By Robert Nolin
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
July 19, 2007
After reviewing old documents and jailhouse confessions, investigators have concluded the murders 40 years ago of two young women in Central Florida were the bloody handiwork of one man: ex-Wilton Manors cop Gerard Schaefer.
Schaefer, who was stabbed to death in 1995 while serving a life sentence for the mutilation murders of two Oakland Park teens in 1972, was a suspect in the ritual killings of a dozen women in South Florida and across the country in the 1960s and early '70s.
Now, Lake County authorities say he was responsible for the October 1966 deaths of Nancy Leichner and Pamela Nater, who disappeared during a scuba-diving trip in Ocala National Forest. As in many of the murders Schaefer is suspected of, the bodies of Leichner, 21, Largo, and Nater, 20, Clearwater, were never found.
But Lake County prosecutor Ric Ridgway reviewed decades-old paperwork, including a confession Schaefer made to an inmate. Ridgway said Schaefer likely murdered the women.
"There is probable cause to believe that Gerard J. Schaefer Jr. is responsible for these crimes," Ridgway wrote. "His multiple admissions and the nature of his prior crimes are more than enough to convince a reasonable person that he was solely responsible."
Schaefer's only conviction was for killing Susan Place, 17, and Georgia Jessup, 16, whose mutilated remains were found on Hutchinson Island in 1973. That year Schaefer, who worked about six months as a Wilton Manors officer, was sentenced to life in prison for the murders. The death penalty was not in effect at the time.
Local police think Schaefer also killed three Fort Lauderdale women who disappeared between 1969 and 1972: Leigh Bondadies Hainline, 25; Carmen Marie Hallock, 22; and Belinda Hutchins, 22.
Investigators theorize Schaefer hanged his victims and had sex with their bodies. He often scattered their teeth to make identification of the bodies more difficult.
Schaefer, 49, was stabbed to death by inmate Vincent Rivera because, prison officials said, he had used up all the hot water for coffee.
The Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune newspaper, contributed to this report.