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Man Pleads Guilty to Five Torture-Murders

December 19, 1988 GMT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A man already convicted of one murder pleaded guilty Monday to the torture slayings of five other men, whose remains he dismembered and put in curbside trash bags to be hauled off to the city dump.

It would be an impossible task, so no effort would be made to find the bodies of the victims of Robert A. Berdella, said Albert Riederer, Jackson County prosecutor, following the court hearing.

Berdella, 39, pleaded guilty earlier to the murder of Larry Pearson of Wichita, Kan., and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. He pleaded guilty Monday to another first-degree murder charge in the death of Robert Sheldon, and guilty to four other charges of second-degree murder.

He was given another life term without chance of parole in Sheldon’s death, and life sentences in the other four cases.

Berdella said during the 90-minute hearing that he killed Sheldon in April 1985 by putting a plastic trash bag over his head, tying it with a rope and allowing him to suffocate. Pearson died the same way.

The other victims, killed between 1984 and 1987, died after being bound to a bed, gagged and injected with animal tranquilizers. One of the victims bled to death, Berdella said.

The other victims were Jerry Howell, 19; Mark Wallace, 20; Walter Ferris, 25; and Todd Stoops, 25. All lived in the Kansas City area or had Kansas City ties.

″He talked about having certain dark fantasies that came to life,″ said Riederer, adding that no clearer motive emerged from three days of questioning of Berdella last week that led to the plea bargain in which Berdella avoided the death penalty.

″He felt abused or misused by certain people, including some of the victims,″ Riederer said. ″There was revenge, or getting control of these people.″

Berdella, an art collector and operator of a shop that sold art objects and antiques, became a household name in Kansas City when he was arrested in April after a man wearing only a dog collar ran screaming from his midtown house.

The man told authorities he had been sexually tortured, beaten and injected with drugs by Berdella.

The arrest was followed by days of digging in Berdella’s yard and searching of his rambling house. Two skulls and a bag of teeth were found along with hundreds of photographs of nude and sometimes unconscious men.

Riederer said that there were 26 or 27 different men in the pictures and that all had been accounted for except two.

No further charges were expected to be filed, Riederer said.