Paroled child killer arrested in serial killings


ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- A paroled child killer run out of a rural village by public outcry in 1987 was charged Friday in the serial killings of eight women and is the prime suspect in three more slayings, police said.

At least nine of the 11 alleged victims of Arthur Shawcross, a balding and paunchy food service worker, were prostitutes, police said in what may be one of the largest serial killing cases in U.S. history.


Shawcross, 44, was to be indicted for three additional killings over the next few days, bringing to 11 the number of murders he allegedly committed since March 1988 in and around Rochester.

Most of the victims were strangled or suffocated, authorities said.

The deaths of five other women are for now being considered unsolved murders, and the district attorney's office said 'independent investigations' would continue in those killings.


The arrest drew rage Friday from Robert Hill, a retired machinist whose 8-year-old daughter Karen Ann was strangled by Shawcross in 1972.

'I'd like him to be put away in the frying pan, double voltage, double amperage,' Hill said from his home in Bristol, N.H. 'And the parole board that let him out should be made to finish the sentence he was supposed to have had the first time.'

Shawcross was on parole for a burglary conviction in 1972 when Jack Black, 10, disappeared from his Watertown home. The boy's body was found four months later -- after Shawcross was arrested for the Hill killing. Shawcross then admitted killing both children.

Police began cracking the serial killer case Wednesday when a surveillance helicopter spotted a car speeding away from Northampton Park, near where investigators found the body of June Cicero, a prostitute who had been missing since Dec. 17, State Police Superintendent Thomas Constantine said.

The helicopter followed the car to an unidentified nursing home, and then to Shawcross's home Wednesday.

Shawcross allegedly admitted to the slayings during interrogation Thursday and gave police information about the killing of Felicia Stephens, whose Social Security card and pants were discovered near Northampton Park Sunday.


Stephens' body was found by a deer hunter Thursday morning as Shawcross was watched by police.

Later Thursday, Shawcross was taken into custody and allegedly steered police to the bodies of two additional women in surburban Greece and Brockport, Constantine said.

The victim found in Brockport was identified as Darlene Trippi, 32, a prostitute reported missing Dec. 23. The body discovered in Greece was that of Maria Welch, 22, a prostitute missing since Nov. 6, police said.

Shawcross, who four months ago married his prison pen pal, Rose Mary Walley, was paroled from the maximum-security Greenhaven state prison on April 30, 1987, officials said.

Shawcross's release from prison in June 1987 ignited a furor in the rural village of Delhi, where he took an apartment with Walley above Oliver's Department Store on Main Street.

'It got out who he was a day after his arrival, and people said they were fearful for their children,' said Delhi Police Chief Frank Harmer. 'It looks like they were right.'

Harmer said villagers who 'didn't know the butt end of a gun from the other were coming up and asking me how to get a gun. It was a tremendous amount of fear.'


Vivian Carpenter, a village trustee who was Shawcross's landlord, said the community was terrified. 'We all agreed, we don't want him,' she said. 'The minute I found out who he was and what he had done I had him evicted. I had children living in that building.'

Harmer said after about a month, Shawcross moved to the Village of Fleischmann's in eastern Delaware County for a few days. Harmer said he was then notified Shawcross had moved to a 'large city,' apparently Rochester.

Police offered no motive for the serial killings. 'It's very difficult to get inside the head of a person like this,' Rochester Police Chief Gordon Urlacher said.

Shawcross worked nights part-time at G & G Food Service in Rochester, cleaning and stocking shelves.

'It wasn't a very skilled position. He basically worked by himself, and kept busy, and did what he had to do and that was it,' said G & G owner Barry Goldman.

'He rode his bike into work and rode his bike out of work and that was the strangest thing he did,' Goldman said.

Urlacher said police were confident they had the right man. 'After talking with him, we did find additional bodies,' he said. 'You can draw your own conclusions.'


Shawcross pleaded innocent at arraignment Friday in Rochester City Court. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Jan. 10. If convicted of second-degree murder, Shawcross would face 25 years to life on each count. New York does not have the death penalty.

Deputy Police Chief Terrence Rickard praised the work of homicide detectives. 'They didn't see Thanksgiving. They didn't see Christmas,' he said. 'They didn't see their families for days at a time, but they brought a dangerous criminal to justice.'

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