In September of 1983, Danny Joe Eberle failed to deliver the newspapers to residents of Bellvue, Nebraska. The thirteen-year-old was found dead three days later. That December, another young boy, Christopher Paul Walden, disappeared while walking to school. He was found dead three days later by hunters. There was a serial killer attacking young boys in Bellvue, Nebraska who came to be known as “The Woodford Slasher”. This is the story of his victims.
John Joseph Joubert IV was born July 2nd, 1963, in Lawrence, Massachusetts to Joseph and Beverly Joubert. He became a big brother two years later to his sister, Jane. Jane would eventually become a police officer, while John would become a monster. As a young child, John witnessed his father strangle his mother. She survived and filed for divorce. She moved her children to Maine and cut ties with John’s father.
John was a highly intelligent child who started to read at age three and was reading multiple library books fluently by age five. His estimated IQ was 123. John joined Boy Scouts of America and remained active throughout his childhood. He went far in the scouts, achieving the honor of Eagle Scout. He was a cute little boy with dark hair and eyes and the charisma to match. However, underneath was hidden evil inside young John.
John displayed behavior indicative of sociopathy at a very early age. At age six, John fantasized about stabbing his babysitter to death. He would later state he fantasized about torturing her and eating her body. By age eight, he was fantasizing about mass murder. He also thought about kidnapping, raping, and torturing strangers until they begged for help. Before long, he began to act on some of his disturbing fantasies.
John was known to other children as a vicious bully. When adults were around, however, John displayed so much charisma he was able to manipulate his way out of trouble. When he was thirteen years old, he stabbed a nine-year-old girl with a pencil. The girl screamed out in pain, at which point John became sexually aroused. The next day, he slashed another girl with a razor blade. Again, he became sexually aroused. As a teenager, John attacked two young boys. He brutally beat them, choked them, and stole their belongings. One boy nearly died, but John somehow got away with it. Violence excited him, and he knew how to get away with it.
On August 22nd, 1982, eleven-year-old Richard “Ricky” Stetson went for a jog near his home in Portland, Maine. Ricky was a small kid with red hair and freckles. Ricky was born March 5th, 1971. Witnesses said they saw him jogging on a popular bike trail, but Ricky never made it home. His mother reported him missing around seven o’clock that evening. The following day, a motorist found spotted something on the side of highway I-295. It was the bloodied body of Ricky Stetson.
It was initially thought the young man was hit by a vehicle and killed. Upon autopsy, however, it was determined that Ricky met a much more brutal fate. The autopsy determined that Ricky had been choked, beaten, strangled with a ligature, and then stabbed several times in his abdomen. Acute blood loss was the cause of death. Ricky had bite marks on his body, indicating he suffered a tragic and painful death.
A few years prior to Stetson’s murder, boys in the area were being attacked and stabbed with a knife. However, none of them suffered fatal injuries. The unknown assailant was known as the Oakdale Slasher. He was described as being a young man in his early twenties or late teens with dark hair. Witnesses described a young man with a similar description following Ricky Stetson before he was murdered. Did the Oakdale Slasher strike again with escalated violence?
Police in Maine searched high and low for a suspect, finally identifying one. However, this person’s bite mark pattern was not a match to the marks on Ricky’s body. With no other suspects or leads, the case went cold. Meanwhile, John Joubert graduated high school and enlisted in the United States Air Force. He was stationed in Bellvue, Nebraska.
On September 18th, 1983, Danny Joe Eberly left his house at six am to deliver newspapers in his Nebraska community. He delivered his first three papers, but the other residents did not receive their papers by mid-morning. Complaints were called into the newspaper, prompting a search of the newspaper route. Police found more than sixty newspapers and Danny’s bike quickly along his route. Danny was nowhere to be found.
Danny Jo Eberle was born on January 12th, 1970. He was a smart young man with blond hair and blue eyes. Danny and his brother took the job delivering papers to save money for accessories for their bicycles. They usually rode together, but on this day Danny was alone. When they found his bicycle, Danny was reported as a missing person. The FBI was notified as this was considered a child abduction. A large-scale search ensued to find Danny, with hopes that the boy was still alive.
Three days after he disappeared, authorities found the deceased body of Danny Jo Eberle. He had been bound, gagged, and was only partially dressed when they found his remains. The autopsy revealed he was beat, bitten, choked, undressed, and finally stabbed to death. The boy endured nine fatal stab wounds that punctured his lungs, liver, and heart. The killer had also carved a star shape into the boy’s bare chest. The rope used to bind him was unique, one the FBI profiler had never seen before. Consisting of twenty-six types of fibers and one-hundred-six colors, the rope would be the key to solving this crime.
The tragic death of Danny Jo Eberle shocked and disturbed the entire community. Children were not allowed out alone, playgrounds were abandoned, and many paperboys left their jobs. To say the heinous murder changed the small town would be an understatement. It terrified residents to their cores. Two months later, however, the serial killer struck again in Papillion, Nebraska.
On December 2nd, 1983, twelve-year-old Christopher Walden walked to school. An elderly woman witnessed a tan vehicle pull up next to Christopher and kidnap with a knife to his throat. She described the man as young with dark hair. She was so shaken up that she didn’t even know if what had happened was real. She didn’t report what he witnessed until she heard that Christopher was missing.
Christopher Walden was born September 28th, 1971, in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the son of Lieutenant Colonel USAF Stephen Walden. His father was stationed at Offut Airforce Base in Nebraska, the same base as John Joubert. Christopher had blond hair, blue eyes, and an infectious smile. His disappearance disturbed the community, who was already reeling from the loss of Danny Eberle. Christopher’s parents feared he was dead from the moment he disappeared.
Another large-scale search ensued, but unfortunately ended the same way as the search for Danny. Three days later, two hunters found Christopher’s body in the snow-covered wilderness. His body was found less than three miles from where Danny was discovered months earlier. The cases were clearly linked, a suspicion confirmed by the autopsy results.
Christopher’s autopsy revealed he was murdered after being viciously tortured. The same shape was carved into both boys’ chests. Christopher was found nearly nude, only in underwear, and had been stabbed repeatedly. His throat was slit so deeply that he was nearly decapitated. The medical examiner found evidence that Christopher was likely still alive when most of the torture to his body was inflicted. He died a terrible death at the hands of a serial predator.
The local sheriff Patrick Thomas said at a press conference following the murder, “I think that the person who’s responsible for these acts is very sick, spineless, a coward. I would urge him to call a minister, priest, or me” (Suzuki’s Thoughts, 2018). The local community was on guard. The local Boy Scout troop was even affected, with the Scout Master focused on preventing another boy from becoming a victim. After the teaching, the volunteer assistant Scout Master said, “As long as we look out for one another, we’ll have nothing to worry about” (Suzuki’s Thoughts, 2018). That assistant Scout Master was John Joubert.
The killer made a mistake though, and someone saw him. The elderly woman who witnessed Christopher’s abduction was able to describe him at a sketch artist and a sketch was completed. FBI profiler Robert Ressler was called in to develop a profile of the killer. The profiler said the killer likely had a job nearby, was likely involved in coaching youth or Boy Scouts, had knowledge of forensics, and read detective magazines. He further believed the killer watched the news coverage of the crimes and would be eager to talk about his crimes.
On January 11th, 1984, Barbara Weaver arrived at her workplace at a local daycare center. As she prepared for her day, Barbara noticed a car driving around the daycare center suspiciously. She went outside to start writing down the license plate number. The man in the car approached her, asking for directions. He quickly furnished a knife and lunged at Barbara. Barbara took off running as the man screamed, “Get back here or I’ll kill you” (Suzuki’s Thoughts, 2018). Barbara managed to escape with the perpetrator’s license plate number.
Police were able to easily track the license plates to a local airman named John Joubert. Less than two hours after he attacked Barbara, military police arrested John Joubert in his barracks. Once they started questioning him, police realized that John fit the FBI’s profile of the killer now known as “The Woodford Slasher”. In fact, he matched the profile so well he became an immediate suspect. John was twenty years old, an assistant Scout Master with Boy Scouts, read detective and pornography magazines, and fit the physical description provided by the witness in Christopher’s abduction.
A search warrant was executed on John Joubert’s vehicle which recovered multiple hairs and a piece of rope that matched the unique rope used to bind Danny Eberle exactly. The FBI was able to determine the rope was made in Korea for the United States military. In his barracks, they found a knife and more of the rope. This gave detectives enough evidence to feel confident that John Joubert was the Woodford Slasher.
Under interrogation, John admitted to trying to rob Barbara. When the detectives asked him if he was aware of the murders of Danny and Christopher, he smiled. He admitted that he had read about them. When shown pictures of the crime scenes, he denied being responsible for the heinous crimes but was visibly aroused by the photos. John was confronted about the rope, which he claimed was given to him by the Scout Master of the Boy Scout troop. Under more pressure, John Joubert finally confessed to the murders.
“I did it. I killed those boys”, he said. (Suzuki’s Thoughts, 2018). He went on to give a full videotaped confession. He chose to talk about Christopher Walden first, admitting he forced the boy into the woods by knife point. He ordered Christopher to strip down to his underwear and ordered him to the ground. When Christopher refused and tried to run, John chased him down and slit his throat. He then started a bloody stabbing frenzy.
When describing Danny Jo Eberle’s murder, John said he forced him at knifepoint into a remote area. He then forced the boy to strip to his underwear. He recalled Danny begging for his life as John stabbed him repeatedly. Despite the boy’s pleas, John continued to stab him until the boy was dead. Then, he said, he went to McDonalds and ordered breakfast. John remained cold throughout his confession and provided no motive to police other than satisfying his fantasies.
While awaiting trial for the murders in Nebraska, Maine authorities asked to question Joubert related to the death of Ricky Stetson. Under questioning, John admitted to being the Oakdale Slasher, who attacked multiple boys in Maine. He didn’t confess to the murder of Ricky Stetson, however. Police were confident that the Oakdale Slasher and Woodford Slasher were the same man.
On July 3rd, 1984, the day after he turned twenty-one, John Joubert plead guilty to the murders of Danny Jo Eberle and Christopher Walden. He initially planned to plead not guilty, but psychologists determined he was fit to stand trial and was not insane at the time of the murders. Facing the possibility of the death penalty, John Joubert opted to plead guilty with hopes that Nebraska would spare his life. However, in October of 1984, the judge sentenced John Joubert to death for his crimes.
In 1989, John was extradited to Maine to stand trial for the murder of Richard “Ricky” Stetson. Evidence connected John to the murder, specifically the bite mark patterns left on the young boy’s body. In October of 1990, Joubert was found guilty in Maine and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He was then sent back to Nebraska to face the death penalty.
During his time on death row, Joubert appealed his conviction and sentence multiple times to no avail. He was scheduled to die July 17th, 1996. John pleaded to the courts to save his life despite admitting that if freed, he would kill again. As the execution date neared, he requested copies of the crime scene photos for masturbation purposes. This request was, of course, denied. His final meal consisted of pizza with green peppers and onions, strawberry cheesecake, and a bottle of Coca-Cola.
Just after midnight on July 17th, 1996, John’s head was shaved, and he was escorted down the hall to the death chamber. In 1996, Nebraska was still using the electric chair to carry out executions. In his final statement, John Joubert said, “I just want to say that, again, I am sorry for what I’ve done. I don’t know if my death will change anything or bring anyone peace, and I just ask the families of Danny Eberle, Christopher Walden, and Richard Stetson to please try to find some peace and the people of Nebraska forgive me, that’s all” (Suzuki’s Thoughts, 2018).
At 12:14 am, 2,450 volts of electricity surged through John’s body. Two more shocks followed before the electric chair was deactivated. John was slumped over dead with smoke seeping from his mask and his fists clenched. At 12:22 am, thirty-three-year-old John Joubert was pronounced dead. John had a four-inch brain blister on the top of his head with blisters above both ears as well. This finding prompted death penalty activists to make a case that the electric chair was cruel and unusual punishment. Nebraska now uses lethal injection to carry out capital punishment.
Ricky, Danny, and Christopher died heinous deaths at the hands of a very young man who demonstrated sadistic and sociopathic tendencies from a very young age. John Joubert was a true monster in every sense of the word. Had he been allowed to continue to live freely, the death toll would have been significantly higher. The state of Nebraska made sure that no other person would suffer at the hands of this evil, despicable animal known as the Woodford Slasher.
Mabin, B. & Barrette, J. (1996) State Executes Joubert. Lincoln Journal Star. 17 Jul 1996
Associated Press (1982). 11-year-old Portland boy is found slain. The Bangor Daily News. 24 Aug 1984
Fallik, D. (1996). Joubert loses chance to make final appeals. Portland Press Herald. 17 Jul 1996