A Nightmare on Charlotte Street: Terror in Plain Sight (Part 1)

  • April 2nd, 1988 – a 22 year old man leaps from the second floor of a 2 story family home located at 4315 Charlotte St., in midtown Kansas City, Missouri.
  • He is completely naked except for a dog collar around his neck
  • His leg was injured in the fall, but nothing would stop him from trying to escape. 
  • He notices a meter reader working across the street and manages to get his attention as he asks for help and for him to contact the police. 
  • The meter reader points him in the direction of the person’s home he is currently working at.
  • After knocking on the door and getting the attention of the neighbor, the police are called to the scene, and the young man is taken to the hospital for his injuries.
  • Kansas City police would interview him to find out what exactly led to his condition and his escape from a second story window. What they would discover, when verifying his story, is nothing short of a nightmare.
  • And the terror he described to them is something out of a horror movie. Only this was not a movie, it was very much real, and he was lucky to be alive!
  • The owner of 4315 Charlotte Street was 39 year old, Robert Andrew Berdella Jr. A local businessman, who was the head of the neighborhood watch in Hyde Park, and from all outward appearances, was a guy who would help anyone that needed it.
  • Of course, if that was all there was to know about Robert Berdella, I don’t think we would be covering him, or this story today on this podcast.  
  • So, let’s go back in time and learn a little more about Robert and why he is an important figure in our story today.
  • Robert Berdella Jr. was born on January 31st, 1949 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio to Robert Sr. and Mary Etta Berdella. The elder Robert was a die setter for Ford Motor Company, and Mary was a homemaker, as was common in the late 40’s and 50’s. 
  • Robert had a sibling, a brother, Daniel Louis Berdella, who was born on May 11th, 1956.
  • They were both brought up in a conservative, Italian, Catholic household, and their family attended mass every Sunday. 
  • Robert and Daniel were very different from one another. Robert was more of a loner, with few friends, highly intelligent, and didn’t care to leave the house that often. 
  • Robert also wore thick, “coke bottle” glasses, from the age of 5 on, as he was very near-sighted. In addition, it is said he had a slight speech impediment, and suffered from hypertension (HBP) So, I’m sure he was ridiculed by other children his age.
  • Daniel, on the other hand, was very athletic, and competed in several sports from an early age. Because of this, Daniel was looked upon as favorable by his father, while Robert was viewed as the “lesser” son because he was not athletically gifted. 
  • Robert Sr. was a strict man, and it was not uncommon for him to be both emotionally and physically abusive towards his 2 sons. His punishment of choice was a beating with a leather belt. 
  • In his early teens, Robert was beginning to realize something else that would separate himself from his brother. And that was that he was a homosexual. 
  • It’s alleged that Robert did have a relationship with a girl his age, but it didn’t last, and likely was a way for him to solidify his sexuality, and interest in other males. 
  • With this realization, Robert actually became more self-confident, though he kept his homosexuality a secret from his family, and anyone else that knew him.
  • There’s not a reason I could find for this, but Robert, in his teen years started to treat women rude and acted very condescending towards them. From what I read, this is something that continued throughout adulthood.
  • Christmas of 1965, Robert and his family traveled to Canton, Ohio to visit relatives. His father, had a heart attack Christmas night, and died 2 days later at the age of 39. 
  • After his father’s death, Robert looked to religion, including his own, and then several others, to find comfort and solace. He studied them extensively, but never found what he was looking for, instead he became a cynic to any and all religions. 
  • Robert’s mother, Mary, remarried shortly after her husband’s death. And Robert viewed this as a form of betrayal against his father.
  • After the marriage Robert became more withdrawn, and took up hobbies such as painting, collecting stamps and coins, and writing to overseas penpals. Some of his pen pals were in Vietnam and Burma and would send him stamps for his collection, photographs of historical icons, ancient cultures, architecture, which contributed to his interest in primitive art and antiques.
  • Starting in 1965 his collection of these artifacts lead to him to opening his own business in 1982, Bob’s Bizarre Bazaar. “Ethical Curiosities from the World’s Far Corners.”
  • Robert graduated in 1967 from Cuyahoga Falls High School. After graduation he enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute as he wanted to become a college professor.
  • His first year went by smoothly, he was seen as a talented student, and he was comfortable enough to come out as a homosexual. But during his second year, he started to hang out with the wrong crowd. He became a low level drug dealer, and began abusing drugs and alcohol. 
  • In 1968, he was busted for selling methamphetamines to an undercover officer. He posted a $3000 bond, plead guilty, and was given a 5 year suspended sentence.


  • A month after the first arrest, Robert, along with 2 other students, were arrested in Johnson County for possession of marijuana and LSD. Robert spent 5 days in jail because he couldn’t post his bond. But the charges were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.
  • Robert began torturing and killing animals for the sake of art, such as dogs and chickens. But it was after he tortured, killed, and cooked a duck as a performance piece that he was forced to leave college. 
  • After leaving the Art Institute, he continued to live in the Kansas City area. And in September of 1969, he purchased and moved into 4315 Charlotte Street. This modest two story house would become the stuff nightmares are made of. 


  • Openly gay and in a gay-friendly neighborhood, Robert spent much of his time with other openly gay men, both young and old. Robert gravitated towards men were prostitutes, drug addicts, runaways, and small time criminals. He viewed himself as a mentor to them, but he used this “mentoring” as a way to manipulate them sexually. 
  • If you believe Robert’s side of things, he had no sexual contact with these men during much of the 70s. He viewed himself as a foster parent to many of the younger males. But by the early 80s, many of his older “friends” had recognized his ways of manipulation and distanced themselves from him. He was then left with the younger men who he was more easily able to control, and often he would provide money or board in exchange for sexual favors. 
  • In the late 70s and early 80s, Robert was active in the South Hyde Park Crime Prevention and Neighborhood Association. And when he became chairman in the early 80s, he set up neighborhood watch patrols. He would also lead fundraising events, but all of these activities ceased by the mid 1980s.
  • He was working and making money as a short order cook in multiple restaurants around Kansas City. Robert did work in some more acclaimed establishments, joined the local chef’s association, and he started a training program for aspiring chefs in a local community college. 
  • As his side hustle for extra income, he sold different art and antique items he collected from contacts he established in Africa, Asia, and South America. In 1981, he started to focus more on his business and left his jobs as a chef. 
  • Bob’s Bizarre Bazaar was originally run from his home. He rented his own booth at the Westport Flea Market. Although sometimes he had good months, there were several where the profits were not sufficient to make ends meet. To compensate, he’d steal or rummage for additional goods to sell at his booth, and he would rent rooms in his home for additional income.
  • While running his own booth at the West Port Flea Market, Robert became friendly with a fellow merchant named Paul Howell. Paul’s son, Jerry (in his mid-teens), and his friends would make fun of Robert and his unmistakeable homosexualtiy.
  • Robert would later say that Jerry told him that he and his friends would occasionally earn money as male prostitutes. You know what they say: He doth protest too much. 
  • Jerry and Robert forge a friendship, although rocky. Robert would offer financial or legal assistance. In the Summer of 1984, things changed when Jerry turned 19. 
  • On July 5th, 1984, Robert picked up Jerry in the guise of driving him to a dance contest in the neighboring town of Miriam. Along the way Robert provided Jerry with alcohol, enough to render him impaired. And then gave him Valium and Acepromazine (an animal sedative), until Jerry became unconscious.


  • He then drove Jerry back to his house where he tied him to his bed for a period of 28 hours. During this time, Robert repeatedly tortured, drugged, raped, and violated Jerry with foreign objects.
  •  Jerry kept pleading to be freed, and asking why he was being treated this way. To my knowledge Robert didn’t give him a reason. Per a statement later from Robert “Jerry either asphyxiation on vomit, or the combination of the gag and the medicines were too strong for him to be able to catch breath.”
  • Perhaps in a state of remorse, Robert later admitted he did attempt to perform CPR on Jerry with no success. 
  • He then dragged Jerry’s body to the basement of his house. He hung it up and made cuts to the major arteries and the left the body overnight to allow for the blood to drain into a large cooking pot.
  • The next day, Robert used a chainsaw and a boning knife to cut up Jerry’s body into pieces. The parts were then wrapped up into newspaper and thrown into trash bags which were then placed in larger garbage bags.
  •  The following day the bags were picked up by the garbage men and taken to a landfill. Jerry was never seen again.
  • Paul had filed a missing persons report with police after his son went missing. He knew that Robert was giving Jerry a ride to the dance contest in Miriam. But when Robert was interviewed by police, he said he dropped Jerry off at the dance and he never saw him after that.
  • On April 10th 1985, 23 year old Robert Sheldon showed up at Robert’s house as he needed a place to stay for a short period of time. Sheldon had previously stayed at Robert’s house in the past so this was nothing different for him. But for Robert something had changed this time. 
  • Robert saw him as “an inconvenience,” even though Sheldon paid his rent. He also was not sexually attracted to him.
  • A couple days later on April 12th, Robert came home from work to find Sheldon intoxicated, and he saw this as the opportunity to take advantage of him. 
  • Robert later said that he saw Sheldon as someone he could “express some of the anger and frustration that I had toward other people on.” So with that, Robert drugged Sheldon with the same sedatives he used on Jerry, and took him to the same bedroom on the 2nd floor and held him there for 3 days. 
  • He did not rape him as he was not sexually attracted to him, but this did not make the torture any easier. He allegedly swabbed drain cleaner in his left eye, bound his wrists with piano wire to damage the nerves in his hands, inserted needles underneath his fingernails, and filled his ears with caulk. 
  • Robert saw these things as his experiments, and would jot down his methods of torture, doses of the medications he used, and the reactions of his victims to them. These detailed notes were kept in a stenopad. This was his trophy of his victims. 
  • On April 15th, 3 days after Robert confined Sheldon, a repairman came to Robert’s house for a scheduled appointment to work on the roof. Fearing he would be caught, Robert suffocated Sheldon by placing a bag over his head that he tightened around his neck with a piece of rope. 
  • This time instead of the basement, Robert took Sheldon’s body to the 3rd floor bathroom. There he dissected and dismembered the body before disposing of it the same way as he did Jerry’s.
  • In what was becoming a pattern of young men looking for help from Robert, the following June Robert found his next victim, or rather his victim found him. 
  • A man that had previously helped Robert with yardwork, Mark Wallace, was hiding in Robert’s toolshed when a severe thunderstorm came through. 
  • Robert saw him there and invited him to come inside his home. Only this time, Robert, noticing that Mark was anxious and tense, offered to inject him with Chlorpromazine (like Thorazine / an antipsychotic medication).
  • He told Mark that it would “calm down and relax” him. Mark decided to go along with it. And  after 30 minutes he impaired enough that Robert was able to carry him to the 2nd floor bedroom, where he restrained him to the bed, much like his previous two victims. 
  • This time Robert’s torture occurred over the course of one day, and included sending high voltage electrical shocks to his body until Mark would pass out. In addition to the electrical shocks, Robert “experimented” with inserting hypodermic needles into Mark’s back muscles. 
  • Robert noted in his steno pad, that Mark Wallace’s time of death was 7pm on June 23rd, 1985. And that he died of a combination of “the drugs, the gag, and the lack of oxygen.”


  • On September 26th, 1985, Robert had received a phone call from an old friend named Walter James Ferris who needed a place to stay for a short period of time. He met him at a bar before bringing him back to his house.
  • Although he tortured his prior victims, Robert was especially heinous with his brutality towards Walter. In much the same way, he drugged him with tranquilizers and tied him to the 2nd story bed. For the next 27 hours, the torture was unending. 
  • Robert repeatedly sent 7700 volt electrical shocks to Walter’s shoulder and groin for up to 5 minutes at a time. He would then perform his own version of acupuncture by poking hypodermic needles in Walter’s neck and genitals. 
  • From the constant torture, Walter was semi-conscious, but even in this state, Robert continued to physically and sexually assault him. 
  • Robert noted in his stenopad about Walter, that he was “unable to sit up more than 10 to 15 seconds.” He also wrote “very delayed breathing.” This statement was followed by another indicating that Walter had died by using the words “stop the project.”


  • There was a period of downtime before Robert’s next victim. Nearly 9 months later, in June 1986, Robert ran into 21 year old Todd Stoops at Liberty Memorial Park. Todd was a prostitute who had stayed with Robert two years prior in 1984. 
  • Robert invited Todd back to his house for “lunch” (to exchange sex for money so Todd could buy drugs)  which was really just a rouse as he would become his 4th victim. 
  • Robert was very physically attracted to Todd, and this likely was a contributing factor as to why Robert held him for two weeks. 
  • Robert wanted Todd to be his sex slave. In order to get him to submit, Todd had to endure immense physical pain and torture. Robert sent electrical shocks through his closed eyes to blind him. He poured drain cleaner down his throat so he couldn’t scream or talk.  
  • At one point during the second week, Todd asked Robert if he could have a sandwich and a drink. Robert refused and Todd began to cry. 
  • At the end of the 2 weeks, Robert did give in and gave Todd soup and ice cream, but he “wasn’t able to keep anything down.” And “was so weak he was unable to breathe while in a sitting position.”
  • Todd endure repeated sexual assaults, and died due to a combination of fever and blood loss after his anus was ruptured.


  • Robert killed victim number 5 as a form of retribution. 
  • At 20 years old, Larry Wayne Pearson, came into Robert’s store and they began talking about witchcraft and wizardry. They seemed to develop a friendship over the subject matter. And for an unspecified reason, Larry decided to stay with Robert for a few days. 
  • According to Robert, he never planned on keeping Larry captive, but everything changed when he bailed Larry out of jail in Wichita. Larry was bragging about robbing gay men in Wichita, which of course Robert took offense to.
  • So on June 23rd, 1987, Robert drugged and tied Larry’s hand above his head in the basement of his home. 
  • Of Robert’s victims thus far, Larry was the most cooperative. This earned him the privilege of being moved to the 2nd floor bedroom after earning Robert’s trust. 


  • This “trust” came at a price. Which was enduring the torture of repeated electrical shocks with a transformer, having several of his hand bones broken with an iron rod, and submitting to Robert’s physical and sexual abuse.
  • Robert informed Larry that he would not inflict as much pain upon him as long as he continued to cooperate. In total, Larry was kept for 6 weeks. 
  • In this time, Larry taught himself to sleep motionless so he didn’t upset Robert, in fear he would be tortured again or be forced to return to the basement. 
  • It seems after the 6 weeks, Larry had enough, and decided he couldn’t take Robert’s treatment anymore. While performing oral sex on Robert, he bit his penis. Then screamed he couldn’t take it anymore. 
  • Robert then bludgeoned him into unconsciousness, and suffocated him with a bag and a rope. 
  • He dismembered Larry’s body in the basement, and kept his head stored in a plastic bag inside his freezer before finally burying it in the backyard. 


So now we’ve come full circle, And because I love to “torture” you all myself, I’m going to do just that, as we end part one of this “chilling” story (get it bc of the freezer), and we’ll pick up next week with “the one that got away”.



Sources Accessed October 2023:



The Heinous Crimes Of Robert Berdella, “The Kansas City Butcher”



Robert Berdella



Robert Berdella: The Butcher of Kansas City



The Kansas City Butcher








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