During the early 1980s the Secret Service had been investigating a new counterfeit operation and had began handing out sketches of the suspect to various stores. By chance they had just left one when the clerk recognised a man trying to pass off a fake bill. After a foot chase he was apprehended and a search of his car revealed some items that made them think he was involved in some more serious crimes.
In the trunk were thousands in fake money, a stash of pornography, various drugs, stolen license plates, fake drivers licenses, a forged police badge, police lights and various items he’d bought with the counterfeit cash. Further investigation led them through various false names to an apartment.
However, this proved to be a disappointment with nothing related to his illegal activities found. What was found was the address of a storage facility and there the manager said he was expecting law enforcement after some of the things he’d seen in the lockup when the door was left open by accident.
Inside they found more cash, handcuffs, another police badge, the names and addresses of several women and various sexual and kidnap type items. These included a ckocker chain, dildo, KY Jelly, shoe laces and most disturbingly a torture audio tape,
The tape featured a woman being tortured and begging to die and this made agents look further into the case. They soon identified the man as James Mitchell DeBardeleben II, who had previous records for fraud, sodomy, kidnapping and attempted murder.
A profile was developed of a man who was a forger, rapist, possible serial killer and sadistic sexually. Some of the crimes they traced to him included various rapes where he abducted the women and held them captive whilst he raped and sodomised them, before releasing them in the middle of nowhere. They also found he’d murdered at least one woman, hanging her up with a belt and stabbing her twice. They also worked out he’d usually impersonated a police officer and used this to lure his victims.
His numerous ex-wives also came forward and told agents that he’d often fantasised about performing various violent sexual acts and tortures. It turned out the recording that sparked the more serious investigation was that of his fourth wife, with whom he was acting out a torture script he’d written.
DeBardeleben was convicted of various counts of kidnapping, rape and fraud but never murder. He was sentenced to over 300 years in prison and this long sentence meant several states dropped charges they were intending on pursuing against him.
He never admitted any of his crimes and died in prison in 2011 aged 74. The true extent of his criminal activity will never be known but investigators suspect he could have killed many more women in sadistic fashion.