James Mitchell DeBardeleben | Camera, Tape Recorder, Rope

Master of Deceit

On May 25th 1983 James Mitchell Debardeleben was arrested for counterfeiting. When the first of Debardeleben’s counterfeit bills was sent to the Secret Service, they weren’t in a particular rush to locate the forger. But in 1982 he’d forged and passed into circulation $130K and that gave the Secret Service reason to find and apprehend him.

The trouble was Debardeleben’s method of distribution. He would make small purchases in malls around America, obtaining real money in his change. Choosing younger sales assistants who were more likely to be distracted by his charms.

The Secret Service distributed his sketch to the malls and spoke to assistants who had encountered him. Soon learning of his methods. Devising a plan, with the sales assistants help, to locate and then capture him. It wasn’t until they found his car and opened the trunk that they discovered his connection to other crimes.

James Mitchell Debardeleben

DeBardeleben created his own porn

…homemade audiotapes and photographs of sex-slayings, and a “death kit” containing handcuffs, shoelaces, chains, K-Y jelly, and worse – a woman’s bloody underwear… –murderpedia.org

Whilst many of his victims may never be known, it was possible to compile a list of crimes that fit the evidence. He seemed to begin in ’78 with a grab, abuse, and release pattern. Although he had been arrested for kidnapping and assaulting a young girl in ’66 the charges were later dropped. It wasn’t until ’82 that his first known kill was found.

DeBardeleben had a history of violence, including an incident involving his mother. He also had a history of burglary, sodomy, reckless driving, kidnapping, and attempted murder.

The Secret Service Agents Worked Hard to Gather the Evidence

Effectively working backwards from the perpetrator to the crimes, the Agents created a database. Crimes that fit the known evidence began to form quite a list. They took pictures of DeBardeleben and compared them to pictures found in his storage unit. They also took hair samples and compared them to evidence from reported crimes that fit the pattern.

With the evidence, and witness testimony, DeBardeleben was convicted of counterfeiting, kidnapping and assault. And given a 375 year sentence. Always insisting the crimes were the fabrications of The Secret Service, he claimed they did it to build their case. He would not have been eligible for parole until he was 100.

He died January 26, 2011 of pneumonia

True Crime, Debardeleben

P.S. I first saw the story of DeBardeleben in Detective Files (January 1986) written by Benison Murray. I was reminded of it when watching The Fall.  As you can see I have a few of these magazines kicking about so if you’re a collector and missing any, let me know which ones.

P.P.S. Read about Serial Killer here