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Victims Tell of Torture And Death in Heidnik Torture Trial

June 22, 1988 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Four women testified Tuesday about horrors they encountered in a basement torture pit where self-styled minister Gary Heidnik chained them to pipes, raped them and used the cooked remains of a victim as a warning.

Lisa Thomas, who was 19 when she was freed from the torture chamber in Heidnik’s house more than a year ago, said Heidnik pretended to be a police officer coming to the women’s rescue, then beat his captives when they screamed for help.

Heidnik’s attorneys are using an insanity defense.

Ms. Thomas said she was abducted when she accepted a ride from Heidnik and returned to his house for sex. When she wanted to leave, he tried to strangle her, she said.

Ms. Thomas told the jury, chosen in Pittsburgh because of extensive publicity about the case here, that the 44-year-old Heidnik also repeatedly raped his captives.

Heidnik is charged with killing Sandra Lindsay, 24, who died from asphyxiation while chained to a pipe, and Debbi Johnson, 23, who was electrocuted while standing in a water-filled pit.

He is also charged with repeatedly raping and torturing Ms. Thomas and three others until police released them in March 1987.

Surviving victims testified Heidnik said he kept them chained in the basement because he wanted the women to have his children. They said they were fed dog food mixed with human remains during their captivity.

Tuesday, Josephina Rivera, testified that Heidnik got the idea from the black comedy film ″Eating Raoul.″ Ms. Rivera, who said she was a captive for four months before escaping, said Heidnik once took a protesting captive, Ms. Dudley, upstairs to show her body parts as a warning.

″She said he had taken her upstairs and shown her Sandra’s head in a pot and her ribs in a roasting pan on the stove and her legs and arms in the freezer, and that if she kept it up that’s what was going to happen to her,″ Ms. Rivera testified.

Jacqueline Askins wept as she described the deaths of the two women. As she left the courtroom and came before photographers, she began screaming.

Common Pleas Judge Lynn Abraham called the five photographers into court with the jury in recess.

″You people don’t have any sensitivity at all,″ she said, banning all cameras from the City Hall floor where the trial is being held.

During the gruesome testimony, Heidnik seemed to pay no attention. He sat in the courtroom staring straight ahead, wearing the same flowered black Hawaiian shirt and baggy trousers he wore when first arrested.