In a series of incidents that strikes some of its victims as both funny and frightening, a man is stealing boots from Phoenix construction workers and then writing them detailed letters describing his sexual acts with their footwear.
The one bright spot, according to a victimized worker, is that the self-described "Boot Raper" has not returned the boots.
This oddball "sex sandal" is ripe for such one-liners as, "It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your Keds are?" It has even set tongues wagging about whether the Boot Raper wears rubbers on his shoes during rainstorms.
One couple in north Phoenix is getting a chuckle out of it--up to a point.
"My wife jokes about it," says construction worker Bill Jones, "but it's being done to me by another man--and he sends proof. It's not only disgusting, but I also feel violated."
One look at the four-page letter the Joneses (not their real name) received a couple of months ago, and you know why. "One night," the Boot Raper wrote, "I came across a well-worn, rugged yet soft pair of work boots on your porch. I returned home to strip my cloths [sic]. . . .I took your work boots, heal [sic] in hand and brushed the sandpaper surface across my nipples. . . ."
In a barely literate way, the man continued describing an elaborate masturbation ritual during which he apparently engaged in intercourse with Bill's steel-toed Texas Steer size 11s. The man, who seems to be a construction worker himself, is more than just your average bootlicker, and his reveries extend well beyond the usual lace-and-leather fantasy. The dirtier the boot, the better--he's quite the connoisseur. "Your boots are hot, man," he said in his letter to the Joneses. He also sent along two photographs, one depicting an array of boots he said he uses and abuses and the other a photograph of his apparently climaxing on one of Bill's boots.
The Boot Raper describes other lustful encounters with boots--and with construction workers themselves. All of it is in lurid detail.
Recalling her first reaction to the letter, Susie Jones says, "I was hysterical, laughing!"
"See what I mean?" Bill ruefully tells a visitor.
The situation is both goofy and scary to the Joneses. Even Bill Jones can crack jokes about it, but it gives both Susie and Bill the creeps when they figure that the Boot Raper may have skulked around their neighborhood off Bell Road in north Phoenix. They worry that he might even live near them or that he could turn violent. Every strange car that seems to slow down on their street is suspicious to them. Oddly, the fact that the Boot Raper apparently has struck other people is comforting.
"I feel a little reassured knowing this guy isn't singling me out," says Bill.
One Phoenix police officer familiar with the case says he knows of at least three letters the Boot Raper may have sent to various people. "This guy's definitely a strange pumpkin," says the officer, who declined to be identified. He referred further questions to police spokesmen and said the letters have been turned over to postal authorities.
Tom Hall, a spokesman for the Phoenix office of the Postal Inspection Service, says inspectors are keeping a file on the case that for now includes four letters. But Hall says there's been no investigation because there's been no violation of federal postal laws. "Apparently, the guy does steal boots and then, after a period of time, he writes letters," says Hall. "But we have no violation here. If he's sending pictures through the mail, even that may not be a violation--what's considered obscene now is different from what used to be considered obscene."
Bill and Susie Jones say the police told them "the guy was just trying to get a rise." But it may be a little more complex than that, not to mention more ominous.
"This is not even normal for a fetishist," says psychiatrist Mark Wellek, who's affiliated with Phoenix Camelback Hospital. "Besides the fetish, which is a mental problem, the guy's now developed a serious mental illness."
Shoe fetishists aren't necessarily rare. The late Cecil B. De Mille, filmmaker of such Hollywood epics as Cleopatra and Samson and Delilah, was widely believed to have had a fetish revolving around shoes and feet. His films featured a remarkably high number of lingering close-ups of pedicures and shoe racks.
More recently, a publicist for Marla Maples has been accused of stealing the Trump mistress's shoes. Authorities allegedly found copies of a shoe fetishists' magazine called Spike in his possession. (The man, however, has denied all allegations.)
Told the contents of the Boot Raper's letter to the Joneses, psychiatrist Wellek says, "The average fetishist keeps it private. But this guy is losing it. He's having to send his message out. There's a potential for violence--not a high potential, but it's there. The police need to catch him and put him in a hospital. There will be more incidents. You can count on it."
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It couldn't be immediately determined who the Boot Raper's other victims have been. Back in February 1990, when the fetishist first struck the Joneses, he took Bill's dirty boots off the front porch during the wee hours, while the couple slept. He left only a brief note, saying he intended to use the boots for sex and that he would take boots every night if he could. Eventually, they forgot about it. Then, in May of this year, more than two years after the theft, they received an envelope postmarked from Phoenix and addressed to "Resident." Inside was the four-page letter and two photographs. Bill Jones says he's certain the letter writer took his boots because he describes not only the brand but the style and size as well. Hoping to catch him, the Joneses were advised by surveillance experts to set up cameras. But that was impractical because of expense, so they put another pair of boots out on the porch and hid in their car in the driveway. But after a short time, they gave up their attempt to catch the thief.
"God knows," muses Susie. "Maybe he'll give us another 'wonderful' letter in two years."
In the meantime, Susie's gotten plenty of mileage from the Boot Raper's letter. She says she's taken it to work and shown it to her girlfriends and others.
"I thought my mom was going to die laughing," Susie says. Then she looks at her husband and quickly adds, "Poor Bill."
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