Summer in Miami is hot, humid and for two teenagers, deadly. Albert Brust was a 44-year-old building inspector employed by Dade County. He fantasized torturing other human beings, and one day he decided he wanted to make his dreams a reality.
His neighbors later described him to the police as a “loner and chronic complainer”, but none of them imagined that this bachelor converted a bedroom in his 1960s era bungalow home into a 4’ x 8‘ soundproof torture chamber. Once he completed his project in a clear example of premeditation he set out to provide the missing piece of his fantasy which was a victim.
It was July 14, 1973, and in a stroke of beginner’s luck on his first hunting trip he captured, not one but two captives. They were two hitchhiking teenagers who had thumbed a ride to South Florida to enjoy the sunny weather and the beaches. Paula Gail Lee (aka Sally Dove), 15 from Kentucky and Mark Matson, 16 from Ohio, had only met the day before at the local beach. When a man calling himself Eric pulled up in white panel van, offering them a ride and some housekeeping work if they needed the money, both of them probably thought it was their lucky day.
Once they were inside the house and the man who had seemed so amiable pulled a gun on them, they realized their mistake. When they saw the bathroom, papered with pornographic pictures they might have gotten the first inkling they were not going to live through this encounter. At gunpoint, Albert Brust ordered them to strip naked and perform various sex acts, while he took photographs of them. If they balked at his instructions, he threatened to shoot them.
The hours dragged on for the teenagers, and their kidnapper never tired of giving them new sexual positions while he kept taking photographs. It was during those hours that Mark thought of escape. He waited for an opportunity, and perhaps out of desperation or just mistaking his body language he sprung at Albert Brust, who had to put down his gun every time he snapped a picture. The kidnapper snatched the gun and shot the young man three times, killing him instantly.
Brust then took a naked Paula and dragged her from the main part of the house to the torture chamber that lay behind a steel door. Later police determined that the room and the door were made of thick panels insulated with foam rubber. The man shackled Paula to the wall held in place by chains. Brust hit a switch on the wall and special black lights blinked on. He flogged her entire body with a leather whip, punched her with his fist and abused her sexually in every conceivable way. There was no need to gag her, and the reason he had taken the trouble with making the chamber sound proof was in order to enjoy the screaming. He had difference torture devices, some that were never disclosed by the police, but one was a specially constructed chair known as a “Chinese rape stool” made for anal sexual attacks. The police also found he kept several volumes of the Marquis de Sade’s works, which had been released for publication in the United States during the 1960s.
The torture continued for two days, until suddenly Brust decided to set her free, saying 'I've taken a life, but now I'm going to give you your life." He dropped her off in Fort Lauderdale not far from where he had kidnapped her. He threatened that if she contacted the police he would find her and kill her.
Five days later, Albert Brust’s neighbor called police and told them the man next door had been sitting in a lawn chair in his back yard for over a day. She had first noticed it when hanging items on her clothesline. It had even rained and he had not moved. She thought he might be dead. The police responded and confirmed that the man was deceased. Later it was discovered he had committed suicide by drinking a chocolate-milk and cyanide cocktail.
Mark’s dismembered body was found embedded in concrete inside the shower recess of the bathroom. Smaller parts of his body he cemented into the actual wall of the bathroom. His hands, feet and head were encased in separate blocks. Whether Albert Brust ever used this torture chamber on other persons is unknown. The police dug up his back yard but did not find evidence of any other victims.
Police put together a profile of the man known as Albert Brust. He was born in Brooklyn, New York August 10, 1929 to Albert and Elizabeth Brust. By the time he was 16 he already run-ins with the law, and when he was 21, he was convicted of abduction, assault and robbery. He never graduated from high school, and while serving his six-year prison sentence he learned about the building and construction trade. He also took courses in geometry and calculus through the University of Chicago. But contrary to what he told acquaintances he never completed the calculus courses.
He was paroled in 1957.
He once openly boasted he had killed a man in New York and dumped his body in the East River. He also described putting another victim in concrete, but without names it’s impossible to determine if this was true. After his release, he worked in construction for twelve years, and in 1970 he moved to Florida. First he lived in rentals in Hollywood and South Beach. Neighbors and landlord who were interviewed about him both described an irascible and weird man who did have friends and didn't get along with anyone.
A surveyor who knew him while he lived in Broward county said Brust "was very aware that he was insane. He even used the nomenclature a psychiatrist lad on him in prison... He was really split."
He bought the house in SW Miami and obtained a job as an inspector for the county.
He was a 5'4" loner who was obsessed with loud noises. Once he threatened one of his neighbors with his position as a county inspector when the man shot off some firecrackers after the Miami Dolphins won a game. A co-worker said that he would take every opportunity to make other employees feel stupid.
A neighbor who lived behind his property told newspapers, "He was like a hermit. He didn't say anything except grievances. He disliked everything intensely. He always smirked and looked sarcastic. When you talked to him, you didn't want to stay near him."
He drove a motorcycle and frequented a local motorcycle shop, hoping to have a sexual encounter since he described himself as bisexual. The owner of the shop told police that Brust called himself a Jekyll and Hyde and his main topics of conversation had to do with sex, suicide and murder.
In April 1970 he was living with a younger sister Astoria, New York when he started a diary. Those early entries describe a desire to commit suicide. He continued with his diary entries after moving to Florida. In his diary he noted, “Rape, murder, suicide. These thoughts are constantly with me . . . There is no doubt that by present standards I am mentally ill, a hopeless sociopath.” One of his fantasies was to keep a woman as a sex-slave, and it is possible he had never had sexual intercourse until he raped Paula.
In another diary entry, he noted that Mark’s decaying body was making a horrible stink in the house since the cement had failed to seal properly. The cement was actually sweating blood. “I have miscalculated. I know I could save the situation by a lot of disagreeable work, but the whole business is not worth the trouble".
In his freezer, police found a number of meatballs, each containing a lethal quantity of cyanide. Neighbors told police Brust was kind to stray cats - they had often seen him feeding them meatballs.
In an ironic twist, Paula immediately went to Fort Lauderdale police with her story of kidnapping, rape and murder. The police called her mother in Kentucky, who told them she was a “pathological liar” so they discounted her tale. Her mother wired her money for plane fare back to Kentucky, When Brust’s body was discovered she was already at home, and it proved her story had been true all along.
Considering her family and by extension the police did not believe Paula's story, if Brust would not have committed suicide, no one would have been the wiser of the crimes he committed inside his home.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer