Gary Heidnik’s Torture Chamber

The local church bishop carries a sinister secret. He is keeping six women chained together in his custom-designed torture dungeon, or in other words, the basement! Don’t worry there is no interruption to the Sunday services that continue as usual just one floor above …


Gary Wets The Bed!

Wetting the bed is already a humiliating thing for a child. Gary Heidnik’s father forced him to display his urine-stained sheets outside-in view of all his neighbors. This was a favorite punishment of Heidnik’s somewhat sadistic father who would become completely enraged by this.

Born in November of 1943, Heidnik was the oldest of two children shoveled between deeply troubled divorced parents.

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Heidnik was eventually shipped off to military school where he performed unexpectedly well. He was found to have an IQ of 148 and his drill sergeant gave him rated his performance as excellent. After graduating, he moved to Texas where he trained as a medic and was later stationed in Germany

Not Playing with a Full Deck …

This period of success was shortlived as Heidnik’s own health started to plunge. Complaining of nausea, headaches and blurred vision he was diagnosed as having a serious mental illness and prescribed antipsychotic medications. Discharged honorably from the military with full disability he returned home to work as a nurse at the VA hospital where he was fired for rudeness to the patients.

From 1962 to 1987, Heidnik was in and out of mental hospitals from multiple suicide attempts. Depression was a recurring trait in his family. His mother had tragically killed herself by drinking a cocktail of cleaning fluids in the basement. In desperation, she was trying to escape an abusive relationship.

Love and Marriage

Heidnik eventually got married to a mail order bride named Betty from the Philippines. Betty was forced to watch her husband have sex with other women and repeatedly raped and assaulted. She became pregnant with their child and eventually fled back to her own country.

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The next lucky contender for Heidnik was a mentally retarded woman with an IQ of only 48. Heidnik found pleasure in being easily able to control and abuse Angenette who also became pregnant with his baby. Social Services took the child away from her as she was deemed unfit. The loss of another baby pushed Heidnik further over the edge into madness.

Angenette’s sister was in a mental institution also quite intellectually impaired. This was intriguing to Heidnik and in 1978, they visited her and he signed her out for a day pass.

10 days later, the police found her sister covered in blood and hiding in the basement. She had been repeatedly raped, sodomized and tortured. Heidnik’s conviction for the crime was overturned after he spent only three years incarcerated in a mental hospital.

Bishop Buffalo Bill

In 1971, The United Church of the Ministers of God was born. Heidnik (Brother Bishop) had started it off with $1500 and five followers. The church grew extremely fast and close to $500,000 was raised from donations. Brother Bishop was developing strong people skills in the area of master manipulation. Every Sunday, his faithful followers turned up for the service which was held in Heidnik’s own home. Most of his congregation were either mentally ill or retarded just as he preferred them.

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Bishop Heidnik’s lust for new nonconsensual sexual partners was again on the rise. One day in 1986 he was patrolling an area of sex workers when he came across 25-year-old Josefina Rivera. The single mom had lost her kids, was a serious drug addict and prostituted to maintain her habit.

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Josefina Rivera

Heidnik lured her into the car with the promise of money in exchange for sex. As she dressed, he choked her from behind and drove her back to her new home in his basement. There he chained and shackled her angles together using superglue on the bolts. Rivera kept screaming until Hednik decided to shut her up by savagely beating her with a stick. From there she was shoved into his pre-dug hole in the floor. With three boards of wood covering the pit, she spent the next three days buried and alone in the darkness.

And this Will Be Your Torture Dungeon …

Rivera woke to the sound of Heidnik’s voice saying “Sandra, we’ve known each other for a long time, I would never hurt you.” A few moments later the mentally retarded 24-year-old had tumbled in the hole on top of her. Sandra Lindsay had been taking a walk to the park. She was a member of the United Church and felt comfortable accepting the ride from Brother Bishop.

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Sandra Lindsay

It was game time and Heidnik would force each girl to watch as he raped the other. The first day of 1987, brought the third girl to take up further space in a now overcrowded pit. Deborah Dudley was extremely feisty and apparently not afraid to stand up to him or spit directly in his face. She also was not shy about yelling for tampons or a shower eventually forcing Heidnik to make a Home Depot run.

A portable toilet, tampons and a way to bathe were now introduced into the quarters. Rivera and Dudley had gone a month without a shower or access to other necessities for personal hygiene.

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Heidnik had unpredictable mood swings and the three girls never knew what to expect when he came down the stairs. He was angry when he realized that they could hear him coming as this challenged his control. To remedy the situation he took a screwdriver and used it to puncture each one of their eardrums.

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The women had learned by now the dangers of disobeying him. The punishments would lead to rape, beatings, starvation, and torture. Two other victims were later added to the group 18-year-old Jacqueline Askins and 19-year-old Lisa Thomas. Heidnik finally felt content that he had enough women to carry out his evil intentions. Brother Bishop had a dream to have his own baby farm.

The Baby Farm Has No Babies!

Sandra had made the mistake of disobeying Heidnik and while she was in the punishment pit had decided to try and crawl out. He was furious.

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Heidnik hung her by the wrists in handcuffs that were attached to a beam he had nailed across the wall. There she was left for a week where she was basically starved. During punishments, Heidnik would cut off food for a few days. Gradually he would introduce the victim’s stomach to a little water, followed by a small piece of bread and so on. Sandra had refused to eat and the other girls seeing her suffer were able to do little to help. They were also tied up but in their regular manner.

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Sandra was hung in such a brutal way that the tip of her feet barely grazed the ground. When Heidnik decided to release after the seven days, her head slumped forward and she fell down dead. Her rib cage had collapsed over her lungs.

Now, Heidnik was faced with the challenge of a body to get rid of. He dragged Sandra upstairs and started to dismember her with a chainsaw. Seeing that it was going to be a lot of work he brought the other girls upstairs to help. He told them that if the police ever found her body they would all be charged as being an accomplice.

Sandra Stew Anybody?

The police had indeed stopped by soon after Sandra’s death. The neighbors had started to complain about some unpleasant odors. The fact that Sandra’s head was boiling on the stove and her ribs were roasting in the oven most likely was the cause,

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Heidnik apologized to the police saying that he had accidentally burned a roast. The officers asked him to try and keep the smells under control and left without suspicion. Heidnik took the rest of Sandra’s body and ground it up, feeding pieces of her to his dog.

IGary Heidniks Torture Chamber

A few days earlier the women had been allowed to watch television. Somebody had made a sarcastic remark during a dog food commercial implying that it looked better then what Heidnik was feeding them. This, of course, infuriated Heidnik and he had decided that all of the women could indeed do just that. They were fed dog food with a little something extra for protein. Ground-up pieces of Sandra had been mixed in so finely they couldn’t even pick her off the dog food. The women had little choice but to comply or starve.

Electricity and Water Do Not Mix!

Heidnek’s new favorite punishment became electrocution. The women were forced to sit in a shallow pool of water while he stuck in a live electric wire to shock them. He somehow thought that if the water was shallow enough this would not be fatal. His high IQ apparently was on a break.

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Deborah, the feisty one had never submitted to Heidnik’s will. As a result, she was repeatedly beaten and tortured yet this never broke her pride or dignity. Heidnik forced Rivera to hold the wire in the water on Deborah which ended up killing her.

Although it was not his intention to be stuck with yet another body to dispose of, Heidnik had reportedly said at her death “Oh well, at least I will have a peaceful basement now!”.

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The unwilling participant was then forced to sign a letter saying that she had helped with the murder. Rivera had been studying Heidnik and she started to catch on to his pattern of narcissistic behavior. A plan was beginning to devise in her head.

Interestingly enough, this whole time Brother Bishop conducted his church sessions as usual.

Rivera the Accomplice

The last five months at the baby farm saw six women together in the basement. Rivera’s role had changed and she now helped Heidnik. She was put in charge of the other women and given special privileges such as hot chocolate and hot dogs. She was given the freedom to go upstairs where she would cook his dinner and accompany him outside on errands. Her days of sleeping in the pit were over.

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Heidnik saw that pitting the women against each other was the perfect way to weaken their will. Rivera was a perfect tool for him. She was able to help lure the final captive, Agnes Adams. He still kept it perfectly clear to her that if she crossed him these new freedoms would be gone.

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Agnes Adams Final Captive

Rivera could have probably escaped while she was upstairs but she didn’t. She knew if she did he would kill the other women in a panic knowing the police would come. Her goal was to save all of them. Heidnik pleased that he had Agnes decided that he now wanted ten women in the basement to start his baby farm.

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Rivera had complained to Heidnik that she needed to see her family and was successful in convincing him. Heidnik had taken her to a gas station and waited in the car, as she went to visit. As soon as Rivera was about a block away, she ran into a phone booth and called 911. A squad car was nearby and seeing the scarring on Rivera’s ankles believed her story. They went directly to the gas station where Heidnik was arrested.

The Aftermath

Heidnik tried to unsuccessfully commit suicide shortly after being incarcerated. He was given the death sentence which his ex-wife Betty and his daughter tried to appeal in federal court.

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His defense prior to conviction was that the women had already been in the house when he moved in there. The jury not believing that houses came complete with women in cellars for the convenience of psychopaths found him guilty. This time he was the one in shackles as he was lead wearing his inappropriately brightly colored Hawaiian shirt.

Gary Heidnik was executed by lethal injection on July 6, 1999.

Many believed that Josefina Rivera was really an accomplice to Heidnik. She was refused custody of her children and returned to using drugs soon after. In 2014 she wrote a book called Cellar Girl where she candidly told her side of the story. Her story is haunting but gives a beautiful recount of the strong will of a survivor.

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