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Gary Michael Heidnik (November 22, 1943 – July 6, 1999) was an American murderer who kidnapped, tortured, and raped six women, killing two of them, while holding them prisoner in a pit in his basement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Heidnik was sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection in July 1999.
Born to Michael and Ellen Heidnik in Eastlake, Ohio, and raised in the Cleveland suburb, Heidnik dropped out of public high school in the ninth grade and attended Staunton Military Academy for two years, leaving before graduation. After another period in school, he dropped out and joined the Army.
Heidnik served as a medic in the Army for 14 months (1961-62) before being honorably discharged with a medical disability. His official diagnosis was "schizoid personality disorder".
When he was 27, his mother Ellen committed suicide.
Heidnik used a matrimonial service to meet his future wife, with whom he corresponded by mail for two years before proposing to her. Betty arrived from the Philippines in September 1985 and married Heidnik in Maryland on October 3, 1985.
The marriage rapidly deteriorated and she found Heidnik in bed with three other women and he forced her to have sex with them. He beat and raped her until she left him three months later.
Unknown to Heidnik until his ex-wife requested child support payments some time after the divorce, he did impregnate Betty during their short marriage. Heidnik was never known to have had any kind of relationship with his son.
In 1976, Heidnik was charged with aggravated assault and carrying an unlicensed pistol after shooting the tenant of a house he offered for rent, grazing his face.
Heidnik signed his girlfriend's cognitively disabled sister out of a mental institution on day leave and kept her prisoner in a locked storage room in his basement in 1978. After she was found and returned to the hospital, examination revealed that she had been raped and sodomized.
Heidnik was arrested and charged with kidnapping, rape, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, and interfering with the custody of a committed person.
The case went to trial in November 1978; he was found guilty and sentenced to three to seven years in jail. The original sentence was overturned on appeal and Heidnik spent three years of his incarceration in mental institutions prior to being released in April 1983 under the supervision of a state sanctioned mental health program
After his wife Betty left him in 1986, Heidnik was arrested yet again and charged with assault, indecent assault, spousal rape and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse. The charges were later dismissed when Betty failed to appear for the preliminary hearing
Beginning in November 1986, Heidnik abducted six women and held them in the basement of his house in Philadelphia that he shared with his longtime friend David Stec.
The captives were sexually abused, beaten, and tortured in front of each other. One of the women died of a combination of starvation, excess torture, and an untreated fever. Heidnik dismembered her body, ground it in a food processor and mixed it with dog food, which he then fed to the surviving victims.
He had a problem dealing with the arms and legs, so he put them in a freezer and marked them "dog food". He cooked her ribs in an oven and boiled her head in a pot on the stove.
He used electric shock as a form of torture; one victim was electrocuted when she was bound in chains, thrown into a hole that had been dug in the floor (usually reserved as a form of isolation punishment).
Heidnik ordered Josefina Rivera "Nicole" to start filling the hole with water and then forced her to apply the electrical current from the house to the other woman's chains. Heidnik would torture and sexually abuse the women individually or in groups.
He dug a four-foot-deep pit that he would throw the women in at night. The pit would then be covered with plywood and heavy weights. The victims were also encouraged to inform on each other in return for better conditions.
Arrest and trial
Josefina Rivera escaped on March 24, 1987. She had convinced Heidnik to let her go out, promising to bring back another captive for him, but instead she went straight to the authorities who secured a search warrant. Heidnik was arrested. At his arraignment, Heidnik claimed that the women were already in the house when he moved in.
Intelligently, he took his Army disability check and invested the money very carefully. In an account he set up with $1500 dollars in the name of “United Church of the Ministers of God,” to avoid taxes.
At the time of his final arrest he had over $550,000 dollars in his bank and brokerage accounts, a point that would be used at his trial to disprove that he was insane. Testimony from his Merrill Lynch financial advisor, Robert Kirkpatrick, was used to prove competence. Robert Kirkpatrick: "an astute investor who knew exactly what he was doing."
During his trial, Heidnik repeatedly denied all allegations of mistreatment of his captives, and claimed that Sandra Lindsay was killed by the other captives for being a lesbian. Before his execution, Heidnik reportedly claimed that he wanted to be executed because the execution of an innocent man would stop the death penalty in America.
Convicted of two counts of murder in 1988, Heidnik was sentenced to death and incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh. In January 1999, he attempted suicide with an overdose of prescribed thorazine. Heidnik was executed by lethal injection on July 6, 1999