Who was Gary Heidnik, 5 Horrifying Things You Didn’t Know About Him

The story of Gary Heidnik reads like that of a character from a horror novel or film, thoroughly littered with scenes of abduction, rape, and torture. As a matter of fact, there is the cruel character known as Buffalo Bill in the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs whose role was largely based on Heidnik and his horrific acts. Over a period of a few months between 1986 and 1987, Heidnik successfully abducted at least six women who he regularly raped and tortured in the basement of his North Philadelphia home. The aim of this article is to highlight some of the dreadful things you may not know about him, but first a bit of background on the man.

Who was Gary Heidnik?

Born on the 22nd of November 1943 in Cleveland Ohio, United States, his parents, Ellen and Michael had a younger son called Terry before their divorce in 1946. There were a few early indications that Heidnik was not a normal child. Even though he performed satisfactorily at school and even had a higher than average intelligence quotient, he was never a socially adjusted child. As a boy, he mostly kept to himself and had the occasional outburst when schoolmates attempt to interact with him, often reigning verbal abuses at them without any justifiable cause.

After dropping out of High School, he made his way into the military where he served for a little over a year before being honorably discharged due to a diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder. After leaving the military he gained qualification to work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and attempted to practice nursing but wound up being fired from a VA hospital for repeated unruly behavior.

Over the course of his life, he was admitted into psychiatric hospitals on numerous occasions and made several attempts at taking his own life. It turned out that his mother who suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse committed suicide herself and his young brother Terry who was also frequently admitted to mental health institutions had made several attempts at killing himself.

Horrifying Things You Didn’t Know About Gary Heidnik

1. He abducted his girlfriend’s sister for sex

Heidnik in 1978 got a young lady named Alberta Davidson released from a mental health institution and proceeded to keep her captive in his home and used her as a sex slave as confirmed from investigations. This lady was sister to Anjeanette Davidson, his girlfriend at the time. He was charged to court and was ultimately sent to a mental institution for three years.

2. Gary Heidnik raped his spouse

Heidnik got married to Betty Disto, a Filipino immigrant to the United States in October 1985 after the two had maintained a long-distance friendship. However, the marriage was short-lived due to Heidnik’s reported promiscuous behavior and his numerous physical assaults on Disto who managed to walk out of the marriage with the help of well-meaning people from her home country who also lived in Philadelphia. She ultimately reported Heidnik to the police and had him arrested in 1986.

3. He made his victims torture each other

Gary Heidnik's victims
Josefina Rivera, Sandra Lindsay, Lisa Thomas, Deborah Dudley, Jacqueline Askins, and Agnes Adams

Between November 1986 and March 1987, Gary Heidnik abducted a total of six women. He kept them in a pit in the basement of his home and would use them for sex while torturing them at will. The first of the six women were Josefina Rivera and in order to keep them in check, he appointed her their leader and asked her to torture the others from time to time, torture which of included electrocution in exchange for such privileges such as sleeping on a bed instead of remaining in the pit with the others or face dire consequences if she refused.

Also Read: The Horrifying Story of Colleen Stan Kidnapping

4. Gary Heidnik once cooked a victim’s head and roasted her ribs

One of his victims named Sandra Lindsay died while in Heidnik’s captivity, reportedly from a fever that was never treated, in addition to her captor’s torture and starvation. In a very bizarre turn of events, Gary M. Heidnik dismembered her body and proceeded to cook her head in a pot as well as roast her ribs in the oven.

5. He fed his victim’s human flesh

Offended at one of his victims during a period he had allowed them the privilege of watching some television for mentioning that the dog food in a commercial would be good enough for her to eat given how hungry she was, he promised to feed her and two others dog food. However he went a step further to mix the dog food with a dead victim’s ground flesh and fed it to them.


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