At one point, in February 1987, Heidnik unshackled Deborah Dudley, an uncooperative captive, and led her upstairs, Rivera testified. She said Dudley was then shown the remains of Sandra Lindsay, who died Feb. 7, 1987, after being starved and hung by one arm from a pipe in the basement.
"I asked Debbie what Gary had done . . . and she said he had taken her upstairs and shown her Sandra's head in a pot and her ribs in a roasting pan on the stove and her legs and arms in the freezer, and that if she kept it up that's what was going to happen to her," said Rivera.
Police found the limbs in the freezer and evidence that human flesh had been cooked in the oven. Dudley was slain the next month when Heidnik placed her in a water-filled pit and electrocuted her, the district attorney has charged.
Heidnik, 44, is on trial for the two slayings, as well as for numerous other counts of rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Among the many bizarre events described by Rivera - who was held the longest by Heidnik - was one that occurred the day Heidnik took her captive. She testified that Heidnik picked her up on Nov. 26, 1986, on a Philadelphia street, agreed to pay her $20 for sexual intercourse, took her to his home and had sex with her. Then he choked her until she passed out, she testified.
"I came to, and he had handcuffs on my right wrist," she testified. "He took me down to the basement and put shackles on me with muffler clamps. After that he put crazy glue on the shackles to tighten the nuts. Then he dried the glue with a hair dryer. He chained me to a sewer pipe, and then he put his head in my lap and went to sleep."
She also described a scene that occurred in January 1987, when Heidnik led his fifth captive, Jacqueline Askins, into the basement.
"Jacqueline Askins came down," she testified. "It was the day before my birthday. He put handcuffs around her ankles because she was so small. After that he put her in the hole and he went to a Chinese restaurant. He came back and he had a party because it was my birthday and he thought me and Sandra were pregnant. So we had champagne."
Rivera, the first major prosecution witness to testify, took the stand after Assistant District Attorney Charles F. Gallagher and defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. delivered brief opening statements to the 12-member jury.
Gallagher, in his 12-minute opening statement, said, "The evidence will show that from the eve of Thanksgiving 1986 up through March 25, 1987, the defendant committed repeated sadistic and malicious acts. . . . The defendant did them in a methodical and systematic way and he concealed them in a methodical and systematic way. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew it was wrong."
Gallagher is seeking the death penalty in the case.
Peruto, in a 10-minute opening statement, said his client was insane and not responsible for his actions.
"The judge said something this morning about people being innocent until proven guilty," Peruto told the jury of six men and six women. "My client is not innocent. He is very, very guilty. This is not a case of who done it. This is a case of why it was done. This is a mental infirmity defense. . . . Someone who puts human remains in a food processor and serves it with dog food to the victims and calls it a gourmet meal for a celebration party has got to be out to lunch.
"It is a horrible, horrible, horrible case. . . . You are not here to determine if Gary Heidnik will walk out a free man. No matter what the verdict is, he will never see the light of day. He will be behind bars, or in some mental institution."
During yesterday's proceedings, Heidnik - a gaunt, rail-thin man with long, greasy hair and an untrimmed beard - stared straight ahead, although he occasionally glanced at the prosecution's diagram of his basement. He wore the same Hawaiian shirt, light green pants and beat-up black boots he has worn for weeks. He frequently leaned back in his wooden chair and rocked slowly.
More than 100 spectators and family members of the victims filled the courtroom of Common Pleas Court Judge Lynne M. Abraham. The courtroom's air conditioning was broken, and numerous spectators nodded off in the hot, humid air. The jurors - chosen last week in Pittsburgh because of intensive media coverage here - followed the testimony closely, but betrayed no emotion, even during the most gruesome testimony.
Rivera - dressed in a blue-flowered dress - spent several hours on the witness stand yesterday afternoon. Speaking in a soft voice, she recounted how Heidnik - who is white - brought a succession of young black women into his basement, raped them, chained them up and fed them bread, rice, hot dogs and other "no-frills" brand foods. The basement was dark, and music blared round the clock so the captives could not tell whether Heidnik was home, Rivera testified.
She described the horrors in a matter-of-fact tone, and once, when asked by Gallagher what happened in late December 1986, she replied, "Nothing too much, outside of just having sex and staying in the hole. Three times we were down in the hole and ran out of air and we couldn't breathe. We started screaming and hollering, and Gary came down and beat us."
At other times, Heidnik gagged the women and drove screwdrivers into their ears, Rivera testified.
In the beginning, they occasionally cleaned themselves with Handi-Wipes, and Heidnik beat one captive, Lisa Thomas, for wasting the disposable washcloths, Rivera said. She described the following bathing ritual that began after Christmas:
"Everybody had a day when they went upstairs to bathe. He would take your chains off the sewer pipe and take you upstairs and put you in the tub with the chains, and afterwards he would take you into a little bedroom and have sex with you."
In December 1986, he forced captive Sandra Lindsay - who was retarded - to write a letter and Christmas card to her mother, saying she was all right, Rivera testified. Heidnik said he mailed the letters from New York in an effort to confuse Lindsay's mother, who had come to Heidnik's house in search of her daughter, Rivera said.
In February, after Lindsay had screamed to get out of the covered pit, Heidnik punished her by feeding her bread and water and by suspending her by her arm from a pipe. After hanging for six hours, Lindsay threw up, passed out and expired, Rivera said.
"He undid her handcuff, and her body just crashed to the floor," said Rivera. "He kicked her in the hole and got in the hole with her and felt her pulse and said she was dead. He carried her upstairs, and a little afterwards we heard an electric saw going and then we smelled a terrible smell. His clothes had the same odor and the food he brought downstairs had the same odor and taste in it."
The smell, Rivera said, apparently came from Heidnik cooking Lindsay's flesh.
"He bought a food processor and mixed body parts in with dog food to feed to the girls because he said that was the only way he could get rid of Sandra," Rivera testified. "He said he had some body parts in the freezer and he had tried to cook some body parts, but that the odor had spread through the neighborhood and people were making police complaints, and the police came to the house and he had not let them in."
Rivera said that she and Thomas, who was abducted in December, sometimes watched the other captives for Heidnik. Rivera said she had beaten some of the other captives on Heidnik's orders and that she had helped Heidnik electrocute Dudley on March 18, 1987. She said she also helped him dispose of Dudley's body in a remote New Jersey woodland, and described how he methodically got rid of the corpse, even going so far as to disconnect his trunk lights so no one would see him lift the body out of the car.
"He said that if he ever got caught he would go to court and act crazy by
saluting the judge," said Rivera, who escaped on March 25, 1987, and alerted police.
Since his arrest, Heidnik has saluted his attorney and court officers.
Also testifying yesterday was Lindsay's mother, Jeanette Perkins. In an interview outside the courtroom, she faulted Philadelphia police for not initially pursuing the case more aggressively. Shortly after Lindsay disappeared in November 1986, her family and friends gave police Heidnik's first name and address. Police went to the house, at 3520 N. Marshall St., but turned away after no one came to the door, according to testimony yesterday.