Gerard John Schaefer

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Gerard John Schaefer
Gerard John Schaefer.jpg
Ex-Deputy Sheriff Gerard Schaefer
Born March 25, 1946
Died December 3, 1995 (age 49)
Florida State Prison, Bradford County, Florida
Cause of death Multiple stab wounds
Other names Jerry Shepherd
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment
Spouse(s) Martha Fogg (m. 1968, div. May 1970)
Teresa Dean (m. September 1971, div. November 1973)
Conviction(s) Murder
Victims 2-30+
Span of killings
Country United States
State(s) Florida
Date apprehended
April 7, 1973
Imprisoned at Florida State Prison

Gerard John Schaefer, Jr. (March 25, 1946 – December 3, 1995) was an American murderer and suspected serial killer from Florida. He was imprisoned in 1973 for murders he committed as a Martin County, Florida, Sheriff's deputy.

While he was convicted of two murders, he was suspected of many others. Schaefer frequently appealed against his conviction, yet privately boasted — both verbally and in writing — of having murdered over 30 women and girls.

Early life[edit]

Schaefer was the first of three children born to Catholic parents, Gerard and Doris Schaefer. He was born in Wisconsin and was raised in Atlanta, Georgia where he attended Marist Academy until 1960, when he and his family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Schaefer did not get along well with his father, who he believed favored his sister. In his teens, Schaefer became obsessed with women's panties and also became a peeping tom, spying on a neighbor girl named Leigh Hainline. He would later admit to killing animals in his youth and cross dressing, although at other times he claimed the latter was solely to avoid the draft into the Vietnam War (which he did).

After graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas High School[1] in 1964, Schaefer went to college, during which time he got married. In 1969 he became a teacher, but was soon fired for "totally inappropriate behavior," according to the principal. After being turned down from the priesthood, Schaefer turned to law enforcement as a career, graduating as a patrolman at the end of 1971, at the age of 25.


On July 21, 1972, Schaefer, while on patrol, picked up two teenage girls who were hitchhiking. He abducted them, took them to some remote woods and tied them to trees where he threatened to kill them or sell them into prostitution. However, when he got a call on his police radio, Schaefer had to go, leaving the girls tied up. He vowed that he would return.

The two girls, who were aged 18 and 17, escaped their bonds and went to the nearest police station, which was actually their kidnapper's own station. When Schaefer returned to the woods and found his victims gone, he called his station and claimed that he had done "something foolish", explaining that he had pretended to kidnap and threaten to kill two hitchhikers in order to scare them into avoiding such an irresponsible method of travel. Schaefer's boss did not believe him and he ordered Schaefer to the station where he stripped him of his badge and charged him with false imprisonment and assault.

After posting bail, Schaefer was released. Two months later, on September 27, 1972, Schaefer abducted, tortured, and murdered Susan Place, aged 17, and Georgia Jessup, 16, and buried them on Hutchinson Island.

In December that year, Schaefer appeared in court in relation to the abduction of the two girls who had escaped his clutches back in July. Due to a plea bargain, he was able to plead guilty to just one charge of aggravated assault, for which he received a sentence of one year.

Murder conviction[edit]

In April 1973, over six months since they vanished, the decomposing, butchered remains of Susan Place and Georgia Jessup were found. The girls had been tied to a tree at some point and had vanished while hitch-hiking, and these similarities to Schaefer's treatment of the girls who had gotten away led police to obtain a search warrant for the home he and his wife (now divorced) shared with Schaefer's mother.

In Schaefer's bedroom, police found lurid stories he had written that were full of descriptions of the torture, rape and murder of women, whom Schaefer routinely referred to as "whores" and "sluts". More damningly, the authorities found personal possessions such as jewelry, diaries — and in one case, teeth — from at least eight young women and girls who had gone missing in recent years. Some of the jewelry was from Leigh Hainline Bonadies, who had lived next door to Schaefer when they were teenagers; Hainline Bonadies had vanished in 1969 in Ft. Lauderdale after leaving a note for her husband saying she was making a trip to Miami, but would be back in time to play tennis with him (Schaefer was never charged in connection with her case; her skull, which was found to have multiple bullet holes, was discovered at a construction site in Palm Beach County in April 1978 and identified one month later in May).[2] Also among the items was a purse identified as belonging to Susan Place. Place's mother later identified Schaefer as being the man she last saw with her daughter and Jessup.

Schaefer was charged with the murders of Place and Jessup. In October 1973, he was found guilty and given two life sentences. Authorities soon stated that he was linked to around 30 missing women and girls.

Place and Jessup may not even have been Schaefer's final victims; two 14-year-old girls named Mary Briscolina and Elsie Farmer vanished while hitchhiking on October 23, 1972: just a few weeks after Place and Jessup were killed.[3] Their bodies were later recovered, and jewelry belonging to one of the girls was later found in Schaefer's home. He also raped and killed two girls and hung them from what is now known as the "Devil's Tree" in Port Saint Lucie.

Imprisonment and death[edit]

Schaefer appealed his conviction, claiming at one point that he had been framed. All his appeals were rejected. Schaefer later began filing frivolous lawsuits, trying to sue one true crime writer, Patrick Kendrick, for describing him as "an overweight, doughy, middle aged man who preyed on victims who were psychologically and physiologically weaker than him," and separately trying to sue authors Colin Wilson and Michael Newton and former FBI agent Robert Ressler for describing him (Schaefer) as a serial killer. All of Schaefer's lawsuits were thrown out of court, except Kendrick's which Schaefer continued until his own murder in prison. He also wrote threatening letters to Kendrick, suggesting he had willing minions that would do his bidding and he "...would hate to see something happen to your family...". Kendrick went on to write fiction novels often describing brutal murders, which he relates to his experience with Schaefer.

On December 3, 1995, Schaefer was found stabbed to death in his cell. He had been killed by fellow inmate Vincent Rivera. Rivera was convicted in 1999 of killing Schaefer and had 53 years and 10 months added to the life-plus-20 years sentence he was serving for double murder.

Rivera did not confess to the crime, nor give a motive. Schaefer's sister claimed that his murder was some sort of cover-up related to his attempts to verify the confession to the killing of Adam Walsh that Ottis Toole had made (and subsequently retracted). Others suggested it was due to Schaefer owing some prisoners money or rumours that he was a 'snitch' who had been informing on other inmates. Sondra London (see below) claimed Rivera killed Schaefer in an argument over a cup of coffee.

At the time of Schaefer's death, a Fort Lauderdale homicide detective had been proposing to file charges against Schaefer for three unsolved murders to ensure he never got out of prison.

Alleged victims[edit]

  • Nancy Leichner and Pamela Ann Nater, 20 (both vanished October 2, 1966)[4][5]
  • Deborah Sue Lowe's family believes Schaefer was involved in her disappearance, Lowe was known to Schaefer. Deborah 13, vanished February 29, 1972 which was Leap Year.[6]
  • Carmen Marie Hallock, 22 (vanished December 18, 1969)

Killer Fiction[edit]

Sondra London, a true crime writer who had been Schaefer's girlfriend in high school, interviewed him at length following his conviction, and in 1990 published a compilation of his short stories and drawings entitled Killer Fiction. A second book, Beyond Killer Fiction, followed two years later. Schaefer's stories typically involved savage, graphic torture and murder of women, usually from the perspective of the killer, who was often a rogue police officer.[7] A revised edition of Killer Fiction. released well after Schaefer's death, included stories and rambling articles from the first two books and a collection of letters to London, in which Schaefer confessed to killing 34 women and girls, and bragged that he had impressed fellow Death Row inmate Ted Bundy.[8]

London noted that at the time Schaefer was corresponding with her, he was publicly proclaiming his innocence and threatening to sue anyone who labeled him a serial killer. In one letter Schaefer wrote that he began murdering women in 1965, when he was 19. In another, he boasted of killing and cannibalizing two schoolgirls, nine-year-old Peggy Rahn and eight-year-old Wendy Stevenson, who vanished in December 1969. Publicly, Schaefer had denied any involvement.[9]

When London ended her association with Schaefer in 1991, after beginning a relationship with another Florida serial killer, Danny Rolling, Schaefer repeatedly threatened her life and attempted to sue her for "stealing" his work.[10]

Further reading[edit]

Sparrow, Eric Jonathan, AKA Merrick Sparrow "Petrified, An Original Screenplay" (2014) &

"ANOMALY: Devil's Night at the Devil's Tree, A Paranormal Investigation" Harbinger Press, 2013, pp.  136.

Rommel, Keith "The Devil Tree: The Legend Of Port Saint Lucie" Pennsylvania: Sunbury Press, 2015, pp. 192. ISBN 978-1620065884 Ressler, Robert K. and Tom Schachtman. Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Hunting Serial Killers for the FBI. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992, pp. 122–127. ISBN 0-312-07883-8


  1. ^ "Gerard Shaefer". TruTV. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  2. ^,3669114&hl=en
  3. ^[dead link]
  4. ^ "Pamela Ann Nater". The Doe Network. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "Nancy Leichner". The Doe Network. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Debora Sue Lowe". Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Schaefer, GJ. Killer Fiction: Tales of an Accused Serial Killer. Media Queen (1990). ASIN B002RGCG7U
  8. ^ Gerard John Schaeffer's Art. Serial Killer Art and Kitsch. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  9. ^ Schaefer GJ, London S. Killer Fiction. Feral House (2011), pp. 82-90. ISBN 1936239191
  10. ^ Schaefer GJ, London S. Killer Fiction. Feral House (2011), p. 142. ISBN 1936239191

External links[edit]

An Investigation into, "The Real Devil's Tree"

ANOMALY Web Series Discovers Paranormal Evidence on Devil's Night, 2013

A visit to the notorious Devil Tree where Schaefer buried bodies]