The Frankford Slasher

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.

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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.

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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!

sources:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankford_Slasher

https://www.google.com/amp/s/massmurderers.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/frankford-slasher/amp/

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Everything You Need To Know About ‘The Staircase’ Owl Theory

If you’re a true crime fan, you’ve probably watched (or perhaps are currently watching) Netflix’s latest docuseries craze ‘The Staircase.’

‘The Staircase’ documents the events following the death of Kathleen Peterson, a woman found in a pool of her own blood at the bottom of a staircase in the Durham, North Carolina mansion she shared with her husband Michael. Naturally, Michael is accused of being responsible for her suspicious death, and the documentary follows his journey as he defends his innocence in the untimely passing of his wife.

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The staircase where Kathleen Peterson mysteriously met her end, photo courtesy of thegeekden.com

After watching ‘The Staircase,’ I was left feeling immensely torn. I just couldn’t fathom how Michael cold have beaten Kathleen to death without causing any fractures to her skull. At the same time, the photos of Kathleen at the bottom of that staircase seemed far too bloody to constitute an accidental fall down a couple of steps. And then I found what I am almost ashamed to admit may be the most plausible theory surrounding the death of Kathleen: she was murdered by an owl.

In 2008, Larry Pollard, an attorney and neighbor of the Petersons, proposed what has come to be known as the “Owl Theory.” He believes Kathleen suffered injuries from an owl attack that led to her death at the bottom of the stairwell.

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Larry Pollard, photo courtesy of newsobserver.com

If you watched the documentary, you’ll recall the struggle between prosecutors and the defense to explain the large lacerations to Kathleen’s scalp without any associated skull fracture. The prosecution argued Michael had beaten Kathleen over the head with a blow poke while the defense claimed she sustained this injuries during an accidental fall down the stairs. Pollard proposes a third explanation by stating that these lacerations actually occurred from an owl swooping down onto and attacking Kathleen on that fateful evening of December 9, 2001.

According to Pollard, Kathleen was attacked by an owl (not an uncommon occurrence, apparently) as she arranged reindeer Christmas decorations outside. He believes the owl may have mistaken the decorations as prey, leading it to initiate the assault. Kathleen ran into the house to take cover, attempted to go up the stairs, but fell backward down them. He suggests that in her drunken, injured and partially conscious state, she tried to get up several times, causing the infamous blood splatter on the walls of the stairwell.

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Diagram of Kathleen Peterson’s autopsy, photo courtesy of wral.com

As crazy as this may seem, maybe it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. According to the SBI report, Kathleen actually had a microscopic feather and sliver of wood from a tree limb in her hand, along with her own hair, when they examined her body. Assuming they had nothing to do with her death, examiners disregarded these findings.

Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, the director of ‘The Staircase,’ also views the owl theory as being a possibility. According to Lestrade, “The first time I heard about the owl theory, I really laughed. But when I started looking at it and I met with Larry Pollard… It might be the more plausible explanation. How can you explain all the cuts and lacerations and the absence of fractures? When you start thinking about the owl theory, and the kind of injuries she had, you start thinking maybe there is something there.”

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Michael Peterson with his lead defense attorney David Rudolf, photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

Even Michael Peterson’s lead defense attorney, David Rudolf, said the following regarding the owl theory: “When you step back and really start getting familiar with the fact that there have been literally scores if not hundreds of documented instances of owl attacking the heads of people… and you look at the wounds and you compare them with the talons of an owl, it starts having some real credibility.”

The theory has also been backed up by multiple expert witnesses. University of Minnesota professor of veterinary medicine Dr. Patrick T. Redig, who stated such an attack is “entirely within the behavioural repertoire of large owls.” Kate P. Davis, director of Raptors of the Rockies, reported that the lacerations “look very much like those made by a raptor’s talons, especially if she had forcibly torn the bird from the back of her head.” Davis goes on to say this would also explain why Kathleen’s body presented with her hand holding clumps of her hair that also contained the feather and wood sliver.

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The lacerations to Kathleen’s scalp juxtaposed with an owl talon, photo courtesy of owltheory.blog.lemonade.fr

And, as I stated above, owl attacks are not uncommon, especially in Durham. On NBC’s Dateline episode of the Peterson case, they interviewed a man who was once attacked by an owl. He stated the attack felt like being hit with a baseball bat, and that he bled so much he thought he had lost his eye.

If you are interested in learning more about Pollard’s owl theory, I highly recommend listening to episode 9 of the podcast Beyond Reasonable Doubt?. The episode is only 17 minutes long but thoroughly explores this bizarre yet surprisingly plausible theory.

All in all, it appears as though the only person who knows what happened in the stairwell the night of December 9, 2011 is buried beneath a beautiful rose bush in Durham’s Maplewood Cemetery. If only walls could talk — what would they say?

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Kathleen Peterson’s grave, photo courtesy of newsobserver.com

SOURCES

Esquire

The News & Observer

Vulture

Jumped or Pushed? The Spreckels Mansion Mystery

I have been patiently waiting for a week when Tess needed a cover again for #MurderMonday so I could talk about this completely bizarre case. As you might be able to tell based on my last pick for #MurderMonday, complex, unsolved cases are kind of my thing.

But before we get into it, I’m excited to tell you guys that this is an extra special #MurderMonday because we have teamed up with True Crime Magazineto offer you guys 40% OFF your first purchase! True Crime Magazine is a best-selling true crime publication offering you the ultimate journey through the criminal mind. You can’t possibly call yourself a true crime enthusiast without a subscription to this e-magazine and now you can get it for a great price using the code HEXFILES at checkout. I’ll give you all a moment to go get your subscriptions and then I’ll meet you back here for this week’s #MurderMonday feature.

Okay, now that you’re all subscribed to True Crime Magazine, let’s get back to your regularly scheduled #MurderMonday. This case was actually introduced to me by my aunt (I have to say, it’s pretty fantastic how supportive my family has been about me starting a blog and podcast about murder, demons, etc. — hi, Aunt Jan!) and I’ve been dying to talk about it more. So, without further adieu, I present to you: the Spreckles Mansion mystery.

I use the term “mystery” because, well, that’s what it is. Was it a suicide? Or was it a murder? I know what my opinion is, but I’ll give you the facts and let you decide.

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Photo courtesy of travelandleisure.com

Welcome to beautiful Coronado Island, California.

On Coronado, there is a magnificent home known as Spreckels Mansion, a gorgeous 26-room French Baroque chateau designed for Adolph Spreckels, son of sugar tycoon and entrepreneur Claus Spreckels. The stunning mansion was purchased in 2007 by pharmaceutical tycoon Jonah Shacknai for close to $13 million dollars as a summer home. According to Shacknai’s former wife, Dina, Coronado was the chosen location because “… you felt like nothing bad could happen in Coronado.” But unfortunately, something bad did happen. In fact, multiple bad things happened.

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Sprenkels Mansion, photo courtesy of welcometocoronado.com

In July of 2011, Dina received the call that no parent ever wants to receive: Dina and Jonah’s 6-year-old son, Max, was in a medically-induced coma at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Max had suffered a fall over a railing on the second floor of the mansion. Unfortunately, Max’s devastating fall would not be the only tragedy the mansion would see that week, but hold that thought.

It was concluded that Max had been running down the hallway at the top of the stairs when he went over the balcony, hit or tried to grab onto a chandelier, hit a banister before finally crashing to the floor. The young boy was found face-down beside the fallen chandelier.

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Photo courtesy of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department

At the time of Max’s fall, his father, 54-year-old Jonah, was not home. Watching Max was Jonah’s girlfriend of two years, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau, who claims she was using the restroom at the time of the accident but rushed out the moment she heard the crash. Two days after Max’s fall, Rebecca was found hanging naked from one of the mansion’s balconies, her hands and feet bound with rope.

“I got a girl, hung herself.”

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The balcony where Rebecca Zahau was found hanging, photo courtesy of ABC News

Rebecca’s body was discovered by Adam Shacknai, Jonah’s brother. Adam had flown in from Tennessee to be with his brother during the difficult days following the accident, but was in the mansion’s guest house the evening of Rebecca’s death while Jonah was at the children’s hospital with Max. Only Rebecca and Adam were home the night of July 12th. Adam told investigators he had been watching porn that evening in the guest house and had not gone into the main house. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m going to fly across the country to be with my family during a tragic time, I’m probably going to actually be with my family and not be back at their house watching a porno (if that’s what he was actually even doing, if you catch my drift). Regardless, the morning of July 13th, Adam discovered Rebecca’s body, cut her down and then called 911. Below is the audio of Adam’s call.

As you can hear in the audio clip, Adam performed CPR on Rebecca while waiting for emergency services to arrive. However, the only fingerprints and DNA found at the scene were Rebecca’s, despite the fact that Adam had cut her body down and also tried to resuscitate her. Investigators did not find Adam’s fingerprints on the knife he had used to cut Rebecca down. Adam also showed investigators the table he had stood on to cut her down — a 3-legged table. As you can imagine, it would prove quite difficult for a grown man to stand on a 3-legged table and be supported enough to then cut down a lifeless corpse.

If you think all this is strange, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

When investigators discovered the scene left behind in the bedroom attached to the balcony from which Rebecca’s body was found, it was certainly puzzling. On the door to the bedroom was a cryptic message written in black paint: “She saved him, can you save her.” Investigators also took note of a book found on one of Rebecca’s shelves: “Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft” which included images of a rite with a woman with her hands tied behind her back. Rebecca’s toe and heel prints were found on the balcony, as well as a print from a male boot.

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Rebecca Zahau’s bound feet, photo courtesy of cbs8.com

Let’s jump back to how Rebecca’s body had been found. She was naked. She was gagged with a T-shirt. Her feet were bound. Her hands were bound in complex sailing knots that Rebecca would have had to do blindly considering her hands were bound behind her back (seriously, think about how difficult this would be to do). Oh, and did I mention Adam Shacknai worked for a tugboat company and was very familiar with various nautical knots?

Dr. Lisa Boeski is a clinical psychologist who specializes in suicide cases. According to her, there are known suicides where the decedent had bound their hands as an attempt to keep them from changing their minds during the act, though very rare and never with such complex rope-tying. She also adds that she is unaware of any other suicide case, attempted or completed, where the decedent was gagged or their feet were bound, making Zahau’s suicide completely unique (if a suicide at all). Dr. Boeski also pointed out that the message on the door was written in the third-person, another unusual occurrence in a suicide case.

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Rebecca Zahau and Jonah Shacknai, photo courtesy of people.com

As investigators sorted through the strange evidence and tried to make sense of Rebecca’s suspicious death, Max Shacknai died on July 17th, 2011 at the age of 6 from injuries related to the traumatic fall. In an interview, Jonah Shacknai stated, “All I can think of, is that Rebecca saw what happened, felt responsible in some way, not that she did anything, but she was entrusted with Max. And that was too much to bear.” But let us not forget, Rebecca’s suicide occurred days before Max’s death. At the time of Rebecca’s hanging, Max was in critical condition but still alive.

On August 20th, 2011, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department ruled Rebecca’s death as a suicide, stating that her autopsy as well as DNA and fingerprints left at the scene did not show a sign of an attack. They presented this video to show how Rebecca would have been able to bind her own hands behind her back to support. According to them, the boot print found in addition to Rebecca’s toe and heel prints on the balcony were accidentally left behind by a police officer when investigating the scene.

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Adam Shacknai, photo courtesy of AZcentral.com

On April 4, 2018, a 12-member-jury found Adam Shacknai guilty of Rebecca’s death in a 9-3 vote. Jurors awarded $5 million dollars to Rebecca’s family, but for her mother and sister, it isn’t about the money. They just want to see justice for Rebecca. Because this was a civil trial, there does not need to be a unanimous decision. Also, Shacknai will not face any criminal charges and cannot be sentenced to prison.

In conclusion, did Rebecca go over a railing because Max went over a railing? Or did this poor woman feel so much guilt related to the young boy’s accident that she took her own life in such a dramatic fashion? I hope for the sake of Rebecca’s family that one day, this case will be reopened.

Sources

ABC News 1

ABC News 2

Atlas Obscura

AZ Central 1

AZ Central 2

Marcia Clark Investigates the First 48: The Spreckels Mansion Mystery

NBC San Diego

Town & Country

History’s Most Terrifying Female Serial Killers, Part VI: Juana Barraza

In parts IV and V we covered two of history’s least grandmotherly grannies Nannie Doss and Leonarda Cianciulli. As ruthless as these women were they would have been no match for today’s killer, whose crimes earned her the nickname La Mataviejitas, The Old Lady Killer.

Juana Barraza was born in Hidalgo, Mexico in 1957. Like almost all of the women in this series she began her life a victim of those around her. Her parents were Trinidad Barraza, a policeman, and Justa Samperio, a prostitute. Justa left her partner shortly after giving birth to Juana, and the two shared a cold and unloving relationship as she grew.

When she was just 12 years old, Juana’s mother sold her to a man, Jose Lugo, allegedly  for the paltry sum of three beers. For four years she lived with his abuse and was impregnated by him on two occasions, however both ended in miscarriages. After Justa died of cirrhosis, Juana fled to Mexico City.

It was here that Juana, now free of her mother and her abuser, began to take hold of her own life. She held a number of jobs throughout the 80’s and set about making a lifelong dream of hers into a reality. Juana was obsessed with the sport of lucha libre, Mexican masked wrestling, and idolized the fighters, called luchadors.

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Juana Barraza as La Dama de Silencio. source

She became a regular at local matches, often sitting in the front row of the arenas. She eventually made her way into the wrestling world, organizing events and even getting in the ring herself. Juana cut an imposing figure and could bench up to 200 lbs at the height of her wrestling career. She toured central Mexico as a luchador who went by La Dama de Silencio, The Lady of Silence. The name was reflective of Juana’s shy, reserved nature outside of the ring.

By the 90’s Juana had fallen on hard times. She had four children from a number of failed relationships, and supporting them all as a single mother was costly. In 1995, after the birth of her fourth child, she took to stealing from shops and burglarizing homes to help make ends meet.

She and a friend, Araceli Tapia Martinez, combined efforts in a scheme to rob the elderly. The pair would gain entry into people’s homes dressed in all white, claiming to be nurses or social workers. Once inside they would make their way through the house and relieve the occupant of their valuables.

This would become Juana’s modus operandi, except that she rarely stopped at just robbing her victims during these unprompted house calls. In the early 2000’s there was a sharp uptick in murders involving elderly women in Mexico City. When the press picked up the story rumors spread of a new serial killer dubbed El Mataviejitas. Note the use of the masculine “el,” as no one believed these brutal crimes could possibly be the work of a woman.

Juana’s first victim was María de la Luz González, who apparently made some derogatory remarks toward the woman intruding in her apartment. Juana didn’t take kindly to whatever was said and answered by beating González before strangling her to death with her bare hands.

Bodies began to pile up and in 2003 police confirmed the long standing rumor that a serial killer was likely responsible. Despite eyewitness accounts of a woman leaving the scene of these crimes, police held stubbornly to the original assertion that a man was behind the killings. Many of the city’s transgender and transvestite population were rounded up and questioned but none of their prints matched the ones lifted from the crime scenes.

By 2006, the El Mataviejitas murders had subsided leading investigators to suspect the serial killer had committed suicide. Fingerprints of all recent arrivals to the city’s morgues were taken and checked against the crime scene prints but once again no matches were found.

The ultimate break in the case occurred January 25, 2006, when a tenant spotted Juana leaving the scene of the murder of landlady Ana Maria de los Reyes Alfaro. Officers patrolling the area responded to the call and arrested Juana.

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Bust and composite sketches of El Mataviejitas. source

Once in custody, investigators posed Juana next to composite sketches and a bust made of her based on eyewitness testimony. Authorities were eager to give the appearance they had been on her trail for some time when almost every step of the case seemed to indicate the opposite. Juana had even showed her face inside of a police station and in a TV interview about wrestling just weeks prior to her arrest.

A search of her home revealed a trophy room full of newspaper clippings of her murders and a number of objects taken from her victim’s homes. In addition to the mementos police found altars to Jesús Malverde and Santa Muerte, folk saints revered by individuals in the Mexican crime world.

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Juana appearing for trial. source

Juana was tried in spring 2008, the prosecution sought charges in connection with 40 murders. She confessed only to Alfaro, her most recent victim. By the end of her trial on 31 March, she was found guilty of 16 counts of murder and aggravated burglary and sentenced to 759 years in prison. Maximum sentence under Mexican law is 60 years, so Juana will be up for parole in 2058 should she live to see 100.

Sources:

Criminal Minds Wiki – “Juana Barraza” 

Murderpedia – “Juana Barraza”, “The Lady Killer”

J.H. Moncrieff – “The Startling True Story of Mexico’s “Old Lady Killer””

Another Reason To Support Capital Punishment: The Murder of Gabriel Fernandez

The following includes descriptive acts of violence and counts of extreme child abuse. If at any point you feel distressed, there is a list for help lines at the bottom of this page.

Welcome back to Murder Monday.

Today we’re going to touch base on a little thing called capital punishment.

cap·i·tal pun·ish·ment
ˈkapədl ˈpəniSHmənt/
noun
1. the legally authorized killing of someone as punishment for a crime.

Where is capital punishment legal in the US?

The death penalty is legal in 31 states and illegal in 19 states (and DC). The “legal” and “illegal” designations in the “Death Penalty Status” column are based on the US Department of Justice’s “Capital Punishment” reports.

All 31 states with the death penalty provide lethal injection as the primary method of execution. Some states allow methods other than lethal injection, but only as secondary methods to be used merely at the request of the prisoner or if lethal injection is unavailable.

In the following states, death row inmates with an execution warrant may choose to be executed by:
* Electrocution in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia
* Gas inhalation in Arizona and California
* Firing squad in Utah
* Hanging in Washington

Depending on the state, the following alternative methods are statutorily provided in the event that lethal injection is either found unconstitutional by a court or unavailable for practical reasons:
* Electrocution in Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee
* Gas inhalation in Alabama, California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming
* Firing squad in Oklahoma and Utah
* Hanging in New Hampshire

As we all know, capital punishment/the death penalty is a popular topic of debate. There are many sides to this argument. Was the person proven guilty without a reasonable doubt? Was the evidence collected or presented enough to convict the suspect? What was the severity of the crime? And most importantly to me, was the crime committed enough for me to personally wish death upon this person? Or was it *just* shitty enough for me to be okay with them rotting in a jail cell, being fed daily and having basic privileges, while I ultimately end up paying for their care? Obviously, there are many many other factors that come into play on this topic. For me, personally, I support capital punishment. Especially when it’s sentence falls upon someone who damn well deserves to be put to death – rapists, murderers, sex offenders, and child abusers.

Meet Pearl Fernandez & Isauro Aguirre.

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Pearl Fernandez called 911 on May 22, 2013 to report that her son was not breathing. She told sheriff’s deputies who arrived at the apartment that Gabriel had fallen and hit his head on a dresser, according to testimony. When paramedics arrived, they found Gabriel naked in a bedroom, not breathing. His skull was cracked, he had three broken ribs and BB pellets were found embedded in his lung and groin. He died two days later.

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“It was just like every inch of this child had been abused,” – James Cermak, a Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic

Gabriel died as a result of blunt force trauma and child neglect, but this was after months and maybe even years of pure torture. Gabriel’s 13-year-old brother testified against their mother and her boyfriend. The court has been struggling to figure out just exactly how this case had slipped through the cracks of child services for as long as it did. The couple allegedly hid the boy’s injuries through doctors notes and sent him to school with them. His school had called the authorities before when the young boy showed signs of being suicidal, so the couple began claiming that the boy’s injuries were all self-induced.

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Gabriel Fernandez was born in 2005, and shortly after his birth he was transferred to the custody of relatives due to his mother’s troubled history. In 2012, Pearl Fernandez reclaimed her children. Just two weeks later, while in the care of his mother, Gabriel demonstrated to his second grade teacher that he knew how to “snort cocaine.” His mother was already the target of six different child abuse investigations, one of which resulting from Gabriel telling a therapist that his mother forced him to perform oral sex on a family member, shot him with a BB gun, and then beat him with a belt until he bled. This was around the time that teachers discovered the child’s suicide letters. Again, this is an 8-year-old child… writing suicide letters.

I warned you before, and will warn you again – this is an extremely graphic case. Please do not continue to read if you are feeling emotionally distressed.

The torture performed on this child, as testified in a court of law by his own siblings, is as follows:

Gabriel Fernandez’s 16-year-old brother, who was identified in court as Ezequiel C., told jurors he recalled his little brother being hit by his mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, and frequently being kept in a “box” in the couple’s bedroom. Photos of their bedroom showed two beds, room for Gabriel to sleep comfortably. His two older siblings would sleep in the same room where he was forced to sleep in a box.

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Other records of statements made by witnesses stated that the boy had been repeatedly pepper sprayed in the face at direct range, forced to eat cat feces, burned with lighters, forced to eat his own vomit, forced to perform sexual acts on unnamed family members, starved, shot with a BB gun, and other heinous acts I don’t feel the need to share. His death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head.

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Last week, in California, Isauro Aguirre, 37, was sentenced to death. Pearl Fernandez, 34, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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There is a special, special place in Hell for child abusers. Pearl Fernandez will rot in a jail cell paid for by our tax dollars, which makes me sick. But, if she is in prison surrounded by women who miss their children, I will rest assured knowing that she will feel the torture that her son felt behind those prison walls. Isauro will either die from lethal injection or gas inhalation. From what I’ve heard, lethal injection shuts down your brain and your body while you feel your insides burning until your heart stops. Although he will die quickly, for a brief moment before that motherfucker slips his last breath in, he will feel the the pain of being burned alive, just like Gabriel Fernandez did – and he fucking deserves it.

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See you next week.

Sources:

https://www.dailynews.com/2018/02/15/mother-of-gabriel-fernandez-8-pleads-guilty-to-first-degree-murder-in-his-beating-death/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Brother-of-Slain-8-Year-Old-Boy-Recounts-Harrowing-Tale-of-Abuse-451532973.html%3famp=y

Yet Another “Florida Man”: The Mental Break of Austin Hauroff

For those of you who weren’t scarred by last week’s topic, welcome back to Murder Monday! If I failed at making you uncomfortable last week, well, you’re probably a sociopath. I’m going to try a little harder this week, and if this doesn’t bother you, you’re definitely a sociopath. Or maybe that just makes me a sociopath… but anyways.

These week, were going to touch base on a little thing called cannibalism.

Cannibalism is the consumption of another human’s body matter, whether consensual or not. In the United States, there are no laws against cannibalism exactly, but most, if not all, states have enacted laws that indirectly make it impossible to legally obtain and consume the body matter.

For whatever reason, cannibalism seems to be the highest form of betrayal against humanity. Not only are you murdering someone, which is by far the worst thing you could do, but you’re consuming them. It seems to be glorified in headlines, like some sort of phenomena. Cannibalism is considered taboo in basically every place except for China, where it is often considered gourmet. Going all the way back to Hannibal Lector, to Jeffrey Dahmer, to Cannibal Cop — these people caught attention. Silence of the Lambs crushed the box office. Jeffrey Dahmer, well, we all know who he is. And Cannibal Cop actually got SYMPATHY of all things after numerous specials and documentaries came out about him (cry me a river, you fucking freak).

You may remember a series of incidents involving bath salts and a drug called “flakka” being associated with symptoms of cannibalism. All of the above are also, not surprisingly, associated with Florida… if you live in America and you have not yet realized that the most absurd crimes happen in Florida, you probably live in a cave. Flakka is a designer drug that can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed. It may also be combined with other, softer drugs such as marijuana. Flakka is most typically made from the chemical alpha-PVP, which is a synthetic version of the amphetamine-like stimulant cathinone. Cathinones are chemicals derived from the khat plant grown in the Middle East and Somalia, where the leaves are frequently chewed for a euphoric buzz. It is made from the same chemical family as “bath salts,” which were thought to be responsible for a man chewing another man’s face off in Miami in 2012. Turned out Rudy Eugen, the attacker in this incident, was not high on flakka. He was shot dead by police after an 18 minute rampage ending in him eating a man’s face from the beard up, even consuming his left eye. Rudy Eugene’s toxicology report only showed positive results for marijuana. Oddly enough, he was not the only “Florida Man” headline associated with cannibalism that was not positively linked to flakka, and not even the most bizarre.

Meet Austin Haurroff.

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Harrouff was born December 21, 1996 in Palm Beach Gardens. Neighbors and friends said that despite being a child of divorced parents, he had a good upbringing and a great childhood. The son of a dentist and pharmacist, Austin Harrouff hoped to enroll pre-med at a four-year university and one day earn a doctorate, according to his test reports in high school. He even took a test three times to improve his scores to meet college-prep benchmarks. In high school, Haurroff thrived in science, and later his passion shifted towards art. He attended Florida State University, and while studying exercise science and participating in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, records show Harrouff had no disciplinary history at FSU. He had a 3.2 GPA at FSU, just shy of a B+ average.

Notes and lists found in Haurroff’s phone from his freshman year at Florida State University showed that he was having strange thoughts.

“keep running even when they say you crazy”

“I don’t want to be worshipped but I know that I will be.”

Friends and family started noticing a shift in his attitude and behavior around this time. His parents said he became obsessed with helping people, so much so that he was losing sleep at night. His “notes” and poems got darker, his sleeping patterns worsened, and his friends distanced themselves out of fear. They said he started making claims of being “half-animal” (specifically half-horse) and bragging about his immortality. His own sister was looking her door at night out of fear that he may hurt her. It got so bad that his parents thought that they should take him for a mental evaluation, but they never did.

August 15, 2016

On August 15, 2016, Austin Haurroff’s parents grew more concerned than ever. According to his sister, Harley Haurroff, he seemed receptive to a conversation they had about therapy this day. “He always says weird shit,” she told Dr. Phil in a September 2016 interview. Later that day, while on a walk with his father, Austin Haurroff saw two turtle shells on the sidewalk, pulled out his pocket knife, and told his dad “something is gonna happen.”

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He was right, something was definitely going to happen.

He went to a local Duffy’s restaurant with his father and step-mother later that night, and he became irritated. He got up abruptly, left the restaurant, and walked twomiles to his mother’s house. When he arrived, he helped himself to dinner. At his mother’s house, his bedroom had been moved to the garage because he was convinced that there were demons in her house. He sat down and ate a bowl of olive oil full of parmesan cheese (what in the actual fuck) before his mom came in. His mother arrived at the home and found him drinking cooking oil out of a bottle, stopped him, and drove him back to Duffy’s. She then called police, and reported that she was concerned her son was showing signs of schizophrenia and “delusions”. When he got back to the restaurant, he started an argument with his father. His father grabbed him by the shirt, and questioned his behavior. Austin positioned himself to punch his father, but gave up and left the restaurant yet again.

“I’m so sick and tired of doing what I’m told,” Harrouff had written in a note on his phone 10 days earlier, according to records of his phone. “I’m going to leave my mark before I get old.”

This time when Austin Haurroff left Duffy’s restaurant, he walked 4 miles reportedly running from a “dark figure”, and ended up in the garage of John Stevens, a 59-year-old landscaper, and his wife, Michelle Mishcon, 53. He claims to have no recollection as to how he ended up here, but that he was “scared as hell” – as if John and Michelle weren’t.

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He stabbed Michelle Mishcon and her husband, John Stevens, in their garage. A neighbor witnessing the attack was also attacked while trying to help the couple. He was stabbed in the back before calling 911, but survived. When police arrived on scene, Austin Haurroff was crouched over John Steven’s body, spitting chunks of flesh out of his mouth and laughing. He reportedly drank a bottle of motor oil in their garage during the attack also. Austin Haurroff ate peices of John Stevens’ face before being taken into custody.

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Haurroff was charged with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and burglary. It was oringinally assumed that he was under the influence of “flakka” or bath salts, but toxicology reports only showed minimal traces of THC and drugs that were administered to him upon treatment in the hospital after the attack. There was a small amount of alcohol in his system, but it is thought that this could just be from the oil that he drank in the garage.

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SO, no drugs, no booze, no diagnosed illness – after “weeks/months” of “irratic behavior” documented and reported by his own family, Austin Haurroff became a murderer, and he could have been stopped. He could have, and should have, recieved psychiatric attention or treatment – but he did not.

May 2018

Harrouff, 21, has been inmate No. 896298 since his arrest Oct. 3, 2016. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and single counts each of attempted murder, resisting an officer without violence and burglary of a dwelling while armed. His divorced parents have both showed unwavering support towards their son’s innocence. His father, Wade, has visited 61 times, and his mother, Mina, has visited 75. He is also visited bi-weekly by a minister. Harrouff has also been seen at least 34 times by his trio of attorneys, Nellie King, Robert Watson and Jordon Showe.

“Harrouff’s parents generally deposit about $200 every two or three weeks into his jail commissary account, which reports show has a running total of around $500.

Since October 2016, Harrouff has received $7,998 from his family. He’s also spent $7,679 on food, toiletry and paper items, and he pays a $3 daily fee to the jail administration, records confirm.

Harrouff spends most of his cash on a wide variety of snack foods — sour neon worms, Oreo cookies and Doritos cool ranch are particular favorites, along with Ramen noodles, chicken breast, honey buns, coffee and drinks.

Specifically, Harrouff spends between $75 and $95 per week on a routine list of commissary items that he often reorders week after week.

A typical order might include 10 honey buns, 10 packs of Doritios spicy sweet chili, five “jalapeño cheese sque’ezers,” 10 “double beef sticks” and a variety of candy bars.”

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Austin Haurroff’s trial date has not been set. With an apparent 240 witnesses in the case and a more than 3,700 pages of discovery from his defense team, there still appears to be pieces of evidence missing in the eyes of the court. To be acquitted, Harrouff’s legal team must convince a judge or jury he didn’t know what he was doing at the time of the murders, or didn’t know it was wrong and couldn’t appreciate the consequences of his actions. He could face the death penalty, or he could get off on an insanity plea. In court this past May, Haurroff claimed he “just wanted to be a normal kid again.”

So, stay tuned… I guess.

If you, yourself, or anyone you know is showing side effects of delusions or mental illness of any kind – please do not hesitate to contact local authorities. Mental illness is a delicate monster, a creature in itself, to be handled with care and precision. This child could have been stopped, like many others. You can choose to argue with me on the topic of rehabilitaton all you want, but how would you feel if this kid ate your loved one alive and was then able to return to society? I hope this kid rots in prison, as sad as it is. Once mental illness has hit this sort of peak, there is no coming back. Help is readily available for mental illness in today’s world, so please do something.

See you next week.

Sources:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-austin-harrouff-past-20161129-story.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3965962/Cannibal-frat-boy-killed-couple-ate-man-s-face-NOT-influence-bath-salts-flakka-toxicology-report-reveals.html

https://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/martin-county/2018/03/09/parents-stand-son-accused-brutal-killing-martin-county-couple/311380002/

History’s Most Terrifying Female Serial Killers, Part V: Leonarda Cianciulli

In Part III, we covered the life and crimes of the “jolly” nurse Jane Toppan. Today’s entries are being released concurrently as they focus on two more women you would never have seen coming. Much in the way people trusted Toppan as a nurse, these women didn’t fit anyone’s idea of what a killer looks like. Nannie Doss and Leonarda Cianciulli would have reminded you more of your Grandma than of Ted Bundy. They might have even offered you tea and cookies, but you’d be wise not to accept any consumables from these ladies.

Leonarda Cianciulli was a beloved figure in her Italian community. She was by all appearances a sweet elderly woman fond of entertaining and preparing food for her guests. Like the case of Nannie Doss, no one saw the wolf behind the sheep’s clothing until it was too late.

Born in Italy some time between 1893 and 1894, Leonarda’s childhood was nothing short of tragic. She was conceived through rape, and her mother was left with few options. Rather than face being ostracized by her community, she was forced to marry her rapist Mariano Cianciulli. Leonarda was a painful reminder to her mother of the terrible decision she had to make. Needless to say, this resentment made for an unhappy childhood, resulting in two separate attempts at suicide at a young age.

Leonarda struck out on her own as soon as she was able. Going against her parent’s wishes she married in 1917 to Raffaele Pansardi. She would come to believe her mother had placed a curse on them for this transgression. Leonarda was extremely superstitious and often sought the council of fortune tellers. This propensity for the mystic arts would have a lasting effect on the direction her life would take.

She and her husband were met with an unfortunate series of events early on and were forced to move around on more than one occasion. One move in particular came as a result of an earthquake in 1930 that struck their region, killing over 1,400 people and leveling their home. Leonarda attributed this all to her mother’s alleged curse.

From there, the couple finally settled in Correggio, where Leonarda set up a small shop and quickly earned a reputation as a kindly neighbor and loving mother. For a time it seemed her misfortune had run its course.

This turn wouldn’t last however, and Leonarda began to feel once again like a cursed woman. Out of 17 pregnancies three would miscarry and 10 would die at a young age from a variety of illnesses. She was understandably protective of her surviving four children, especially her son Giuseppe, her eldest and favorite child.

During this time, Leonarda met with a fortune teller who prophesied that she would have many children but would lose them all before she died. Her fears for her remaining children deepened. In 1939, as Italy was entering the war, she learned that her son Giuseppe was to be drafted. She would do whatever it took to redirect what she saw as fate coming to claim another of her offspring.

Leonarda decided the only way to cheat death was to provide a replacement soul for the afterlife. She had become something of a fortune teller herself and could easily manipulate the elderly women who came seeking her services. One particular client, Faustina Setti, was drawn in by Leonarda’s promise of providing a husband. She convinced her to write all of her family and loved ones informing them of her great fortune and that she would be travelling to Pola to meet her future husband.

Leonarda made sure Faustina stopped in to say goodbye before her trip. Ever grateful, her client was happy to oblige. Leonarda drugged the wine she provided her guest and before long Faustina was rendered unconscious. Wasting no time, Leonarda took an axe and cut the woman into nine pieces, collecting the blood into a basin.

In her memoir, Leonarda goes into detail about her unsettling process.

“I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the whole mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”

 It turned out just one soul wasn’t enough to put Leonarda’s worries to rest. Her first kill had gone smoothly enough that her method varied little for the ones to follow. This time instead of a husband, she claimed to find a job for a Francesca Soavi at a girl’s school in Piacenza. Once again, farewell letters were written to explain her disappearance, and a final appointment made for Francesca to come visit Leonarda before her departure. The visit took place on September 5, 1940 and mirrored that of Faustina’s. Again, the remains didn’t go to waste and were used to make soap and more of Leonarda’s famous tea cakes.

Just to be safe, Leonarda decided a third victim was necessary. Virginia Cacioppo was lured into her trap with a promise of a secretary position in Florence. According to a chilling statement by Leonarda:

“She ended up in the pot, like the other two…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.”

 Her third victim would prove to be her undoing. Virginia’s sister-in-law wasn’t satisfied with the explanation she was given for her disappearance and decided to look into it herself. When she learned Virginia was last seen entering the Cianciulli’s home, she relayed her concerns to the local chief of police.

After an investigation, Leonarda was arrested. She confessed to the murders almost immediately, and even made corrections to the official account of her crimes during her trial in 1946. She was found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prison and three in a criminal asylum.

Leonarda Cianciulli died on October 15, 1970 of cerebral apoplexy while housed at the women’s criminal asylum in Pozuolli. Artifacts from the case, among them the pot she used to boil the bodies of her victims, are on display at the Criminological Museum in Rome.

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Sources:

gizmodo.com “The Superstitious Murderer Who Turned Her Victims into Cake and Soap”

murderpedia.org “Leonarda Cianciulli”

youtube.com “Making Bodies Into Soap” – Leonarda Cianciulli