Crush Me, Kill Me

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Stephanie told police that Loudermilk would often masturbate in a bathroom while using the artificial foot and the spike straps to simulate the feeling of her standing on him.

"He would put the strap around his waist with the spikes protruding toward his abdomen," she said in her statement to the Okeechobee Sheriff's Department. "He would take the wooden foot and lean it against something and press the spikes into his abdomen." The spikes, which presumably simulated the feeling of heels digging into his flesh, sometimes gave Loudermilk scars.

Loudermilk started his own small-scale fetish production company, which he called "B&S Foot Action" in a nod to their first names. "We offer videos, photos, & arts of female feet in action. Crushing, trampling, sandals, heels, modeling, & more. We also do some custom work," read one ad for the company.

Loudermilk also published at least one issue of what he called Foot Fetish Forum. Photocopied and filled with drawings of feet trampling and crushing, he sold it for $3 to fetishists across the country.

Loudermilk enlisted other women in his projects, paying them to participate in a crush or a trample. "He employed a lot of people in these videos. At least ten people," says Sgt. William Garrison of the Okeechobee Sheriff's Department, who was the lead detective on the Loudermilk case. "He paid $50 an hour for girls to walk on him."

Sandy Powell, Loudermilk's 26-year-old cousin, told police that she had stood on Loudermilk, allowed him to sell photos of her feet, and had crushed goldfish on video. She had also walked in on Stephanie, nude except for high heels, walking across Loudermilk's stomach.

Another friend, Heather Nicole Davis, admitted to police that she starred in a video with Stephanie titled Nikki and Steph Rabbits. In the video, two sets of female feet walk back and forth over rabbits that are strapped to a grassy lawn, crushing them to death. In other videos found in Loudermilk's house, mice and chickens are stomped, and witnesses told police that Loudermilk had orchestrated the crushing of ducks, fish, and rats.

But nobody who talked to investigators, including Stephanie, seemed to think Loudermilk was a monster.

"Most people thought he was a pretty good guy," Garrison says.

By the time Loudermilk was found under his car, the nation's crackdown on crush was reaching its zenith. Citing arrests in New York and California and buoyed by support from celebrities that included Mickey Rooney and M*A*S*H's Loretta Swit, California Congressman Elton Gallegly urged passage of a bill that would make selling videos depicting animal torture a federal crime. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on December 9, 1999.

Vilencia then had to abandon his company, Squish Productions, which specialized in insect crush videos. And he's still bitter, saying that it's hypocritical for people who eat meat, for example, to oppose crush videos.

It's a common theme with crush supporters, says Katharine Gates, author of fetish encyclopedia Deviant Desires. Crush fetishists argue that it makes no sense for cockroaches or goldfish to deserve protection from "'death by foot' as opposed to 'death by toilet flush' or excruciating poison traps," she says.

Even critics of the crush fetish acknowledge that opposition to crush videos is rooted more in attitudes toward sex than concerns about animal welfare. "There's a lot of hypocrisy, unfortunately," says John Schiff, a California programmer who runs a website that publishes the names and addresses of crush fetish "offenders," including Stephanie Loudermilk. "I think the sexual aspect of it is really what bothers people. They have no problem with people eating live animals on Fear Factor."

But for Schiff, it's the suffering of living things that motivates him to advocate against the fetish. "The fact that it's needless cruelty. There's really no way to condone it."

Today, crush videos depicting the squishing of live animals are still available from websites based in Amsterdam and China, but whenever they receive too much attention, they disappear.

This March, photographs of a Chinese woman crushing a small kitten under her stilettos surfaced on a Chinese website and were reprinted in newspapers across the country, sparking widespread outrage and a manhunt for the so-called "Glamorous Kitten Killer of Hangzhou." In response, China-based crush sites disappeared.

Though crush video activity is almost nonexistent in the United States, Schiff's website tracks one purveyor in Palm Beach County.

Sosio Cristofaro, a smooth-talking rock bassist, owns two houses in Palm Beach and is cagey about whether his crush website, www.mistressaryel.com, is still in operation. He acknowledges that he began the site with business partner Mike Branch in the mid-1990s from a Palm Beach-based production company they called Stomp Productions.

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Julia Reischel