basic training, he was sent to San Antonio Texas where he was trained as a medic and did very well. From San Antonio he was transferred to the 46th Army Surgical Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. It was there that he earned his GED.

When he was 19 Gary began suffering from severe headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and nausea. He went and saw a neurologist who diagnosed him with gastroenteritis - an inflammation of the lining of the intestines caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasites - and indicated that he had symptoms of a degenerative mental illness. The doctor prescribed him trifluoperazine or Stelazine, a drug used for the treatment of generalized non-psychotic anxiety.

In October 1962, he was transferred to a military hospital in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. It was there that he was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder and he was honorably discharged from the military.

Once he was discharged, Gary’s venture into the civilian world was fraught with issues. He became a licensed practical nurse, despite his prior diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder. He also enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, but only completed one semester. He was able to get a job as a nurse working at the University of Pennsylvania’s Hospital.

In 1967 at the age of 24, Gary purchased his own 3-story house, renting out 2 floors. He started hanging out at the Elwyn Institute, a 400 acre education and vocational facility for the emotionally or mentally disturbed located in Philadelphia.

He was soon fired from his nursing job at the University of Pennsylvania’s Hospital due to his below average work. He then went on to get a job as a psychiatric nurse at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Coatesville Pennsylvania but was fired due to poor attendance and his rude attitude towards patients.

For the next several years, he would be admitted in and out of psychiatric hospitals. He would attempt suicide at least thirteen times.

In 1970, at the age of 27, Gary’s mother Ellen, committed suicide. Ellen was an alcoholic and had been diagnosed with bone cancer. She took her own life by drinking mercuric chloride. Mercuric chloride is an extremely toxic poison. Acute exposure to large amounts of this poison can cause death within 24 hours, usually due to acute kidney failure or damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

Mental illness ran in the Heidnik family and Gary’s brother Terry also suffered from mental issues, and would spend his time in and out of mental institutions and also had many suicide attempts.

In a bizarre turn, in October of 1971 Gary started his own church called the United Church of the Ministers of God out of his home, and made himself the bishop in an effort to avoid paying taxes. The church began with only 5 followers but quickly grew. Gary was getting disability benefits as well as Social Security disability compensation from the Army, so during the next four years he began investing money under the church’s name. He opened up a bank account with Merrill Lynch and deposited $1,500. His initial investments were in Playboy magazine and also Crazy Eddie, an electronic chain in Northeastern United States. He lost quite a bit of money on Crazy Eddie, but within 15 years he had amassed over $500,000 in stocks and other securities.

The board for the church consisted of himself, one of his brothers and three other people. Heidnik’s neighbors said that the church had significant attendance, but noticed that the majority of the members were mentally disabled. Services were held on Sundays where parishioners would listen to Gary’s distorted spin on the Bible. By 1986, Gary’s church was shockingly somewhat successful and had over 50 members.

In 1976, Gary had his first run in with the law when he shot a tenant that he was renting his house to - grazing the tenant’s face. He was charged with aggravated assault and carrying an unlicensed pistol.

That same year, Gary sold the 3-story house and moved into another 3-story home. His stocks were increasing and he began spending his money on expensive cars such as a Rolls-Royce, a Cadillac, and a customized van.

Life was looking up for Gary, and he began entering the dating scene. He dated Gail Lincow who had his first son, named Gary Jr. The child was placed into foster care as Gail could not care for the child due to her suffering from a mental disability.

In 1978 he was dating Anjeanette Davison, an illiterate and mentally disabled woman, when she gave birth to his second child. She had a daughter on March 16, 1978, and named her Maxine, but because of Anjeanette’s mental condition, Maxine was immediately placed into foster care.

After Anjeanette had Maxine, Gary was arrested for the kidnapping and rape of Anjeanette’s 34 year old sister, Alberta. Alberta, who was also mentally disabled, had been living in a mental institution in Penn Township. Alberta had the cognitive ability equivalent to that of a 5 year old child. Gary signed her out on day-leave of the mental institution and proceeded to imprison her in a storage bin in his basement. She was eventually found, and a hospital examination showed that she had been raped and sodomized and had contracted gonorrhea.

Gary was arrested and charged with kidnapping, rape, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and interfering with the custody of a committed person. Some of the charges were dropped due to Alberta’s inability to testify due to her mental illness.

He was sentenced to three to seven years but the original sentence was overturned on appeal. Gary would spend the sentence between state prison and a mental hospital. A psychological evaluation was conducted on Gary, and it indicated that he had an inferiority complex and was psychosexually immature. According to the evaluation, he sought out mentally disabled women as he was threatened by women who he would consider to be equal to him mentally, emotionally or intellectually.

Just after servicing 4 years of his sentence, Gary was released on parole in April 1983, with the condition he would be closely monitored and that he intended to join a state-sponsored mental health plan.

In 1984 Gary purchased his last house at 3520 North Marshall Street in North Philadelphia, and began to advertise his “church” to the local residents of the neighborhood.

A year later, at the age of 40 years old, Gary met his first and only wife, 22 year old Betty Disto. He met her through a mail-order bride service and they wrote to each other for two years before he proposed. Betty arrived in the United States from the Philippines in September 1985 and Gary and Betty married in Elkton Maryland on October 3, 1985.

The marriage didn’t last very long, as Gary would not only have affairs with multiple women - Betty actually catching him in bed with three other women - but he would also repeatedly beat Betty and rape her. He would also force her to watch him while he had sex with other women, some of them prostitutes. Betty was scared to leave him, as she had just entered the United States from the Philippines. She looked to the Filipino community of Philadelphia for support, and her neighbors and friends helped her leave Gary in January of 1986. Shortly afterwards, in 1987, Betty requested child support payments from Gary - apparently she had gotten pregnant during their short marriage. She had a son, Jesse John Disto on September 15, 1986. Whether Gary ever saw his son or had any relationship with him, is unknown.

Betty did attempt to file charges against Gary for “assault, indecent assault, spousal rape, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse,” but the charges were dropped when she failed to show up in court.

After Betty left him, Gary’s neighbors would see multiple women coming and going from his house that appeared to be prostitutes. His neighbors thought Gary was definitely eccentric and strange, but were impressed by his fancy cars and thought he was generally nice and polite. There were however, many complaints from the neighbors about the loud music emanating from Gary’s house, the pounding on his walls and about the strange odors coming from his house.

Following the failed marriage and relationships, as well as the loss of his children, Gary’s mental issues seemed to worsen. He was going to ensure that the women in his life could not escape, and that he could reproduce without the fear of the children being taken from him.

It was on November 25, 1986, 10 months after Betty had left him, that Gary abducted his first captive, Josefina Rivera.

Josefina had gotten into drugs early on in her life and by 25 was working as a prostitute. She was standing on the corner of North 3rd and West Girard Avenue in Philadelphia at around 11pm when a 1987 Cadillac Coupe de Ville approached her. Gary Heidnik leaned out of the window and discussed pricing with her, and they came to an agreement of $20.

Josefina got into the Cadillac and Gary drove to his house. Once in the house, they went up to a 2nd floor bedroom, where Gary handed her a $20 bill. They proceeded to have sex on his water bed, and when they were done, Josefina got up to get her clothes back on. Gary came up behind her and began to strangle her. Josefina soon went unconscious.

When she came to, she was lying on his bed, with her right wrist handcuffed. Gary told her to shut up, otherwise he would choke her again. He then walked her down to the basement. In the basement she saw a large hole in the floor, and plastic bags filled with sand stacked in a corner. Gary then put shackles on her that were made of muffler clamps and secured them with nuts. He put Krazy Glue on the nuts so that she couldn’t turn them and remove the shackles.

He walked Josefina over to the hole and dropped her into it. He attempted to put a piece of plywood over the top of it, but the hole wasn’t deep enough, it was only about 4 feet deep. Gary then shoved Josefina down into the hole and put the board over it. The board cut off any air that could get into the hole, causing Josefina to begin to suffocate. She screamed, and Gary pulled her out of the hole by her hair, and began to beat her with a stick. He shoved her back into the hole and covered it with the board. She was in the hole at least a full day or more when she then heard Gary bringing someone else down in the basement with him...it was another woman, and he called her “Sandy.”

25 year old Sandra Lindsay, was a mentally disabled woman who Gary had befriended previously. He would often buy Sandy and her friends dinner at McDonalds and told them he was a bishop of a church. The day after Thanksgiving, Sandra went out to the store to get some menstrual medication around 3:00pm, but she never returned home.

Gary had convinced Sandra to get into his car, where he brought her to his house and imprisoned her, along with Josefina, down in his basement.

When Sandra didn’t return home, her family began to look for her and filed a missing person’s report, but due to her age, the police did nothing as she was an adult. Sandra's sister, Tracey Lomax, knew that she would often hang around a guy named Gary, so Tracey was able to obtain Gary’s phone number through friends of Sandra’s and gave him a call. When she got him on the phone, she asked him where Sandra was, and he responded to her that she wasn’t there, and just hung up. Tracey then went to his house, but no one was home.

In order to divert any attention from Sandra’s family and from the police, Gary brought down Christmas cards to the basement and had Sandra write in them: “Dear Mom, I am all right, don’t worry, Love Sandy.”

He then put on gloves, gave her a $20 bill to put inside the card, and drove to New York to mail it. Upon receiving the card, Sandra’s family thought it was suspicious that she would send a card and not call them, that was not like her. They again went to the police department, but the police told the family that Sandra was probably okay and didn’t look into it any further.

Just prior to Christmas, on December 22, 1986, Gary captured his third victim. Lisa Thomas, a 19 year old single mother and prostitute, had been working on the corner of North 6th Street & West Lycoming Street in Philadelphia. Gary picked up Lisa, took her out to dinner, then drove her to his house. He then attacked Lisa by choking her and handcuffed her before taking her down to the basement, where he shackled her legs and beat her with a wooden stick. During the next three months he raped her daily and only fed her dog biscuits.

On January 18, 1987 Gary abducted his fourth victim, Jacqueline Askins, who was a prostitute. At 18 years old, she was the youngest of his captives. Jacqueline did a tv interview on May 5, 2018 where she stated that when she was attacked by Gary, he quote “stripped me of all my clothes, my wig and everything, and I'm screaming.” He then dragged her into his basement where she saw the other women, all of them tied up with chains. Two of the women were on a bed, one was by a pool table and one was standing by a window.

Jacqueline said that Gary would wrap duct tape around the mouths of the women in the basement and stab them in their ears with a screwdriver. He would rape and beat the women daily. To drown out their screams, he would play loud music or turn the television volume up.

Among his many other forms of torture, Gary would use electric shock on his captives. He would use a loosened live wire, held against their chains, to send volts of electricity through their bodies. He also had a particular form of punishment for the women if they cried out or tried to escape. He would force them to stand suspended by their wrists from a hook in the ceiling.

In early February 1987, Gary performed this form of torture on Sandra. He hung her by her wrists from a ceiling hook for three to four days, feeding her only bread and water and beating her regularly. He also forced one of the other women to beat her as well because she was taking too long to eat the bread.

On the third or fourth day of this punishment, Sandra collapsed, telling the other women that she felt sick. Gary removed her from the hook, and kicked her body into the basement hole. Sandra eventually died of a combination of suffocation due to being suspended - torture and starvation. Gary told the other women she was dead and thinking that disposing or dumping her body would draw suspicion, he took her body upstairs, dismembered it with a chainsaw and ground up her remains.

He wrapped up her arms and legs in sandwich bags in his freezer and labeled them “dog food.” He then cooked her ribs in his oven and boiled her head in a pot on the stove. The neighbors complained to police about the horrible smell that was coming from Gary’s house, but when police arrived at the door, Gary explained the smell away by saying that he was cooking a roast and he fell asleep and burned it. Josefina, who he trusted enough to allow her to roam the house, would recall later that she went upstairs and saw a head boiling in a pot of water on the stove.

Gary claimed that he then mixed the ground up flesh with dog food and fed it to the other captives.

Sometime between February and March of 1987 he captured 23 year old Deborah Dudley as a replacement for Sandra.

Over time, Gary became more trusting of Josefina. He began to tell her what his master plan was for the women. Apparently he had planned to start a “baby farm” with the captives, impregnating them. He told Josefina that he ultimately wanted to capture 10 women in order to get them pregnant and raise their children. He told her, quote: “I want to have kids, lots of them. I got kids already but the state keeps taking them off me. Well, I got a way now of having kids so nobody can take them away. You’re just the start. You're gonna have my baby down here. But not just you. I want to get 10 girls down here so you can all have my kids.”

Gary began to dislike Deborah Dudley, telling Josefina that she was a “pain in the ass” and that he “wanted to get rid of her.” He brought down Sandra Lindsay’s head, still in the pot,, and showed it to Deborah. He told her that if she didn’t change her attitude that she would end up the same way Sandra did.

On March 17, 1987, Gary forced all three of his captives, Josefina, Lisa and Deborah, all bound in chains, into the pit. Gary ordered Josefina and another woman to fill the pit with water.

Once the women were in the water, Gary put the plywood board over the pit and attached an electric wire to Deborah’s metal chains which were attached to her wrists. She cried out in pain. When her screaming stopped, he removed the board to find that Deborah had died. He removed her body and disposed of her in the Pine Barrens, a forest ecoregion in New Jersey.

After he disposed of Deborah’s body, he forced Josefina to sign a note that said:

"Gary Heidnik and Josefina Rivera electrocuted Debra Dudley on March 17th in the basement of 3520 North Marshall Street by electrocution."

Jacqueline Askins, using the name “Donna” also signed the document as a witness.

Gary then utilized the signed document to blackmail Josefina into helping him, telling her that he could now trust her and that even if he was arrested for the murder, he could simply go into court and “act crazy” by saluting the judge and things like that.

On March 24, 1987, just two months after Jacqueline was abducted, Gary took Josefina in the car with him to look for his next victim. As they were cruising down the street, they passed a girl Josefina knew, 24 year old Agnes Adams. They picked her up and drove her to Gary’s house. Gary had sex with her at his house and proceeded to take Agnes down to the basement.

Gary had managed to kidnap six women and murder two of them. All of his captives were black women, and all of them were either chained to his basement pipes, or onto pipes that were at the bottom of the hole he had dug into the soil in his basement. No matter what he did with the women, either chained or unchained, he would never remove their wrist shackles. He would starve them and provide them with minimal food such as water and crackers.

If Gary would leave the house, he would usually appoint one of the women to be in charge of the others. When he returned, if he found out that any of the women had been bad while he was away, he would beat them. If the woman who was in charge that day said that the women were good, she would be beaten.

The following day after Agnes was abducted, Josefina knew she had limited time to try to escape, so after cunningly convincing Gary that she was on his side, she asked him to let her go and look for another girl, but on the condition that she had to walk up to the girl’s house herself.

Gary agreed, and drove Josefina to a gas station at North 6th Street and West Girard Avenue and waited for her. She walked about a block away and ran to where her boyfriend Vincent Nelson lived. When Vincent answered the door, he asked her where she had been. When she attempted to tell him what had happened, he told her that she was crazy.

She then ran four blocks down to the corner of North 6th and West Oxford Street. She called 911 from a pay phone, telling the operator that she had been held captive for four months. When officers went to the pay phone, they saw Josefina, visibly shaken, telling them repeatedly “you have to help me.”

They then went to the gas station where Gary was parked. He was sitting in his Cadillac when the officers approached him. Gary asked them “What’s this all about Officer? Didn't I pay my child support?” They then ordered him out of his car.

Police raided Gary Heidnik’s house just before 5am. The house itself had metal doors on it and bars on the windows and in the bars was a crucifix. There was a sign on the front of the house that read: “United Church of the Ministries of God.” When they entered the house, the television was playing loudly. They began to search the home and walked down to the basement. In the basement were two women, naked from the waist down, their bodies bruised, laying on a soiled mattress, chained to a sewer pipe and restrained with muffler clamps. When they saw the officers they yelled “We’re saved! We’re saved!”

The third woman was found in the basement hole. She was naked with her hands handcuffed behind her back and her ankles shackled. The hole she was in was covered by a sheet of plywood and a 100 pound sand bag.

According to one of Gary's neighbors, Doris Zibulka, when the three women were released, they all came running out of the house yelling “'Hooray. We are free. We're out.'

Gary’s friend, Cyril “Tony” Brown was also arrested, but released on $50,000 bail and agreed to testify against Gary. Brown was present when Gary killed Sandra Lindsay and admitted to witnessing her dismemberment as well.

Once the women were recovered, they were all treated for dehydration and malnutrition at a local hospital. With the assistance of the women, police also were able to locate the body of Deborah Dudley in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

When searching the home for evidence, police found 27 pounds of body parts inside six plastic bags in Gary’s freezer.

In April 1987, following his arrest, Gary attempted suicide by trying to hang himself in his jail cell. During that same year, Gary’s victims filed lawsuits against his institution for financial retribution.

At his arraignment, Gary had the nerve to claim that the women were already in his house when he moved in. Of course, the judge didn’t buy it.

[Excerpt from 6abc Philadelphia: Judge Lynne Abraham]


[Judge Lynne Abraham]

You had to say to yourself, this guy is really whacked.


[News Anchor]

Before becoming long-time Philadelphia District Attorney, Lynne Abraham, was a judge and the Heidnik case was hers. Peruto and Heidnik tried to claim insanity during the trial.


[Judge Lynne Abraham]

I very quickly, in my own mind, had an idea that this guy was faking it to effect mental illness.

Heidnik’s trial began in April of 1988. He was defended by Chuck Peruto, Jr. who attempted to prove that Gary was legally insane.

[Excerpt from 6abc Philadelphia: Defense Attorney Chuck Peruto, Jr.]


[Defense Attorney Chuck Peruto, Jr.]

He wanted to have a perfect race, according to him, of children from these women.


[News Anchor]

Chuck Peruto was an up and coming defense attorney in the late 80's and represented Heidnik after he was captured after Josefina Rivera escaped and flagged down a police officer.


[Defense Attorney Chuck Peruto, Jr.]

Two cops pounded on the door, he opened the door and came out, and wouldn't let them in, and they could smell the stench. They didn't want him going anywhere, they busted him right then.

[Host]

In regards to Gary’s claim that he ground up the flesh of Sandra Lindsay, mixed it with dog food, and fed it to the other women, Peruto refuted this, and confirmed that they examined the kitchen utensils and Cuisinart and found no evidence of this. He said that Gary made up this fabrication in order to support his insanity defense.

Psychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Kool testified during trial that Heidnik was under the quote “systematized delusion that God wanted him to produce a number of children, and this was essentially to him like a pact with God.”

The insanity defense was countered by prosecutor Charles F. Gallagher, III.

Several Army comrades testified that Gary had “faked” his mental illness in the military in order to get discharged and secure a disability pension.

The additional fact that Gary was an astute investor who had amassed a portfolio of just over $530,000 was proof enough that he was sane, and Merrill Lynch's financial advisor, Robert Kirkpatrick also testified at his trial to help bolster Gary’s sanity. Robert described Gary as “an astute investor who knew exactly what he was doing."

Aside from the bank accounts and stocks, also provided as evidence was Gary’s vehicles: a Rolls Royce, a Lincoln Continental, a Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and a customized blue van. Gary had even had wallpapered several walls in his house with coins and US currency.

On July 1, 1988 Gary Heidnik was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. He was imprisoned at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh while he awaited his execution.

Six months after his incarceration, Gary attempted suicide in January 1989, by trying to overdose with prescribed thorazine. He fully recovered.

Gary’s father, Michael Heidnik, reportedly stated that he hoped Gary would “hang” because “he deserves to die.” His father also denied the allegations that he abused Gary.

In an interesting turn of events, in 1997 Gary’s ex-wife, Betty Disto, along with his daughter Maxine Davison White, filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where they requested a stay of execution stating that Gary was not competent enough to be executed. They argued that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and wasn’t in complete control of his actions when he captured and imprisoned the women in his basement.

The courts denied the appeal and on July 6th, 1999, after having a last meal consisting of two cups of black coffee and two slices of cheese pizza, Gary Heidnik was put to death at 10:29pm by lethal injection at the State Correctional Institution Rockview in Centre County, Pennsylvania. His body was cremated after death. As of 2020 Gary was the last person to be put to death by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and was the third of three people to be executed since Pennsylvania resumed the death penalty.

During Gary’s lifetime, he was interviewed by more than 150 mental health workers in 22 hospitals. His dilapidated house on North Marshall Street in North Philadelphia still exists today...well, sort of. What used to be his house has been renovated into a home that bears a meek resemblance to its former morbid framework.

[Ambient Music Begins]

Each of the surviving women have received a mere $30,000 settlement. Lisa Thomas and Agnes Adams have had difficulty since their release, struggling with mental issues and addiction. Jacqueline Askins lives in Philadelphia and cleans houses. She spends time with her two sons who are now adults, and takes medication to deal with her anxiety and trauma. In 2014 she told the Huffington Post that she suffers from intense flashbacks and still cannot enter any basement.

Josefina Rivera, who many had vilified as being Gary’s “accomplice,” is now doing her best to move on and live a normal and healthy life. She is married and in 2010 had the opportunity to be reunited with her three children that were adopted following her ordeal. She has also written a book about her time in the basement, called ‘Cellar Girl’ and has been sober for a number of years.

In an excerpt from the British newspaper the Daily Mirror, Josefina states: “For a long time I was haunted by Heidnik, by the women who died next to me. But not any longer. I hope I can inspire other victims to feel positive about the future. You don’t ever totally get over an experience like mine, you just have to learn to live with it."


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Thank you for listening - please check out our website at thecrimeshack.com for the latest episodes, show notes and merchandise and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheCrimeShackPodcast.


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