Couple seduced serial killers in decades-long prison letter writing


A New York couple spent more than 20 years seducing serial killers by writing to them in prison just because they were curious  – and they would often lure them in and win their trust by pretending to be similar to their victims.

Barbara Dickstein, 60, and her late husband Richie targeted at least 100 serial killers and high profile murderers during their decades-long letter writing campaign.

Among them were notorious killers John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz and Richard Ramirez.  

The couple exchanged more than 30,000 letters with the killers, including many that detailed how the murderers tortured, raped and dismembered their victims.

The letters are now part of a new podcast – Killer’s Vault – that will launch on June 28 and is hosted by Law and Order actress Elisabeth Rohm and narrated by actor Eric Roberts.

Their letter writing was sparked by their interest in what goes on in the minds of a killer. They were not driven by a need to help police solve cases. 

Richie, who died in 2018, worked as a corrections officer when they started first exchanging the letters. The couple would find out what attracted the killers to their victims and play on that to get close to them. 

Barbara Dickstein, 60, and her late husband Richie targeted at least 100 serial killers and high profile murderers during their decades-long letter writing campaign

Barbara Dickstein, 60, and her late husband Richie targeted at least 100 serial killers and high profile murderers during their decades-long letter writing campaign

Richie managed to convince several gay murderers that he was homosexual, including serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer.  

John Wayne Gacy, who was known as the Killer Clown, murdered 33 boys and young men across Chicago during the 1970s.

Richie managed to convince several gay murderers that he was homosexual, including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (pictured). Dahmer murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991

Richie managed to convince several gay murderers that he was homosexual, including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (pictured). Dahmer murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991

Richie managed to convince several gay murderers that he was homosexual, including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (pictured). Dahmer murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991

In Gacy’s letters, the serial killer – who was executed in 1994 – asked repeatedly for Richie to send photos of himself. 

‘So fill me in on those hot fantasy and what your expecting of me? Hey I aim to please and teach you as much as I know if your a good student,’ Gacy wrote in a letter dated July 25th, 1993. 

Richie also exchanged letters in 1994 with Jeffrey Dahmer – the serial killer and sex offender known as the Milwaukee Cannibal.

Dahmer murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. Some of his murders included rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism.

After Richie first wrote to Dahmer in prison, the serial killer responded by asking him to send through photos with ‘every unclothed muscular inch of you’.

‘I just received your letter this afternoon, and thought that I’d write back. It’s always nice to get mail from someone new,’ Dahmer wrote to Richie in a letter dated MArch 18, 1994. 

‘I’d like to get to know you better, but with all of the mail that I get, it’s difficult to know who I should respond to. So, in your next letter, would you please send me some really good photos to help make your letter ‘stand out in the crowd.’ 

Jeffrey Dahmer: Richie exchanged letters in 1994 with Dahmer - the serial killer and sex offender known as the Milwaukee Cannibal. After Richie first wrote to Dahmer in prison, the serial killer responded by asking him to send through photos with 'every unclothed muscular inch of you'

Jeffrey Dahmer: Richie exchanged letters in 1994 with Dahmer - the serial killer and sex offender known as the Milwaukee Cannibal. After Richie first wrote to Dahmer in prison, the serial killer responded by asking him to send through photos with 'every unclothed muscular inch of you'

Jeffrey Dahmer: Richie exchanged letters in 1994 with Dahmer – the serial killer and sex offender known as the Milwaukee Cannibal. After Richie first wrote to Dahmer in prison, the serial killer responded by asking him to send through photos with ‘every unclothed muscular inch of you’

‘You said that you’re a bodybuilder, that’s good. I’d like to see every unclothed muscular inch of you. I’m allowed to keep any type of photo except polaroids, so don’t take the pictures with a polaroid camera OK.’

Dahmer was beaten to death by a fellow inmate, Christopher Scarver, later that same year. Richie and Barbara then started corresponding with Scarver who eventually sent the couple photos of Dahmer bloodied body. 

John Wayne Gacy, who was known as the Killer Clown, murdered 33 boys and young men across Chicago during the 1970s. Richie managed to convince him that he was gay

John Wayne Gacy, who was known as the Killer Clown, murdered 33 boys and young men across Chicago during the 1970s. Richie managed to convince him that he was gay

John Wayne Gacy, who was known as the Killer Clown, murdered 33 boys and young men across Chicago during the 1970s. Richie managed to convince him that he was gay

Charles Manson once sent Richie an undated, handwritten note, saying it was ‘always good to hear from’ him.

‘I’ve been a few years working out of the hole again. O, well. When the others tell on me + make up storys they want to believe because it adds to their job importance,’ Manson wrote

‘Ps, if I got out could you give me a job.’

The infamous cult leader died in 2017 after nearly 50 years behind bars after he ordered members of his cult – which he dubbed ‘the family’ – to go on a murderous two-day rampage in Los Angeles.

Three of his followers, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten, killed seven people: pregnant actress Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, Steven Parent and Jay Sebring. 

Richie also exchanged letters with David Berkowitz – a serial killer also known as the Son of Sam who terrorized New York in 1976 and 1977. 

John Wayne Gacy: In Gacy's letters, the serial killer - who was executed in 1994 - asked repeatedly for Richie to send photos of himself. 'So fill me in on those hot fantasy and what your expecting of me? Hey I aim to please and teach you as much as I know if your a good student,' Gacy wrote in a letter dated July 25th, 1993

John Wayne Gacy: In Gacy's letters, the serial killer - who was executed in 1994 - asked repeatedly for Richie to send photos of himself. 'So fill me in on those hot fantasy and what your expecting of me? Hey I aim to please and teach you as much as I know if your a good student,' Gacy wrote in a letter dated July 25th, 1993

John Wayne Gacy: In Gacy’s letters, the serial killer – who was executed in 1994 – asked repeatedly for Richie to send photos of himself. ‘So fill me in on those hot fantasy and what your expecting of me? Hey I aim to please and teach you as much as I know if your a good student,’ Gacy wrote in a letter dated July 25th, 1993

Berkowitz, who was a 24-year-old postal worker at the time, stalked his victims with a .44-caliber handgun, killing six and wounding seven others, during his rampage. 

‘I have been praying for you and I believe that this year will have some nice thing in store for you,’ Berkowitz wrote.

Elsewhere in the letter he wished Richie happy birthday, spoke of the New York Giants winning and how it was snowing outside.

Berkowitz went on to express concern that some people write to him because they have ‘other motives’.

‘It’s a sick world out there and recently someone even printed a bunch of fabrications about me in a magazine,’ he wrote.

‘This has been such a difficult thing to deal with. If it were not for God’s grace I wouldn’t make it.’ 

Barbara pretended to be a local stripper when she started writing to Richard Ramirez – a serial killer dubbed the Night Stalker.  

Ramirez was a serial rapist and serial murderer who terrorized Los Angeles from 1984-1985. He killed more than a dozen people with his victims ranging from ages six to 82. 

The couple made up a story that Barbara knew Richie because he was  a bouncer at the strip club where she worked.

Ramirez wrote to Barbara in December 1996 to wish her a happy new year and asked for her to send photos. 

Charles Manson ordered members of his cult - which he dubbed 'the family' - to go on a murderous two-day rampage in Los Angeles

Charles Manson ordered members of his cult - which he dubbed 'the family' - to go on a murderous two-day rampage in Los Angeles

Charles Manson ordered members of his cult - which he dubbed 'the family' - to go on a murderous two-day rampage in Los Angeles

Charles Manson ordered members of his cult - which he dubbed 'the family' - to go on a murderous two-day rampage in Los Angeles

Charles Manson ordered members of his cult – which he dubbed ‘the family’ – to go on a murderous two-day rampage in Los Angeles

Charles Manson: The cult leader once sent Richie an undated, handwritten note, saying it was 'always good to hear from' him and asked him for a job once he got out. Manson died in 2017 after nearly 50 years in prison

Charles Manson: The cult leader once sent Richie an undated, handwritten note, saying it was 'always good to hear from' him and asked him for a job once he got out. Manson died in 2017 after nearly 50 years in prison

Charles Manson: The cult leader once sent Richie an undated, handwritten note, saying it was ‘always good to hear from’ him and asked him for a job once he got out. Manson died in 2017 after nearly 50 years in prison

Barbara ended up sending him photos of a local stripper. 

‘Thank you for the Valentine Card. Wishing you the love of space and best wishes. I’ve been sick. I’m always sick it seems. I also got your pictures! You’re very beautiful and have a great body,’ he wrote in a February 1997 letter. 

‘I watch the Nanny sometimes. I like Fran. Did you know she was raped twice?’

He then went on to reference his arrests but dismissed them. 

‘Well, in ’85 I was arrested for this and that. It’s all in the past and doesn’t matter. In fact, the less you know about me the better it is I think,’ he wrote. 

In other letters, Ramirez asked Barbara to send more ‘sexy pictures’ of herself barefoot. 

He also filled out a questionnaire and sent it to them, which said his childhood hero was ‘Jack the Ripper’ and his biggest regret while being free was that he wasn’t richer. 

During his exchanges with Richie, Ramirez spoke of his fetish with women’s feet and how he used to take photos up women’s dresses as they walked down streets in Los Angeles. 

In one letter dated September 11, 1994, Ramirez said there was ‘something about Hillary Clinton that I dig’.

‘Her calves and ankles are definitely healthy. I think you’d agree,’ he said.  

Richard Ramirez: Barbara pretended to be a local stripper when she started writing to Richard Ramirez - a serial killer dubbed the Night Stalker. The couple made up a story that Barbara knew Richie because he was a bouncer at the strip club where she worked

Richard Ramirez: Barbara pretended to be a local stripper when she started writing to Richard Ramirez - a serial killer dubbed the Night Stalker. The couple made up a story that Barbara knew Richie because he was a bouncer at the strip club where she worked

Richard Ramirez: Barbara pretended to be a local stripper when she started writing to Richard Ramirez – a serial killer dubbed the Night Stalker. The couple made up a story that Barbara knew Richie because he was a bouncer at the strip club where she worked

Richard Ramirez: The serial rapist who terrorized the LA in the 80s sent Barbara letters asking to send 'sexy pictures' of herself barefoot.  He also filled out a questionnaire and sent it to them, which said his childhood hero was 'Jack the Ripper' and his biggest regret while being free was that he wasn't richer

Richard Ramirez: The serial rapist who terrorized the LA in the 80s sent Barbara letters asking to send 'sexy pictures' of herself barefoot.  He also filled out a questionnaire and sent it to them, which said his childhood hero was 'Jack the Ripper' and his biggest regret while being free was that he wasn't richer

Richard Ramirez: The serial rapist who terrorized the LA in the 80s sent Barbara letters asking to send ‘sexy pictures’ of herself barefoot.  He also filled out a questionnaire and sent it to them, which said his childhood hero was ‘Jack the Ripper’ and his biggest regret while being free was that he wasn’t richer

 

During his exchanges with Richie, Ramirez spoke of his fetish with women's feet and how he used to take photos up women's dresses as they walked down streets in Los Angeles

During his exchanges with Richie, Ramirez spoke of his fetish with women's feet and how he used to take photos up women's dresses as they walked down streets in Los Angeles

During his exchanges with Richie, Ramirez spoke of his fetish with women’s feet and how he used to take photos up women’s dresses as they walked down streets in Los Angeles

In an interview with the New York Post, Barbara said Richie also convinced South Carolina mother Susan Smith, who killed her two sons in 1994, that he was in love with her.

Barbara said that Robert John Bardo, who was convicted in 1991 of stalking and killing actress Rebecca Schaeffer, was obsessed with her.

‘Susan Smith was obsessed with my husband and Bardo was really obsessed with me,’ she said.

Barbara said she and her husband developed close relationships with some of the killers.

Her husband’s bond with New York serial killer David Berkowitz was so strong that the murderer is said to have cried after learning Richie had died.

Barbara said she cried when Karla Faye Tucker, who killed two people with a pickaxe during a burglary in Texas, was executed in 1998.

‘I started crying,’ Barbara said. ‘Richie was like why are you crying? I said I feel the same way about her as you do about Berkowitz. We just clicked. We both loved cats and gardening.’

Barbara said she enjoyed writing at first but it became a job after a while. 

‘In the beginning I liked it… But after about five years it got to be more of a job,’ she said.  

‘The (higher) the body count the more Richie wanted to write them. I got close to a few with low body counts and Richie would say, ‘Why are you spending time writing to nobodies?’ But I liked some of the nobodies.’ 

They only stopped writing around 2005. 

Richie also exchanged letters with David Berkowitz - a serial killer also known as the Son of Sam who terrorized New York in 1976 and 1977

Richie also exchanged letters with David Berkowitz - a serial killer also known as the Son of Sam who terrorized New York in 1976 and 1977

Berkowitz, who was a 24-year-old postal worker at the time, stalked his victims with a .44-caliber handgun, killing six and wounding seven others, during his rampage

Berkowitz, who was a 24-year-old postal worker at the time, stalked his victims with a .44-caliber handgun, killing six and wounding seven others, during his rampage

David Berkowitz Richie also exchanged letters with David Berkowitz – a serial killer also known as the Son of Sam who terrorized New York in 1976 and 1977. Berkowitz, who was a 24-year-old postal worker at the time, stalked his victims with a .44-caliber handgun, killing six and wounding seven others, during his rampage

David Berkowitz: In his letters, Berkowitz expressed concern that some people write to him because they have 'other motives'. 'It's a sick world out there and recently someone even printed a bunch of fabrications about me in a magazine,' he wrote. 'This has been such a difficult thing to deal with. If it were not for God's grace I wouldn't make it.'

David Berkowitz: In his letters, Berkowitz expressed concern that some people write to him because they have 'other motives'. 'It's a sick world out there and recently someone even printed a bunch of fabrications about me in a magazine,' he wrote. 'This has been such a difficult thing to deal with. If it were not for God's grace I wouldn't make it.'

David Berkowitz: In his letters, Berkowitz expressed concern that some people write to him because they have ‘other motives’. ‘It’s a sick world out there and recently someone even printed a bunch of fabrications about me in a magazine,’ he wrote. ‘This has been such a difficult thing to deal with. If it were not for God’s grace I wouldn’t make it.’



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