A native of Camden, New Jersey, Joseph Bryan first ran afoul of the law in 1958, at age nineteen, when he abducted two small boys, tied them to a tree, and sexually molested them.
Committed to a Camden County mental hospital, Bryan was diagnosed as schizophrenic, once informing doctors that he liked to see little boys "tied up and screaming." Upon release from the hospital, Bryan enlisted in the navy, but was discharged after further psychiatric tests and treatment.
Convicted of burglary and auto theft in Nevada, he served time in the state prison and was paroled on January 20, 1964. By that time, Bryan's twisted sexual desires had blossomed into something dark and dangerous.
On February 27, John Robinson, age seven, disappeared in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, while riding his bicycle near home. FBI agents discovered that Joe Bryan had spent the night in a local motel, and they looked up his record of crimes against children. Two farmers reported pulling a car from a mud hole on the morning of February 28; the driver had been traveling with a boy and the license number was traced back to Bryan. The clincher was John Robinson's abandoned bike, discovered in some weeds not far from where the car bogged down.
On March 23, 1964, seven-year-old Lewis Wilson, Jr., vanished from his school in St. Petersburg, Florida. Searchers were beating the bushes, in vain, when three youths on vacation discovered the remains of a child in a marsh near Hallandale. Stripped clean, except for shoes and socks, the skeletal remains were finally identified by reference to the footwear.
The search for Johnny Robinson was over. A fugitive from charges of kidnapping and murder, Joseph Bryan was declared a federal fugitive from justice. On April 14, 1964, his name was added to the FBI's "Most Wanted" list, with photographs displayed from coast to coast. By that time, David Wulff, age eight, was missing from his home in Willingboro, New Jersey.
Snatched on April 4, his fate was still a mystery when eight-year-old Dennis Burke disappeared from Humboldt, Tennessee, on April 23. Five days later, a pair of off-duty FBI agents spotted Bryan's car -- a distinctive white Cadillac -- outside a shopping mall in New Orleans They staked out the vehicle, pouncing when Bryan emerged from the mall with Dennis Burke in tow. Held on $150,000 bond, Bryan denied kidnapping anyone. Asked how he came to be traveling with a child, he seemed bewildered. "I don't know how it happened," he said. "I don't know."
Dennis Burke, for his part, described Bryan as "a nice man" who fed him well and rented comfortable motel rooms during their three days together. Indicted on federal kidnapping charges in Tennessee, on January 12, 1965, Bryan pled guilty and was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial
Killers - Hunting Humans
M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE: Sex./Sad.
Sadistic pedophile, abducted/tortured young boys.
Federal life sentence for kidnapping, 1965.