serial killers by name [s] amazon
  SHAWCROSS Arthur John 1945 USA ... ... ... 13
1972 1989 NY
New Yorks premier serial killer of the 1980s was born in Kittery, Maine, on June 6, 1945. His family moved to Watertown, New York, a few months later, and much of what we know about his early life is drawn from psychiatric interviews recorded after Arthur Shawcross was arrested on eleven counts of homicide, in January 1990. The reliability of those accounts is open to debate, but some points have been verified by reference to school and hospital reports. Arthur Shawcross describes his childhood home as a virtual war zone, marked by violent arguments that included his mother accusing Arthurs father of infidelity, sometimes while brandishing a kitchen knife. Both parents reportedly took time off from their quarrels to beat the children, and Arthur suffered a series of head injuries, beginning with a rock fight in childhood that left him unconscious. Around age ten, he nearly drowned in Lake Ontario, overtaken by sudden paralysis while swimming, and physicians at a nearby hospital diagnosed an inflammation of the brain. Sexual problems had begun to surface for Shawcross around the same time. At age nine, he alleges, an aunt introduced him to oral sex. A short time later, when his mother caught him masturbating, Shawcross says she threatened to cut off his penis. At ten or eleven, he recalls his first homosexual experience, with an older boy. Their relationship was still in the early stages, Shawcross says, when the owner of a nearby farm taught both boys the pleasure of having sex with sheep. Around age fourteen, Shawcross reportedly broadened his horizons by performing cunnilingus on one of his sisters and a female cousin. When a girlfriends brother caught Art going down on her, he ensured the boys silence by performing oral sex on him, as well. Shawcross made As and Bs in first and second grade, then unaccountably turned lazy and began to fail his classes. (Later IQ tests would place him in the borderline retarded range of subnormal intelligence.) At the same time, he was outgrowing his playmates, bullying smaller children, earning a reputation for unpredictable violence, stealing on a regular basis from neighbor-hood stores. By his early teens, Arthurs strange behavior--including chronic nightmares and persistent bed-wetting--had earned him the nickname Oddie. After wrecking his first car, he went back to riding a bicycle, claiming that driving makes me nervous. In December 1963, Shawcross was sentenced to 18 months probation for smashing a department stores window. Married nine months later, he became the father of an infant son in October 1965. The following month, he drew another six months probation on charges of unlawful entry: Art had barged into a private home to punch a boy who hit him with a snowball. It was all too much for Sarah Shawcross, and Art quickly found himself divorced. Drafted by the army in April 1967, Shawcross was shipped to Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training. While there, he allegedly suffered yet another head injury, plunging from a forty-foot ladder to land on his skull. While home on leave from boot camp, he was married for the second time, but it did not prevent his being shipped to Vietnam in October 1967. Accounts of Arthurs Asian service vary widely. Twenty years after the fact, facing prosecution for multiple murders, Shawcross would call himself as victim of post-traumatic stress disorder dating from his months in Vietnam. He described himself to psychiatrists as a night-prowling commando and prolific killer on the battlefield, going so far as to confess the cannibalistic murders of several Vietnamese women. It made dramatic reading, but official army documents insist that Shawcross never saw a day of combat; instead, he was assigned to a support company where he spent all his time at a desk, shuffling papers. Whatever the case, he was back in the States with an honorable discharge in the spring of 1968, looking for work in the neighborhood of Auburn, New York. It wasnt long before Shawcross found himself in trouble once more, this time for setting fires in Auburn. One, in April 1969, caused major damage to a local paper mill. Arrested that September, Shawcross freely confessed and was sentenced to five years in prison. While in Attica, he claims to have been gang-raped by black inmates, later dishing out some brutal payback of his own, but there is no official record of the incidents described. Paroled in October 1971, he returned to Watertown and soon began dating Penny Sherbino. She was pregnant when they married on April 22, 1972 ... and by that time, Shawcross had already committed his first confirmed murder. It was April 7, 1972, when ten-year-old Jack Blake disappeared from his Watertown neighborhood. Five months later, his nude body was found in a shallow grave outside town, beaten to death and sexually abused. Four days earlier, police had recovered the body of eight-year old Karen Ann Hill, raped and suffocated, with grass stuffed in her nose and mouth, her body discarded beneath a bridge spanning the Black River. Shawcross was an immediate suspect, known for his trouble with neighborhood children, having lately paid a fine for spanking one small boy and stuffing grass into his pants. Now, residents remembered seeing Shawcross with Karen Hill on the day she vanished; one reported Arthur sitting on the same bridge, eating ice cream, on the very day her body was discovered. Arrested on October 3, 1972, Shawcross stalled for two weeks before confessing both murders. A bargain was struck: in return for a guilty plea to Karen Hills slaying, no charges would be filed in the death of Jack Blake. Furthermore, the Hill case was reduced from murder to first-degree manslaughter, under a statute that acknowledges the killers extreme emotional disturbance. Shawcross was sentenced to twenty-five years, Pennys divorce action adding insult to injury. No one was more surprised than Arts prosecutor when Shawcross was approved for parole in April 1987, after serving less than fifteen years. The state sent him to Binghamton, New York, where his well-publicized arrival sparked an instant public furor. Parole officer Robert Kent described Shawcross as possibly the most dangerous individual to have been released to this community in many years, and private citizens were also taking up the battle cry. By mid-May, Shawcross and girlfriend Rose Walley had pulled up stakes and moved to Rochester, where Arthur found work in a produce outlet. Things were rough for Art and Rose, despite the move. Their sexual relationship was less than satisfactory, and Shawcross had begun to spend his time with prostitutes--a risky proposition in Rochester, where an estimated one in four street hookers carries AIDS. In May of 1988, a pair of state policemen dropped in at the produce mart and briefed Arts boss on his convictions, thereby landing Shawcross on the unemployment rolls. In retrospect, he blamed the stress of being jobless for what happened next, but he had already begun to kill again, two months before the meddling cops arrived in Rochester. Arthurs first adult victim was Dorothy Blackburn, age 27, a prostitute and drug addict who specialized in oral sex, mistakenly believing it would keep her safe from AIDS. Shawcross strangled her on March 15, 1988, later complaining that she had bitten his penis and called him a faggot. Her body, bearing deep bite marks around the genitals, was found in Salmon Creek, northwest of Rochester, on March 24. Victim number two was Anna Steffen, another 27-year-old prostitute, pregnant and addicted to cocaine. Last seen alive on July 8, 1989, on a visit to a hospital emergency room, she was found two months later, discarded like rubbish in the Genesee River gorge. Advanced decomposition left the medical examiner to speculate that she had died from probable asphyxia. Fifty-nine-year-old Dorothy Keeler was a homeless bag lady and sometime prostitute whom Shawcross once brought home for dinner at the flat he shared with Rose. Last seen alive on July 29, she became the second Genesee River victim when her headless body was found on Seth Green Island, on October 21. Her severed skull is missing to this day. Patricia Ives, age 25, was known as Crazy Patty to her friends. Another drug-addicted prostitute, her physical condition had declined to the extent that friends were certain she had AIDS. Ives met her last trick on September 29 and disappeared. Her decomposing corpse was found in a fenced lot behind the local YMCA on October 27, with probable asphyxia again the stated cause of death. June Stott, age thirty, disappeared on October 23, 1989, but her boyfriend waited three weeks to report her missing. Advanced decomposition had set in by November 23, when her body was found in the Genesee River gorge, slashed from sternum to crotch, with parts of her genitals hacked out and missing from the scene. No one is sure exactly when 22-year-old Frances Brown disappeared from her favorite stroll. Sometime in October, the other girls thought, but who could be sure with a junkie? Police were actually searching for another missing prostitute, 22-year-old Maria Welch, when they found Browns corpse in the Genesee River gorge on November 11. Welch, for her part, had been missing since November 5, when she went out to work the streets for the last time, leaving her five-month-old son in the care of her elderly boyfriend. Shawcross picked up his pace as the year-end holiday season approached. Elizabeth Gibson was strangled and dumped in a swampy region near town, her body found on November 27. Darlene Trippi, age 32, was the next to die, on or about December 15. Number ten was 34-year-old June Cicero, a special for Shawcross, who returned three days after discarding her body, to cut out and devour her genitals. Nineteen-year-old Felicia Stephens was last seen alive on December 26, 1989. Five days later, hikers found a pair of blue jeans with her I.D. in the pocket, near the spot where Dorothy Blackburns corpse was discovered. An aerial search found the body on January 3; it also spotted a vehicle cruising the area and recorded its license number, tracing the plate back to Arthurs live-in girlfriend. Once again, his need to revisit the scene of the crime had betrayed him. Arrested on January 5, 1990, Shawcross was held without bond pending charges of multiple murder. He soon confessed to the eleven slayings, blaming childhood trauma and his Asian military service for his later crimes. Police discounted his connection to the deaths and disappearances of five more prostitutes in Roches-ter, but they had ample evidence to lock Art up for life. In custody, a medical examination seemed to indicate that Shawcross had two strikes against him from the start. Genetically, he suffers from the 47,XYY syndrome--that is to say, an extra male chromosome sometimes found in individuals noted for their violent, impulsive behavior. At the same time, Shawcross was also diagnosed with a rare condition called kryptopyroluria, a meta-bolic disorder marked by abnormal levels of bile or uric acid in the blood stream. Individuals afflicted with this problem typically are pale, with prematurely graying hair (like Shawcross); they are known for faulty short-term memory, mood swings, and unpredictable violent reactions to stress. Reports on Shawcross indicate that his blood level of kryptopyrrole was ten times the normal amount. Medical explanations aside, there was no question of finding Arthur Shawcross innocent by reason of insanity. With his confessions down in black and white, conviction on all counts was a foregone conclusion. New York has no death penalty, but the court was determined that Shawcross should never get another chance to prowl the streets in search of human prey. Convicted of multiple murder in November 1990, Shawcross was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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