Episode 248: James (Mike) DeBardeleben: The Mall Passer

This episode is brought to you by El Yucateco

On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we hit you with some true crime and look at a lesser-known (alleged) serial killer, Mike DeBardeleben. Though many people may not have heard of him, and his official death count remains only speculation, the lead investigators from the Secret Service and FBI both consider him to be the most dangerous fugitive to have ever been free in America and possibly even its most prolific killer. So who is Make DeBardeleben?

He was born in 1940 to a family that became a military family once Pearl Harbor hit, and the US joined the war. He was bounced from state to state and even country to country before finally landing in their civilian home town of Albany, New York when Mike DeBardeleben was thirteen years old. By sixteen, he was on the wrong side of the law for physically assaulting his own mother, and by seventeen he began a career as a criminal, doing everything from concealed gun possession to grand theft auto and attempted murder. He was kicked out of high school, joined the military, was arrested for going AWOL, and when finally out, tried high school again, only to get the boot.

He married several times, none of them lasting very long, and he eventually started a life as a prolific counterfeiter in the US. He would make false money and travel to shopping smalls spending his cash on small times, and using the change as his profit. He was amazingly good at this, and eventually the Secret Service considered him their main priority in the nation.

They created a composite sketch of him and spread it to all the malls he had visited before, and eventually it paid off. Several workers called the police to say the guy in the sketch was there, and he was arrested. But they found disturbing evidence in his car but still needed his printing press to be a real legal victory. Eventually, they tracked it down in a storage shed, and the manager there said she was waiting for the police to come. Inside the shed was all the counterfeiting materials, but also something far more sinister. Hundreds of photos of rape (and murder?) that DeBardeleben himself was in. It went from a bad money case to a serial killer case.

So what was DeBardeleben’s motive and typical MO for killings? Why did he take so many pictures of himself? Why do investigators think he killed far more than Ted Bundy? Why did federal agents call him the Mall Passer? How did he get away with so many rapes and murders for decades without be caught? Is it possible he didn’t kill anyone at all? Listen, laugh, learn.


Crazy Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/LetsNotMeet/comments/1r26qo/i_was_almost_never_born/

What Serial Killers Want: https://www.salon.com/1999/08/25/serial_killer

Some of his crimes: http://allthingscrimeblog.com/2014/07/03/the-grisly-details-of-serial-mall-killer-mike-debardelebens-actions-will-never-be-known/

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