The Internet's First Serial Killer: John Edward Robinson, The 'Internet Slavemaster'

John Edward Robinson was sentenced to death for his reign of terror in Kansas City in the mid-'80s.

By: Catherine Townsend

To his neighbors, John Edward Robinson was a churchgoing family man. But on June 2, 2000, Kansas City police arrested Robinson at his farm after a woman filed a sexual-battery complaint against him, and another charged him with stealing sex toys.

After obtaining search warrants, investigators found the decaying bodies of two women, later identified as Izabela Lewicka and Suzette Trouten, in two 85-pound chemical drums on his property. When the bodies of three more women were found in storage units, police began to unravel the world of Robinson – a con man, embezzler, and sadomasochistic killer whose habit of luring his victims in bondage chat rooms earned him the moniker “the Internet’s first serial killer.”

An autopsy revealed that all of the women had been killed with blows to the head by a blunt object, possibly a hammer.

Back in 1964, Robinson, who had been attending school to become an X-ray technician but ended up dropping out, moved to Kansas City and married Nancy Jo Lynch. The couple had three children together and, on the surface, Robinson maintained a perfect family facade. During this time Robinson was also a baseball coach, a Scoutmaster, and a Sunday school teacher who was active in local charities.

But behind the scenes, Robinson had a long criminal history. He was arrested for the first time in Kansas City in 1969 after he embezzled $33,000 from the medical practice of Dr. Wallace Graham, and received three years probation.

John Edward Robinson

John Edward Robinson

Photo by: Clay County Sheriff

Clay County Sheriff

In 1970, Robinson violated probation by moving back to Chicago without his probation officer’s permission. He took a job as an insurance salesman at the R.B. Jones Company, but in 1971 he was arrested again for embezzling funds from the firm.

His probation was extended — and then extended again in 1975 after yet another arrest on securities and mail fraud in connection with a bogus medical-consulting company he founded.

In 1982 he served 60 days in jail on charges of embezzlement and check forgery. After his release he formed yet another bogus medical practice, this time focused on hydroponics, and swindled $25,000 from a friend who desperately needed money for his dying wife’s medical care. At every turn, he foiled authorities by being what Vanity Fair called “a pathological thief dodging easily through the system.”

At this time he reportedly began sexually propositioning his neighbors’ wives, and claimed to have become the “Slavemaster” of a secret BDSM society called the International Council of Masters, whose victims were allegedly tortured and raped.

In 1984, having started two more fraudulent shell companies, Robinson hired Paula Godfrey, 19. She told friends and family that she would be employed as a sales representative, and that Robinson was sending her for training. She disappeared — and several days later Godfrey’s parents received a typewritten letter, with Godfrey’s signature at the bottom, stating that she was “OK” and did not want to see her family.

Her suspicious family went to the police. But since there was no evidence of foul play, the investigation was later closed.

In 1985, using the name John Osborne, he met Lisa Stasi and her four-month-old daughter, Tiffany, at a battered women’s shelter in Kansas City. He promised Lisa a job and an apartment in Chicago, and asked her to sign several sheets of blank stationery.

A few days later Robinson contacted his brother and sister-in-law, who had been unable to adopt a baby through traditional channels, and informed them that he knew of a baby whose mother had committed suicide. For $5,500 in “legal fees,” Don and Helen Robinson received a baby — who was later determined, via DNA testing, to be Tiffany Stasi. Baby Tiffany’s biological mother, Lisa Stasi, was never heard from again.

In 1987, Catherine Clampitt, 27, left her child with her parents in Texas and moved to Kansas City to find employment. She was hired by Robinson, who reportedly promised her extensive travel and a new wardrobe. She vanished in June, and has never been heard from again.

From 1987 to 1993, Robinson was behind bars on fraud convictions. While incarcerated, he met 49-year-old Beverly Bonner, the prison librarian, and after he was released she divorced her husband and moved to Kansas to work for him. Robinson arranged for Bonner’s alimony checks to be forwarded to them, and he kept cashing them for years. Bonner was never seen again.

Robinson began to take his scams online by perusing websites using the name “Slavemaster,” looking for sexually submissive women. Sheila Faith, 45, responded. She was thrilled when Robinson offered to pay medical expenses for her 15-year-old daughter Debbie, who had spinal bfida. In 1994, the mother and daughter moved to Kansas City — and disappeared.

Incredibly, Robinson was becoming a popular figure in the online chat rooms. In 1999, he offered a job and bondage relationship to Izabela Lewicka, a 21-year-old Polish immigrant. When she moved to Kansas City, Robinson gave her an engagement ring and brought her to the county registrar, where they paid for a marriage license that was never picked up. She also signed a 115-item slave contract that gave Robinson almost total control over every aspect of her life, including her bank accounts. During the summer of 1999, she vanished.

John Edward Robinson

John Edward Robinson

Photo by: Kansas City Police Department

Kansas City Police Department

Suzette Trouten, a nurse, also disappeared during this time after moving to Kansas to be another one of Robinson’s sex slaves. By 1999, police were beginning to link Robinson to some of the missing persons investigations.

In 2000, he was arrested, and after investigators searched his farm, they found the bodies of Beverly Bonner, Sheila Faith, and her daughter Debbie Faith in storage units.

In 2002, Robinson stood trial in Kansas for the murders of Suzette Trouten, Isabella Lewicka, and Lisa Stasi, along with multiple lesser charges. After the longest criminal trial in Kansas history, he was convicted on all counts and received a death sentence.

Somehow, Robinson had remained married to his wife all this time. She finally divorced him in 2005 — but investigators said that it is unclear exactly how much she may have known about Robinson’s activities.

In 2015, the court upheld Robinson’s death sentence, and rejected dozens of appellate claims stemming from his 2002 trial. But the court did throw out one of his two capital-murder convictions as well as a first-degree murder conviction.

In 2006, the body of a young woman was found in an area of Iowa where Robinson reportedly used to have a business partner. Police believe that there may be more victims who have not yet been identified.

For more on this case, stream Very Scary People: "The Slave Master" on discovery+.

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