His gruesome crimes were the basis for ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. The sister of one of her victims has mixed feelings about her execution-KESQ

By Faith Karimi, CNN

Tracey Lomax watched from the observation room of a state prison in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, as her sister’s killer received a lethal injection.

Convicted murderer Gary Heidnik had been given his last meal, black coffee and two slices of cheese pizza, shortly before he was to be executed on July 6, 1999. Applause erupted, and a witness yelled “Thank you, Jesus!” after Heidnik was pronounced dead, live thought informed.

Lomax said she still remembers every detail of the case against the man who kidnapped her sister, Sandra Lindsay, and five other black women and held them as sex slaves in his Philadelphia basement.

She recalls the agony of learning how he had held them in a water-filled pit and abused them before killing Lindsay and another victim. She will never forget the vivid testimony of the women at the trial about how Heidnik handcuffed a starving Lindsay to the rafters of her and taunted her.

Nearly a quarter century later, Heidnik remains the last man to be executed in Pennsylvania. That’s likely to be true for a while: Last month, Gov. Josh Shapiro he said he won’t allow the state to execute any inmate during his term, regardless of his crime.

He also urged state lawmakers to repeal the death penalty, joining a growing number of state leaders making similar calls.

“The Commonwealth should not be in the business of killing people. Period,” said Shapiro, a former prosecutor.

Shapiro added that he used to believe that the death penalty was just punishment for the most heinous crimes, but changed his mind after becoming the state’s attorney general.

“When my son asked me why it’s okay to kill someone as punishment for killing someone, I couldn’t look him in the eye and explain why.”

Lomax said he still has mixed emotions about whether Heidnik should have been executed.

“I wanted him to spend some time in jail to see what it feels like to be incarcerated where no one could put you out of your misery,” he told CNN.

But he also said that his healing journey only began after he died.

He took advantage of disabled and vulnerable women.

Nearly four decades after his grisly crimes, Heidnik is still a part of pop culture.

Buffalo Billthe serial killer in the 1991 psychological thriller “The Silence of the Lambs,” was partly based on it. The metal band Macabre released a song about Heidnik titled, “kinky minister.”

Lomax said he hasn’t seen “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Nobody wants to see a movie about their loved one being held against their will,” Lomax told CNN. “I really wanted him to stay in jail. He wanted him to do time because he wanted him to not be able to run from the women he killed. Because I know they scared him. I know they came back to haunt him. The death of him was much easier than that of his victims (deaths) ”.

The details are almost too gruesome to bear. Between late 1986 and March 1987, Heidnik kidnapped Lindsay and five other women: Josefina Rivera, Lisa Thomas, Jacqueline Askins, Agnes Adams, and Deborah Dudley. Lindsay and Dudley died in captivity.

He lured women into his home with promises of money for sex, according to news reports. She then overpowered them and chained them to a pit in her basement, often half naked, while feeding them dog food and repeatedly raping them. She also subjected them to physical and mental torture, including electric shocks and stabbing in the ears with a screwdriver.

Before his capture, Heidnik lived a double life posing as a bishop. He held services in his living room for a congregation that was made up primarily of the mentally challenged. When worshipers gathered at his home, they were unaware of the gruesome violence taking place in the basement below, Lomax said.

Lindsay was 25 at the time and mentally disabled, Lomax said. Heidnik, she said, took advantage of her vulnerability and her desire to be accepted.

In their shared room, Lindsay was telling her sister about daytime trips to an amusement park with Heidnik and a group of other young people. After those visits, she would buy them hamburgers and fries at McDonald’s. She trusted him and joined others for religious services at her home, Lomax said.

“He was like a hero to them,” Lomax said.

His sister went to the store one day and never came home.

That soon changed. One of the people who attended services at Heidnik’s home later told Lomax’s family that she had imprisoned a woman in her basement.

“At the time, it was a bit of a stretch. We heard it, but we didn’t act on it,” Lomax said. “I’m not going to say it was hard to believe, but it just didn’t apply to us at the time because my sister was home with us.”

The day after Thanksgiving in 1986, Lindsay went to a store to buy pain relievers. She never came home.

Desperate for answers, her family tracked down one of the friends who was attending church services with Lindsay and got Heidnik’s number. They called him repeatedly to ask if she was at her house, Lomax said, but he hung up on them.

They also went to her house, where a neighbor confirmed seeing Lindsay. But Heidnik denied that she was there for both the family and the police.

After the family notified the police and they began asking questions, Heidnik had Lindsay write her mother a Christmas card telling her not to worry. Her family was not convinced and she continued to press detectives to return to the home, Lomax said.

Heidnik’s insane secret life was exposed after Rivera gained his trust and convinced him to let her out of the house for a moment. She fled and called the police. But by then, it was too late: Lindsay and Dudley were dead.

Lindsay’s dismembered body was found at Heidnik’s home on Lomax’s 21st birthday. She spent her birthday at the police station, talking to investigators about her sister.

But his nightmare was not over.

During Heidnik’s trial, disturbing details emerged about the women’s ordeal while in captivity, leading the media to label him the “House of Horrors” killer.

“No one knows what it’s like to get a descriptive and detailed form of how someone you love died,” Lomax said. “Many people don’t get a description of how someone died in the hospital. But for us, it was on the news every day. It was very difficult to read. But it was unavoidable.”

Decades later, her family is still struggling to find answers.

Lomax said her sister’s death changed the lives of her family members forever and many of them are still dealing with what happened. Once he finished the trial, he decided to put the ugly details behind him.

“After it was over, I made a statement to the press that from now on I would celebrate how my sister lived and not how she died. That is a closed chapter,” she said. “But no one else in my family has received a closure. They still get mad… my brothers didn’t attend the trial.”

Court records show Heidnik maintained his innocence during the trial and issued a warning about what could happen if he is found guilty. He claimed that executing him would mark the end of executions in Pennsylvania.

“That is the end of capital punishment in this state. When you execute an innocent man, knowingly execute an innocent man, you know there will be no more capital punishment in this state and possibly anywhere else in this country,” he said. according to court records.

I wasn’t entirely wrong. In the decades since, the US execution rate has declined, along with public support for the death penalty. TO The Gallup poll of the 1990s revealed that 80% of Americans supported the death penalty for people convicted of murder. By 2022, that support had dropped to 55%.

Currently, 27 states authorize the death penalty, although 13 of them have not carried out an execution in a decade or more.

In 1999, the year of Heidnik’s execution, 98 people were executed in the USA.. Last year, the states executed 18 people. In its latest report, the Death Penalty Information Center said 2022 was the eighth consecutive year with fewer than 30 executions.

Supporters of the death penalty believe that murderers give up their right to life when they kill others, a belief Shapiro said he had in some cases.

But the Pennsylvania governor said his approach to capital punishment has evolved.

He cited the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were shot dead in the deadliest attack on Jews in US history. Shapiro’s first reaction, he said, was that the attacker should be executed.

“It is hard to imagine a more heinous crime than murdering 11 people while they are praying,” he said in a statement.

Shapiro said that speaking with members of the Tree of Life community played a key role in his decision.

“They told me that even after all the pain and anguish, they didn’t want the killer killed. He should spend the rest of his life in prison, they said, but the state should not take his life as a punishment,” he said. “That moved me.”

A last-minute appeal failed to save Heidnik’s life. Decades later, Doubts remain about his sanity and reason

Lomax said that he trusted his faith for closure and decided that Heidnik had stolen enough of his life.

“I wasn’t going to let him dictate how I was going to spend the rest of my life,” she said. “Once he left this earth, that was it. Everything he did, hey, take it with you. Because I’m not going to keep going back and forth with that. I will stay here and always celebrate my sister.”

The CNN Wire
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