THE CONCISE PAST OF

PHILADELPHIA’S NOTORIOUS

CRIMES AND CRIMINALS

 

 

By George J. Holmes

 

The Philadelphia

Riots of 1742

 

The Philadelphia Election Riot in 1742 was a riot by the Anglicans who sought to break the longstanding Quaker political dominance in Philadelphia. As up to one-third of the population were Germans, the Quakers had successfully courted their vote based on Quaker pacifism, seen by the Germans as protection from the draft and high taxes.

Quaker domination was threatened by their declining share of the population, while the Anglican-based proprietary party, led by William Allen, sought to woo the German vote. From 1739 to 1740, efforts courting the German vote tripled the voter turnout. Failing to win the favor of the German vote, Allen and his fellow Anglicans sought instead to amend the election process by reviving a 1739 election law that provided party-specific election inspectors. Failing to secure a compromise, the two parties, hurdled towards confrontation on Election Day.

Tensions came to a head on election day, October 1, with Allen nominated in the election for inspector. Rumors claimed that the Quakers were attempting to bring large numbers of non-naturalized German immigrants to the polls and that the Anglicans were supporting bands of vigilantes to attack them.

When the two parties were unable to agree on methods to supervise the election, a group of seventy sailors, shouting anti-Quaker oaths, cheering for Allen and wielding clubs attacked the Germans and Quakers assembled at the Courthouse to vote. In response to a hail of bricks, the Germans (and, uncharacteristically, perhaps some Quakers) responded with violence, albeit defensive. With the sailors driven back, the Quakers retreated into the Courthouse, bolting the doors behind themselves. The Anglicans, apparently believing one or more of the sailors was being held hostage, regrouped to attack the Courthouse. A Quaker spokesman managed to convince the rioters that there were no hostages, somewhat quelling the violence. At this point, a number of Germans and Quakers, armed by the Sheriff to defend their rights, counter-attacked the Anglicans, driving the attackers from the area and allowing the elections to proceed.

In the aftermath of the riot, the Anglicans' proprietary party lost the election in a landslide. Reports show that many voters had altered their original ballots, crossing out their original vote for the proprietary party and instead voting for the Quaker party. Fifty-four sailors and party leaders were jailed. Allen, the proprietary leader, in an effort to clear his name, sued one of the Quaker leaders for claiming that Allen had planned to assault. The matter was turned over to the Quaker-led Assembly (over Allen's objections) for investigation. The Assembly cast the investigation as the result of public outcry, when it is likely none truly existed. After questioning 49 witnesses, most of whom were Quakers and including none of the sailors, the Assembly ruled that Allen, his business partner, the mayor and two others (all Anglicans) should be investigated for being negligent in their duties and subverting the Pennsylvania Charter. Allen was ruled the instigator of the riot. After months of investigation, they turned the matter over to the Quaker-controlled Supreme Court. The Governor, an Anglican, stated that the city's Mayor's Court had jurisdiction, meaning the Recorder, Alderman and Mayor (all Anglicans) would hear the case. The Assembly protested that the Mayor was one of the accused and would be hearing his own case. Eventually, a Quaker-devised compromise was reached. Charges were withdrawn, as was the original slander suit, and steps were taken to define election procedures and prevent future riots.

 

 

 

The Hanging of Elizabeth Wilson

Infanticide was one of the most common forms of homicide in the eighteenth century, but convictions were difficult to obtain because authorities were reluctant to convict and hang unwed mothers. One tragic case was that of Elizabeth Wilson, who was hanged after the 1785 deaths of her twin boys, despite efforts to save her. Her story was later widely circulated and over time reached the status of folklore, complete with variations in the retelling. Originally from Chester County, Elizabeth Wilson by one account left home in her late teens and became pregnant in 1784 after meeting a suitor at a tavern in Philadelphia. Upon returning home to her parents in Chester County pregnant and unwed, Elizabeth gave birth to the twins. She traveled back toward Philadelphia with the infants to locate the children's father, who purportedly killed them and threatened her with death if she revealed what happened. When Elizabeth returned to Chester County, her children were gone, and their bodies were discovered in the woods days later.

Elizabeth was arrested and her trial began in October 1785. Elizabeth remained silent throughout her trial, never giving her own testimony or refuting the circumstantial evidence. The jury sentenced her to death by hanging. Her brother William traveled to Philadelphia to appeal to Charles Biddle, vice president of Pennsylvania's Supreme Executive Council, for a pardon for Elizabeth. Biddle granted William a pardon, but William was delayed in his return to Chester County, arriving only a short time after Elizabeth was hung on January 2, 1786. This drawing from 1838 depicts the hanging, with William riding on horseback, waving the pardon letter.

 

 

 

The Doan Gang

 

Shortly before the American Revolution, the Doan Gang began their reign of treachery in Philadelphia.  The Doan brothers, Israel and Moses, along with their followers, raised havoc in Philadelphia for a time.  Camped out on the outskirts of Philadelphia proper, the Doan Gang planned out their bank robberies and other crimes, such as horse thievery.  Scenes reminiscent of the old Wild West shootouts were commonplace when the Doan Gang came in to rob banks.  The gang found profit in horse thievery as the British Army supplied willing customers for their underhanded business.   The Doan Gang escaped any punishment for their escapades while aiding the British, due to the fact that the city was still under British rule.  To be sure, there were probably other gangs in Philadelphia before the Doans.

 

Irish Gangs of the 1840s

 

 

Historians have identified 50 violent Philadelphia street gangs during the era with such colorful names as the Killers, the Blood Tubs, the Schuylkill Rangers, the Neckers and the Snappers. The gangs fought each other and often attacked innocent citizens on the streets. Riots were commonplace.  The city’s relatively large African-American community was often the victim of mob attacks. In 1834, Irish Catholics fought with Irish Protestants during a parade by the Orangemen.

   However, the bloodiest riots of the era, without question, exploded in the summer of 1844 when Protestant “Native Americans” battled Irish Catholics in a two-part street war that left about 25 dead and more than 100 wounded and injured. Two large Catholic churches, a rectory and a seminary were burned to the ground and scores of houses set on fire. The violence shocked the consciousness of city leaders and would lead to dramatic changes to include the establishment of a fulltime, paid police force, a dramatic expansion of the city’s borders and the establishment of America’s strongest Catholic school system.

Although Ireland’s great potato famine was still a few years in the future, large numbers of poor Irish Catholics immigrants were pouring into America’s cities. By the time of the 1844 riots Irish immigrants formed about 10 percent of the population of Philadelphia County.  The Irish were the victims of a great deal of bigoted stereotyping, usually portrayed as ignorant, brawling drunkards.  Worse, they were a “foreign” element not to be trusted.  Their loyalty was not to their new nation but to a  “Papist” church, its “evil priests” and “despotic Pope.”  Inflammatory anti-Catholic pamphlets proclaimed that once the Irish population was large enough, they would take over America. Led by  “wily Jesuit priests” they would install a Catholic king who would take his orders from the Pope.

   Anti-Catholic Protestants calling themselves “Native Americans” or “Nativists” formed political parties in major cities. They were sometimes called the “Know Nothings”.  The party formed in Philadelphia called itself the American Republicans (not related to the later Republican Party).  The Nativists’ platform called for laws that would prohibit the foreign-born from holding any elective office – state, local or national.   And if native-born Americans had to wait 21 years to vote, then naturalized citizens should also wait 21 years. So an Irish immigrant who arrives in America at age 21 would have to wait until his 42nd birthday to cast his first vote.

   One issue that led to the bloody riots of 1844, centered on Bible reading in the public schools. School boards believed that the Bible was the source of all good moral teaching and required Bible readings and study in the classroom. The Bible being read was, of course, the Protestant King James version.  Catholic Bishop Francis Patrick Kendrick, normally a quiet, conservative man, took a strong stand against Catholic children being forced to read and study from anything but their own Catholic Douay version of the Bible. There was a compromise allowing Catholic students to leave the class during Bible study and read their own Catholic Bible. But the controversy inflamed Nativists who saw the “Papists” arrogantly inserting Catholism into the public schools.

 

 

The Kensington Riots

 

   The Bible controversy led to a public rally by the American Republican Party to be held on Friday, May 3, 1844. The location selected for the rally almost guaranteed that sparks (and bricks and bullets) would fly.  The rally was to be held outside the narrow boundaries of the city of Philadelphia. Those boundaries were South Street to Vine Street, the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River – a mere two square miles.

The rally was scheduled for the Kensington District near Second and Master Streets.  Although Protestant lived in the area, it was heavily Irish Catholic.  The location was close to St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church and a roof-covered, open-air marketplace known as the Nanny Goat Market or Washington Street Market, frequented by Irish residents.

   Only one hundred Nativists attended the rally.  Speakers were hooted down and harassed by the Irish and soon the meeting “adjourned” with the Protestants beating a hasty retreat. There was no real fighting or injuries that Friday.

   Three days later the Know Nothings were back again in the vicinity of the Nanny Goat Market about 3,000 strong. A sudden rainstorm forced the Protestants to seek cover in the market shed and soon, fist, bricks and musket balls were flying.  It was the beginning of a three-day battle that would shake the city.

   Irish militants shooting from nearby houses, and a volunteer fire company, the Hibernia Hose Company had the initial advantage. The first death was an 18-year-old Protestant apprentice, George Schiffler.  He would be portrayed as a martyr who died protecting the American flag.

But Protestant militants – who flocked into the area from other neighborhoods - were also well-armed and resorted to fire as a weapon. Many Irish homes – some were flimsy back-alley shanties – went up in flames. Irish families fled the neighborhood. Protestant neighbors hung American flags in their windows to indicate their loyalty.

   Where were the police during three days of bloodshed? There was no police force as we know it today. Instead, County Sheriff Morton McMichael had a small force of constables. He could deputize good citizens to form a sheriff’s posse, but in the case of this “holy war” in Kensington, this wouldn’t be enough.  Instead, he called on the local militia, headed by General George Cadwalader, who questioned whether the sheriff had the power to request the militia.  Normally, only the governor had such powers.  When the general did decide to come to the sheriff’s aid, it took time to organize the troops, who were all civilian citizen-soldiers.

  It was too little, too late.  St. Michael’s Church was burned to the ground; the mob cheered as the cross atop the church tumbled.  The mob also burned the church rectory and the seminary of the Sisters of Mercy next to the church.  For good measure, large Saint Augustine’s Church, inside city limits at 4th near Vine, was set afire and destroyed.  Again firemen were prevented from fighting the blaze by the mob, which also cheered when its steeple and cross fell in flames.

 

 

Southwark Battle

 

   Round One was over. More militia poured into the city. Martial law was declared and the remaining Catholic churches were put under heavy guard.   Things were relatively quiet for two months. Round Two broke out in the Southwark District (now called Queen Village) on July 9th. It was an even bloodier affair with the Nativist mob battling the militia. Both sides employed cannon in the narrow streets around 2nd and Queen Streets.

  The tension centered on St. Philip Neri Chruch on Queen Street between Second and Third.  Catholics were now determined to protect their churches, and Pennsylvania Governor David Porter gave permission to St. Philip’s to stockpile government-issued weapons in the church.  This was a provocative red flag to the Nativists. To their minds, the hated Papists had turned a church into an “armed fortress.”  On the other hand, respectable Philadelphians were determined to avoid more rioting and church burnings.

Militia leaders Cadwalader and General Robert Patterson were embarrassed by the militia’s inability to halt the arson and rioting in Kensington.  They were going to take a tough stand with the mob in Southwark.  But they made some bad decisions, such as using the all-Irish Hibernian Greens militia unit to guard the church.  At one point Cadwalader ordered his troops to fire on the Protestant mob when it failed to disburse.  A former congressman, Charles Naylor, jumped in front of the militia’s guns shouting “My God. Don’t shoot.” His bravely temporarily prevented bloodshed, but Cadwalader had him arrested.

   The next day, the mob attacked the Hibernian Greens as they left the church to be replaced by another unit. The hot-headed Cadwalader arrived with reinforcements on the night of July 9th and an all-out battle was fought on the dark, narrow streets until dawn, with cannon, muskets, pistols, bricks, rifles and bayonets.  St. Philip Neri was saved but 16 died, including some militiamen, and more than 50 were wounded. 18-year-old George Shiffler (right) became a martyr for the Nativists, when it was claimed he was killed defending the American flag from the Irish mob.

 

 

 

ANTON PROBST

 

Anton Probst was born in Germany in 1843 and came to the United States in 1863, during the height of the Civil War. Almost immediately upon arriving in New York, the young man volunteered for service in the Union Army. He did not do so because of some patriotic zeal but rather because recruits were being paid $300 in those days. Probst decided to use this to his advantage and he volunteered for the army several times. He would collect a bounty for his enlistment, serve a few weeks in a training camp and then desert, moving on to another northern city, where he would enlist again for another $300. He never saw any action but he did manage to make a comfortable living during the bloody days of the war.

His racket came to an end in 1865 and by the fall of that year, Probst found himself penniless in Philadelphia. Living on the streets, he found out that a man named Christopher Dearing was looking for a handyman to work on his farm. Probst applied at the small homestead on Jones' Lane and was soon hired. The Dearing farm was only a few acres in size with a small house, a barn where a horse and one pig were kept and some grazing space for cattle. Dearing, his wife, Julia, and their five children supported themselves by raising and selling cattle. They were not wealthy by any means, but they were a happy family who managed to get along on the little they earned.

Probst soon revealed his true personality but only to Julia Dearing. She noticed how he did little work and would lounge in the barn when he was supposed to be tending the cattle. After he made several lewd comments to her, she urged her husband to fire the strange young man after just three weeks. Dearing agreed and Probst, claiming to be in poor health, was taken in by a Philadelphia charity hospital. He lingered here from December 1865 to the following February. While lying on his cot in the poor house, Probst schemed to rob the Dearing's and to get even with them. He returned to the farm on March 2, 1866 and begged Christopher Dearing to hire him back. Dearing, who felt sorry for the man, agreed.

Over the course of the next month, Dearing worked harder than he ever had in his life. He pretended to be quite friendly with the family and even Julia began to feel kindly towards the young man. All the while, Probst continued to scheme and on April 7, decided to put his plan into action. That morning, Christopher Dearing traveled by buggy to the Philadelphia docks to meet a visiting family friend, Miss Elizabeth Dolan from Burlington, New Jersey. Meanwhile, Probst and Cornelius Carey, a boy employed to help on the farm, worked in a field. Events began just as started to rain at about nine that morning.

As the rain began to fall, Probst and Carey took shelter under a tree. When the boy looked away for a moment, Probst clobbered Carey with the blunt end of an ax and when he fell, stunned, Probst turned the ax over and severed the boy's head with it! He quickly hid the body in a haystack and then, with methodical precision, Probst lured the entire family --- one by one --- into the barn. There, he struck them senseless with a hammer and then chopped them with the ax until Julia and four of her children, including an infant, had been slaughtered. When Mr. Dearing arrived home with Elizabeth Dolan, Probst was waiting for him. He told him that there was a sick animal in the barn and after they went inside, Probst attacked him with the hammer and ax as well. Miss Dolan, who had gone into the house, was also lured into the barn and she was also slain.

When he was finished, Probst neatly lined all of the bodies up inside of the barn and tossed hay over them. He then ransacked the farm house, looking for money. He found $10 in Dearing's wallet, of which $4 was later found to be counterfeit, as well as revolver and a battered old watch. He also managed to find $3 in Miss Dolan's purse but that was all. Probst then used Dearing's razor to shave off his beard and exchanged clean clothes and boots for his own blood-soaked apparel. After that, he ate some bread and butter and then went to his room for a nap. He slept peacefully, unconcerned about the murders, and before leaving the farm, he took the time to feed the dogs and chickens and the put out feed for the horses and the cow in the barn, just steps away from where the bodies of the Dearing family lay stiffening under the hay. Only one of the children survived the massacre. Willie Dearing, the oldest son, had gone to stay with friends a few days before the crime occurred.

After feeding the animals, Probst leisurely strolled away and spent the next few days on the streets. Neighbors came to the farm on the day after the murders and found the bodies of the family in the barn. They notified the police, who had little trouble tracking down Probst. He had sold Dearing's revolver to a bartender and his watch to a jeweler. On April 12, five days after Philadelphia's first mass murder, he was arrested by a single policeman while drinking in a tavern at 23rd and Market Streets. He surrendered without a fight.

At first, the killer protested his innocence but the evidence against him was so strong that at the end of his trial on May 1, the jury took only 20 minutes to find him guilty. He was executed on June 8 but before this occurred, he made a complete confession of his crimes. Strangely, even after death, Anton Probst has remained in Philadelphia. Following his execution, his body was delivered to the medical college, where it was dissected. His mounted skeleton then went on display in the museum of the college, which still operates today. It was a strange and macabre (although perhaps fitting) ending for this vicious killer.

 

 

Octavius Catto

A black educator, intellectual, and civil rights activist in Philadelphia. He became principal of male students at the Institute for Colored Youth, where he had also been educated. Born free in Charleston, South Carolina, in a prominent mixed-race family, he moved north as a boy with his family. He became educated and served as a teacher, becoming active in civil rights. As a man, he also became known as a top cricket and baseball player in 19th-century Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Catto became a martyr to racism, as he was shot and killed in election-day violence in Philadelphia, where ethnic Irish of the Democratic Party, which was anti-Reconstruction and had opposed black suffrage, attacked black men to prevent their voting for Republican candidates.

On Election Day, October 10, 1871, Catto was teaching in Philadelphia. Fights broke out in the city between black and white voters, as the elections were high in tension and parties reflected racial opposition. Black voters, who were mostly Republican, faced intimidation and violence from white voters, especially ethnic Irish, who were partisans of the city's Democratic machine. Irish immigrants had entered the city in great numbers during and after the Great Famine of the 1840s; they competed with free blacks for jobs and housing. City police were called on to quell the violence. Instead, often ethnic Irish themselves, they exacerbated the problems, using their power to prevent black citizens from voting. A Lieutenant Haggerty was later arrested for having encouraged police under his command to keep African Americans from voting. On his way to vote, Catto was intermittently harassed by whites. Police reports indicate that he had purchased a revolver for protection. At the intersection of Ninth and South streets, Catto was accosted by Frank Kelly, an ethnic Irish man, who shot him three times. Catto died of his wounds. The city inquest was not able to determine if Catto had pulled his own gun. Kelly was not convicted of assault or murder.

Catto's military funeral at Lebanon Cemetery in Passyunk, Philadelphia was well-attended. The murder of Catto, an important leader, and violence throughout the election, coupled with the resurgence of the anti-Reconstruction Democratic Party in the city, marked the beginning of a decline in black militancy in 19th-century Philadelphia. Later, after the cemetery was closed down, Catto's remains were reinterred at Eden Cemetery, in Collingdale, Pennsylvania

 

 

Charley Ross

Never take candy from a stranger

 

On July 1, 1874, four-year-old Ross and his five-year-old older brother Walter Lewis were playing in the front yard of their family's home in Germantown, a well-to-do section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A horse-drawn carriage pulled up and they were approached by two men who offered the boys candy and fireworks if they would take a ride with them. The boys agreed and they all proceeded through Philadelphia to a store where Walter was directed to buy fireworks inside with 25 cents given to him. Walter did so, but the carriage left without him. Charley Ross was never seen again.

Christian K. Ross, the boys' father, began receiving ransom demands from the apparent kidnappers. They arrived in the form of notes mailed from post offices in Philadelphia and elsewhere, all written in an odd hand and in a coarse, semi-literate style with many simple words misspelled. The communications generally requested a ransom of $20,000, an enormous sum at the time. The notes cautioned against police intervention and threatened Ross's life if Christian did not cooperate. Christian Ross owned a large house and was thought to be wealthy but was actually heavily in debt, due to the stock market crash of 1873 and could not afford such an amount. Seeing no other choice, Christian Ross went to the police. The kidnapping soon became national news.

In addition to the heavy press coverage, some prominent Philadelphians enlisted the help of the famous Pinkerton detective agency, who had millions of flyers and posters printed with Ross' likeness. A popular song based on the crime was even composed by Dexter Smith and W. H. Brockway, entitled "Bring Back Our Darling". Several attempts were made to provide the kidnappers with ransom money as dictated in the notes, but in each case the kidnappers failed to appear.Eventually, communication stopped. On the night of December 13th, five months after the kidnapping, the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn house belonging to Judge Charles Van Brunt was burglarized. Holmes Van Brunt, Charles' brother, lived next door, and gathered the members of his household, armed with shotguns, to stop the intruders in the act. As they entered Van Brunt's house, they saw two lanterns go out, and the resulting torrent of gunfire from Holmes and his men brought down both burglars where they stood. They were Bill Mosher and Joe Douglas, career criminals who had recently been released from jail. Mosher was killed instantly while Douglas was mortally wounded, but managed to live about two more hours and was able to communicate with Holmes. Everyone present was shaken by the experience, and there is no clear consensus regarding exactly what Douglas said. Most agree that Douglas said that there was no point in lying (as he knew he was mortally wounded) so he admitted that he and Mosher abducted Ross. His further statements, if any, are more controversial. He either said that Ross was killed, or that Mosher knew where Ross was, possibly adding that he would be returned unharmed to the Rosses within a few days. In any case, he did not give any clues to Ross' location or other particulars of the crime, and died soon afterwards. Walter Ross was taken to New York City to look at the bodies of Mosher and Douglas so as to determine if they were the men from the carriage ride. Walter confirmed that they were the same men who took the boys from in front of their home the previous summer. Mosher in particular was very identifiable as he had a distinctively malformed nose, which Walter had described to police as a "monkey nose". (The cartilage of Mosher's nose had been destroyed by syphilis or cancer).

For most, the issue of who the men in the carriage were was settled beyond reasonable doubt. But Charley Ross was not returned, and the case was far from over.

A former Philadelphia policeman named William Westervelt, a known associate of William Mosher (and his wife's brother), was arrested and held in connection with the case. He was tried in 1875 for kidnapping. Though Westervelt was a friend and perhaps a confidant of Mosher (while in prison awaiting trial he had told Christian Ross that his son had been alive at the time of Mosher's death), there was virtually no evidence to tie him to the crime itself. Walter Ross, for one, insisted that Westervelt was not one of the men in the carriage that took them away. Westervelt was found to be innocent of the kidnapping. However, he was found guilty of a lesser conspiracy charge and served six years in prison. He always maintained his own innocence and swore that he did not know the whereabouts of Charley Ross.

Two years after the kidnapping, Christian Ross published a book on the case, entitled The Father’s Story of Charley Ross, the Kidnapped Child, in order to raise money to continue searching for his son. By 1878, the media interest in the case had begun to wane. To renew interest, Ross had the book reprinted and began giving lectures in Boston.

Christian Ross and his wife continued to search for their son until their deaths (Christian Ross died in 1897 and his wife died in 1912). They followed leads and interviewed over 570 boys, teenagers, and eventually grown men from around the world who claimed to have been Charley Ross. All proved to be imposters. The Rosses eventually spent approximately $60,000 looking for their son.

 In 1924, newspapers began running stories about the case to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Ross' abduction. By that time, Walter Ross was adult and was working as a stockbroker. In interviews, he said that he and his three sisters still received letters from middle aged men claiming to be his brother.

In 1934, Gustave Blair, a 69-year-old carpenter living in Phoenix, Arizona, petitioned the court to recognize him as the real "Charley Ross".[9] Blair claimed that after he was abducted, he lived in a cave and was eventually adopted by a man who told him he was Charley Ross.[8] Walter Ross dismissed Blair's claim calling him "a crank" and added, "The idea that my brother is still alive is not only absurd, but the man's story seems unconvincing. We've long ago given up hope that Charles ever would be found alive."[10] As Blair's claim went uncontested, the court ruled that Blair was "Charles Brewster Ross" in March 1939.

Despite the ruling, Ross family refused to recognize Blair as their relative and did not bequeath him any money or property from their parents' estate.[9] Blair briefly moved to Los Angeles and attempted to sell his life story to a movie studio but was unsuccessful.

 He eventually moved to Germantown with his wife before moving back to Phoenix. He died in December 1943 still claiming that he was Charley Ross.

The case, and in particular the fates of Mosher, Douglas, and Westervelt, served as a deterrent to other potential ransom kidnappers: it would be a quarter of a century before another high-profile ransom kidnapping case emerged with Edward Cudahy, Jr. in 1900.

The common admonition "never take candy from strangers" is said to have come from Charley Ross' abduction. The Charley Project, a major missing persons database, is named for Charley Ross.

 

 

 

HH Holmes

 

Herman Webster Mudgett (May 16, 1861 – May 7, 1896), better known under the name of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes or just H. H. Holmes, was one of the first documented serial killers in the modern sense of the term. In Chicago at the time of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Holmes opened a hotel which he had designed and built for himself specifically with murder in mind, and which was the location of many of his murders. While he confessed to 27 murders, of which nine were confirmed, his actual body count could be over 200.[3] He brought an unknown number of his victims to his World's Fair Hotel, located about 3 miles (4.8 km) west of the fair, which was held in Jackson Park.

The case was notorious in its time and received wide publicity through a series of articles in William Randolph Hearst's newspapers. Interest in Holmes's crimes was revived in 2003 by Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, a best-selling non-fiction book that juxtaposed an account of the planning and staging of the World's Fair with Holmes's story. His story had been previously chronicled in The Torture Doctor by David Franke (1975), Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer by Harold Schechter (1994), and Chapter VI "The Monster of Sixty-Third Street" of Gem of the Prairie: An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld by Herbert Asbury (1940, republished 1986).

Mudgett was born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, on May 16, 1861, to Levi Horton Mudgett and Theodate Page Price, both of whom were descended from the first English settlers in the area. Mudgett was his parents' third-born child; he had an older sister Ellen, an older brother Arthur, and a younger brother Henry. Mudgett's father was a farmer from a farming family, and his parents were devout Methodists. According to the 2007 Most Evil profile on Holmes, his father was a violent alcoholic. Mudgett claimed that, as a child, some of his classmates forced him into the doctor's office to stand face to face with a human skeleton after discovering his fear of the local doctor. The bullies initially took him there to scare him, but Erik Larson speculates that instead he was utterly fascinated, and he soon became obsessed with death. On July 4, 1878, Mudgett married Clara Lovering in Alton, New Hampshire; their son, Robert Lovering Mudgett, was born on February 3, 1880, in Loudon, New Hampshire. (As an adult, Robert was to become a certified public accountant, and served as city manager of Orlando, Florida.)

In 1882, Mudgett entered the University of Michigan's Department of Medicine and Surgery and graduated in June 1884 after passing his examinations. While enrolled, he stole bodies from the laboratory, disfigured the bodies, and claimed that the people were killed accidentally in order to collect insurance money from policies he took out on each deceased person. He left his wife and son to move to Chicago and began a career in pharmaceuticals. It was also at this time that Mudgett began engaging in many shady businesses, real estate, and promotional deals under the name "H.H. Holmes."

On January 28, 1887, while he was still married to Clara, Holmes married Myrta Belknap (b. October 1862 in Pennsylvania) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He filed for divorce from Clara a few weeks after marrying Myrta, but the divorce was never finalized. Holmes had a daughter with Myrta, Lucy Theodate Holmes, who was born on July 4, 1889, in Englewood, Illinois (as an adult, Lucy became a public schoolteacher). Holmes lived with Myrta and Lucy in Wilmette, Illinois, and spent most of his time in Chicago tending to business.

Holmes married Georgiana Yoke on January 17, 1894, in ‹See TfD›Denver, Colorado, while still married to Clara and Myrta.[citation needed] He also had a relationship with Julia Smythe, the wife of one of his former employees. Julia would become one of Holmes's victims.

Chicago and the "Murder Castle"

Holmes arrived in Chicago in August 1886 and came across Dr. Elizabeth S. Holton's drugstore at the northwest corner of S. Wallace Avenue and W. 63rd Street in the Chicago neighborhood. Holton gave Holmes a job, and he proved himself to be a hardworking employee. After the death of Holton's husband, Holmes offered to buy the drugstore from Holton, and she agreed. Holmes purchased the store mainly with funds obtained by mortgaging the store's fixtures and stock, the loan to be repaid in substantial monthly installments of one hundred dollars (worth $2,600 today).

Holmes purchased a lot across from the drugstore where he built his three-story, block-long "castle" as it was dubbed by those in the neighborhood. The address of the Castle was 601-603 W. 63rd St. It was called the World's Fair Hotel and opened as a hostelry for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, with part of the structure devoted to commercial space. The ground floor of the Castle contained Holmes' own relocated drugstore and various shops, while the upper two floors contained his personal office and a maze of over 100 windowless rooms with doorways opening to brick walls, oddly-angled hallways, stairways leading to nowhere, doors that could only be opened from the outside, and a host of other strange and labyrinthine constructions. Holmes was constantly firing and hiring different workers during the construction of the Castle, so that only he fully understood the design of the building.

During the period of building construction in 1889, Holmes met Benjamin Pitezel, a carpenter with a past of lawbreaking, with whom Holmes became close friends. He used Pitezel as his right-hand man for his criminal schemes. A district attorney later described Pitezel as Holmes' "tool . . . his creature."

After the completion of the hotel, Holmes selected mostly female victims from among his employees (many of whom were required as a condition of employment to take out life insurance policies, for which Holmes would pay the premiums but was also the beneficiary), as well as his lovers and hotel guests, whom he would later kill. Some were locked in soundproof bedrooms fitted with gas lines that let him asphyxiate them at any time. Holmes would also lock his victims in a room where the walls were covered with iron plates and had blowtorches installed to incinerate them. One of the rooms on the second floor was called the "secret hanging chamber"; Where Holmes would take one of his victims and have them lynched. Other victims were locked in a huge soundproof bank vault near his office, where they were left to suffocate.[8] The victims' bodies were dropped by a secret chute to the basement, where some were meticulously dissected, stripped of flesh, crafted into skeleton models, and then sold to medical schools. Holmes also buried some of the bodies in lime pits for disposal. Holmes had two giant furnaces used to incinerate some of the bodies or evidence, as well as pits of acid, bottles of various poisons, and even a stretching rack. Through the connections he had gained in medical school, he sold skeletons and organs with little difficulty.

One victim was lover Julia Smythe, who was the wife of Ned Conner who, after moving into Holmes' building, started working at his pharmacy's jewelry counter. In 1891, Julia became pregnant with Holmes' child. After finding out, Holmes agreed to marrying her, but told her that they could not have a child. She consented to have him perform an abortion. The abortion was planned for Christmas Eve. Holmes murdered Julia by overdosing her with chloroform and later killed her daughter Pearl. Holmes called a friend to help dispose of her body and when confronted by a tenant in the building questioning where Julia and her daughter were, Holmes said they left for Iowa for a family wedding.

Another victim was Minnie Williams. Holmes rekindled a relationship with Minnie, allowing him to get close to another victim of his, her sister Anna. Holmes informed Anna that they were ready to go on their vacation, then locked her in the vault in the pharmacy where she cried for help. He listened as he filled the vault with gas and killed her.

H. H. Holmes' mugshot, 1895

Following the World's Fair with creditors closing in and the economy in a general slump, Holmes left Chicago. He reappeared in Fort Worth, Texas, where he had inherited property from two railroad heiress sisters, to one of whom he had promised marriage and both of whom he murdered. There, he sought to construct another castle along the lines of his Chicago operation. However, he soon abandoned this project. He continued to move throughout the United States and Canada. The only murders verified during this period were those of his longtime associate Benjamin Pitezel and three of Pitezel's children.

In July 1894, Holmes was arrested and briefly incarcerated for the first time, for a horse swindle that ended in St. Louis. He was promptly bailed out, but while in jail, he struck up a conversation with a convicted train robber named Marion Hedgepeth, who was serving a 25-year sentence. Holmes had concocted a plan to swindle an insurance company out of $10,000 by taking out a policy on himself and then faking his death. Holmes promised Hedgepeth a $500 commission in exchange for the name of a lawyer who could be trusted. Holmes was directed to a young St. Louis attorney named Jeptha Howe. Jeptha Howe was in practice with his older brother, Alphonso Howe, who had no involvement with Holmes or Pitezel or their fraudulent activities. Jeptha Howe, however, found Holmes' scheme brilliant. Nevertheless, Holmes' plan to fake his own death failed when the insurance company became suspicious and refused to pay. Holmes did not press the claim; instead he concocted a similar plan with his associate, Benjamin Pitezel.

Benjamin Pitezel

Pitezel had agreed to fake his own death so that his wife could collect on a $10,000 life insurance policy, which she was to split with Holmes and the unscrupulous attorney, Jeptha Howe. The scheme, which was to take place in Philadelphia, was that Pitezel would set himself up as an inventor, under the name B.F. Perry, and then be killed and disfigured in a lab explosion. Holmes was to find an appropriate cadaver to play the role of Pitezel. Holmes instead killed Pitezel, and proceeded to collect the insurance payout on the basis of the genuine Pitezel corpse. Holmes then went on to manipulate Pitezel's unsuspecting wife into allowing three of her five children (Alice, Nellie, and Howard) to be in his custody. The eldest daughter and the baby remained with Mrs. Pitezel.

Forensic evidence presented at Holmes' later trial showed that chloroform had been administered after Pitezel's death, presumably to fake suicide that the insurance company was unaware of and that possibly could exonerate Holmes were he to be charged with murder.

Holmes and the three Pitezel children traveled throughout the northern United States and into Canada. Simultaneously, he escorted Mrs. Pitezel along a parallel route, all the while using various aliases and lying to Mrs. Pitezel concerning her husband's death (claiming that Pitezel was in hiding in London[19]), as well as lying to her about the true whereabouts of her three missing children. In Detroit, just prior to entering Canada, they were only separated by a few blocks. In an even more audacious move, Holmes was staying at another location with his wife—who was ignorant of the whole affair. A Philadelphia detective, Frank Geyer, had tracked Holmes, finding the decomposed bodies of the two Pitezel girls in Toronto buried in the cellar at 16 St. Vincent Street. He then followed Holmes to Indianapolis, where Holmes had rented a cottage. Holmes was reported to have visited a local pharmacy to purchase the drugs which he used to kill Howard Pitezel, and a repair shop to sharpen the knives he used to chop up the body before he burned it. The boy's teeth and bits of bone were discovered in the home's chimney.

In 1894, the police were tipped off by Holmes' former cellmate, Marion Hedgepeth, whom Holmes had neglected to pay off as promised for his help in providing attorney Jeptha Howe.[citation needed] Holmes' murder spree finally ended when he was arrested in Boston on November 17, 1894, after being tracked there from Philadelphia by the Pinkertons. He was held on an outstanding warrant for horse theft in Texas, as the authorities had little more than suspicions at this point and Holmes appeared poised to flee the country, in the company of his unsuspecting third wife.

After the custodian of the Castle, the police began interviewing the employees. A janitor named Pat Quinlan, informed police that he was never permitted to clean the upper floors. The police began a thorough investigation over the course of a month, uncovering Holmes' torture chambers and secret passageways on the upper floors, and then moving their investigation to the basement. The policemen found a collection of human skeletons, a dissection table covered with dry blood, and a pile of bloody women's clothes. One policeman looked underneath the staircase and found a large ball of women's hair carefully wrapped in a blanket. The investigators began digging up the lime pits and found many skeleton remains of his victims. Nearby, there was a pile of lime with a female footprint on it; Some of the investigators suspected the footprint to be from Minnie Williams.

The number of his victims had been estimated between 20 and 100, and even as high as 200, based upon missing persons reports of the time as well as the testimony of Holmes' neighbors, who reported seeing him accompany unidentified young women into his hotel—young women whom they never saw exit. The discrepancy in numbers can perhaps best be attributed to the fact that a great many people came to Chicago to see the World's Fair but, for one reason or another, never returned home. The only verified number is 27, although police had commented that some of the bodies in the basement were so badly dismembered and decomposed that it was difficult to tell how many bodies there actually were. Holmes' victims were mainly women (and primarily blonde), but included some men and children.

Trial, execution and aftermath

Holmes sat in prison in Philadelphia after confessing to the insurance scam, while sentencing was put off until after the trial of his co-conspirator in the insurance fraud, attorney Jeptha D. Howe. Meanwhile, Chicago police had begun an investigation of his operations in that city, as the Philadelphia police sought to unravel the Pitezel situation—in particular, the fate of the three missing Pitezel children, Alice, Nellie and Howard. Philadelphia detective Frank Geyer was tasked with finding answers. His quest for the children, like the search of Holmes' Castle in Chicago, received wide publicity. His eventual discovery of their remains essentially sealed Holmes' fate, at least in the public mind.

"I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing — I was born with the 'Evil One' standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since."

In October 1895, Holmes was put on trial for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel, was found guilty and sentenced to death. By then, it was evident that Holmes had also murdered the Pitezel children. Following his conviction for murdering Benjamin Pitezel, Holmes confessed to 30 murders in Chicago, Indianapolis and Toronto (though some he confessed to murdering were, in fact, still living), and six attempted murders. Holmes was paid US$7,500 (worth $212,610 today) by the Hearst Newspapers in exchange for his confession. Holmes gave various contradictory accounts of his life, initially claiming innocence and later that he was possessed by Satan. His faculty for lying has made it difficult for researchers to ascertain the truth on the basis of his statements.

On May 7, 1896, Holmes was hanged at Moyamensing Prison, also known as the Philadelphia County Prison, for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. Until the moment of his death, Holmes remained calm and amiable, showing very few signs of fear, anxiety or depression. Although showing little signs of fear and anxiety, he asked for his coffin to be contained in cement and buried ten feet deep, the reason being because he was concerned grave robbers would steal his body and use it for dissection. Holmes' neck did not snap; he instead was strangled to death slowly, twitching for over 15 minutes before being pronounced dead 20 minutes after the trap had been sprung.

On New Year's Eve 1909, Marion Hedgepeth, who had been pardoned for informing on Holmes, was shot and killed by Edward Jaburek, a police officer, during a holdup at a Chicago saloon.[30] Then, on March 7, 1914, the Chicago Tribune reported that, with the death of the former caretaker of the Murder Castle, Pat Quinlan, "the mysteries of Holmes' Castle" would remain unexplained. Quinlan had committed suicide by taking strychnine. Quinlan's surviving relatives claimed that he had been "haunted" for several months before his death and could not sleep.

The Murder Castle was mysteriously gutted by fire in August 1895. According to a newspaper clipping from the New York Times: Two men were seen entering the back of the building between 8:00 and 9:00pm. About a half an hour later, they were seen exiting the building, and rapidly running away. Then, there were several explosions and the building was up in flames. The property was finally razed in 1938. The site is currently occupied by the Englewood branch of the United States Postal Service.

 

 

The Arsenic Ring

 

Herman and Paul Petrillo were cousins and both were experienced in the world of elaborate crimes. Herman was an expert counterfeiter and Paul was running an insurance scam business. In Philadelphia, they joined forces with Morris Bolber to establish a "matrimonial agency."  The three men were ostensibly helping recently widowed women to remarry, move on with their lives, and establish life insurance policies for their new husbands; however, the agency functioned as a conduit to collect money from the life insurance policies.

Vincent P. McDevitt was an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia. In early 1939, the District Attorney, Charles F. Kelley, assigned him to the homicide case of Ferdinando Alfonsi, who had died on 27 October 1938. McDevitt immediately had information from two undercover detectives, agents Landvoight and Phillips. From them, McDevitt had an informant, one George Meyer, who ran a local upholstery cleaning business. Meyer encountered Herman Petrillo when he was trying to obtain money for his business. Petrillo had offered to provide him with a large sum of money, legal tender and counterfeit, if Meyer would perform the hit on Alfonsi. Landvoight

and Meyer had played along with the murder plot, with Meyer hoping for an advance pay-out and Landvoight hoping to finally bust Petrillo's counterfeiting crimes. Working undercover, Landvoight helped Meyer "play along," as the Petrillos plotted the murder that they wanted Meyer to carry out.

The plan was to steal or buy a car, take Alfonsi out to a dark country road and hit him with the car, thus making the murder looking accidental. Herman Petrillo preferred the idea to steal the car rather than buy one, but Landvoight and Phillips were hoping to convince Petrillo to give them money to buy a car for the murder, as it would give them the opportunity that had so long prayed for, to arrest him on counterfeit charges. In the end, Petrillo sold them some fake tender, ostensibly for buying a means of transportation to the planned crime scene. The "play along" plan continued until Meyer, on a whim of curiosity and concern, decided to visit the intended murder victim. At the front door of the house where Alfonsi lived, Meyer learned from an old woman who had opened the door that Alfonsi was gravely ill. After notifying Phillips, he returned with Phillips and Landvoight to the Alfonsi house. They found Alfonsi to be bizarrely ill, suffering symptoms of bulging eyes, immobility, and being unable to speak. At their next meeting with Herman Petrillo, after Petrillo handed Phillips an envelope full of counterfeit bills, Phillips asked about the plan to murder Alfonsi. Petrillo replied that there was no reason to worry about it anymore; it was being handled, apparently.

Ferdinando Alfonsi expired after being admitted to the National Stomach Hospital. The cause of death was heavy metal poisoning. The autopsy revealed tremendous arsenic levels. The detectives assigned to the case were Michael Schwartz, Anthony Franchetti, and Samuel Riccardi. They instantly thought of the rumors, already well-developed, about a highly organized arsenic killing spree surging through the city. Indeed, there were distinct patterns. The victims tended to be Italian immigrants, as Alfonsi was, and to have high levels of arsenic in their bloodstreams.

Herman Petrillo and Mrs. Alfonsi were both arrested. Mrs. Alfonsi had purchased a sizable life insurance policy for her husband, an immigrant who could not read English and had been unaware of the policy. Moreover, the Alfonsi case fit with a rapidly emerging common Modus operandi in a lot of other homicide investigations. Most importantly, each case involved a fresh life insurance policy with a double indemnity clause and a nearly direct lead to one of the Petrillo cousins, and each cause of death was listed as some sort of violent accident.

 

 

HARRY GOLD

Harry Gold was a laboratory chemist who was convicted of being the courier for a number of Soviet spy rings during the Manhattan Project. Gold was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Russian Jewish immigrants. As a young man he became interested in socialism which eventually led him to contacts within the Communist movement.After leaving school, Gold worked for the Pennsylvania Sugar Company as a laboratory assistant. He lost his job in 1932 as a result of the Great Depression. After a variety of menial jobs, Gold studied chemical engineering at Drexel Institute (1934–36). Gold attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude in 1940. Gold was recruited into espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union in 1935 by Thomas Lessing Black. He eventually found work with Brothman Associates. In 1940, Harry Gold was activated for Soviet espionage by Jacob Golos, but he was not a recruited agent of the rezidentura. This changed in the late 1940s when Soviet Case Officer Semyon Semenov appropriated Gold from Golos. Gold became a formally recruited Soviet agent at this time, and was assigned the codename GUS, or GOOSE. Semenov remained Gold's control officer until March 1944In 1950, Klaus Fuchs was arrested in England and charged with espionage. Fuchs confessed that while working in the United States during World War II he had passed information about the atom bomb to the Soviet Union. Fuchs denied working with other spies, except for a courier who collected information from him. When initially shown photographs of suspects, including Gold, he failed to identify him as the courier, but did so after subsequent prompting. Under interrogation, Gold admitted that he had been involved in espionage since 1934 and had helped Fuchs pass information about the Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union by way of Soviet General Consul Anatoli Yakovlev. Gold's confession led to the arrest of David Greenglass. His testimony resulted in the arrest, trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, though he was later accused by defenders of the Rosenbergs of being a somewhat unreliable witness. Gold's biographer Allen Hornblum has countered these claims, defending the accuracy of Gold's testimony and the tremendous amount of detailed information that he provided to investigators. Gold was sentenced in 1951 to thirty years imprisonment and was paroled in May 1965, after serving just under half of his sentence. He died in 1972 in Philadelphia, age 62 he was interred in Har Nebo Cemetery in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

 

 

The Boy in the Box

The "Boy in the Box" is the name given to an unidentified murder victim, approximately 4 to 6 years old, whose naked, battered body was found in a cardboard box in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 25, 1957. He is also commonly called "America's Unknown Child." His identity has never been confirmed and the case remains open.

The boy's body, wrapped in a plaid blanket, was found in the woods off Susquehanna Road in Fox Chase, Philadelphia. He was naked inside a cardboard box that once contained a baby's bassinet from J.C. Penney. The body was first found by a young man checking his muskrat traps. Fearing that the police would confiscate his traps, he did not report the matter. A few days later, a college student spotted a rabbit running into the underbrush. Knowing there were animal traps in the area, he stopped his car to investigate and discovered the body. He too was reluctant to have any contact with the police, but did report his find the following day.

The deceased boy's fingerprints were taken, and police originally were optimistic that his identity would be discovered quickly. However, nobody ever came forward with any useful information.

The case attracted massive media attention in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, with pictures of the boy even being placed in every gas bill in Philadelphia. However, despite the huge publicity at the time and sporadic re-interest throughout the years, the case remains unsolved to this day, and the boy's identity is still unknown.

He was initially buried in a potter's field. In 1998, his body was exhumed with the hope of extracting DNA. He was reburied at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Cedarbrook, Philadelphia, which donated a large plot. The coffin, headstone and funeral service were also donated by the son of the man who had originally buried him in 1957. There was significant turnout and media coverage when he was reburied.

He has a large headstone that is simply marked, "America's Unknown Child." City residents keep the grave decorated with flowers and stuffed animals.

Like many unsolved murders, many tips and theories have been advanced toward a solution of the case. Although most have been dismissed, two possible solutions to the case have excited considerable interest among the police and media and have been extensively investigated.

The first theory involves a foster home that was located approximately 1.5 miles from the discovery site. In 1960, Remington Bristow, an employee of the medical examiner's office who doggedly pursued the case until his death in 1993, contacted a New Jersey psychic, who told him to look for a house that seemed to match the foster home. When the psychic was brought to the Philadelphia discovery site, she led Bristow straight to the foster home. Upon attending an estate sale at the foster home, Bristow discovered a bassinet similar to the one sold at J. C. Penney. He also discovered blankets hanging on the clothesline similar to that in which the boy's body had been wrapped. Bristow believed that the child belonged to the stepdaughter of the man who ran the foster home; they disposed of the boy's body so that she wouldn't be exposed as an unwed mother, as in 1957 single motherhood attracted significant social stigma. Bristow theorized that the boy's death was accidental. Despite this circumstantial evidence, the police were unable to find any concrete links between the Boy in the Box and the foster family.

In 1998, Philadelphia police lieutenant Tom Augustine, who is in charge of the investigation, and several members of the Vidocq Society, a group of retired policemen and profilers investigating the crime, interviewed the foster father and the daughter, whom he had married. The interview seemed to confirm to them that the family was not involved in the case, and the foster home investigation is considered closed.[6] According to a DNA test, the stepdaughter was ruled out as the boy's mother.

"M"'s story

The second major theory is one brought forward in February 2002 by a woman identified only as "M". She claimed that her abusive mother purchased the unknown boy, named "Jonathan", from his birth parents in the summer of 1954. Subsequently, the youngster was subjected to extreme physical and sexual abuse for two and a half years, then killed in a fit of rage by being slammed to the floor after he vomited in the bathtub. "M"'s mother then cut the boy's long hair (accounting for the unprofessional cut that police noted upon their initial observations of the crime scene and bruises around the victim's hairline), and dumped the boy's body in the then-secluded Fox Chase area. "M" went on to say that as they were preparing to remove the boy's body from the trunk, a passing male motorist pulled alongside to inquire whether they needed assistance. As the pair ignored the would-be Good Samaritan, while being careful to obstruct their own car's license plate from his view, the man eventually drove off. This story corroborated confidential testimony given by a male witness in 1957, which alleged the body was placed in a box previously discarded at the scene. Police considered the story quite plausible, but were troubled by "M"'s testimony, as she had a history of mental illness. When interviewed, neighbors who had access to the house denied that there had been a young boy living in the house, and said that "M"'s claims were "ridiculous."

 

 

ELMO SMITH

On December 28, 1959, 16 year old Maryann Mitchell from theManayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia went missing. Three days later he body was found in the Montgomery County suburb of Lafayette Hill, PA. On September 1,1960 Elmo Smith was found guilty of her murder. On April 2, 1962 Smith became the last man to be executed by electrocution in the State of Pennsylvania.

 

 

Corrine Sykes

“The 1940s saw poor young Black girls from North Philadelphia often standing on street corners in prominent neighborhoods waiting for affluent housewives to hire them as housemaids (Gregory, 2004). In one such case, Freda Wodlinger, an older housewife from a prominent White family in West Oak Lane, hired young Corrine Sykes. Corrine was a shy and petite girl with low intelligence, who was illiterate and inclined to hysteria.Three days after Corrine’s hire, police found Wodlinger dead from multiple stab wounds; there was a terrific struggle with the killer hacking Wodlinger to death with a heavy kitchen knife. Missing from the house were $50 in cash, $2000 in jewelery, and a sable fur piece. Suspicion immediately turned to Corrine, who police arrested after an extensive search. Corrine gave conflicting stories but in the end signed a written confession despite her illiteracy.A jury convicted Corrine of first-degree murder and the trial judge sentenced her to death by electrocution. Pennsylvania executed Corrine Sykes in October 1946. Troubled by doubts that Corrine was Wodlinger’s killer, some believe Corrine’s judicial killing was a wrongful execution. For one, immediately on her arrest, Corrine implicated her boyfriend, J.C. Kelly, saying that he had threatened to kill her and her mother if she didn’t steal the valuables for him (Grosvenor, 1998). Others find it strange that when Corrine’s boyfriend learned of her arrest ‘he raced to his boarding house, burned the sable, and dumped the diamonds’ (Grosvenor, 1998).Another point is that Corrine was far too small to have inflicted the severity of the knife wounds that killed Wodlinger. There is also speculation that years after Corrine’s execution, Wodlinger’s husband made a deathbed confession that he had killed his wife.Whatever happened, Corrine’s execution had a poignant impact on North Philadelphia’s Black community. Some 10,000 people attended Corrine’s viewing although it was open only to family members and close friends. On the day of her execution, most housemaids in the city went home early from their jobs.

 

 

SEYMOUR LEVIN

Philadelphia, like all major cities had its share of crime and psychos, but it was a more innocent time – most of us not yet hardened and cynical enough to shrug off a sex murder of a child by another child as just another story in the newspaper or just another day in the hood. For many Philadelphians, my parents included, it was a first time experience with a juvenile crime of this magnitude sending shock waves through Philadelphia neighborhoods that scared people into becoming more aware there was an evil presence lurking in the shadows, bringing about a bitter realization that their children would now have to be protected not only from the buggie-man but from monsters donned in corduroy and horn-rimmed glasses.  

The story began to hit the papers in January of 1949, and soon Seymour Levin would become a household name. Seymour was only sixteen when he comitted the murder.  There was no reference point for this.  No one could remember it happening before – a middle class kid from a nice family commits this senseless brutal act.  Seymour Levin had single-handedly blazed the trail for a whole new generation of psychopaths and maniacs that would soon follow in his wake. 

The victim, twelve year old Ellis Simons defiled body was found lying dead in his underwear in Seymour’s backyard.  The press had a field day with the gruesome details of the murder.  With kitchen knives and scissors Seymour had slashed the boy multiple times and kept on going after the boy was dead.  One blow was directly through Ellis’s heart and the coroner said there wasn’t a drop of blood left in the boys’ body which Seymour laid to waste in a rage of misguided passion and fear.  The detectives on the case said it was the most violent act they had ever seen.  It was like the boy was attacked by some wild animal slashing the child from head to foot leaving no part of his body unscathed. 

After he murdered Ellis Seymour hog tied him with a rope and dragged him from the second floor bathroom where he killed him, pulled the body down the stairs and through the kitchen and out a back door.  He tried to drop the boy in the neighbor’ yard but couldn’t get him over the hedges so he left the body behind a detached garage on his own property.  Seymour made a half-hearted attempt to clean up the mess by wrapping the boy’ clothes in newspaper and throwing it out the window, and then tried to wash up the blood, but there was too much to hide.  Seymour’s parents didn’t get home until late that night and they woke him up to explain the mess.  Seymour said his Chemistry Set exploded. 

The next day the police found Seymour and started to question him.  Seymour told his story.  He met the boy on a corner not to far from his home. They struck up a conversation and Seymour invited Ellis back to his home to see his chemistry set. Ellis tagged along.  Seymour told the detectives he brought the boy into the bathroom to show him his chemistry set, but the boy was not impressed and made fun of it, telling Seymour that it was cheap.  Seymour said he got mad and told the boy to leave the house, and according to Seymour the boy pulled a knife and they began to fight.  All Seymour could remember was the initial struggle and then he blacked out.  He stuck with the black-out story through-out the trial. 

Seymour’s neighbors started talking to the cops and the press painting his image as a bully who picked on and beat on smaller kids.  Eighteen months before the slaying it was found that Seymour was put on probation by the juvenile court for kidnapping.  He had taken a boy for a ride on his bike and disappeared for a couple of hours.  The parents panicked when they found the boy missing and called the cops.  The court hearing which resulted in probation and a psychiatric evaluation was done on Seymour.  The evaluation determined that Seymour had discipline and academic problems.  Although he was of average intelligence he had managed to fail seventh grade. 

It was later found that Seymour did not meet Ellis Simon on a street corner but in a movie theatre.  Ticket stubs were found on in the dead boy’s clothes and in Seymour’s pocket.  They were at the Pix Theatre at 19th and Market where they watched the Marx Brother’s “Night at The Opera,” and “San Francisco” starring Clark Gable.  It was never explained how they boys met inside the theatre, but they did leave together and took the Market-Frankford El home. 

What happened in the house was never drawn out graphically.  The three judge panel saw no purpose in reciting the details.  What they did know was a thirteen year old boy was lured to a home by a stranger whom committed perverted sexual acts upon the child, which was irrefutably established with forensic evidence.  The panel questioned Seymour’s motive for killing the boy after he satisfied himself sexually.  Their conclusion was Seymour, afraid of being exposed by the victim as a sexual pervert,  killed Ellis to keep him from talking. 

Several people observed that Seymour was never fully aware of the gravity of his crime.  He clinged to his father and cried – asking him when he was going home and back to school.  His lawyer entered a plea of guilty.  The court ordered a psychiatric examination to help with the sentencing.  The psychiatric report concluded that Seymour was neither psychotic nor feebleminded, and that he could distinguish from right and wrong. They said the crime was motivated by sadistic homosexual impulses.  

The doctors made their diagnosis by coming up with the term Constitutional Psychopathic Inferior which soon turned into the acronym CPI.  CPI was characterized by one’s inability to exercise self-control, impulsive behavior and disregard of ethical and moral considerations.  Pop Psychology and the Media would soon label legions of children considered abnormal or having emotional problems with CPI. 

Less than two months after the murder a frightened and shaking Seymour stood in front of the Judges Panel as they pronounced sentencing.  He was sentenced to life in prison.  The judges said his age was the only thing that saved him from the Electric Chair.  After sentencing Seymour was remanded to the Eastern State Penitentiary to serve out his life sentence. 

In the aftermath of the trial there were some editorials about the need to separate psychopathic children from normal children.  There were some neighborhood meetings in West Philadelphia, the area where the crime was committed, wherre concerned parents discussed problem children.  Nothing was ever really accomplished. 

It wasn’t until June of 1977 that Seymour Levin was released on parole.  The boy who spent his seventeenth birthday in prison was now 45.  Ellis Simon’s father was enraged at Seymour’s release.  Seymour told the parole board and the press that he knew he had committed a horrible crime and that could not be changed.  But he had truly repented and would continue to repent for the rest of his life.  He is now over sixty and lives in obscurity with his father in New Jersey.  For those who lived in Philadelphia at the time of the murder the name Seymour Levin brings to mind a shift in the social paradigm about caution and child protection. Mother’s and father’s now thought twice about letting their children roam the streets alone. 

I’ll always remember the look in the eyes of my mother and grandmother as they related the tale of Seymour Levin, which for some reason I never grew tired of.  There was a fear in their eyes when they told that story – a fear of the unknown, and a fear of instinctively knowing there were more Seymour’s on the rise.  My mother would point her finger at me and say, “Don’t you ever go anywhere with strangers.  Never get into a strangers car and never go back to a stranger’s house, do you hear me.”  I always nodded yes because I knew she was right.  Seymour had struck a nerve in my psyche too and I will never forgot his story.  My mother always said he would never get out, but he did.  If Seymour were around today would he have made front page news or would he have been relegated to the back section of the newspaper?  I’m sure there would have been a blurb on the Internet, at least for an hour or two. 

I have long since moved from Philadelphia and it was a dangerous city when I lived there.  Now it vies for contention with cities like Washington DC and Detroit for Murder Capitol of the Country.  At least one to two murders a day are committed in Philly.  Many of them are gang and drug related and most of them are not sex crimes, but they are still murders.  For some reason in a world gone mad, I will never forget corduroy clad and be-speckled image of Seymour Levin.

 

JACK LOPINSON

Convicted in 1965 after a seven-week trial of arranging the 1964 murder of his wife, Judy Seflin Lopinson (a 25 year old artist), and his business partner, Joseph "Joe Flowers" Malito, at the Dante's Inferno Bar in Center City Philadelphia.Lopinson had been shot in the leg and tried to blame the crime on two crazed assailants and a robbery gone wrong. The story gained him a lot of sympathy till the truth came out.The double murder was carried out by Frank "Birdman" Phelan (right) at the behest of Lopinson who'd paid Phelan $10,000.00 to carry out the hit. The case was big news in Philadelphia for quite a while. Phelan received a life sentence for testifying against Lopinson, who received the death penalty (that was later overturned). Lopinson maintained his claim of innocence until he filed a petition for clemency (for the fifth time) in 1993 when he finally admitted his guilt. That petition was denied. Lopinson had married a prison volunteer, Diana Harrison, in 1978. At Graterford, he founded the Para-Professional Law Clinic and produced a legal aid handbook for prisoners. For 19 years, he was a trusty and lived in a trailer outside the prison. Before becoming ill with the cancer that would take his life, he had been a bookkeeper at the prison.

 

Dubrows

One of the Philadelphia'a Black Mafia's most brutal, inexplicable crimes included the Dubrow Furniture Store robbery. On January 4, 1971, eight

 

Black Mafia members robbed Dubrow's on South Street in Philadelphia. They entered the store one by one posing as customers. Once all were inside, they pulled guns on the twenty employees present and forced them to lie on the floor in the back of the store where they bound them with tape and electrical cord. Thirteen employees were beaten while two others were shot. A janitor who walked in on the robbery while doing his job was shot and killed. One employee was doused with gasoline and set on fire. After their vicious treatment of the employees, they looted the offices in the store and set more fires to destroy evidence of the robbery. The eight criminals fled the scene as soon as the fire alarm went off, purposefully trampling on one of the victim's bodies as they left. This crime was so brutal that W.E.B. Griffin wrote a novel based on it, The Witness, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo was quoted as saying that the Dubrow crime was "the most vicious crime I have ever come across.

 

Candice Clothier

16-year-old Candace Clothier disappeared from her Torresdale home in March 1968, two fishermen made a gruesome discovery in the Neshaminy Creek: Her moldering body, naked except for her panties, crammed into a muddied black sack. While her family grieved, investigators were stumped. A pathologist found no injuries or other clues about Clothier's cause of death. The sack in which she was found proved untraceable. Investigators kept hitting dead ends despite having interviewed hundreds of people - including as it turns out, the killers - and administering more than 160 lie-detector tests. Now, 42 years later, authorities say they have cracked - and closed - the cold case: Clothier, they say, fell victim to drugged-out acquaintances, who forcibly injected her with some sort of controlled substance. When the injection killed her, the attackers stuffed Clothier's body in a laundry bag, tying it around her neck and using her yellow turtleneck sweater to cover her head. Then they left her body in a secluded section of the twisting creek. She lay partially submerged, undetected, for nearly five weeks until the fishermen found her. Bucks County District Attorney David W. Heckler and Northampton Township Police Chief M. Barry Pilla Jr. revealed the answer to the mystery during a news conference at the police headquarters office yesterday morning. A 2005 tip from a woman who said she believed she'd owned the laundry bag relaunched the investigation. The three men involved in Clothier's death are now dead themselves. Police refused to identify them yesterday. "If any of those men had been alive when police received this information, even if they were clinging to life support in a nursing home, instead of standing before you today, we would be working to gather evidence with which to achieve a murder conviction," Heckler said. "However, these men are dead and beyond the reach of human justice. Since we cannot charge and prosecute them, they will never have the opportunity to defend themselves, and it accordingly would be wrong to disclose their names." Still, authorities celebrated the sleuthing that led to the killers' identification, saying that solving the case gives closure to Clothier's lone survivor - her older sister - and the hundreds of law-enforcement officers who tried to find her killers. Clothier's sister, Susan, would not comment, police said. But others who remember the case eagerly expressed their relief. William Tomlinson was a young Northampton cop when his bosses assigned him to Clothier's case. Now retired, he returned to the fold for the news conference. "It's a good feeling," Tomlinson said, "just fantastic."
In 1968, Clothier was a 16-year-old junior at Lincoln High School. On the evening of March 9, she told her family she was going to take a bus to visit a boyfriend in Mayfair. She had $1 in her pocket for bus fare. She never arrived. Police launched a massive search, after one captain theorized that Clothier "had too fine a background in her school and personal life to be a runaway," according to a newspaper article. Her parents - father Elmer was a city firefighter, mother Evelyn was a secretary - knew her "as a good, obedient girl who heeded their curfew that kept her close to their neat semidetached home in Crispin Gardens. She was home early each weekday night and was permitted to stay out until midnight on Saturdays," the Daily News reported. Police broadcast a 13-state alarm. For days, more than 150 people aided by dogs and a helicopter searched 5 square miles of woods in Northeast Philadelphia. Volunteers and police handed out more than 10,000 fliers showing a girl with short brown hair and big brown eyes in their quest to find the girl they called "Candy."
When Clothier's decomposed body was finally found, it was by accident. The fishermen were enjoying the first day of trout season. They spied the bag lying on a small creek island. They recognized the yellow sweater they'd heard the teenager had been wearing when she disappeared. Bucks County officials said that whoever dumped the girl there had to be very familiar with the area: "There is no other way the killer could have found the spot," a source said at the time. The search for Clothier's killers was intense. On the day of her funeral, police were conducting lie-detector tests on people of interest in the case. The one solid clue investigators had was the sack that had held her body. Some felt it resembled an Army-issue duffel bag. Bucks County officials asked for military help. No luck. Investigators handed out more than 8,000 fliers with a picture of the sack, seeking help. None came. Clothier's father died six months after his daughter disappeared, his body found in his parked car outside the fire station where he worked. Natural causes, the coroner said. Her mother died in 2007. The break in the case came in 2005, when NBC-10 featured the cold case on a newscast. A viewer called police to report that she believed the sack the fishermen found Clothier in on April 13, 1968, was her laundry bag, missing since she gave it to her husband shortly after Clothier disappeared. Investigators restarted their probe, spending months to track down witnesses, many of whom were dead. Yesterday, Pilla, the Northampton chief, gave this account of what they believe happened: Clothier left her home intending to catch a bus to Mayfair to visit her boyfriend. Instead, she uncharacteristically accepted a ride with an acquaintance, who was in a car with at least one other man. Instead of taking her to Mayfair, the men took Clothier to a wooded area off Decatur Street in Northeast Philadelphia, popular among teens as a hangout. The men had a history of drug use, and one was known to inject drugs into animals and people, without their consent, retired Northampton Detective Charles Wyant said. Detectives believe that Clothier died after she was involuntarily injected or given an unknown controlled substance, Pilla said. The men then called a third man to help them dump the corpse off the Chain Bridge on Route 232. Although Clothier was found wearing only panties, the pathologist found no evidence of sexual assault, Pilla said. The trio he blamed yesterday for Clothier's fate were among those interviewed decades ago; Pilla didn't know why detectives turned their attention elsewhere. Although the men were from Northeast Philadelphia, they were familiar with Bucks County and at least one had visited a horse farm and riding stables in Northampton Township, Pilla added. Heckler said the case proves authorities' unflagging dedication in solving cold cases, no matter how old. "There's no statute of limitation on murder," he said, "and we will continue to pursue justice on any case.

 

DOLORES DELLAPENNA

Dolores Della Penna was a 17-year-old Philadelphia school girl who was tortured, gang raped, murdered by dismemberment, and beheaded in the Kensington neighborhood in July, 1972.Her torso and arms were later located in Jackson Township, New Jersey. Her legs were found in adjacent Manchester Township, New Jersey Police reports state that Della Penna was killed by drug dealers who believed that her boyfriend had stolen some of their drugs. However, the crime remains unsolved, and this theory is hotly contested.

By Robert J. Terry, Edward Colimore and Thomas J. Gibbons Jr., INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS Copyright 1996 The Philadelphia Inquirer Inquirer library researcher Denise Boal contributed to this article
Posted: July 10, 1996

After one of the longest-running homicide investigations in Philadelphia history, authorities say they have solved the grisly murder of Dolores Della-Penna, a Tacony teenager who was kidnapped, beaten and dismembered 24 years ago tomorrow. They have asked the Philadelphia district attorney to approve arrest warrants charging five men in the 17-year-old's death, law enforcement sources said. Nine men were involved in Della-Penna's disappearance, sources said. Two are already in prison, serving long terms for other crimes. Three live in Philadelphia and Berks County, the sources said. And four believed to have been involved have died since the July 11, 1972, killing. District Attorney Lynne Abraham has studied the case for several weeks, the sources said, and has told the victim's parents that more work must be done before she can issue arrest warrants. One problem with the case may be its partial reliance on testimony from inmates, whose credibility with juries is not high. ``It's an ongoing investigation,'' William Davol, a spokesman for the district attorney, said yesterday. ``And we don't talk about ongoing investigations.'' But police detectives said that the pieces had been coming together over the last few years and that an investigation that has consumed thousands of hours and parts of many careers is finally at an end.``Any time you put your heart and soul into something and sacrifice things along the way - your home, your family - you're looking for justice to be served,'' said Joseph Washlick, a retired Philadelphia homicide lieutenant and one of dozens of detectives who investigated the case. ``What was ironic about this is that my daughter was 16 at the time I started working on this case in 1991. Final justice hasn't come yet, but it appears . . . justice will be done.'' The death and mutilation of Della-Penna, an honors graduate of St. Hubert's Catholic High School, gripped the public in the summer of 1972 as few murders do. It took place before the city - and the nation - was numbed by drive-by killings, before children carried semiautomatics and before drug dealing pulled countless youths into its violent wake. The teenager's face stared from newspaper front pages and television screens for several months. Thousands of letters of condolence poured into her parents' home. And thousands of dollars in rewards were posted while police in two states tried to crack the case. Della-Penna's headless, limbless torso and her arms were found July 22, 1972, in Jackson Township, Ocean County, N.J., 11 days after she disappeared. Her legs were found eight days later, about eight miles away, in Manchester Township, also in Ocean County. Over the years, detectives interviewed 500 people in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia and as far away as Scotland. They spent thousands of hours on the case, filling 16 boxes with reports and other documents. They followed scores of leads - some good, others false or unconfirmable, such as the report of a man who thought he had found the victim's missing school ring. He had not. And the report of a group of teenagers who reported seeing what they believed was the victim's missing head. It was never located. For many investigators, the case was an obsession. Mention Della-Penna's, and they instantly pictured her face. Some lay awake at night trying to figure out what they had missed in their pursuit of the killers. What investigators finally did uncover is a story of drugs, torture and retribution. In her last hours, witnesses told authorities, Della-Penna was bound to an old car seat in a Kensington garage, where she was beaten and struck with a machete by drug dealers who blamed her for the theft of drugs, a witness told detectives. The 17-year-old was later decapitated and dismembered. Her head, authorities believe, was probably tossed in Dinosaur Lake, behind the present site of Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia. The first big break in the case came when an inmate who kept a haunting last image of Dolores Della-Penna to himself for two decades finally shared it with a guard who alerted authorities and then breathed new life into an old murder investigation. The inmate said he was dropping off a parcel of drugs at a garage on Jasper Street in Kensington that night 24 years ago when he saw the missing girl. Her hands were tied behind her back, and blood and tears covered her face. Four drug dealers hovered around her, and one of them hit her with a machete. The inmate said he knew the men. ``Bitch, you're going to pay,'' one of the man reportedly said before striking Della-Penna's upper arm with a machete and poking her in the chest. ``You're going to pay. ''The story was shared with Philadelphia detectives who then interviewed the inmate. That interview and subsequent interviews with other sources led officers to conclude that the account was truthful. A second prisoner, who says he was selling drugs for one of the drug dealers seen at the garage, said the dealer told him in 1981 that he had helped abduct Della-Penna. The dealer allegedly told the inmate that Della-Penna was bound in a car seat at the garage and was to be held for money. But one of the men there got ``whacked out'' and cut her head off with a machete, he told the guard. The prisoner said the head was tossed in Dinosaur Lake. A third man, whom law enforcement sources did not identify, told authorities in 1992 that one of the dealers told him he had killed Della-Penna and had had a ``good time'' chopping up her remains. The news of possible arrests has been greeted cautiously by Della-Penna's father, Ralph, and mother, Helen. They have tenaciously guarded Dolores' memory, keeping her bedroom the way it was when she disappeared. They remember her in special Masses on her birthday and the anniversary of her death. And they regularly visit her grave, sometimes bowing or kneeling in prayer to ask Dolores to help the detectives. ``Never a day passes without me thinking about what happened,'' said Helen Della-Penna, 69, as she sat at her kitchen table at the couple's Holmesburg home. ``It's there all the time, when I put my head on the pillow, when I try to sleep at night. ''Who could sleep, the couple asks, after hundreds of conversations with investigators and prosecutors and countless letdowns? ``Sometimes I've felt like I couldn't go on; I didn't want to live like this,'' added Helen Della-Penna, tears welling in her eyes. ``We didn't want to go to our graves not knowing. . . . Maybe it's finally coming to an end. ''Ralph Della-Penna, 71, said he was tempted - out of frustration - to investigate his daughter's murder himself, to seek closure by taking matters into his own hands.``At least now,'' he said, ``maybe we'll know why she died.'' ``That was hurting me more - not knowing why,'' added Helen Della-Penna, turning to her husband. ``What did she do to deserve to die the way she did? I just can't understand this.'' Dolores Della-Penna was looking forward to summer vacation in 1972. She had just graduated from St. Hubert's Catholic High in Northeast Philadelphia and followed school tradition by going to the Shore. Joined by three girlfriends, Della-Penna rented an apartment on Forget-Me-Not Road in Wildwood Crest and settled in for a long vacation - one more fling before starting an X-ray technician course in September. But, according to law enforcement sources, Della-Penna had become acquainted with drug users and dealers. Sometime during early June, a fight broke out at the apartment over the theft of drugs from one of Della-Penna's roommates. The roommate's boyfriend confronted Della-Penna's Kensington friends, and life at the Shore became so tense that she returned to Philadelphia to join her parents on their vacation trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. By the time she returned July 10, blame for the drugs' disappearance had been placed squarely on Dolores. And, law enforcement sources say, plans were being made to teach her a lesson. That night, dressed in a multicolored halter top and blue denim bell bottoms, Della-Penna visited youths in the city's Kensington section until about 10:30 p.m. She then took the bus home, transferring to a trolley about 11:40 p.m. Trolley driver Joseph Kilcoyne remembered picking up a rider fitting Della-Penna's description at Frankford and Torresdale Avenues. She got off at Torresdale Avenue and Knorr Street about 11:55 p.m. From there, it was a three-block walk to her home in the 4900 block of Rawle Street. She was expected home by midnight, but she never made it. One of the drug dealers was waiting, possibly with other assailants, to kidnap her, law enforcement sources say. He put up the hood of a car, as if working on mechanical problems, then grabbed Della-Penna as she walked by. The girl was struck and dragged to the car. Residents near Tulip and Rawle Streets heard a woman's screams about midnight. A witness saw a woman being beaten on Tulip Street - less than 100 feet from the Della-Penna house - about the same time. ``Dolores was a good daughter,'' her father said. ``She always came home on time, and I always sat up for her.'' When Dolores didn't make it home at midnight, her mother imagined the worst. ``I had a premonition that she wasn't going to come back,'' Helen Della-Penna said. ``I had that feeling. I just cried.'' Police found the jacket that Della-Penna had borrowed from a girlfriend lying on the ground near her rowhouse on Rawle Street. They also found a key, a cross and several blood spots. Helen Della-Penna said her sister came by the house and suggested that they check the nearby hedges. ``My sister said, `Maybe they threw her out of the car,' '' she said. The teenager's remains did not turn up for 11 days - many miles from Tacony, in another state. A Jersey City butcher discovered the torso and arms in a wooded area of Jackson Township. The hands were mangled, the fingertips severed, apparently to prevent identification. ``I still see the hands at night . . . every time I close my eyes,'' the butcher said at the time. A man walking a dog found Della-Penna's legs on July 30 in a wooded area of Manchester Township. The remains were later identified through X-rays of Della-Penna's spine taken at Nazareth Hospital, where she had planned to take an X-ray technician course. Blood tests also were performed. Though the head was never found, a group of teenagers swimming in Dinosaur Lake reported seeing a woman's head with long dark hair in the water. They tried to snag it with a stick but could not. Police drained parts of the lake but never located it. To find answers now, Helen Della-Penna said, ``is a wonderful feeling. I always prayed to her, `Dolores, please help the detectives so they can clear this case up, and we can put it to rest and you can be at rest.' ``I said, `We can't go on like this. Please Dolores, please help us. Give me a sign that you're hearing me. Please help us.' Every time I look at her picture now I say, `Dolores, it's finally coming to a head. I won't bother you anymore.' ''

 

JOSEPH KALINGER

Joseph Kallingerwas an American serial killer who murdered three people and tortured four families. He committed these crimes with his 13-year-old son Michael. Kallinger was born Joseph Lee Brenner III at the Northern Liberties Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Joseph Lee Brenner, Jr. and his wife Judith. In December 1937, the child was placed in a foster home, after his father had abandoned his mother. On October 15, 1939, he was adopted by Stephen and Anna Kallinger. He was abused by both his adoptive parents so severely that, at age six, he suffered a hernia inflicted by his adoptive father. The punishments Kallinger endured included kneeling on jagged rocks, being locked inside closets, consuming excrement, committing self-injury, being burned with irons, being whipped with belts, and being starved.When he was nine, he was sexually assaulted by a group of neighborhood boys.As a child, Kallinger often rebelled against his teachers and his adoptive parents. He dreamed of becoming a playwright, and had played the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in the local YWCA's performance of A Christmas Carol in the ninth grade.When Kallinger was 15, he began dating a girl named Hilda Bergman whom he met at a theater which he was allowed to visit on Saturdays. His parents told him not to see her, but he married her and had two children with her. She later left him because of the domestic violence she suffered at his hands. Joseph Kallinger was hospitalized at St.Mary's on September 4, 1957 due to severe headaches and loss of appetite which doctors believed was a result of stress surrounding his divorce. Kallinger remarried on April 20th 1958, and had five children with his second wife. He was extremely abusive towards his wife and his children, and often inflicted the same punishments on them that he had suffered from his adoptive parents. Throughout the next decade, Kallinger would spend time in and out of mental institutions for amnesia, attempted suicide and committing arson.He was arrested and imprisoned in 1972 on child abuse charges after three of his children went to the police. While in jail, he had scored 82 on an IQ test and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and state psychiatrists recommended that he be supervised with his family. The children later recanted their allegations, however. Two years later, one of his children, Joseph, Jr., was found dead in the rubble of an old building two weeks after Kallinger took out a large life insurance policy on his sons. Though Kallinger claimed that Joseph, Jr. had run away from home, the insurance company, suspecting foul play, refused to pay out the claim. Beginning in July 1974, Kallinger and his 15-year-old son Michael went on a crime spree spanning Philadelphia; Baltimore, Maryland; and New Jersey. Over the next six weeks, they robbed, assaulted, and sexually abused four families and murdered three people, gaining entrance to each house by pretending to be salesmen. On January 8, 1975, they continued their spree in Leonia, New Jersey. Using a pistol and a knife, they overpowered and tied up the three residents. Then as others entered the home they were forced to strip and bound with cords from lamps and other appliances. This culminated in the killing of 21-year-old nurse Maria Fasching, the eighth person to arrive. She reprimanded Kallinger for his behavior and he responded by slitting her throat. Finally, another of the house residents, still bound, managed to get outside and cry for help. Neighbors saw her and called the police, but by the time police arrived the Kallingers had fled, using the city bus as their getaway vehicle and dumping their weapons and a bloody shirt along the way. Police began investigating Kallinger after gathering physical evidence (a blood-stained T-shirt) and eyewitness testimony that he and his son had been seen in the area. They soon found out about Kallinger's history of domestic violence, Joseph Jr.'s unsolved death, and a series of arsons targeted against buildings he owned. Kallinger and his son were arrested on kidnapping and rape charges, and eventually charged with three counts of murder in New Jersey state courts. Kallinger pleaded insanity, claiming God had told him to kill. He was found sane, however, and sentenced to life in prison on October 14, 1976. Michael Kallinger, meanwhile, was judged to be under his father's control. He was sentenced to a reformatory. Upon his release at 21, he moved out of the state and changed his name. While in prison, Kallinger made several suicide attempts, including attempting to set himself on fire. Because of his suicidal and violent behavior, Kallinger was transferred to a mental hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. He was transferred to a mental hospital in Philadelphia on May 18, 1979.

 

Ira Einhorn

Ira Einhorn known as "the Unicorn Killer", is an American environmental activist convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Holly Maddux. On September 9, 1977, Maddux disappeared following a trip to collect her things from the apartment that she and Einhorn had shared in Philadelphia. Eighteen months later, police found Maddux's partially mummified body in a trunk in his closet. It had been packed with Styrofoam, air fresheners and newspapers. After his arrest, Einhorn fled the country and spent 23 years in Europe before being extradited to the US. He took the stand in his own defense, claiming his ex-girlfriend had been killed by CIA agents who framed him for the crime because he knew too much about the agency's paranormal military research. He was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence.

 

JOEY COYLE

Joseph "Joey" Coyle was an unemployed longshoreman in Philadelphia who, in February 1981, found $1.2 million in the street after it had fallen out of the back of an armored car and kept it. His story was made into the 1993 film Money for Nothing, starring John Cusack, as well as a 2002 book by Mark Bowden, Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million. Coyle passed out some of the money, in $100 bills, to friends and neighbors. He was arrested later in 1981 at JFK Airport while trying to check in to a flight to Acapulco; police found $105,000 of the cash in envelopes taped around his ankles. He was tried, but found not guilty of theft by reason of temporary insanity. The armored car company, Purolator Armored Services, eventually recovered around $1 million of the original amount. Coyle struggled with drug addiction for most of his adult life. He committed suicide by hanging in his basement on August 15, 1993, about one month before the film Money for Nothing was released.

Aliyah "The Girl In The Trunk" Davis

On February 12, 1982 two Pennsylvania Department of Transportation employees performing repairs on the western side of the Platt bridge, discovered remains of a young girl found inside a steamer trunk under the Platt Memorial Bridge in Philadelphia. She turned out to be 5YO Aliyah Davis beaten to death by her stepfather in 1981, 7 months before her body was discovered. 
Warrants were issued for The mother, Maria Davis Fox, and stepfather, Charles Fox, in their mid-30s, on an assortment of charges relating to the murder of Aliyah Davis and the repeated beatings of her brother and sister.  The mother was also charged with welfare fraud for collecting aid for the child after her July 1981 death. 
A grand jury began probing the case about a month after the dead girl's sister, Amira Davis, told their natural father that she had watched the stepfather beat Aliyah to death with a stick at their home. 
Amira Davis told grand jurors that her mother also watched the beating, but did nothing to stop it.
mira Davis described how, when she was 8, she saw Fox beat his 5-year-old stepdaughter after she had a bowel movement in her clothes as the family had gathered to watch a television program, The Dukes of Hazzard, in their living room in the 4700 block of Baltimore Avenue. "First he used his hand, and then he started beating her with a broomstick," she said.  "He hit her on her head and the sides of her head, then he banged her against the wall, picked her up and kicked her. . . . She was making whining noises. Then she made kind of a groaning noise." Amira testified that Fox placed Aliyah on a bed in the living room, where she lay for three days with Flies swarmed around the body. On the fourth day, she said, her sister was gone, as was a steamer trunk that had been placed at her bedside.
Charles Fox's friend, Craig Butler, who was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his grand-jury testimony, told the panel that he saw Aliyah Davis lying on her back making gurgling noises one day in the summer of 1981 after Fox summoned him. Fox, told him the child had bumped her head in the bathtub. Neither stepfather nor mother sought any medical help, Butler said. 
The next day, Fox asked his help to dump the body, explaining that he feared he might be charged with child abuse if he went to the authorities.  Butler said he borrowed a car and helped Fox dump the steamer trunk that contained the corpse. The tiny body, its mouth stuffed with gauze, was found by workers seven months later, but remained unidentified for years. 
Amira Davis and her 16-year-old brother, Malcolm, also told the grand jury that Charles Fox regularly beat them. Both also said their mother assaulted them and had stabbed them in separate incidents. Maria Davis Fox had been sentenced to 8 years probation for the death of one of her other children.Police said that in September 1973, while Ronald and Maria Davis were married and livingwith their children in the 4400 block of North Cleveland Street in North Philadelphia, a rescue unit was dispatched to their home to investigate a medical emergency.Paramedics found the couple's 17-month-old son, Saeed, in a second-floor bedroom. The boy showed no signs of life and was pronounced dead minutes later at Temple University Hospital, police said. The Medical Examiner's Office listed the cause of death as injuries to the head and body.Police interviewed the parents and charged Maria Davis with murder and involuntary manslaughter. Ronald Davis was not charged. The case went to court on June 10, 1974, and Maria Davis, who admitted to striking the boy, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years' probation, according to court records

 

Frankford Slasher


The corpse lay between the rows of stacked railroad ties at the SEPTA train yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Penn and Bridge Streets in the lower northeast section of the city known as Frankford.  Transit workers found the dead woman around 8:30 A.M. on the morning of August 26, 1985, but it was not clear who she was.  (In both of his books, Michael Newton says it was August 28, but the Philadelphia Inquirer sets the incident two days earlier.) Penn & Bridge Streets, body discovered.
The victim was nude from the waist down, according to Newton, and she had been posed in a sexually provocative position, with her legs open and her blouse pulled up to expose her breasts.
By the next day, August 27, investigators had identified the victim to the Philadelphia Inquirer: Helen Patent, who lived in Parkland, Pennsylvania, a town in nearby Bucks County.  She was 52 when she died, and while it was clear to the police that she had been stabbed many times, it took an autopsy to determine the official cause and manner of death.  Helen Patent had been sexually assaulted and had died from 47 stab wounds to her head and chest (Newton contends that the number of stab wounds was actually 19).  She had also been stabbed in the right arm, and one vicious and deep slash across her abdomen had exposed the internal organs.
Creating a time line of her final hours, detectives determined that Patent was last seen at her home on August 19, as reported by Kermit Patent, her former husband.  Kermit Patent identified the body and affirmed that the murdered woman was Helen.  Despite the fact that they were no longer married, they lived together in their Bucks County home, although Patent claimed that his wife had left the week before without mentioning where she was going.  That was not unusual, as they lived separate lives.   (In fact, those who knew her around the Frankford area were surprised to learn that she had a home outside the city.)
There was no immediate motive, but she may have been killed simply to keep her quiet .   According to reports, Patent frequented the bars in the area and might easily have met a stranger and been raped and murdered.  The newspapers did not discuss the possibility of prostitution, but as more such incidents unfolded, this was considered a possibility.  Over the next year and a half, three more victims were linked to Patent’s killer, and the local newspaper would devise a name for this mysterious fiend: the Frankford Slasher. Hit and Miss1400 block of Ritner Street, near Methodist Hospital, where Anna Carrolls body was discovered
Early in 1986, on January 3, the next stabbing victim was found.  Anna Carroll, 68, lived in another Philadelphia neighborhood, on the 1400 block of Ritner Street.  The door to her apartment was standing open on that cold winter day, and she was found lying on the floor of the bedroom.  As Newton notes, she was nude from the waist down, and she had been stabbed only six times in the back, with one gaping postmortem wound going from breastbone to groin, as if the killer intended to gut the body.   A kitchen knife had been left in her.
While this scene was ten miles from where Helen Patent had been found, the brief time that had elapsed between the incidents and the similarity of the condition of the bodies, as well as the incidents’ timing — both had occurred during the night —made authorities consider the possibility of a predator common to both victims.   But they did not actively investigate them as such.
Anna Carroll, too, had been seen in Frankford’s area bars, as noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, as had the next victim, who turned up murdered nearly a year later, on Christmas Day, when neighbors found her door open.  In fact, all three had been seen at “Goldie’s,” as the Golden Bar was known, situated at the 5200 block on Frankford Avenue.    It was near the elevated train terminal.  Susan Olszef, 64, was also found in her apartment and had also been stabbed six times in the back.  She lived on Richmond Street, which was closer to the scene of the first murder by seven miles.
The 5200 block of Frankford Street, “Goldies” Bar
Frankford began as a town older even than Philadelphia, writes Linda Loyd in the Inquirer, and was famous as the winter headquarters for traveling circuses.  The neighborhood supported a symphony orchestra and a football team, which eventually became the Philadelphia Eagles.  The El (elevated train) arrived in 1922, bringing prosperity and industry as the larger city subsumed the town, but by 1980, the place was a crime-ridden slum populated by prostitutes, junkies, and independent businesses struggling to survive.  Newton mentions that Sylvester Stallone selected this rundown area as a setting for his film, Rocky.  Frankford Avenue, once known as the King’s Highway, comprised a 13-block strip of diverse storefronts that sat in the El’s shadow.   Commuters disembarked at the busy station but scattered quickly to their homes.
Among the problems that hindered the murder investigation was the fact that many people were drawn to the Frankford Street area because of its nightlife.  One can grab a doughnut or newspaper, or buy a drink at any time, and that made it a busy area.  An anonymous murder could be committed easily.  Another problem was that the police did not yet accept the three murders were linked, because they had occurred in different areas of the city.  They had no hard leads after three killings, but they were about to get another nasty surprise.
By 7:30 A.M. on January 8, 1987, the fourth victim had turned up
City of Brotherly Love?Jeanne Durkins body, discovered west of Frankford Ave. Jeanne Durkin lived on the streets, mostly in the doorway of an abandoned bakery two buildings away from Goldie’s.  She was 28 and a potentially easy victim for rape or murder.  Her body was found by a restaurant employee beneath a storage truck (according to Newton, however, she was found beneath a fruit and vegetable stand) on a Pratt Street lot west of Frankford Avenue owned by a fruit vendor, and she had been stabbed in the chest, buttocks, and back 74 times.  This was one block from where Helen Patent had been killed.  Lying in a pool of blood, Durkin was nude from the waist down, and her legs were spread.   Blood was spattered against a fence and the side of the truck.   An autopsy indicated that she had been sexually assaulted.
The Serial Killer Files, by Harold Schechter
Once she became victim #4, the newspaper began to pressure the police to solve these crimes.  It was clear by now that Philadelphia had a serial killer on the loose.  In fact, between 1985 and 1989, the City of Brotherly Love experienced three separate series of brutal murders.  While the crimes of the Frankford Slasher were being investigated, the police learned from a woman who had escaped about an eccentric man who was holding females prisoner in his house on North Marshall Street.  Harold Schechter tells the story in The Serial Killer Files.  One captive had died from hanging in chains for several days and one had been killed.  The police invaded the home and found three more nearly dead women chained in a filthy basement.  A man named Gary Heidnik had used them as sex slaves.  After his arrest, he admitted to eating pieces of one victim and feeding some to his other prisoners.
Gary Heidnik in custody
Then, on a sweltering August day in 1987, Harrison “Marty” Graham was evicted from his north Philadelphia apartment because of obnoxious odors.  He left, but the smell worsened, so the police went in.  They discovered the decomposing corpses of six women, with the remains of a seventh.  Graham tried to claim that the bodies were there when he moved in, but then confessed to strangling them all during sex.  Despite his insanity plea, a judge convicted him in every case.
Harrison “Marty” Graham
The authorities quickly formed a task force to canvass the Frankford Avenue neighborhood to see if they could find anyone who had witnessed anything related to the victims.  They questioned a female bartender at Goldie’s for several hours because she had seen the women, and even knew that Durkin often came in during the winter to get warm.  They also talked with many other customers, past and present.  The bartender, Dee Hughes, told Thomas Gibbons from the Inquirer that she figured the killer was a customer.  “I honestly believe it was someone that comes in here and got to know them.”  She indicated a man whom she suspected, but could not offer anything that she had actually seen.  Olszef had been in the bar only three days before she was murdered, and she talked to people, but Carroll generally kept to herself and bought her own drinks.
According to the interviews, those who knew the fourth victim did not believe she could have been overwhelmed easily.  At one point, when six policemen had tried to arrest her, she struggled so much that they gave up.  That led investigators to believe that she may have known her attacker, and that he had used cunning, not strength, to get her into a vulnerable position.  A woman named Michelle Martin, who also frequented the Frankford Avenue bars, had argued with Durkin over a blanket just the night before, but nothing more actually tied Martin to the victim.  In and out of mental institutions, Durkin had been living on the streets for the past five years.  She was savvy and independent.  Some people felt the same about Helen Patent, believing she would never have gone with a stranger to the train yard.   Police were stumped.
On January 20, fifty people from the neighborhood brought candles to the El to pray for the victims and alert the killer that they were on the lookout for him.  Many wept for the street woman, the mother of four, who had been a part of their community.  Among them was a man who had hoped to marry her by summer.  In Israel, two trees were planted in her memory.
By January 1988, as recorded in the papers, the police had tentatively decided that the killings might not be related, despite the similar circumstances.  But over the next year, they had to rethink this position.
As reported by Robert Terry and Thomas Gibbons in the Inquirer, Margaret Vaughan, 66, was found lying in the foyer of an apartment building in the 4900 block of Penn Street.  She had once lived in an apartment there but had been evicted that same day for nonpayment of rent.  Stabbed 29 times, Newton writes, she had been killed just three blocks from where Jeanne Durkin was found earlier in the year.
Police sketch of suspect
A barmaid recalled that Vaughan had been in the bar the evening before her death with a Caucasian man with a round face who walked with a limp and wore glasses.  They had been drinking together.  The witness was able to provide enough details for a police artist to make a sketch, which was distributed around town.  Yet no one came forward to identify him.
Theresa Sciortino was discovered in her apartment on Arrott St.
Then on January 19, 1989, Theresa Sciortino, age 30, was found in her apartment, stabbed twenty-five times.   She lived alone in her Arrott Street apartment, three blocks from the fifth victim and a block and a half from Frankford Avenue.  Like Durkin, she, too, had been in several psychiatric institutions and was currently an outpatient under treatment.  When she was discovered, she wore only a pair of white socks, and she had been left in a pool of blood on her kitchen floor, lying face-up.  Again, the attacker had used a sharp knife to slash her twenty-five times in the face, arms, and chest, and had also used a three-foot piece of wood to sexually assault her.  He placed the bloodstained weapon leaning against the sink, and according to Newton, left a bloody footprint behind.  A neighbor had heard a struggle the evening before, along with a loud thump, as if a large object had been thrown to the floor.  Detectives confirmed that the condition of the apartment indicated that an intense struggle had occurred there, moving from one room to another. Blood was spattered everywhere.
Sciortino, like the other victims, had frequented the Frankford Avenue
One More
4511 Frankford Ave, Newmans Sea Food
On April 29, 1990, at nearly 2:00 in the morning, a patrol officer discovered the nude body of Carol Dowd, 46, in an alley behind Newman’s Sea Food at 4511 Frankford Avenue.  Her head and face were battered and she had been viciously stabbed 36 times in the face, neck, chest, and back.  In addition, her stomach was cut open, allowing her intestines to spill out through a long wound, and Newton reports that her left nipple was removed.  She also had defensive wounds on her hands, as if she had warded off her attacker.  The officer who found her had been checking the area due to a prior burglary, and it was estimated that Dowd had been murdered some time after midnight and before 1:40 A.M.
Police sketch of suspect
She had resided not far from the scene, and a witness told the police she had seen Dowd walking with an older white man only a few hours before.  Her clothing was found near her body, and her open purse was in the alley, with its contents spilled partly onto the ground.  Because nothing had been taken, robbery was ruled out as a motive (although it would later be reconsidered).
Her brother told reporters that Dowd’s life had been uneventful until the late 1960s, when their brother died and she began hearing voices.  She was then diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized.  After being released into a community-based program, she moved into an apartment, where she was raped. Lately, however, she had been living in a community facility where she appeared to be happy.
The police immediately suspected the same killer from the seven previous cases in that area.  They hypothesized that he had followed each of his victims after they left area bars at night, or grabbed them before they got to some destination.  Asking around, they interviewed the employees of the fish market, and Leonard Christopher, who worked there and also lived nearby, told reporters that the store had been burglarized several times recently.  When he had seen the police in the alley that morning, he said, “I just thought they broke in again.”  Either that, he mused, or they were busting someone for drugs or prostitution; both activities were a frequent occurrence in the alley.  When he learned that the police were in fact investigating a murder, he talked with them and admitted that he also had known one of the earlier victims, Margaret Vaughan.
His apparent acquaintance with the area and the victims soon placed him under suspicion.  When asked where he was during the evening before, he claimed he was with his girlfriend, but she told detectives that she had spent the night alone at home.    That inconsistency triggered more intense questioning, and investigators located a witness who had seen Christopher with Dowd in a bar on the same night that she had been killed.  A prostitute who had initially lied finally admitted that she, too, had seen them together outside the bar, while another placed him coming out of the alley by the fish store.  She said that he had been sweating and had a large knife in his belt.
A search of his apartment turned up clothing with blood on it.  Christopher called a friend at the store to tell them that the police suspected him.  That person, who remained anonymous, told the newspaper that their boss had told Christopher to clean up blood in the alley, so of course he had blood on his clothing.  Others who worked with him vouched for his good character and humanitarian nature, feeling that it was wrong to pin the murders on him.  Christopher’s landlord confirmed these positive impressions, saying only that he sometimes made too much noise.
Although he was a black man and not the middle-aged white man seen with other victims, on May 5, Christopher was arrested and arraigned on charges of robbery, abuse of a corpse, murder, and possession of an instrument of a crime.   He was ordered held without bail.  Yet even as he sat in jail, another woman in the Frankford Avenue area was about to receive the same treatment as the other victims.
On June 20, Leonard Christopher was ordered to stand trial for the Dowd murder, since the evidence was deemed sufficient.  Two women who knew him said they had seen him that night.  One, Emma Leigh, said that he had walked into the alley behind the fish store around 1:00 A.M., and she heard a woman scream.  She left with a man in a car (Newton says a date, the paper indicates it was a client picking her up), so she did not witness any other event.  Linda Washington, the second woman, claimed to have seen Christopher leave the alley carrying his shirt over his arm and sporting a knife in a sheath hanging around his waist.
Christopher’s defense attorney, Jack McMahon, stated that the witnesses had contradicted each other and their testimony would not stand up in court.  Neither would the robbery charge, because Dowd’s purse, while open, still had cash in it.  It might simply have been dropped during the attack.
Defense Attorney Jack McMahon
Despite the fact that the suspect had not been proven guilty, the residents of the Frankford Avenue area were relieved to know that someone had been caught.  They felt certain that their neighborhood could return to normal.  They were wrong.
Christopher, jailed without bond, was safely locked away on September 6, 1990, when Michelle Dehner was found murdered (Newton calls her Michelle Martin, as do later newspaper reports).   She was 30 and lived in a fourth-floor efficiency apartment on Arrott Street, not far from Frankford Avenue.  Once a suspect in the Durkin murder for having fought over a blanket, she was now officially off the suspect list.  She was a victim.
The police, called to the scene that Saturday afternoon, found her lying on the floor.  She had been stabbed 23 times in the chest and stomach.  Once again, it appeared to be the work of the Frankford Slasher.  There was no sign of forced entry, as was the case with the other indoor assaults, and no obvious murder weapon found at the scene or discarded nearby.  This murder scene was only three blocks from where Carol Dowd had been killed, and it was on the same street as the 1989 murder of Theresa Sciortino.
Dehner/Martin was described in the Inquirer as a hard-drinking, paranoid loner, and was even called “Crazy Michelle” by people in the neighborhood.  She was considered somewhat unconventional, sometimes barricading herself into her apartment and other times just tossing things out the window, no matter who might be standing below.  Single and hard-edged, she frequented the same bars where the previous murder victims had often gone.  A large blonde, she was often seen in sloppy sweatshirts and jeans, and spent her time wandering from one bar to the next.  Sometimes she sold soft pretzels on the street, but usually she just drank all day.  Neighbors indicated to reporters that she was not very friendly, and one person said that she did not often bathe.  A day and a half before her death, she had left the bar with a white man (Newton says this was on the evening of September 6, but that’s the day she was found murdered).  In fact, people had seen her bring men home on several occasions.
Now people thought that perhaps the police had arrested the wrong man.  After all, Christopher did not resemble the middle-aged white man seen with two other victims shortly before they were killed, and plenty of people had vouched for him as a decent, friendly sort.  If the police had falsely arrested him, that meant the real killer had been free all this time and had likely struck again.
Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia locator
On October 27, fifty citizens of Philadelphia solemnly marched the rain-soaked streets of Frankford, following the routes they imagined the killer of nine potential victims had taken.  It was windy and cold, but no one seemed to mind.  “Past the fish market,” the newspaper reported, “behind which one body was found butchered with a knife; past a bar that four of the dead had patronized, and along Arrott Street, where the latest victim was found stabbed to death early last month.”  They lit candles, sang hymns, and prayed, creating a tribute to “the women who couldn’t be here.”  They also read from the Bible and spoke out against the violence in their neighborhood.
In fact, homicide detectives patrolled the streets, watching those women who went in and out of the bars who looked like potential victims.  They hoped to get a glimpse of a man who might act or look suspicious.  Having investigated more than fifty men who were seen leaving the bars with women, they had two men under surveillance and leads on a third.  Yet with no clear pattern to the killings in terms of a timeframe or victim type, they were working blind.
They found it surprising that in each and every case, no one had seen a man with blood on him in the streets.  All of the victims had been viciously stabbed.  Their attacker must have had quite a lot of blood on him.  They had a composite picture from witnesses, and while they had received many calls, no one had turned in a person who seemed a viable suspect.  It was the usual: Numerous elderly women had pointed to their SEPTA bus drivers, and neighbors with a grudge had guided police toward someone who made them angry.  Psychics provided empty assistance, and one tip offered witchcraft as a motive.  In fact, a cult did practice in a park close by, so that lead was not entirely discounted.
The best clue investigators had was an identification of the manufacturer of the shoe that had left a footprint at one of the murder scenes.  They did find a man who had similar shoes that were the right size, who knew that victim but ultimately was not linked to the crime (according to Newton, this person was the victim’s boyfriend).
Some people called for Leonard Christopher to be released, but in November, his murder trial began.
The Trial
In the Court of Common Pleas, a jury heard the opening statements on November 29, 1990, shortly after Thanksgiving.  Christopher was dressed in a gray suit and black horn-rimmed glasses, looking, as the papers reported, “studious.”  He seemed a far cry from the demented killer thought to be running around in Frankford, raping and killing women over the past five years.
Assistant District Attorney Judith Rubino
Assistant District Attorney Judith Rubino declared that Christopher was a vicious killer who used a “Rambo-style knife” to slash and kill Carol Dowd in the alley behind the fish market where he worked.  She admitted she had no witnesses to the actual murder, but she had people who saw things on the street. These witnesses would provide sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt.  Christopher was seen with Dowd in the alley, and a witness heard a woman scream.  He was seen leaving the alley, and Dowd was found dead immediately afterward.  He was seen with a knife, and his clothing had blood on it.  In addition, he had lied about his whereabouts that night and had made other peculiar statements about the murder.
Defense attorney Jack McMahon told the jury that Christopher was known as a mild-mannered person, was well-liked and had no history of violence.  He indicated that since the police were under pressure to solve the case, they might have rushed to judgment.
The prosecutor objected to this, and Judge George Ivins cautioned McMahon not to stray from the facts.  McMahon continued with his argument, indicating that there were six cases prior to Dowd’s murder that bore enough similarities to be judged the work of a serial killer, but the prosecutor again objected to this line of reasoning.  Clearly McMahon was going to go for reasonable doubt by talking about the murder that had occurred while Christopher was in jail awaiting trial.
The judge ordered a sidebar, and the attorneys began to shout at each other, but McMahon was allowed to continue his line of reasoning: “Pressure sometimes presents unreliable results.”  McMahon said that the police had relied on evidence that, in stronger cases, would have been discarded, and that had been a mistake.  The witnesses were prostitutes and junkies, with lengthy arrest records each and nine aliases between them.  He could not imagine anyone urging the jury to believe them beyond a reasonable doubt.  In fact, Leigh had admitted to lying twice to police about the incident, initially denying that she knew anything because she liked the defendant.  But that made her an unreliable witness.
When the police arrested Christopher, McMahon pointed out, there were no injuries on him, and no physical evidence linked him to the crime scene.  No murder weapon was recovered, no so-called Rambo knife.  There was no reason to view him as a murderer.
But it wasn’t as simple as that.
Wrap Up
Prosecutor Rubino countered McMahon’s presentation with the fact that when the store opened on the morning after the Dowd murder, Christopher had reported to his boss, Jaesa Phang, that a white woman about forty-five years old had been murdered in the alley, but the police had not revealed those details to anyone.  In fact, just a few days after the stabbing death, he had also made a strange comment to Phang:   “Maybe I killed her.”  Although he quickly recanted, it was a remark that his employer would remember, especially because he seemed not only quite serious about it, but remarkably curious about the incident itself.  Christopher, Phang said, had gestured with the motions of gutting a person as he described the crime.  He claimed to have seen a white man on the street at 1:00 A.M., but no one else had reported that.   Instead, the only witnesses that police had from the streets that night had all seen Christopher.
Philadelphia District Attorney logo
Phang testified on December 3 that Christopher had told her about five days after the murder that he had been unable to sleep well because he had witnessed a murder.  His speech was rambling and his manner agitated.  He said that he thought a white man who knew he’d seen it was trying to kill him.  He believed that the man could get into his apartment and would hide in the closet.  The next day, Christopher was arrested.
For physical evidence, the prosecution had found a tiny spot of blood on Christopher’s trousers, but it was too small to type, and DNA analysis at that time was still being challenged in many courts.  It was also not yet available for such minute amounts of biological evidence, and was quite expensive.   The police had also found a bloodstained tissue that proved to be Type O—Dowd’s blood type—in a driveway next to the building where Christopher’s apartment was.  But Christopher had told police in statements read to the jury that while he was at his girlfriend’s apartment, he had seen a well-dressed white man in his forties outside that night wiping his hands on something that looked like a handkerchief or tissue.  The problem was, Christopher had not been in that apartment.
The trial was short, and closing arguments came quickly on December 11.  McMahon emphasized Christopher’s good character and the fact that such violence of which he was accused was completely out of character for him.  The prosecution had offered no motive, no weapon, and no solid evidence.    And his statement about the white man on the night of the murder fit the description given by other witnesses about men they had seen with earlier victims.  “It just doesn’t make sense,” McMahon said about the prosecution’s scenario.  He told reporters on December 11 after it went to the jury, “The case stinks.  It’s garbage.”
But ADA Rubino asked what motive the witnesses had for lying.  In fact, some of them were friends with Christopher, including the one who had lied on his behalf to the police.  There was no reason for that witness to ultimately change her story other than wanting to finally tell the truth.  In addition, Rubino reminded the jury that she had presented two other witnesses who had seen Christopher talking to Dowd in a bar at midnight of the night she was murdered. She had also offered testimony from Christopher’s girlfriend, Vivien Carter, that he had not been with her that night, as he had claimed.  Rubino closed with an emotional appeal that included what Carol Dowd must have experienced as she was being attacked with a knife and slashed to death.  She knew her death was coming.  The cuts to her hands told the story.
Once the arguments were done, the judge instructed the jury.  They deliberated for more than four hours before he ended the session and sequestered them for the night.  By the next day, it was apparent that the jury believed the prosecution’s case.  On December 12, after four more hours of deliberations, they convicted Christopher of the first-degree murder of Carol Dowd.  A few members were visibly upset.
SCI Huntingdon, where Leonard Christopher is incarcerated
“Christopher showed no visible reaction,” wrote Linda Loyd in the Philadelphia Inquirer, but “his defense attorney shook his head in disbelief.”  Although the prosecutor had asked for the death penalty, Christopher was sentenced to life in prison, but his own reaction was that he had been railroaded by “pipers” (prostitutes cajoled into testifying by the police).  Apart from his strange admission to his boss, he had confessed to nothing.  McMahon indicated that “the real killer [whom Christopher referred to as the Northeast Stalker] may still be out there.”
Was he right?
Unsolved
Newton lists the Frankford Slasher case as unsolved in his books, although he’s aware that Leonard Christopher was convicted of at least one murder.  Still, he raises issues with the conviction and points out that there was no evidence tying Christopher to any of the other killings.  (While he correctly says that the prosecutor offered no motive and no weapon, he does not include a full account of the evidence against Christopher.  Pang’s statements, at any rate, are compelling.)  In Still at Large, Newton interviewed a Philadelphia investigator who said that Christopher is still a suspect in the other murders, but there are other suspects as well.
Still at Large, by Michael Newton
Antonia Mendoza does not include the Frankford Slasher in his own book about unsolved serial killings, although the victim count is certainly significant enough to do so.  He buys the outdated and admittedly erroneous FBI statistic that there are between 35-50 serial killers at loose in the U.S..  While it is true that a number of murders that appear to have a predator in common are unsolved, it’s generally not a good idea to just accept that they must be the work of a serial killer.  The bungled Boston Strangler case is a good one to keep in mind.  There are good suspects for many of those eleven murders and, technically, we could still consider at least some murders in that “series” unsolved.  At any rate, the semen found on the last Boston Strangler victim, Mary Sullivan, did not match Albert DeSalvo, who was considered to be the Strangler.  In addition, his description of her murder, as well as what he said about some of the other crimes, was full of errors overlooked by investigators in their rush to close a frightening case.
Albert Desalvo in custody
In short, while at least seven (or eight) of the Frankford Slasher murders remain unsolved as of this writing, and one did take place while Christopher was in jail, we cannot discount a copycat or the possibility that not all of the killings are related.  Even in the event that they were all the work of a single killer and Christopher was not the attacker, there appears to have been no more of these particular crimes in that area since 1990.  Yet  significant questions remain regarding the quality of evidence used to convict Christopher and the fact that he did not match witness reports of a white man seen with other victims.  In many respects, it seems clear that someone got away with murder.
Today, the Frankford area is poised for renovation and rebirth as an arts community.  People want to forget its seedy past and get on with expansion and expression.    In 2000, the Inquirer claimed that statistics showed Frankford as one of the safer places in the city.  While the Frankford Slasher gave the area a sense of menace, citizens today believe that reputation is undeserved.
Frankford SlasherTrain Yard Murder
Stacked Railroad TiesThe corpse lay between the rows of stacked railroad ties at the SEPTA train yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Penn and Bridge Streets in the lower northeast section of the city known as Frankford.  Transit workers found the dead woman around 8:30 A.M. on the morning of August 26, 1985, but it was not clear who she was.  (In both of his books, Michael Newton says it was August 28, but the Philadelphia Inquirer sets the incident two days earlier.)
Penn & Bridge Streets, body discoveredThe victim was nude from the waist down, according to Newton, and she had been posed in a sexually provocative position, with her legs open and her blouse pulled up to expose her breasts.
By the next day, August 27, investigators had identified the victim to the Philadelphia Inquirer: Helen Patent, who lived in Parkland, Pennsylvania, a town in nearby Bucks County.  She was 52 when she died, and while it was clear to the police that she had been stabbed many times, it took an autopsy to determine the official cause and manner of death.  Helen Patent had been sexually assaulted and had died from 47 stab wounds to her head and chest (Newton contends that the number of stab wounds was actually 19).  She had also been stabbed in the right arm, and one vicious and deep slash across her abdomen had exposed the internal organs.
Creating a time line of her final hours, detectives determined that Patent was last seen at her home on August 19, as reported by Kermit Patent, her former husband.  Kermit Patent identified the body and affirmed that the murdered woman was Helen.  Despite the fact that they were no longer married, they lived together in their Bucks County home, although Patent claimed that his wife had left the week before without mentioning where she was going.  That was not unusual, as they lived separate lives.   (In fact, those who knew her around the Frankford area were surprised to learn that she had a home outside the city.)
There was no immediate motive, but she may have been killed simply to keep her quiet .   According to reports, Patent frequented the bars in the area and might easily have met a stranger and been raped and murdered.  The newspapers did not discuss the possibility of prostitution, but as more such incidents unfolded, this was considered a possibility.  Over the next year and a half, three more victims were linked to Patent’s killer, and the local newspaper would devise a name for this mysterious fiend: the Frankford Slasher.Hit and Miss
1400 block of Ritner Street, near Methodist Hospital, where Anna Carrolls body was discovered Early in 1986, on January 3, the next stabbing victim was found.  Anna Carroll, 68, lived in another Philadelphia neighborhood, on the 1400 block of Ritner Street.  The door to her apartment was standing open on that cold winter day, and she was found lying on the floor of the bedroom.  As Newton notes, she was nude from the waist down, and she had been stabbed only six times in the back, with one gaping postmortem wound going from breastbone to groin, as if the killer intended to gut the body.   A kitchen knife had been left in her.
While this scene was ten miles from where Helen Patent had been found, the brief time that had elapsed between the incidents and the similarity of the condition of the bodies, as well as the incidents’ timing — both had occurred during the night —made authorities consider the possibility of a predator common to both victims.   But they did not actively investigate them as such.
Anna Carroll, too, had been seen in Frankford’s area bars, as noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, as had the next victim, who turned up murdered nearly a year later, on Christmas Day, when neighbors found her door open.  In fact, all three had been seen at “Goldie’s,” as the Golden Bar was known, situated at the 5200 block on Frankford Avenue.    It was near the elevated train terminal.  Susan Olszef, 64, was also found in her apartment and had also been stabbed six times in the back.  She lived on Richmond Street, which was closer to the scene of the first murder by seven miles.
The 5200 block of Frankford Street, “Goldies” BarFrankford began as a town older even than Philadelphia, writes Linda Loyd in the Inquirer, and was famous as the winter headquarters for traveling circuses.  The neighborhood supported a symphony orchestra and a football team, which eventually became the Philadelphia Eagles.  The El (elevated train) arrived in 1922, bringing prosperity and industry as the larger city subsumed the town, but by 1980, the place was a crime-ridden slum populated by prostitutes, junkies, and independent businesses struggling to survive.  Newton mentions that Sylvester Stallone selected this rundown area as a setting for his film, Rocky.  Frankford Avenue, once known as the King’s Highway, comprised a 13-block strip of diverse storefronts that sat in the El’s shadow.   Commuters disembarked at the busy station but scattered quickly to their homes.
Among the problems that hindered the murder investigation was the fact that many people were drawn to the Frankford Street area because of its nightlife.  One can grab a doughnut or newspaper, or buy a drink at any time, and that made it a busy area.  An anonymous murder could be committed easily.  Another problem was that the police did not yet accept the three murders were linked, because they had occurred in different areas of the city.  They had no hard leads after three killings, but they were about to get another nasty surprise.
By 7:30 A.M. on January 8, 1987, the fourth victim had turned upCity of Brotherly Love?
Jeanne Durkins body, discovered west of Frankford Ave. Jeanne Durkin lived on the streets, mostly in the doorway of an abandoned bakery two buildings away from Goldie’s.  She was 28 and a potentially easy victim for rape or murder.  Her body was found by a restaurant employee beneath a storage truck (according to Newton, however, she was found beneath a fruit and vegetable stand) on a Pratt Street lot west of Frankford Avenue owned by a fruit vendor, and she had been stabbed in the chest, buttocks, and back 74 times.  This was one block from where Helen Patent had been killed.  Lying in a pool of blood, Durkin was nude from the waist down, and her legs were spread.   Blood was spattered against a fence and the side of the truck.   An autopsy indicated that she had been sexually assaulted.
The Serial Killer Files, by Harold SchechterOnce she became victim #4, the newspaper began to pressure the police to solve these crimes.  It was clear by now that Philadelphia had a serial killer on the loose.  In fact, between 1985 and 1989, the City of Brotherly Love experienced three separate series of brutal murders.  While the crimes of the Frankford Slasher were being investigated, the police learned from a woman who had escaped about an eccentric man who was holding females prisoner in his house on North Marshall Street.  Harold Schechter tells the story in The Serial Killer Files.  One captive had died from hanging in chains for several days and one had been killed.  The police invaded the home and found three more nearly dead women chained in a filthy basement.  A man named Gary Heidnik had used them as sex slaves.  After his arrest, he admitted to eating pieces of one victim and feeding some to his other prisoners.
Gary Heidnik in custodyThen, on a sweltering August day in 1987, Harrison “Marty” Graham was evicted from his north Philadelphia apartment because of obnoxious odors.  He left, but the smell worsened, so the police went in.  They discovered the decomposing corpses of six women, with the remains of a seventh.  Graham tried to claim that the bodies were there when he moved in, but then confessed to strangling them all during sex.  Despite his insanity plea, a judge convicted him in every case.
Harrison “Marty” GrahamThe authorities quickly formed a task force to canvass the Frankford Avenue neighborhood to see if they could find anyone who had witnessed anything related to the victims.  They questioned a female bartender at Goldie’s for several hours because she had seen the women, and even knew that Durkin often came in during the winter to get warm.  They also talked with many other customers, past and present.  The bartender, Dee Hughes, told Thomas Gibbons from the Inquirer that she figured the killer was a customer.  “I honestly believe it was someone that comes in here and got to know them.”  She indicated a man whom she suspected, but could not offer anything that she had actually seen.  Olszef had been in the bar only three days before she was murdered, and she talked to people, but Carroll generally kept to herself and bought her own drinks.According to the interviews, those who knew the fourth victim did not believe she could have been overwhelmed easily.  At one point, when six policemen had tried to arrest her, she struggled so much that they gave up.  That led investigators to believe that she may have known her attacker, and that he had used cunning, not strength, to get her into a vulnerable position.  A woman named Michelle Martin, who also frequented the Frankford Avenue bars, had argued with Durkin over a blanket just the night before, but nothing more actually tied Martin to the victim.  In and out of mental institutions, Durkin had been living on the streets for the past five years.  She was savvy and independent.  Some people felt the same about Helen Patent, believing she would never have gone with a stranger to the train yard.   Police were stumped.
On January 20, fifty people from the neighborhood brought candles to the El to pray for the victims and alert the killer that they were on the lookout for him.  Many wept for the street woman, the mother of four, who had been a part of their community.  Among them was a man who had hoped to marry her by summer.  In Israel, two trees were planted in her memory.
By January 1988, as recorded in the papers, the police had tentatively decided that the killings might not be related, despite the similar circumstances.  But over the next year, they had to rethink this position.As reported by Robert Terry and Thomas Gibbons in the Inquirer, Margaret Vaughan, 66, was found lying in the foyer of an apartment building in the 4900 block of Penn Street.  She had once lived in an apartment there but had been evicted that same day for nonpayment of rent.  Stabbed 29 times, Newton writes, she had been killed just three blocks from where Jeanne Durkin was found earlier in the year.
Police sketch of suspectA barmaid recalled that Vaughan had been in the bar the evening before her death with a Caucasian man with a round face who walked with a limp and wore glasses.  They had been drinking together.  The witness was able to provide enough details for a police artist to make a sketch, which was distributed around town.  Yet no one came forward to identify him.
Theresa Sciortino was discovered in her apartment on Arrott St.Then on January 19, 1989, Theresa Sciortino, age 30, was found in her apartment, stabbed twenty-five times.   She lived alone in her Arrott Street apartment, three blocks from the fifth victim and a block and a half from Frankford Avenue.  Like Durkin, she, too, had been in several psychiatric institutions and was currently an outpatient under treatment.  When she was discovered, she wore only a pair of white socks, and she had been left in a pool of blood on her kitchen floor, lying face-up.  Again, the attacker had used a sharp knife to slash her twenty-five times in the face, arms, and chest, and had also used a three-foot piece of wood to sexually assault her.  He placed the bloodstained weapon leaning against the sink, and according to Newton, left a bloody footprint behind.  A neighbor had heard a struggle the evening before, along with a loud thump, as if a large object had been thrown to the floor.  Detectives confirmed that the condition of the apartment indicated that an intense struggle had occurred there, moving from one room to another. Blood was spattered everywhere.
Sciortino, like the other victims, had frequented the Frankford AvenueOne More
4511 Frankford Ave, Newmans Sea Food On April 29, 1990, at nearly 2:00 in the morning, a patrol officer discovered the nude body of Carol Dowd, 46, in an alley behind Newman’s Sea Food at 4511 Frankford Avenue.  Her head and face were battered and she had been viciously stabbed 36 times in the face, neck, chest, and back.  In addition, her stomach was cut open, allowing her intestines to spill out through a long wound, and Newton reports that her left nipple was removed.  She also had defensive wounds on her hands, as if she had warded off her attacker.  The officer who found her had been checking the area due to a prior burglary, and it was estimated that Dowd had been murdered some time after midnight and before 1:40 A.M.
Police sketch of suspectShe had resided not far from the scene, and a witness told the police she had seen Dowd walking with an older white man only a few hours before.  Her clothing was found near her body, and her open purse was in the alley, with its contents spilled partly onto the ground.  Because nothing had been taken, robbery was ruled out as a motive (although it would later be reconsidered).Her brother told reporters that Dowd’s life had been uneventful until the late 1960s, when their brother died and she began hearing voices.  She was then diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized.  After being released into a community-based program, she moved into an apartment, where she was raped. Lately, however, she had been living in a community facility where she appeared to be happy.
The police immediately suspected the same killer from the seven previous cases in that area.  They hypothesized that he had followed each of his victims after they left area bars at night, or grabbed them before they got to some destination.  Asking around, they interviewed the employees of the fish market, and Leonard Christopher, who worked there and also lived nearby, told reporters that the store had been burglarized several times recently.  When he had seen the police in the alley that morning, he said, “I just thought they broke in again.”  Either that, he mused, or they were busting someone for drugs or prostitution; both activities were a frequent occurrence in the alley.  When he learned that the police were in fact investigating a murder, he talked with them and admitted that he also had known one of the earlier victims, Margaret Vaughan.
His apparent acquaintance with the area and the victims soon placed him under suspicion.  When asked where he was during the evening before, he claimed he was with his girlfriend, but she told detectives that she had spent the night alone at home.    That inconsistency triggered more intense questioning, and investigators located a witness who had seen Christopher with Dowd in a bar on the same night that she had been killed.  A prostitute who had initially lied finally admitted that she, too, had seen them together outside the bar, while another placed him coming out of the alley by the fish store.  She said that he had been sweating and had a large knife in his belt.
A search of his apartment turned up clothing with blood on it.  Christopher called a friend at the store to tell them that the police suspected him.  That person, who remained anonymous, told the newspaper that their boss had told Christopher to clean up blood in the alley, so of course he had blood on his clothing.  Others who worked with him vouched for his good character and humanitarian nature, feeling that it was wrong to pin the murders on him.  Christopher’s landlord confirmed these positive impressions, saying only that he sometimes made too much noise.
Although he was a black man and not the middle-aged white man seen with other victims, on May 5, Christopher was arrested and arraigned on charges of robbery, abuse of a corpse, murder, and possession of an instrument of a crime.   He was ordered held without bail.  Yet even as he sat in jail, another woman in the Frankford Avenue area was about to receive the same treatment as the other victims.On June 20, Leonard Christopher was ordered to stand trial for the Dowd murder, since the evidence was deemed sufficient.  Two women who knew him said they had seen him that night.  One, Emma Leigh, said that he had walked into the alley behind the fish store around 1:00 A.M., and she heard a woman scream.  She left with a man in a car (Newton says a date, the paper indicates it was a client picking her up), so she did not witness any other event.  Linda Washington, the second woman, claimed to have seen Christopher leave the alley carrying his shirt over his arm and sporting a knife in a sheath hanging around his waist.
Christopher’s defense attorney, Jack McMahon, stated that the witnesses had contradicted each other and their testimony would not stand up in court.  Neither would the robbery charge, because Dowd’s purse, while open, still had cash in it.  It might simply have been dropped during the attack.
Defense Attorney Jack McMahonDespite the fact that the suspect had not been proven guilty, the residents of the Frankford Avenue area were relieved to know that someone had been caught.  They felt certain that their neighborhood could return to normal.  They were wrong.Christopher, jailed without bond, was safely locked away on September 6, 1990, when Michelle Dehner was found murdered (Newton calls her Michelle Martin, as do later newspaper reports).   She was 30 and lived in a fourth-floor efficiency apartment on Arrott Street, not far from Frankford Avenue.  Once a suspect in the Durkin murder for having fought over a blanket, she was now officially off the suspect list.  She was a victim.
The police, called to the scene that Saturday afternoon, found her lying on the floor.  She had been stabbed 23 times in the chest and stomach.  Once again, it appeared to be the work of the Frankford Slasher.  There was no sign of forced entry, as was the case with the other indoor assaults, and no obvious murder weapon found at the scene or discarded nearby.  This murder scene was only three blocks from where Carol Dowd had been killed, and it was on the same street as the 1989 murder of Theresa Sciortino.
Dehner/Martin was described in the Inquirer as a hard-drinking, paranoid loner, and was even called “Crazy Michelle” by people in the neighborhood.  She was considered somewhat unconventional, sometimes barricading herself into her apartment and other times just tossing things out the window, no matter who might be standing below.  Single and hard-edged, she frequented the same bars where the previous murder victims had often gone.  A large blonde, she was often seen in sloppy sweatshirts and jeans, and spent her time wandering from one bar to the next.  Sometimes she sold soft pretzels on the street, but usually she just drank all day.  Neighbors indicated to reporters that she was not very friendly, and one person said that she did not often bathe.  A day and a half before her death, she had left the bar with a white man (Newton says this was on the evening of September 6, but that’s the day she was found murdered).  In fact, people had seen her bring men home on several occasions.Now people thought that perhaps the police had arrested the wrong man.  After all, Christopher did not resemble the middle-aged white man seen with two other victims shortly before they were killed, and plenty of people had vouched for him as a decent, friendly sort.  If the police had falsely arrested him, that meant the real killer had been free all this time and had likely struck again.
Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia locator On October 27, fifty citizens of Philadelphia solemnly marched the rain-soaked streets of Frankford, following the routes they imagined the killer of nine potential victims had taken.  It was windy and cold, but no one seemed to mind.  “Past the fish market,” the newspaper reported, “behind which one body was found butchered with a knife; past a bar that four of the dead had patronized, and along Arrott Street, where the latest victim was found stabbed to death early last month.”  They lit candles, sang hymns, and prayed, creating a tribute to “the women who couldn’t be here.”  They also read from the Bible and spoke out against the violence in their neighborhood.
In fact, homicide detectives patrolled the streets, watching those women who went in and out of the bars who looked like potential victims.  They hoped to get a glimpse of a man who might act or look suspicious.  Having investigated more than fifty men who were seen leaving the bars with women, they had two men under surveillance and leads on a third.  Yet with no clear pattern to the killings in terms of a timeframe or victim type, they were working blind.
They found it surprising that in each and every case, no one had seen a man with blood on him in the streets.  All of the victims had been viciously stabbed.  Their attacker must have had quite a lot of blood on him.  They had a composite picture from witnesses, and while they had received many calls, no one had turned in a person who seemed a viable suspect.  It was the usual: Numerous elderly women had pointed to their SEPTA bus drivers, and neighbors with a grudge had guided police toward someone who made them angry.  Psychics provided empty assistance, and one tip offered witchcraft as a motive.  In fact, a cult did practice in a park close by, so that lead was not entirely discounted.
The best clue investigators had was an identification of the manufacturer of the shoe that had left a footprint at one of the murder scenes.  They did find a man who had similar shoes that were the right size, who knew that victim but ultimately was not linked to the crime (according to Newton, this person was the victim’s boyfriend).
Some people called for Leonard Christopher to be released, but in November, his murder trial began.The Trial
In the Court of Common Pleas, a jury heard the opening statements on November 29, 1990, shortly after Thanksgiving.  Christopher was dressed in a gray suit and black horn-rimmed glasses, looking, as the papers reported, “studious.”  He seemed a far cry from the demented killer thought to be running around in Frankford, raping and killing women over the past five years.
Assistant District Attorney Judith RubinoAssistant District Attorney Judith Rubino declared that Christopher was a vicious killer who used a “Rambo-style knife” to slash and kill Carol Dowd in the alley behind the fish market where he worked.  She admitted she had no witnesses to the actual murder, but she had people who saw things on the street. These witnesses would provide sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt.  Christopher was seen with Dowd in the alley, and a witness heard a woman scream.  He was seen leaving the alley, and Dowd was found dead immediately afterward.  He was seen with a knife, and his clothing had blood on it.  In addition, he had lied about his whereabouts that night and had made other peculiar statements about the murder.Defense attorney Jack McMahon told the jury that Christopher was known as a mild-mannered person, was well-liked and had no history of violence.  He indicated that since the police were under pressure to solve the case, they might have rushed to judgment.
The prosecutor objected to this, and Judge George Ivins cautioned McMahon not to stray from the facts.  McMahon continued with his argument, indicating that there were six cases prior to Dowd’s murder that bore enough similarities to be judged the work of a serial killer, but the prosecutor again objected to this line of reasoning.  Clearly McMahon was going to go for reasonable doubt by talking about the murder that had occurred while Christopher was in jail awaiting trial.
The judge ordered a sidebar, and the attorneys began to shout at each other, but McMahon was allowed to continue his line of reasoning: “Pressure sometimes presents unreliable results.”  McMahon said that the police had relied on evidence that, in stronger cases, would have been discarded, and that had been a mistake.  The witnesses were prostitutes and junkies, with lengthy arrest records each and nine aliases between them.  He could not imagine anyone urging the jury to believe them beyond a reasonable doubt.  In fact, Leigh had admitted to lying twice to police about the incident, initially denying that she knew anything because she liked the defendant.  But that made her an unreliable witness.
When the police arrested Christopher, McMahon pointed out, there were no injuries on him, and no physical evidence linked him to the crime scene.  No murder weapon was recovered, no so-called Rambo knife.  There was no reason to view him as a murderer.
But it wasn’t as simple as that.Wrap Up
Prosecutor Rubino countered McMahon’s presentation with the fact that when the store opened on the morning after the Dowd murder, Christopher had reported to his boss, Jaesa Phang, that a white woman about forty-five years old had been murdered in the alley, but the police had not revealed those details to anyone.  In fact, just a few days after the stabbing death, he had also made a strange comment to Phang:   “Maybe I killed her.”  Although he quickly recanted, it was a remark that his employer would remember, especially because he seemed not only quite serious about it, but remarkably curious about the incident itself.  Christopher, Phang said, had gestured with the motions of gutting a person as he described the crime.  He claimed to have seen a white man on the street at 1:00 A.M., but no one else had reported that.   Instead, the only witnesses that police had from the streets that night had all seen Christopher.
Philadelphia District Attorney logoPhang testified on December 3 that Christopher had told her about five days after the murder that he had been unable to sleep well because he had witnessed a murder.  His speech was rambling and his manner agitated.  He said that he thought a white man who knew he’d seen it was trying to kill him.  He believed that the man could get into his apartment and would hide in the closet.  The next day, Christopher was arrested.For physical evidence, the prosecution had found a tiny spot of blood on Christopher’s trousers, but it was too small to type, and DNA analysis at that time was still being challenged in many courts.  It was also not yet available for such minute amounts of biological evidence, and was quite expensive.   The police had also found a bloodstained tissue that proved to be Type O—Dowd’s blood type—in a driveway next to the building where Christopher’s apartment was.  But Christopher had told police in statements read to the jury that while he was at his girlfriend’s apartment, he had seen a well-dressed white man in his forties outside that night wiping his hands on something that looked like a handkerchief or tissue.  The problem was, Christopher had not been in that apartment.
The trial was short, and closing arguments came quickly on December 11.  McMahon emphasized Christopher’s good character and the fact that such violence of which he was accused was completely out of character for him.  The prosecution had offered no motive, no weapon, and no solid evidence.    And his statement about the white man on the night of the murder fit the description given by other witnesses about men they had seen with earlier victims.  “It just doesn’t make sense,” McMahon said about the prosecution’s scenario.  He told reporters on December 11 after it went to the jury, “The case stinks.  It’s garbage.”
But ADA Rubino asked what motive the witnesses had for lying.  In fact, some of them were friends with Christopher, including the one who had lied on his behalf to the police.  There was no reason for that witness to ultimately change her story other than wanting to finally tell the truth.  In addition, Rubino reminded the jury that she had presented two other witnesses who had seen Christopher talking to Dowd in a bar at midnight of the night she was murdered. She had also offered testimony from Christopher’s girlfriend, Vivien Carter, that he had not been with her that night, as he had claimed.  Rubino closed with an emotional appeal that included what Carol Dowd must have experienced as she was being attacked with a knife and slashed to death.  She knew her death was coming.  The cuts to her hands told the story.
Once the arguments were done, the judge instructed the jury.  They deliberated for more than four hours before he ended the session and sequestered them for the night.  By the next day, it was apparent that the jury believed the prosecution’s case.  On December 12, after four more hours of deliberations, they convicted Christopher of the first-degree murder of Carol Dowd.  A few members were visibly upset.
SCI Huntingdon, where Leonard Christopher is incarcerated “Christopher showed no visible reaction,” wrote Linda Loyd in the Philadelphia Inquirer, but “his defense attorney shook his head in disbelief.”  Although the prosecutor had asked for the death penalty, Christopher was sentenced to life in prison, but his own reaction was that he had been railroaded by “pipers” (prostitutes cajoled into testifying by the police).  Apart from his strange admission to his boss, he had confessed to nothing.  McMahon indicated that “the real killer [whom Christopher referred to as the Northeast Stalker] may still be out there.”
Was he right?Unsolved
Newton lists the Frankford Slasher case as unsolved in his books, although he’s aware that Leonard Christopher was convicted of at least one murder.  Still, he raises issues with the conviction and points out that there was no evidence tying Christopher to any of the other killings.  (While he correctly says that the prosecutor offered no motive and no weapon, he does not include a full account of the evidence against Christopher.  Pang’s statements, at any rate, are compelling.)  In Still at Large, Newton interviewed a Philadelphia investigator who said that Christopher is still a suspect in the other murders, but there are other suspects as well.

Still at Large, by Michael NewtonAntonia Mendoza does not include the Frankford Slasher in his own book about unsolved serial killings, although the victim count is certainly significant enough to do so.  He buys the outdated and admittedly erroneous FBI statistic that there are between 35-50 serial killers at loose in the U.S..  While it is true that a number of murders that appear to have a predator in common are unsolved, it’s generally not a good idea to just accept that they must be the work of a serial killer.  The bungled Boston Strangler case is a good one to keep in mind.  There are good suspects for many of those eleven murders and, technically, we could still consider at least some murders in that “series” unsolved.  At any rate, the semen found on the last Boston Strangler victim, Mary Sullivan, did not match Albert DeSalvo, who was considered to be the Strangler.  In addition, his description of her murder, as well as what he said about some of the other crimes, was full of errors overlooked by investigators in their rush to close a frightening case.
Albert Desalvo in custodyIn short, while at least seven (or eight) of the Frankford Slasher murders remain unsolved as of this writing, and one did take place while Christopher was in jail, we cannot discount a copycat or the possibility that not all of the killings are related.  Even in the event that they were all the work of a single killer and Christopher was not the attacker, there appears to have been no more of these particular crimes in that area since 1990.  Yet  significant questions remain regarding the quality of evidence used to convict Christopher and the fact that he did not match witness reports of a white man seen with other victims.  In many respects, it seems clear that someone got away with murder.Today, the Frankford area is poised for renovation and rebirth as an arts community.  People want to forget its seedy past and get on with expansion and expression.    In 2000, the Inquirer claimed that statistics showed Frankford as one of the safer places in the city.  While the Frankford Slasher gave the area a sense of menace, citizens today believe that reputation is undeserved.

 

 

Gary Heidnik

Gary Michael Heidnik was an American murderer who kidnapped, tortured, and raped six women, and held them prisoner in his basement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Heidnik was sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection in July 1999. Heidnik was born to Michael and Ellen Heidnik, and was reared in the Eastlake suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. He had a younger brother, Terry. His parents divorced in 1946. The Heidnik children were then reared by their mother for four years before being placed in the care of Michael Heidnik and his new wife.Heidnik would later claim that he was often emotionally abused by his father. Heidnik suffered a lifelong problem of bed wetting, and claimed his father would humiliate his son by forcing him to hang his stained sheets from his bedroom window, in full view of their neighbors. After his son's arrest, Michael Heidnik denied that he abused his son. At school, Heidnik did not interact with his fellow students, and refused to make eye contact. When a well-meaning new female student asked, "Did you get the homework done, Gary?", he yelled at her and told her she was not "worthy enough" to talk to him. Heidnik was also teased about his oddly shaped head, which he and Terry claimed was the result of a young Heidnik's falling out of a tree. Heidnik performed well academically and tested with an I.Q. of 130. With the encouragement of his father, 14-year-old Heidnik enrolled at the since defunct Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Virginia for two years, leaving before graduation. After another period in public high school, he dropped out and joined the United States Army when he was 17.

Heidnik served in the Army for thirteen months. During basic training, Heidnik's drill sergeant graded him as "excellent". Following basic training, he applied for several specialist positions, including the military police, but was rejected. He was sent to San Antonio, Texas, to be trained as a medic and did well through medical training. However, Heidnik did not stay in San Antonio very long and was transferred to the 46th Army Surgical Hospital in Landstuhl, West Germany. Within weeks of his new posting in Germany, he earned his GED. In August 1962, Heidnik reported in sick, calling and complaining of severe headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and nausea. A hospital neurologist diagnosed Heidnik with gastroenteritis, and noted that Heidnik also displayed symptoms of mental illness, for which he was prescribed trifluoperazine (Stelazine). In October 1962, Heidnik was transferred to a military hospital in Philadelphia, where he was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder and honorably discharged from military service. Shortly after his discharge, Heidnik became a licensed practical nurse and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, only to drop out after one semester. He worked as a psychiatric nurse at a Veterans Administration hospital in Coatesville, but was fired for poor attendance and rude behavior towards patients. From August 1962 until his arrest in March 1987, Heidnik spent time in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and had attempted suicide at least 13 times. In 1970, his mother Ellen, who had been diagnosed with bone cancer and was suffering the effects of alcoholism, committed suicide by drinking mercuric chloride. His brother Terry also spent time in mental institutions and attempted suicide multiple times.

In October 1971, Heidnik incorporated a church called the United Church of the Ministers of God, initially with only five followers. In 1975, Heidnik opened an account under the church's name with Merrill Lynch. The initial deposit was $1,500. Heidnik eventually amassed over $500,000 (US$ 1,079,386.76 in 2010). By 1986, the United Church of the Ministers of God was thriving and wealthy.

Heidnik used a matrimonial service to meet his future wife, with whom he corresponded by mail for two years before proposing to her. Betty Disto arrived from the Philippines in September 1985, and married Heidnik in Maryland on October 3, 1985. The marriage rapidly deteriorated after she found Heidnik in bed with three other women. Throughout the course of their brief marriage, Heidnik forced his wife to watch while he had sex with other women. Disto also accused him of repeatedly raping and assaulting her. With the help of the Filipino community in Philadelphia, she was able to leave Heidnik in January 1986. Unknown to Heidnik until his ex-wife requested child support payments in 1987, he impregnated Betty during their short marriage. On September 15, 1986, Disto gave birth to a son, whom she named Jesse John Disto.

Heidnik also had a child with Gail Lincow, a son named Gary, Jr. The child was placed in foster care soon after his birth. Heidnik had a third child with another woman, Anjeanette Davidson, who was illiterate and mentally disabled. Their daughter, Maxine Davidson, was born on March 16, 1978. The child was immediately placed in foster care. Shortly after Maxine's birth, Heidnik was arrested for the kidnapping and rape of Anjeanette's sister Alberta, who had been living in an institution for the mentally disabled in Penn Township. Heidnik signed his girlfriend Anjeanette Davidson's sister, Alberta, out of a mental institution on day leave, and kept her prisoner in a locked storage room in his basement in 1978. After she was found and returned to the hospital, examination revealed that she had been raped and sodomized and that she had contracted gonorrhea. Heidnik was arrested and charged with kidnapping, rape, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, and interfering with the custody of a committed person.

The original sentence was overturned on appeal, and Heidnik spent three years of his incarceration in mental institutions prior to being released in April 1983 under the supervision of a state-sanctioned mental health program. In 1980, Heidnik gave a note to a guard stating that Satan shoved a cookie down his throat that prevented him from talking. He was silent for the next two years and three months.

After his wife Betty left him in 1986, Heidnik was arrested yet again and charged with assault, indecent assault, spousal rape and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse.

On November 25, 1986, Heidnik abducted Josefina Rivera. By January 1987, he had five women held captive in the basement of his house at 3520 North Marshall Street in North Philadelphia. The captives, who were all African-American women, were raped, beaten, and tortured. One of the women, Sandra Lindsay, died of a combination of starvation, torture, and an untreated fever. Heidnik dismembered her body but had a problem dealing with the arms and legs, so he put them in a freezer and marked them "dog food". He cooked her ribs in an oven and boiled her head in a pot on the stove. Police came to the house due to the complaints of a bad odor, but left the premises after Heidnik's explanation: “I’m cooking a roast. I fell asleep and it burnt.” Several sources state that he ground up the flesh of Lindsay, mixed it with dog food, and fed that to his other victims. His defense attorney, Chuck Peruto, said that upon examination of a Cuisinart and other tools in his kitchen, they found no evidence of this. Peruto said that he made up the story to support the insanity defense. The defense attorney said that he started the rumor of cannibalism in public and that in fact there was no evidence of anyone eating human flesh. Heidnik used electric shock as a form of torture. At one point, he forced three of his captives, bound in chains, into a pit. Heidnik ordered Josefina Rivera and another woman to fill the hole with water and then forced Rivera to help him apply electric current from a stripped extension cord to the women's chains. Deborah Dudley was fatally electrocuted, and Heidnik disposed of her body in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. On March 23, 1987, Heidnik and Rivera abducted Agnes Adams. The next day, Rivera convinced Heidnik to let her go, temporarily, in order to visit her family. He drove her to a gas station and said he would wait for her there. She walked a block away and called 911. She told the police the story and they were somewhat unconvinced at first. The police made her repeat the story and she told it exactly the same way again. The responding officers, more convinced after they looked at her leg and noted the chafing from the chains, went to the gas station and arrested Heidnik. His purported best friend, Cyril ("Tony") Brown, was also arrested. Brown was released on $50,000 bail and an agreement that he would testify against Heidnik. In part, Brown admitted to seeing Sandra Lindsay's death in the basement while in chains and Heidnik dismembering her. Shortly after his arrest, Heidnik attempted to hang himself in his jail cell in April 1987.

At Heidnik's arraignment, he claimed that the women were already in the house when he moved in. At trial, Heidnik was defended by A. Charles Peruto, Jr., who attempted to prove that Heidnik was legally insane. Heidnik's insanity was successfully rebutted by the prosecution, led by Charles F. Gallagher, III. The fact that he had amassed approximately $550,000 in his bank and brokerage accounts was used to argue that he was not insane. Testimony from his Merrill Lynch financial advisor, Robert Kirkpatrick, was also used to prove competence. Kirkpatrick called Heidnik "an astute investor who knew exactly what he was doing." Convicted of two counts of first-degree murder on July 1, 1988, Heidnik was sentenced to death and incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh. In January 1989, he attempted suicide with an overdose of prescribed thorazine.

In 1997, Heidnik's daughter, Maxine Davidson White, and his ex-wife, Betty Heidnik, filed suit in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking a stay of execution on the basis that Heidnik was not in fact competent to be executed, despite the fact that only two days prior, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas had found that Heidnik was competent for execution. That ruling from the Court of Common Pleas contained 38 findings of fact attesting to Heidnik's competence. While Heidnik's daughter and ex-wife had filed the suit, Gary Heidnik himself was not a party to the action, and he had repeatedly asked courts to forego further delays and proceedings in his case that would needlessly prolong the period of time until his sentence could be carried out. In his ruling Judge Franklin Van Antwerpen cited the state court's ruling on Heidnik's competency and section 2254(e) of Title 28 of the United States Code (28 U.S.C. § 2254(e), which provides that findings of state courts are to be presumed correct unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Since the state court had established that Heidnik was competent only two days earlier and since there was no reason to think Heidnik was suddenly incompetent, disabled, or otherwise unable to act on his own behalf, Van Antwerpen ruled that neither Heidnik's daughter nor his ex-wife had standing in the case. With no party with standing before the court, Van Antwerpen ruled that the court had no jurisdiction in the matter. The district court's ruling was immediately appealed, and the very next day, April 17, 1997, attorneys for White and Betty Heidnik argued their case before a three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Third Circuit's decision, issued on April 18, 1997, vacated the district court's order with instructions to order the stay of execution. While the Appeals Court's order for a stay of execution ultimately allowed legal proceedings to continue for another two years, on July 3, 1999, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued its final ruling in the case, denying White's application for a further stay of execution, dismissing White's final petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, and denying certificate of appealability. The Governor of Pennsylvania had already signed Heidnik's execution warrant, and scheduled the execution for July 6, 1999. This final ruling from the district court effectively ended any recourse to the federal courts by Heidnik or on his behalf. Gary Heidnik was executed by lethal injection on July 6, 1999, at State Correctional Institution – Rockview in Centre County, Pennsylvania. His body was later cremated. As of 2016, he is the last person to be executed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 

Marty Graham

By KURT HEINE, Daily News Staff Writer "Marty" Graham was convicted of first-degree murder today in the sex-stranglings of seven women whose rotted corpses were discovered last August in his North Philadelphia apartment. Graham blinked his eyes briefly and slowly shook his head as Common Pleas Judge Robert A. Latrone pronounced him guilty of seven counts of murder and seven counts of abuse of a corpse. Latrone reached the verdict after nearly six days of deliberations. After announcing the verdict, he called the opposing attorneys into his chambers to schedule a date for a sentencing hearing at which he will decide whether to condemn the serial killer to the electric chair or sentence him to life imprisonment. Latrone presided over the seven-week trial without a jury. Graham's mother, Lillian Graham Jeter, 45, showed little reaction to the verdict. Several members of the victims' families wept quietly as Latrone intoned his decisions. There was no outcry. The victorious prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Roger King, said before entering Latrone's chambers that "the commonwealth will actively seek a death penalty." Court-appointed defense attorney Joel S. Moldovsky, who had contended Graham was either insane when he killed the women or didn't kill them at all, had no immediate comment. Graham - a mildly retarded drug addict who apparently began his murder spree in January 1987 by killing the woman who had lived with him for more than five years - confessed to the police that he strangled his victims during sex in his apartment. Then he heaped the corpses in his back room, wrapping some in layers of bedclothing so their bodies became mummies, and continued to live in the next room. Though police once came to his apartment when his ex-girlfriend reported Graham had a corpse on the adjoining rooftop, his corpse collection went undetected - despite the overpowering death stench - until he killed two women within four days last August. His landlord kicked him out of the apartment on Aug. 7 because of the smell and Graham nailed shut the door of the back room and fled with only a few clothes, a book and a Cookie Monster puppet. Later that day, the landlord, peeking through a keyhole, saw one body and called police, who discovered the other corpses. Prosecutor King contended during the trial that Graham figured that anybody who found the bodies would simply attribute the deaths to drugs. Though nearly every police officer in the city hunted for the suspect, he eluded them all for a week, living in abandoned houses. Finally, his mother persuaded him to surrender.

 

Edward Savitz

Edward Isadore Savitz was an American businessman, largely an actuarist who was arrested for paying thousands of young men for either engaging in anal and oral sex or for giving him dirty underwear and feces, which he kept in pizza boxes in his apartment.Ed Savitz was one of four sons by Jewish Russian immigrants Paul and Ann Gechman Savitz. The Savitzes ran an amusement arcade in downtown Philadelphia. Ed ranked first in his class of 278 students at West Philadelphia High School, and voted most likely to succeed. He won a full scholarship to study economics at the University of Pennsylvania, but dropped out after two years. In 1967, also after two years' study, he quit Temple University's graduate school of music. In 1963, he married his high school girlfriend Judith Widman, who later became a lawyer, specializing in family law. They were divorced 10 years later. In 1981, his brother Joseph, a lawyer who once served as a Deputy Pennsylvania Attorney General, used barbiturates to commit suicide. Ed Savitz had an apartment on Rittenhouse Square and for years was known by the male youth of the area through word of mouth as a quick source of cash. From as far back as 1975, he offered teenage boys money, concert tickets and football tickets for their soiled underwear, and various sexual acts including: oral and anal sex, slamming his penis in a door, penis sword fights, urinating on him, vomiting in his mouth and defecating in his mouth through a potty chair. He reportedly kept the feces in pizza boxes in his apartment. He told the boys to eat cheese to make the feces taste better. Savitz mostly targeted boys from the Grays Ferry neighborhood and even had a St. John Neumann High School yearbook, which he used like a catalogue, circling the pictures of boys he wanted to see and promising referral fees for bringing them to him. Savitz was first arrested in 1978 on an indecent assault charge. His record was expunged after he completed a rehabilitation program. In 1990, he was found not guilty on charges relating to the purchase of a minor's soiled underwear. The neighbors in his high-rise apartment building complained of young boys entering and leaving his apartment at all hours of the day and night. One neighbor described the boys she saw as mostly "heavy metal types," who wore black leather clothes and chains and had long hair. Savitz told neighbors that he was a social worker, helping the boys. Savitz's third arrest followed a six-month investigation by the city's sex-crime unit. By early March 1992, investigators had gathered enough evidence to install a wiretap and hidden video camera in his home. On March 25, 1992, detectives watched as Savitz offered to pay two 15-year-old boys for oral sex. Police burst into the apartment and took him into custody. Savitz was charged with crimes of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual abuse of children, indecent assault, and corrupting the morals of a minor. Police found 5,000 photographs of boys and 312 bags of soiled boys' underwear at Savitz's apartment and a rented storage center nearby. Although Savitz tested HIV-positive about a year before his arrest, he continued to have unprotected sex with boys until his arrest. His arrest caused an AIDS scare in the Philadelphia area due to the large number of individuals that he had sexual contact with. AIDS hotlines were flooded with calls after his photo was released. Bail was set for three million dollars and Savitz was released. He was arrested again the next day when bail was raised to twenty million dollars after complaints involving two teenagers were verified. Savitz died of complications from AIDS in a prison hospice on March 27, 1993, one week before the date his trial was set to begin, April 5, 1993. After the Penn State sex abuse scandal, an article in the New York Daily News featured allegations by one of Savitz's alleged molestation victims, former Philadelphia child prostitute Greg Bucceroni, alleged that in 1979 & 1980 Savitz brought him to a fundraiser near Harrisburg for the Second Mile Foundation, which had recently been established by Penn State Offensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Savitz's former attorney claims he is unaware of any communication Savitz ever had with Sandusky.

The Boy in the Bag

There was another unknown child who remained unidentified for more than a decade after his battered, decomposed remains were discovered stuffed inside a nylon duffel bag in a vacant lot in 1994. This unknown child came to be known as “The Boy in the Bag.” Buried in 2001 the child’s gravestone simply read, “unknown boy.” However in 2005 the boy’s name and how he died was In 1994, a four year old Jerell Willis, actually from East Camden, New Jersey; was beaten to death then stuffed into a duffel bag that was dumped in a trash-strewn lot in Philadelphia. For years, family members that inquired about young Jerrell’s whereabouts and well-being was given the run around by his mother and father. In 2005, the boy’s mother, Alicia Robinson was arrested at her Southwest Philadelphia home. During her interrogation Mrs. Robinson admitted to officers that she and her husband, Lawrence Robinson, also known as Jevon Willis; struck Jerell numerous times in their apartment. The boy became lethargic and then unconscious. The husband, Lawrence Robinson, during this time was incarcerated in Riverfront State Prison in Camden, serving the second year of an eight-year sentence for sexual assault. Alicia Robinson was sentenced to five years in prison in 2007.