‘Is This Guy Going to Bury Me Here?’ – Terrifying Tale of Women Held Captive by ‘Bishop’ for Months

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Josefina Rivera had no inkling she was stepping into the vehicle of a menacing and violent individual. It was just before Thanksgiving, and she was desperately in need of cash.

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In 1986, Rivera, a sex worker, was abducted and held captive for months by Gary Heidnik, who proclaimed himself a “bishop” of a church he operated from his living room in Philadelphia. Heidnik would later abduct several other women, subjecting them to sexual assault and killing two.

Rivera’s eventual escape, which also led to the freeing of three other women, is highlighted in the forthcoming episode of People Magazine Investigates: Surviving a Serial Killer. The episode, entitled “Surviving the Bishop’s Basement,” is scheduled to air Sunday, May 26 at 9/8 c on ID.

Heidnik’s congregation was small, many of whom were mentally disabled. Yet, beneath this church setting lurked a sinister reality.

Typically, Rivera avoided going to clients’ homes, but she made an exception for Heidnik, who drove an impressive car and introduced himself as Gary.

The first warning sign occurred when they reached his house and Rivera noticed the door was fitted with a double lock—requiring a key to both enter and exit.

After engaging in sexual activity in Heidnik’s upstairs bedroom, he attacked Rivera by choking her and then handcuffed her.

In an exclusive snippet from the episode, Rivera shares how she feared for her life as Heidnik strangled her.

“I was screaming and yelling,” Rivera recounts. “And he said, ‘Stop fighting, and I’ll stop choking you.’”

Once restrained, Heidnik dragged her down to the basement.

“The basement had a mattress and a dirt pit on the floor,” Rivera remembers thinking. “Is this man planning to bury me here?”

Heidnik eventually confined Rivera and later several more women in the basement, at times forcing them into the pit and covering it with wooden planks to block all light.

This basement turned into Rivera’s entire universe for the ensuing months, where she endured sexual abuse and torture by the bishop — until her daring escape.

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