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Between 1971-1973 in Rochester, New York, three young girls (all aged 10 or 11) were murdered. All of the girls had a surname which began with the same letter as her first name and the town where they lived also began with that letter.
The first victim was Carmen Colon from Churchville, New York.
On November 16, 1971 at 4.20pm, Carmen who was 10, left her home to run an errand. Her grandmother had asked her to goto a pharmacy on Main Street. In the past, Carmen’s grandfather had gone with her to run errands, but on this occasion, Carmen pleaded to be allowed to go unaccompanied.
Carmen went into the pharmacy where she found out that the prescription she was meant to collect had not been processed.
She told the store owner Jack Corbin ‘I got to go. I got to go.’
She left the pharmacy and got into a car parked nearby.
When she had not returned home a few hours later, she was reported missing at 7.50pm.
Around 50 mins after Carmel left the pharmacy, drivers on I 490 saw her, naked from the waist down running from a reversing vehicle. The child had been attempting to flag down passing cars. One of the witnesses saw Carmen being led back to the vehicle by the abductor.
Carmen’s body was found two days later near Churchville. She was found 12 miles from where she was last seen alive.
An autopsy found that Carmen had been raped and that she had suffered fractures to her skull and vertebrae before being strangled to death. Her body had also been scratched by fingernails.
The next victim was Wanda Walkowicz – her body was found in Webster, New York.
Wanda was 11 when she went missing on April 2, 1973. She also went missing while running an errand.
Her family had asked Wanda to goto a delicatessen to buy some groceries. I believe she left her home at around 5pm and purchased the groceries at 5.15pm. When she hadn’t returned home by 8pm, she was reported missing by her mother Joyce.
Fifty detectives joined the search for Wanda that night but found no trace of her.
Wanda’s fully clothed body was found the next day at 10.15am. She had been discarded at the base of a hill in State Route 104 in Webster. The position of her body indicated that she had been thrown from a moving vehicle.
Wanda’s autopsy showed that she had been sexually assaulted, then strangled from behind, likely with a belt. She had defensive wounds which showed she had fought for her life.
The killer had redressed Wanda’s body after death. Semen and pubic hair was found on her body. Cat fur was also found on her clothes but Wanda’s family did not own a pet with similar fur.
A witness came forward and said that they had seen Wanda standing near a large brown vehicle, talking with the driver
The next victim was Michelle Maenza who was found dead in Macedon, New York.
Michelle, who was 11, was reported missing on November 26, 1973 after she failed to return home from school. She was last seen by her classmates at 3.20pm, walking alone to a shopping mall. She had been going to get a purse that her mother had left inside a store that day.
At around 5.30pm that day, a passing motorist observed a man near a beige or tan vehicle with a flat tire. The man was holding a child who is now thought to have been Michelle, by the wrist. The motorist stopped to offer help and the man ‘grabbed the girl and pushed her behind his back.’ He also moved to stand in front of the license plate, to obscure the view of it. The motorist felt scared and left the scene.
Michelle’s fully clothed body was discovered at 10.30am on November 28. She was found dead in a ditch in Macedon. Her autopsy revealed that she had been raped, suffered blunt force trauma and had been strangled to death with a ligature that was possibly a thin rope. White cat fur was also found on her clothing.
Investigators were able to get a partial palm print from her neck and found traces of semen on her body and underwear. The analysis of the semen found that she been raped by one individual.
Traces of a hamburger and onions were found in Michelle’s stomach and this matched up with sightings of her with a Caucasian man, aged between 25-35 who stood around 6 feet tall and 165lbs in a fast food restaurant earlier on November 26 . This man also matched the description given by the passing motorist.
Following Michelle’s murder, investigators released a sketch of the possible abductor.
More than 800 suspects were interviewed in relation to the murders.
Each of the children came from a lower income Catholic family, and each had recently experienced bullying or poor academic performance. Investigators looked into the possibility that the murderer may have been employed by or involved with a social service agency and that he used that position to gain the trust of each victim.
Investigators believe that there is little possibility that the victims were selected due to their double initials and that this was likely a coincidence. Some also believe that Carmen Colon was murdered by a different perpetrator to the other two girls.
In terms of suspects in the murders –
Miguel Colon is considered to be a suspect in Carmen’s murder. He was her paternal uncle. After Carmen’s parents split up, he formed a relationship with Carmen’s mother Guillermina.
Weeks before Carmen’s murder, Miguel purchased a car that matched the description of the car that was seen reversing in the case. When investigators searched the car, they found it had been extensively cleaned and washed with cleaning solution.
Two days after Carmen died, Miguel told a friend that he had to leave the country as he had ‘done something wrong in Rochester’. He moved to Puerto Rico four days after the murder.
Investigators did travel to San Juan to interview him and he surrendered on March 26, 1972. He agreed to be extradited back to Rochester.
Miguel was unable to provide an alibi. Despite all of the circumstantial evidence, no physical evidence was able to link him to the murder.
Miguel took his life in 1991 at the age of 44, after an incident where he shot and wounded both his wife and his brother.
Another suspect is a Rochester firefighter named Dennis Termini. He was 25 years old around the time of the murders. He was a serial offender known as the ‘Garage Rapist’. He committed a minimum of 14 rapes of young women between 1971-1973. He also had a vehicle similar to the one seen by witnesses and he lived in the area where Michelle was last seen alive.
Five weeks after Michelle’s murder, on January 1, 1974, Dennis attempted to abduct a teenage girl at gunpoint. He fled the scene after the girl would not stop screaming. Shortly after, he abducted another victim and was chased by police. He ended up taking his life by shooting himself in the head following the pursuit.
When police later examined Dennis’ car, they found white cat fur.
Authorities exhumed his body in 2007 and compared his DNA to semen recovered from Wanda’s body. It was found to not be a match. There was no physical evidence available from either Carmen or Michelle to test against.
Kenneth Bianchi is another suspect. He worked as an ice cream vendor in Rochester, in locations near where the first two murders occurred. He left Rochester and moved to Los Angeles in January 1976. Between 1977-1978, he and his cousin Angelo Buono Jr committed the Hillside Strangler murders of 10 young girls and women – all aged between 12-18.
Kenneth was never charged with the Alphabet murders and denied being involved in them. He is thought to have had a vehicle that matched the description of the car that was seen.
Joseph Naso was arrested in 2011 for the murders of four women in California. He committed those murders between 1977 and 1994. All of the women were sex workers and interestingly, they had all double initial names. Joseph had lived in Rochester in the early 1970’s.
Authorities tested his DNA against the semen found at Wanda’s scene and it was not a match.