Case History: New Year’s Eve, 1980, ushered in a series of brutal beatings and murders that terrified Minneapolis residents for two years. The attacks began with Karen Potack. On New Year’s Eve Potack was beaten savagely on the head with a tire iron after leaving a New Year’s Eve party. She survived. The second victim, Kimberly Compton, 18, was not so lucky. On June 3, 1981, she was stabbed 61 times with an ice pick south of St. Paul. Next came Kathleen Greening, 33, who was drowned in her bathtub in her home on July 21, 1982. The fourth victim, Barbara Simons, 40, was stabbed more than 100 times in Minneapolis. The final victim, Denise Williams, 21, was stabbed several times with a screwdriver after she accepted a ride. She survived. Eventually, Paul Michael Stephani, who grew up in Austin, Minnesota, where his stepfather worked as a meatpacker, was arrested and convicted for murdering Simons. It was not until 1997 that he contacted police while in prison and confessed to the attack on Potack and murdering Compton and Greening (Brown, 1997).
Communiqués: The communiqués in this case began with the assault on Potack. The man telephoned police at 3 a.m. to report the attack. In an emotional voice he asked police to hurry to some railroad tracks, then said: "There is a girl hurt there" (Brown, 1981). After stabbing Compton on June 3, 1981, the killer contacted police pleading: "God damn, will you find me? I just stabbed somebody with an ice pick. I can’t stop myself. I keep killing somebody" (Brown, 1981). Two days later the killer called police to say he was sorry for stabbing Compton and would turn himself in. He didn’t. Instead, on June 6 he called to say newspaper accounts of some of the murders were inaccurate. His fourth communiqués came June 11. In a whimpering, barely coherent voice he cried: "I’m sorry for what I did to Compton" (Brown, 1981). There were no communiqués after Greening’s death, but the "Weepy-Voice Killer" contacted police on the murder of Simons: "Please don’t talk. Listen. I’m sorry I killed that girl. I stabbed her 40 times. Kimberly Compton was the first one over in St. Paul" (Brown, 1981).
Investigative Value: The serial killer contacted police so often investigators felt there was an excellent opportunity someone would recognize his voice on the communiqués. On several occasions media broadcast stations aired recordings of the phone calls from the Weepy-Voice Killer. Police received over 150 calls from the public, but the recordings were so short and distorted with emotion that they failed to provide the identity of the murderer. Several times his phone calls were traced by emergency operators, once to a bar near a bus station depot and once to a downtown phone booth. When police arrived, he was gone.
How did police link Stephani to some of the Weepy-Voice Killer murders? The chain of events began on August 21, 1982, when a 21-year-old woman named Denise Williams was [End Page 60] picked up by Stephani, who stabbed her several times with a screwdriver. During the attack, Williams clobbered Stephani on the head with a soft drink bottle. When he returned home to his apartment, he noticed he was bleeding badly and sought medical help. This action linked him to the Williams attack. Routine investigative work connected Stephani to the murder of Simons. In the end, Stephani was convicted of killing Simons and assaulting Williams. During Stephani’s trial in the Simons murder case, Stephani’s ex-wife, sister, and a woman who lived with him testified that they believed the hysterical caller revealing the attacks was Stephani. Those observations, alone, were not enough to identify Stephani as the Weepy-Voice Killer since the hysterical crying distorted the voice. Stephani’s confession in prison almost 20 years after the first slaying allowed police to officially link the slayings and telephonic communiqués. In brief, the communiqués were of no investigative value during the investigation.