BRADFORD COUNTY, FL — On December 3, 1995, Florida State Prison inmate Vincent Rivera took a knife to fellow prisoner Gerard John Schaefer, fatally stabbing the former sheriff’s deputy turned convicted murderer for reasons he has never revealed.
Rivera got 20 years tacked on to his sentence and just continued to go about his regular jailhouse business.
Some observers claimed that Schaefer was doomed to such a fate from the moment he got sent to prison in 1973.
First, Schaefer was an ex-cop. Inmates hate when one of those turns up among them. In fact, the only thing prisoners despise more than former law-enforcement agents is anybody who commits crimes against children. Schaefer received a life sentence for raping, torturing, and murdering very young female victims. Instantly, that made him a two-time loser.
Once in lock-up, Schaefer reportedly committed the next two cardinal sins against his fellow inmates: owing them money and, infinitely worse, acting as a snitch for the authorities.
Later on, Schaefer’s sister claimed he died as part of a cover-up. Sondra London, Schaefer’s writing partner on the outside, asserted that Rivera stabbed him over a cup of coffee. Really, though the only surprise aspect of the murder was that it took more than 20 years before somebody finally did it.
Born in 1946 and raised in both Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, Gerard Schaefer grew up feeling antagonized by his father. As a teenager, he acted out by crossdressing and wearing panties under his clothes. He also sadistically killed animals and menaced local females as a peeping tom.
Schaefer exhibited a particular obsession with a local girl named Leigh Hainline. He is suspected of having murdered Hainline in 1969, the same year Schaefer lost his job as a teacher for “totally inappropriate behavior.”
Desperate for work and, most likely, to be put in a position where he had access to vulnerable targets, 24-year-old Schaefer attempted to become a priest. The church had the sense to reject him. Tragically, Schaefer’s next potential employers did not: the Martin County Sheriff’s Office of Florida.
As an active sheriff’s deputy on July 21, 1972, Schaefer picked up a pair of hitchhiking females; one was 18, the other 17. The fully uniformed Schaefer forced the teens into his patrol car, tied them up in a wooded area, and said he was deciding whether to kill them or force them into prostitution.
Fortunately, Schaefer’s police radio summoned him, and he had to take off, allowing the girls time to escape. When he returned and found that his victims had split, he called into the station and said, “I did something foolish.”
Nervily, Schaefer attempted to tell his superiors he had just been trying to impart a “lesson” to the teens about the dangers of hitchhiking. Police brass didn’t buy it. They threw Schaefer off the force and charged him with assault and false imprisonment.
On September 27, 1972, while he was out on bail, the psychotically enraged Schaefer abducted Susan Place, 17, and Georgia Jessup, 16. This time, horribly, he raped, tortured, and murdered the two girls, and then buried their dismembered bodies on a remote patch of Hutchinson Island.
Back in court for his original kidnapping case, Schaefer plea bargained down to aggravated assault and got just a year in jail.
In April 1973, searchers turned up the remains of Susan Place and Georgia Jessup. Investigators noticed similarities between their case and the crime for which Schaefer was presently incarcerated and obtained a search warrant for the ex-cop’s home. Once inside, officers found clothing, diaries, and other personal possessions belonging to at least eight girls and young women who were actively missing. One of them was Leigh Hainline, Schaefer’s original stalking victim, who had vanished four years earlier. Most disgustingly, Schaefer even had a secret stash of human teeth.
Police additionally collected volumes of notebooks that Schaefer had filled with misogynist diatribes and detailed accounts of the sexual torture and methodical murder of females he deemed “sluts” and “whores” among other, even less palatable epithets. Chief among the damning evidence discovered in the raid, however, was a purse belonging to Susan Place.
That discovery was enough for officers to bring the dead girl’s mother in to pick out Schaefer from a line-up, identifying him as the last man she saw go off with her daughter.
In October 1973, Schaefer received two consecutive life sentences for killing Susan Place and Georgia Jessup.
Police continued to connect the materials taken from Schaefer’s home with missing girls, including 14-year-old hitchhikers Mary Briscolina and Elsie Farmer, who disappeared in October 1972 — weeks after Place and Jessup were killed. Schaefer had been in possession of their jewelry. In time, evidence implicated Schaefer in more than 30 cases of missing females dating back to 1966.
While incarcerated, Schaefer claimed repeatedly to have been framed. He filed as many appeals as possible and got shot down each time. He also went lawsuit crazy, submitting claims against anyone who publicly described him as a serial killer.
The weirdly vain Schaefer even attempted to sue journalist Patrick Kendrick for damages after the writer described the killer as “an overweight, doughy, middle aged man who preyed on victims who were psychologically and physiologically weaker than him.” Truth, Schaefer was reminded, remained an absolute defense against libel.
At the same time that he relentlessly proclaimed his innocence in public, Schaefer reportedly boasted nonstop to inmates and other confidantes about the volume and severity of the atrocities for which he never got caught.
One of those to whom Schaefer bragged was Sondra London, an old high school girlfriend who had grown up to become a noteworthy true crime author. Among the revelations Schaefer shared with London was that in 1969, he killed and cannibalized Wendy Stevenson, age eight, and Peggy Rahn, age nine. He also claimed his death toll was 34 and that, in jail, his exploits impressed even his fellow inmate Ted Bundy.
In 1990, London partnered with Schaefer to publish Killer Fiction. The book compiled short stories and artwork by Schaefer, focusing on heinously cruel homicides from the perspective of the killer, who was, most often, a police officer who placed himself outside any known laws.
As might be expected, London and Schaefer’s association ended with him threatening to kill her. As might also be expected, everything else ended for Schaefer when the blade-wielding Vincent Rivera didn’t bother with making any threats and just killed the creep.
To learn more about Gerard John Schaefer, watch the upcoming First Look of the “Serial Deception” episode of Married With Secrets on ID GO on December 30!
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Main photos: Gerard John Schaefer [Martin County Sheriff’s Office]