Welcome back to Murder Monday.
This week I’m going to do my first *unsolved* crime – and if you’re from our home base area, he might be right in your backyard.
Meet the Frankford Slasher.
Not to be confused with the Kensington Strangler (we’ll talk about him another time).
8:30 a.m., August 26, 1985
A half nude and clearly deceased female was found by transit workers at the SEPTA train yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the section of the city known as Frankford. The woman’s clothing was removed from the waist down and she was positioned in a provocative manor, with her legs open and her blouse pulled up to reveal her chest. The next day she was identified as Helen Patent, 52, of Parkland, PA. The autopsy revealed that the cause of her death was from 47 stab wounds to her head and chest after she had been sexually assaulted. She also had one deep slash across her abdomen, leaving her organs fully exposed as she died. She was last seen by her ex-husband at their home seven days prior. She was known to frequent Frankford area bars.
January 3rd, 1986
Ten miles away from where Helen Patent’s body was found was the discovery of Anna Carroll. On the 1400 block of Ritner Street in South Philly, 68-year-old Anna Carroll was found lying on the floor of her bedroom after someone found her front door open on a cold day. She was also positioned in a provocative manor and nude from the waist down. She died from six stab wounds to the back. There was also a gaping postmortem wound going from her breastbone to her groin, and there was a kitchen knife left inside of her. It appeared her attacker had literally tried to gut her like a fish. Anna Carroll was also known to frequent Frankford area bars, but this connection was not made until the next murder occurred.
Christmas Day, 1986
Nearly a year later, 64-year-old Susan Olszef was found murdered in her home on Richmond Street after the front door had been left open. She had also been stabbed in the back six times.
After the third crime, the connection was made that all three victims had been regularly seen at the Frankford Avenue bar Goldie’s. Amongst many other problems that got in the way of this murder investigation, the nightlife at the time was booming, not only from the prosperity that the El was bringing to town but also the convenience of the area. This area was well known for its drugs and bars and although it appeared run down, it had also been the scene of the film ‘Rocky’ which seemed to have made people less weary of it.
7:30 a.m., January 8th, 1987
Jeanne Durkin’s body was discovered beneath a storage truck just off of Frankford Avenue. She had been stabbed in the back, chest, and buttocks 74 times. She was lying in a pool of blood, nude from the waist down, positioned with her legs spread. Blood was spattered along the fence next to the truck, and an autopsy showed she had been sexually assaulted. Jeanne Durkin lived on the streets, and was most commonly seen sleeping in the doorway of a bakery just two doors down from Goldie’s bar (not surprised).
By the fourth victim, it was finally now clear that Philadelphia had a serial killer on their hands, but they were busy in the midst of figuring out several other series of crimes as well. The Frankford Slasher was active right around the same time that Gary Heidnik AND Harrison “Marty” Graham were busted. The city was in over its head.
January of 1988
Police had reported to the local papers that the crimes might not be related despite similar circumstances, but changed their mind in the following year. In January came the murder of Margaret Vaughan, a 66 -year-old woman who had been evicted that same day from an apartment just 3 blocks away from where Jeanne Durkin’s body was found. Margaret Vaughan was stabbed 29 times, and, you guessed it, positioned in a provocative manor. Police came up with a sketch of a man who was seen drinking with Margaret the night before at Goldie’s. He was a barmaid, a Caucasian man with a round face who walked with a limp and wore glasses. No one came forward to identify the man.
January 19th, 1989
Theresa Sciortino, 30, was found in her apartment stabbed 25 times. She was found three blocks away from the fifth victim, and lived just one block off of Frankford. Police discovered that Sciortino and Durkin, two of the victims, had both recently been in several psychiatric institutions and were under outpatient care and treatment at the time of their murders. Sciortino was found in a pool of her own blood on the kitchen floor, lying face up, with 25 stab wounds caused by a kitchen knife left at the scene next to a bloodied 3-foot long piece of wood that had been used to sexually assault her. Oh, and guess what else — she was a regular at Goldie’s (ya’ll are seriously trippin’ for even letting women leave this bar by themselves at this point….. the fuck is wrong w u).
2 a.m., April 29, 1990
A patrol officer discovered the nude body of Carol Dowd in an alley behind Newman’s Sea Food at 4511 Frankford Avenue. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 36 times. One of the wounds went across her stomach, and her intestines were left spilled out of her body. Carol Dowd had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was in and out of mental institutions, something else she had in common with other victims in the slashings.
Police began interviewing employees of the fish market and came across Leonard Christopher, who worked there and lived nearby. He encountered the police in the alley way that morning and stated he figured they were there investigating another burglary because there had been several recently. He spoke further with police upon finding out that it was, in fact, a murder investigation. Leonard Christopher admitted that he knew one of the earlier victims, Margaret Vaughan. They questioned his girlfriend, who could not form an alibi for him. He claimed to have been home alone that night, but witnesses placed him at the bar that night with Dowd.
May 5th, 1990
Leonard Christopher was arrested and arraigned on charges of robbery, abuse of a corpse, murder, and possession of an instrument of crime. A witness said they had seen him sweaty with a large knife in his belt the night of the most recent murder. His coworkers and landlord vouched for his good character. A search of his apartment turned up clothing with blood on it, but his coworkers said it was only due to him cleaning up the mess from the crime that was left in the alley at his place of work. One witness claimed to have seen him exiting that same alley way that night, but another witness said they had seen Dowd leaving the bar with a “date” in his vehicle.
June 20th, 1990
Christopher was ordered to stand trial for the murder of Dowd and the evidence was deemed sufficient. Neighbors were relieved to know the spree was over and that they would be safe.
But nope! Not quite.
Leonard Christopher was a young black man, not the middle aged white man that was seen with all of the other victims around the time of their murders, yet he was jailed without parole for the murder of Dowd on September 6, 1990.
September 6th, 1990
You fucking guessed it. While the suspect believed to be responsible for the murders was in jail for murder without parole, another body was found. Michelle Denher, 30-years-old, was found murdered in her efficiency apartment just one block off of Frankford. Interestingly enough, Michelle Dehner has previously been a suspect for the killings because she had been seen fighting over a blanket with another victim. She went from suspect to victim when she was sexually assaulted and stabbed 23 times with a final gaping slash to her stomach. This murder was only three blocks from the most recent attack, and on the same street as Sciortino’s murder. Michelle Denher was ALSO mentally ill. Locals referred to her as “crazy Michelle” – she would wander from bar to bar on Frankford, and if she wasn’t too busy drinking through her days, she’d sell pretzels on the street. A day and a half before her murder she was seen leaving a bar with a middle aged white male who fit the original description of the Frankford Slasher.
After this incident, the public outcried for the release of Leonard Christoper. In his court cause they described him as a “Rambo style killer” even though at the time of his arrest, he had no visible injuries, he cooperated with police investigations, there was no murder weapon recovered, and no so called “Rambo knife” – but he was sentenced anyway. Leonard Christopher is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Numerous women pointed to SEPTA workers as suspects, and the case took twists and turns that got completely out of hand. Theories formed that the murders could have been related to witchcraft, because at the time there was an apparent female cult presence in the neighborhood. They even practiced in a park nearby.
Investigation brought no new leads, and the case turned cold.
Thanks for tuning into this week’s Monday Monday. Enjoy your commute from the El after work tonight knowing that a sexually deviant stomach slashing serial killer picked his victims off of Frankford and never got caught. It was only 28 years ago. I’m sure he’s out there somewhere.
Here’s an absurd link I found on YouTube of a guy singing a song about the Frankford Slasher. God, I love the internet.
See ya next week!