Monday Morning Chat in Fort Pierce Tribune
Monday chat with Port St. Lucie author Yvonne Mason Sewell
Port St. Lucie resident Yvonne Mason Sewell, 57, has a degree in criminal justice and has written a book about a former Martin County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was a serial killer, now published under the title “Silent Scream.”
Q. What is this book about?
A. It is about Gerard John Schaefer, a former Martin County deputy sheriff, who was convicted of killing two young women in St. Lucie County, may have killed another nine and bragged he had killed 34 young women. He was Florida’s first serial killer. He started killing young women as early as 1966, but no one knew he was doing it until 1972. He had been a deputy in Martin County for only four months. Before that he had served with the Wilton Manors Police Department but was fired. He used a forged letter to get on the Martin department. Law enforcement at that time did not communicate well with each other, and Martin needed deputies.
Q. How many people do we know he killed?
A. We know he killed at least nine. The last two bodies were found in 2007 in the Ocala National Forest, and they were the first two women he killed in 1966. That was Pamela Nater and Nancy Leichner. They vanished from Alexander Springs in 1966. Schaefer bragged about killing them, and their remains were found after he died in prison.
Q. How would he go about killing?
A. Gerard Schaefer would pick up young girls in pairs, who he would see walking about. He would take them to remote spots, such as Hutchinson Island. There he would bound and gag them, then hang them from a branch. They would be made to stand on a ladder or tree root, very precariously. Then he would proceed to torture, rape and mutilate one while the other had to watch and scream silently; hence the name of my book. He wasn’t finished when he killed them. He would bury them, and later return, dig them up and commit sex acts on them. When the bodies started deteriorating, he would chop them up and throw away the heads. He said that was the way to commit a perfect crime.
Q. What finally caught him?
A. In July of 1972, Nancy Trotter and Pamela Sue Wells had hitchhiked through Florida, and were at Jensen Beach. Schaefer was in his patrol car, saw them and told them hitchhiking was against the law. He said he would take them to the beach the next day. His wife was gone to the dentist. He picked them up and took them to Joe’s Pointe, then a wild area on Hutchinson Island. He bound and gagged them, and left them standing on mangrove roots with ropes around their neck. He was so confident he told them his name. But he didn’t kill them and went away. Sheriff Robert Crowder of Martin County thinks he may have left something he needed for the crime and went to get it. The girls managed to escape. Nancy Trotter ran down A1A and was found; Pamela Wells fled into the Indian River.
Q. What happened then, was that the end?
A. No. He had to resign but the judge let him out waiting trial and he killed two more women. Eventually, he was arrested, tried and convicted of murdering at least two women, and sent to Raiford, where he was killed by an inmate for informing on other prisoners.