TCF: Lust Killer

Lust Killer
By Ann Rule

The crime:

In the late 1960s, Jerry Brudos killed four young women in Oregon. A closet transvestite with a particular obsession for high heels, his method involved strangling the women and then having sex with their dead bodies. He was apprehended and pled guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. In 2006 he died in prison.

The book:

I’ll start at the end. Lust Killer was one of Ann Rule’s earlier efforts, written under the pen name “Andy Stack” and first published in 1983 (The Stranger Beside Me, a work of memoir-true crime that drew on Rule’s acquaintanceship with Ted Bundy, came out in 1980). Later editions included an Afterword published in 1988, where Rule speculates on the possibility of Brudos getting early release. We now know that didn’t happen, and indeed Brudos was told by authorities that he was never getting out.

It’s also in the 1988 Afterword that Rule talks about how Brudos stands as “one of the classic examples” of a lust killer, but at the time even the label “serial killer” was something new (Rule herself has credited its first use to Pierce Brooks, the creator of the ViCAP system, in 1985, though others have found earlier instances). Today Brudos is a familiar type, with sexual fetish escalating into violence and necrophilia (in Rule’s account, a “constantly accelerating process – a juggernaut of perversion”). Apparently Ted Levine based his performance as Buffalo Bill in the film The Silence of the Lambs on Brudos, and it’s possible author Thomas Harris had him in mind as well when writing his 1988 novel.

What was different about Brudos? What first jumps out is that he was a married man, with two young children. This was seen as being so odd at the time it led to his wife Darcie being charged as an accessory, mainly on the suspect evidence of a busybody neighbour. She (Darcie) was found not guilty, and at least as Rule tells the story her complicity in the murders seems a stretch.

This isn’t unheard of with serial killers. Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, was another lust killer who was married with two children (not to mention president of his local church council). Russell Williams, who also had a fetish for taking pictures of himself in women’s clothing, was married. So it does happen, even though I think it’s considered rare. Everyone compartmentalizes their life to some extent, but being a married serial killer, not to mention sexual deviant, is a hard act to maintain.

Noted in passing:

It was 1968, and Brudos had shag carpet (colour: blue) in his garage workshop. He said he needed it to keep his feet warm.

I’ve mentioned the process of escalation in Brudos’s criminal career, and it’s clear he was well on his way to becoming another Ed Gein at the end. When Rule mentions Gein, however, she says of him that “he hated his mother so much that he had killed her and other women and made vests of their dried flesh.”  This is actually a myth, reinforced by Hitchcock’s film Psycho. In fact, Gein seems to have doted on his mother, who died of a stroke and whose body he left intact and undisturbed in its grave.


Rule emphasizes the key point: if you’re being abducted, even at gunpoint, you might as well take your chances and fight it out, because things aren’t going to get any better for you once you’re tied up in someone’s basement.

True Crime Files

7 thoughts on “TCF: Lust Killer

    • Pictures are an essential part of any true crime book. Because if they’re not included you’re just going to do a search for them anyway. Usually they’re not very gruesome. I don’t remember these being bad. Basically just pictures of the people you’re reading about.


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