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John Joubert
Birth name: John J. Joubert
Also known as: The Woodford Slasher
Born: July 2, 1963(1963-07-02)
Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died: July 17, 1996 (aged 33)
Cause of death: Electric chair
Sentence: Death
Number of victims: 3
Span of killings: August 22, 1982–December 2, 1983
Country: USA
State(s): Maine and Nebraska
Date apprehended: January 12, 1984

John J. Joubert (July 2, 1963 – July 17, 1996) was an American serial killer executed in Nebraska. He had been convicted of the murders of three boys in Maine and Nebraska.



Joubert's parents divorced when he was six years old, and he went to live with his mother in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was not allowed to visit his father and grew to hate his controlling mother. In 1974, she moved the family to Portland, Maine.

When he was 13, he stabbed a young girl with a pencil and felt sexually stimulated when she cried in pain. The next day, he took a razor blade and slashed another girl as he biked past her. He was never caught for either attack. In another incident, he beat and nearly strangled another boy. He relished the power of bullying, and began to stab or slash others.


In the city of Portland, Maine on August 22, 1982, 11-year-old Richard "Ricky" Stetson had gone jogging. When he had not returned by dark, his parents called the police. The next day, a motorist saw the boy's body on the side of the I-295. The attacker appeared to have attempted to undress him, and then stabbed and strangled him. A suspect was arrested for the murder, but his teeth did not match a bite mark on Stetson's body, and so he was released after a year and a half in custody. No additional leads presented themselves in the case until January 1984.

Danny Joe Eberle disappeared while delivering the Omaha World-Herald newspaper on Sunday, September 18, 1983, in Bellevue, Nebraska. His brother, who also delivered the newspaper, had not seen him, but he did remember being followed by a white man in a tan car on previous days. It was found that Eberle had only delivered three of the seventy newspapers on his route. At his fourth delivery, his bicycle was discovered along with the rest of the newspapers. There appeared to be no sign of a struggle. Joubert would later describe how he had approached Eberle, drew a knife, and covered the boy's mouth with his hand. He instructed Eberle to follow him to his truck and drove him to a gravel road outside of town.

After three days of searching, Eberle's body was discovered about four miles (6 km) from his bicycle. He had been stripped to his underwear, his feet and hands were bound, and his mouth was taped with surgical tape. Joubert had stabbed him nine times. As a kidnapping, the crime came under the jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, so the FBI was called in.

The investigation followed several leads, including a young man who was arrested for molesting two young boys about a week after the crime. He failed a polygraph test and had a false alibi but did not fit the profile the FBI had created for the murderer. He was released due to a lack of evidence. Other known pedophiles in the area were also questioned, but the case went cold due to a scarcity of evidence.

On December 2, Christopher Walden disappeared in Papillion, Nebraska, about three miles (five km) from where Eberle's body was found. Witnesses again said they saw a white man in a tan car. Joubert said that he had driven up to Walden as he walked, showed him the sheath of his knife and ordered him into the car. After driving to some railways lines out of town, he ordered Walden to strip to his underwear which he did. But then Walden refused to lie down. After a brief struggle, Joubert overpowered and then stabbed him. Joubert cut Walden's throat, so deep that he had almost been decapitated. Walden's body was found two days later five miles (eight km) from the town. Although the crimes were similar there were differences. Walden had not been bound, had been concealed better, and was thought to have been killed immediately after being abducted.


On January 11, 1984, a preschool teacher in the area of the murders called police to say that she had seen a young man driving in the area. There are conflicting stories as to what occurred - whether the car was loitering or just driving around. When the driver saw the teacher writing down his license plate, he stopped and threatened her before fleeing. The car was not tan, but was traced and found to be rented by John Joubert, an enlisted radar technician from Offutt Air Force Base. It turned out that his own car, a tan Nova sedan, was being repaired.

A search warrant was issued, and rope consistent with that used to bind Danny Joe Eberle was found in his dorm room. The FBI found that the unusual rope had been made for the United States military in South Korea. Under interrogation, Joubert admitted getting it from the scoutmaster in the troop in which he was an assistant.

Robert K. Ressler, the FBI's head profiler at the time, had immediate access to the information about the two boys in Nebraska and worked up a hypothetical description which matched Joubert in every regard. While presenting the case of the two Nebraska boys to a training class at the FBI academy at Quantico, a police officer from Portland, Maine noted the similarities to a case in his jurisdiction which took place while Joubert lived there, prior to joining the Air Force. Bite-mark comparisons proved that Joubert was responsible for the Maine killing in addition to those in Nebraska. Ressler and the Maine investigators came to believe that Joubert joined the military to get away from Maine after the murder of the Stetson boy.[1]

Further investigation in Maine revealed two crimes between the pencil-stabbing of the nine-year-old girl in 1979 and the murder of Stetson in 1982. In 1980, Ressler's investigation revealed that Joubert had slashed a nine-year-old boy and a female teacher in her mid-twenties who both "had been cut rather badly, and were lucky to be alive."[1]

Trials and appeals

Joubert then confessed to killing the two boys, and on January 12, he was charged with their murders. After initially pleading not guilty, he changed his plea to guilty. There were several psychiatric evaluations performed on Joubert. One characterised him as having obsessive-compulsive disorder and sadistic tendencies, and suffering from schizoid personality disorder. He was found to have been not psychotic at the time of the crimes. A panel of three judges sentenced him to death for both counts. Joubert was also sentenced to life imprisonment in Maine (which did not have the death penalty) in 1990 for the murder of Ricky Stetson after Joubert's teeth were found to match the bite mark.

In 1995, Joubert filed a writ of habeas corpus to the United States federal courts over the death sentences. His lawyers argued that the aggravating factor of "exceptional depravity" was unconstitutionally vague, and the court agreed. The state of Nebraska appealed to the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, which overturned the appeal, saying that he had shown sadistic behavior by torturing Eberle and Walden.

Joubert was executed on July 17, 1996 by the state of Nebraska via the electric chair.

An appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court over whether the electric chair in Nebraska is a cruel and unusual punishment revealed that during his execution Joubert incurred a four-inch brain blister on the top of his head and blistering on both sides of his head above his ears.

See also



  1. ^ a b Ressler, Robert K. and Tom Shachtman, Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Hunting Serial Killers for the FBI. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. See Chapter 5, "Death of a Newsboy," pp. 93-112. ISBN 0312078838

General references



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