He killed 11 women in two years. Yet friends said he was kind and generous…
No-one would have guessed that tubby, balding Arthur Shawcross, 44, had a deadly secret…
For two years, a serial killer had stalked his home city of Rochester, New York. By the end of 1989, 11 women – mostly prostitutes – had been killed within a 25-mile radius.
There was talk of a violent customer, ‘Mitch’, linked to the victims.
Then in January 1990, as policed searched for yet another body, they spotted a man watching. Arrested and identified as ‘Mitch’, his real name was Arthur Shawcross – and the softly spoken, four-times married father admitted the murders.
Raised near Lake Ontario, Shawcross had a troubled childhood. A truanting bully with a low IQ, he dropped out of school and fell into crime.
His first two marriages ended due to his violence.
He was in army service in the Vietnam War in 1967, and boasted of cannibalising young women and children, though this was never proved.
Back home in 1972, following a prison sentence for arson, Shawcross settled down with his pregnant third wife.
He also got friendly with 10-year-old neighbour Jack Blake.
Jack vanished. Five months later, his body was found, sexually assaulted, suffocated.
Months later, 8-year-old Karen Ann Hill was found, raped and strangled. Shawcross was arrested and, in a deal, he confessed to manslaughter and admitted Jack’s murder, too.
After serving only 15 years of a 25-year jail term, Shawcross was released in 1987.
Hounded out of two towns, Shawcross moved to Rochester with his fourth wife.
A regular in the city’s red-light district, within a year, women were vanishing.
The first victim was found in March 1988, near the Genesee River. She’d been strangled, had bite marks to her groin. Another woman was found two months later.
In October 1989, the remains of a 59-year-old homeless lady was discovered; six days later, the body of prostitute Patricia Ives, 25.
In November, June Stott, 30, was discovered strangled and gutted from throat to crotch, with her private parts removed.
The Press dubbed the killer ‘The Genesee River Killer’.
Within three weeks in November, Shawcross had murdered four more victims.
Neighbours said he was softly spoken and considerate. He gave a female friend a coffee maker, another a set of steak knives. He even gave groceries to prostitutes.
Finally, that January in 1990, justice caught up with him, as police helicopter teams spotted Shawcross standing by the bridge, apparently urinating and masturbating.
Following his capture, more mutilated bodies were found in the snow around the Genesee River. One corpse had been sawn almost in half.
Shawcross confessed to 11 murders. He said most murders had occurred during sexual encounters when he’d failed to perform.
At his trial, he denied first-degree murder, pleading insanity. Experts described him as ‘disorganised’ and different to most serial killers because he hadn’t just killed strangers, he’d also killed friends.
The prosecution insisted he was faking insanity to avoid prison, and jurors agreed. Found guilty, Shawcross was jailed for 250 years.
He died of heart failure in prison in 2008.
By Rachel Tompkins