The Genesee River Killer - Arthur Shawcross
Before I begin, let me warn you…this story contains graphic details and pictures of crime scenes. There is graphic discussion about children murders and the murder of sex-workers.
Proceed with caution my friends.
I have got a doozy of a story to tell you as my first addition to The Secret Library. It is a story of sex, torture, mental illness, and a flawed correctional system. What is really sad is that this could refer to countless true crime cases but today I will be telling you about Arthur Shawcross - the Genesee River Killer.
Arthur Shawcross was born to young parents, Arthur Roy (21) and Bessie (18) Shawcross, on June 6, 1945 in the US Naval hospital in Kittery, Maine. He started his life as a smaller than the average newborn due to being born two-months premature. Once he was strong enough to leave the hospital, his mother took him to Watertown, NY to stay with her sister-in-law until Arthur Sr. was discharged from his military duty.
Over time, this little neck-of-the-woods became known as “Shawcross Corner” because so many Shawcross’s moved into the area and expanded their families with more children. It’s going to be like the worst version of Mr. Roger’s Neighbor that could have existed. With so much competition for attention Arthur acted “odd”. He preferred to talk like a baby, chronically wet the bed until he was in his teens, and was constantly running away. Isn’t wetting the bed for that long a sign of something? Like abuse or neglect or something along those lines?
For his first few years in school, Arthur excelled in the classroom but he was a loner and the other kids nicknamed him “Oddie”. As his grades began to slip he also started bullying the smaller, younger kids. He had a short fuse and when confrontation became an everyday occurrence he started carrying an iron bar to school. And for some reason, his teachers knew but did nothing about it. O, a kid carrying an iron bar on the bus and around in his backpack - nothing out of the ordinary here! Seriously, people? When he was not in class he was often seen on the edge of the forest screaming at and pulverizing inanimate objects. He also used to “take walks” where he would kick and pull and destroy plants. Definitely a happy child. No red flags here.
By 8th grade, he had been held back two times and was 2-3 years older than all of his classmates. His grades were in the pits and he decided enough was enough and dropped out.
His home life played a role in his attitude and behavior at school (obviously). He avoided home as much as possible by running away to his Grandmother’s house. His mother had become raging abusive woman after she had discovered that her husband, Arthur Sr., had another wife and son in Australia. As a result of her abuse, he became quiet and withdrawn. He would not stop her abuse against his children. And I have no idea when he went to Australia to have this other family or if he ever talked to them again but I could not find anything about them. I assume they think that Arthur Sr. died or is MIA.
Beginning at the age of 8, Arthur became obsessed with all things SEX. He masturbated whenever and wherever he could. He would perform and receive oral sex from female and male friends, and he claims that when people wouldn’t act on him that he had sex with cows, sheep, a horse, and even killed a chicken in a sexual attempt. Geez…I feel bad for all of those animals but especially the chicken! WTF little boy? He claims he was introduced to fellatio by his Aunt Tina who used to make him perform oral sex on her. This became his favorite type of sexual intimacy. Supposedly, he had trouble maintaining an erection and had very limited penetrative intercourse, even into adulthood.
By the time he was 14, he was regularly having oral sex with his little sister Jeannie (12) and his cousin Linda. Around this time he started sexually abusing a neighborhood girl and once when he was performing oral on her, her older brother caught him and threatened him. Saying that if he didn’t also “do him” then he would tell. Arthur obliged. I doubt he was upset about that result.
His sexual perversions took a turn when he was allegedly picked up by a predator on his way home from school one afternoon. This man (allegedly) held him at knifepoint while he performed oral on Arthur. When Arthur was unable to achieve an orgasm (because he was fucking terrified!) the man brutally sodomized him, then just dropped him off at home. From this point on, he was a sadist. He could not enjoy sex unless it involved pain.
Since he was no longer in school he drifted from job to job and starting dipping his toe into the petty theft ring.
At 19-years-old he married for the first time and had a son but this relationship was doomed from the start and only lasted 4-years.
In 1968, he joined the army and was deployed to Vietnam. He later stated that this is where he learned to love to kill. He loved to feel like a predator in the jungle hunting his prey. O, and he married again right before being deployed to Linda Neary, they had a very brief courtship and no it was not his cousin Linda but that would have been a twist, wouldn’t it? His job was the dispatch clerk, where he was responsible for flying out to various war-zones and delivering ammunition via helicopter. But he was thirsty for violence! The sick fuck.
This next little story is one that he claims happens but could not be proven, he did have a flair for embellishment and straight up fucking lying. He states that he found two Vietnamese women hiding in some brush. He immediately shot one in the head and tied the other to a tree. After tying up the second girl he returned to the body of the first and removed her head, placing it on a pole for the enemy to later find. He sliced off a bit of her thigh, cooked it, and ate it in front of her friend. Then his attention turned to the tied up girl again. He made her perform oral sex on him, raped her, then shot her in the head and butchered the body. This was allegedly his first kill. But that is pretty gruesome for that to be his FIRST GO! That’s one reason why this story was questioned. Killers usually don’t start out this viciously but they do evolve into something this sadistic.
During his tour of duty, he was known to be especially brutal with local sex workers, particularly to an 11-year-old girl. He perpetuated the rumor that sex-workers would have razor blades in their vaginas which would cut men’s penis’ to shreds or totally off if they were raped. Supposedly, Arthur discovered that one sex-worker he had hired had this razor blade trick up her sleeve and he stuck a fire hose up her vagina and when he turned it on he watched her head pop off. He and some other men in his group shared a laugh - allegedly! Another sex-worker that he hired he brought her to the jungle, tied her to a tree and “cut her from anus to chin” just for shits and giggles. Because he could. Now, keep in mind that all of these claims he so firmly states happened during his time in Vietnam are hearsay. This is a man who likes to boast about his own fucked up versions of fairy tales.
And a small side note: you’ll notice that I don’t say prostitute or hooker or some other slang word for a sex-worker. These are women (and sometimes men) that are just surviving. No need to demean them further. I doubt most of them do it because they love it, though I’m sure there are a few out there with this outlook on their situations. That’s my spiel. Live with it.
Once his military service was fulfilled, he returned to civilian life but found it difficult to relax. He was most likely suffering from PTSD but would not seek help. He would beat his wife and become very aggressive. It was recommended to Linda that she have him committed to a mental facility for treatment and rest but she flat out refused, stating her religious views forbade it. She was a Christian Scientist, which irritated Arthur who believed all of it was just a form of witchcraft. Without medical attention, his mental condition slid further downhill.
As is somewhat usual for homicidal individuals at this point, he began to experiment and play with fire. He set the local paper mill on fire and later the cheese factory where he worked in 1969. Can you imagine the fire in a PAPER FACTORY - that would have been one intense bonfire. He was later tied to the crimes and arrested. He was convicted on two counts of arson and sentenced to five years in prison. He served 6-months at an Attica prison where (allegedly again!) he was raped by a trio of black men. He took revenge on each in turn and beat them severely. After this incident, he was relocated to Auburn prison where he completed his sentence.
He became eligible for early release in November 1971 because he had saved a prison guard who had been clubbed during a riot caused by racial tension. Prior to his release, Linda divorced him and he entered the world again to “start a new life.” A new life of debauchery!
He found employment at the Watertown Public Works as a handyman and met his third wife, Penny Nichol. She was actually a friend of his sister, Jeannie. She had two children from a previous relationship but Arthur was thrilled to have an “instant family.” Up to this point in Arthur’s life, it was rumored that he was still partaking an incestuous relationship with his sister Jeannie. But it came to a sudden end when she fell pregnant. She claims by her boyfriend at the time but I have no real clue. She still insists that they NEVER had a sexual relationship.
Penny did become pregnant somewhere in this time but miscarried. Penny was dealt another blow when her father accused Arthur of assaulting her younger sister. It was never proven but from then on they all watched him like a hawk when they were in his presence. When asked about this later on he couldn’t even remember if the sister’s name was Rose or Jill.
While out in the real world, Arthur enjoyed fishing around Watertown and became a familiar face to the local children who also fished in the area. One of his regular fishing companions was a 10-year-old boy named Jack Blake (it could have been Jake, there was conflicting information everywhere). Arthur even had the audacity to go to Jack’s home and ask his mother if he could take him fishing. She blatantly refused. And he AGREED that was a smart decision! Her mommy-danger senses must have been tingling.
June 4, 1972, little Jack Blake went out to play and was last seen near Arthur’s apartment complex, where they had been seen together that morning. He never came home. A mother’s worst. fucking. nightmare. She went by Arthur’s apartment to confront him but he claimed that he hadn’t seen him at all that day. Except for maybe a brief wave of recognition.
In truth, Arthur knew exactly what had happened to Jack. He had lured him into the woods, stripped him naked, and forced him to run through the dense undergrowth. Arthur literally played the role of the predator until he caught him and violently molested, strangled, and battered the boy to death. He removed his heart and genitals and ate them. Jack’s body was left in the woods. Arthur was a suspect in the case but never sufficiently linked to it so he was never charged. Even after his gruesome confession years later.
Three months after Jack’s disappearance (his body was never found by the way. OMG, my heart aches for his Momma!) 8-year-old Karen Ann Hill was found dead near a river. She had been brutally raped, mutilated, and strangled. The day she went missing she had been seen by several eyewitnesses in the company of Arthur Shawcross. He was rounded up for questioning and interrogated for the full day. He admitted that he been in the area enjoying some ice cream but knew nothing of the crime. In reality, he had returned to the scene of the crime for the explicit purpose of enjoying ice crime and becoming aroused. As the interviewer were about to give up on him he asked them, “What’s going to happen to me if I tell you something?” This peaked their interest and he struck up a plea bargain, with his attorney present.
He pled guilty to the manslaughter of Karen Ann Hill and was convicted. Arthur was sentenced to 25-years and was never charged with the murder of Jack Blake. DESPITE THE FUCKING FACT that he took police back to where he dumped Jack’s body in the woods and admitted to returning to have sex with the corpse on multiple occasions! What the actual fuck?!
As most true crime addicts know, child sex offenders are the lowest form of life on the totem pole in prison. At least they get some things right in prison. Even petty thieves have a moral code. Arthur spent the first 8-years of his sentence continually protecting himself from other inmates. He was noted as being involved in multiple fights, minor accounts of stealing, lighting fires, and refusing to leave his cell for fear of his own safety. He eventually molded himself into a model prisoner and was on the good side of most of the guards.
Arthur did attempt to get some psychiatric help while incarcerated but he felt that he was not listened to when he suggested his violence was linked to his time in Vietnam and PTSD. He felt they didn’t take any of his delusions, hallucinations, or sensory deceptions as relevant. Though, in 1976, it was determined that Arthur could not come to terms with the seriousness of his crimes and was constantly blaming others for his problems.
He did take a crack at improving himself while incarcerated. He took classes on lock smithing, horticulture, and began studying for his GED (high school equivalency test). And surprisingly, he even counselled mental patients.
In June 1977, he was yet again evaluated by a psychologist and the doctor was quoted as saying, “This man does not show a good degree of evidence of successfully resolving or working out his psycho-sexual conflicts.” So, he didn’t see any growth that was worth noting and thought he was “stuck” in his present mindset. Most professionals that evaluated Arthur agreed that as long as he wasn’t subjected to immense amounts of stress he could be a passive and calm man. But put him under pressure and he will become a slave to his sexual desires and won’t be able to control himself.
SOMEHOW, he qualified for early release in March 1987 and was deemed “fit to re-enter society”. Really? This is the man that it has been determined cannot handle any amount of stress and you’re going to toss him back out into the world, cross your fingers, and hope for the best? Dumbasses. His parole officer (PO), Robert T. Kent knew that Arthur was a danger to society and made that very clear in his statement, “This man [is] possibly the most dangerous individual to be released to this community for many years.” He knew some shit was about to hit the fan.
In 1988, it happened. Arthur Shawcross was released from prison after murdering two children. He was released under strict parole conditions: he must stay within Broome county, 11pm-7am curfew, no alcohol, no contact with persons under 18, and stay away from schools and other places where children will be present. If they were going to impose these strict rules on him why did they release his ass in the first place? These rules definitely won’t put any stress on him - sarcasm.
While he had been in prison, he struck up a pen-pal relationship with a woman named Rose Walley. He wanted to live with her and marry her right away, but there were some problems. Every place he moved into he was eventually driven out of once the community found out the nature of his crimes. He moved from Binghampton, NY to Delhi, NY (where he lived with Rose in her apartment for a short time), a church basement (which his PO arranged for him until he could find him something better). In Fleischmanns, NY he took up residence in a large house and found steady work with a contractor. Just as everything was looking up for Arthur an angry mob soon drove him out after he was recognized at the post office by an individual that was familiar with his crimes.
Arthur and Rose did finally settle in a small apartment in Rochester, NY where he found a job packing pre-made salads into boxes.
Christmas 1988, he invited his family out to spend the holidays and meet Rose but they refused. This flat out rejection put Arthur in a bad mood and he later learned from his sister that the present he had sent the family was returned to the store for cash. He was enraged that his family wanted nothing to do with him and he rode his bike around for hours until he calmed down.
After the holiday season had passed and 1989 started, Arthur started having an affair with Clara Neal. A woman he had met at work. Rose was suspicious of their relationship but Arthur played it off that he was just being nice to her so she would let him use her car.
Well, he used it all right. He used it to pick up sex workers and murder them
Arthur liked to frequent the local red-light district that was located in the city’s industrial area. It was known for sex-workers and cheap drugs and it was also near the Genesee River. Sound familiar? This is where he met his first victim - Dorothy “Dotsie” Blackburn. She approached his car and offered him a “date” (aka $30 for mutual oral sex). He claimed that while this mutual agreement was being fulfilled she bit him hard on the penis. Hard enough to draw blood, which instantly infuriated him and he bit a chunk out of her vagina. He then proceeded to choke her until she passed out. Using her own clothing, he tied her up and drove to his favorite fishing spot at Salmon River. He started threatening her with rape and other atrocities but being a tough ole broad she just mocked him and called him names. That sounds like the right decision, there Dotsie.
He strangled her with his bare hands and dumped her body into the icy river.
He sat in the car until at least midnight, took a break to relax in a coffee shop, then disposed of the remainder of her property in a dumpster. He then non-nonchalantly returned the car to Clara the next morning.
Neither Rose nor Clara were suspicious of this “out-all-night” behavior because Arthur kept unusual hours. So, they didn’t bat an eye.
Arthur became a regular client to the working ladies and they came to know him as “Mitch”.
March 24, Dotsie’s body was found (floating downstream from where she had been dumped). Due to the cold, winter water her body had been preserved but any evidence had been washed away. The authorities did immediately notice the chunk that had been removed from her vagina. Kind of a weird thing to notice right off the bat, but OK. At least they noticed.
Arthur lost his job soon after his first sex-worker kill because his boss found out why he had been prison. This harsh action triggered murder number two for Arthur (technically, number 4). Anna Steffen, whom he picked up and took to Driving Park Bridge. He claims that when he failed to get an erection she started laughing at him and making fun of him. Immediately angered, he punched her to the ground. She attempted to flee into the water and escape him but he followed her and drowned her. He didn’t bother trying to conceal the body and just let it float until it became ensnared in some debris down river. Her body decomposed at a faster rate because it was warmer but not a significant amount.
June 1989, he got the itch again. He had become friendly with a homeless woman who worked at a diner he liked to frequent. Dorothy Keller. They quickly became friends and started an affair (how is it that all of these creeps can keep so many girlfriends and wives?). One fine afternoon, they set out to go fishing together. They had a nice time fishing and taking breaks to have sex on the shore. Until around midday when it started to rain so they huddled together in the forest in an attempt to stay dry. Dorothy accused Arthur of stealing money from her and she began to threaten that she would come clean about their affair to the other women in his life. This made him angry and he beat her with a small log in the head, which caused her death. He tucked her body under a fallen tree and sauntered back home. He returned some time later and removed her skull, which he dumped in the river. Fisherman later found her body but Arthur was never connected to the crime.
His next victim was sex-worker, Patty Ives. They met at a construction site and coupled up on a mound of dirt. While he was “doing his business” he says that he caught her trying to steal his wallet so he pushed her hard onto the ground. When she began to cry to strangled her then anally raped her. Her body was hidden under some loose construction material and he waited until well after dark to leave the scene. My main question here is, why did they visit this construction site for sexy time if it was still daylight? Why not find somewhere more “private”?
His cooling off period is getting shorter and shorter.
Not even two months later he took the life of another sex-worker - Frances Brown. Now, this particular murder disturbs me on a whole new level that I didn’t even know existed within myself. He choked her death with his penis while she giving him oral. He then continued to desecrate her body after she was dead. Then casually rolled her down an embankment and into the river.
It was at this point that the media began to take notice of all of the murders that had happened within the past 18-months. They gave him various nicknames, “The Rochester Nightstalker”, “The Rochester Strangler”, and “The Genesee River Killer.”
His next victim was different from the others, in that she was a family friend who often visited Arthur and Rose at their apartment. June Stotts was a mildly mentally handicapped woman. Arthur saw her sitting alone on a bench one afternoon and asked her she wanted to go on a ride with him. She agreed and they drove to the beach where they played in the sand, fed the birds, and had casual sex. He began to make jokes about her no longer being a virgin and this upset June terribly. She was so upset that she began to scream at him. To silence her quickly he covered her mouth and nose with his hand “accidentally” suffocated her. And as if that wasn’t enough then he did THIS! He cut her body in half with his knife so that she would decompose faster. Before leaving, he covered her with a blanket and some brush. Of course, he has to embellish the story for his own demented retelling. He later said that he removed her organs and genitalia so he could eat them.
Before that month was up, Arthur would kill again. He picked up sex-work Maria Welch and after a brief argument over price they had sex. Once again, he claimed that she tried to steal his wallet while in the midst of “love making” (that just grosses me out to think about. There was nothing even close to love here) or she could have been menstruating at the time, which enraged him and he strangled her. I can’t believe I’ve never thought about how sex-workers handle their periods. I’m sure it’s a turn on for some but I would wager that clients don’t come along as easily or often during that time. He left her body in the bushes by the beach.
On November 11, it was brought to the police’s attention that a convicted child murderer and sex offender lived in the area and Arthur was instantly considered a suspect in all of the murders. That same day, the body of Frances Brown was identified.
By November 23, Arthur had struck again and right under investigators noses. At the same time as the body of June Stotts was discovered, Arthur picked up sex-worker Darlene Trippi and they had sex in a parking lot. When Arthur failed to hold an erection, Darlene became frustrated and started calling him names. I bet you can’t guess what happened next. He strangled her and left the body in the forest.
After an extremely brief cooling off period he picked up another sex-worker, Elizabeth Gibson. After agreeing to a “date”, Elizabeth went to wait in Arthur’s car while he ran in a diner to get a cup of coffee. Next, they went somewhere else for “privacy” where he accused her of stealing money from his wallet while he was in the diner. You didn’t have your wallet with you when you went into the diner, Arthur? And why are all of these ladies trying to rob you? She struggled so violently that the gear shift in the car was broken. After he was sure that she was dead, he drove her body to another county (Wayne County) and dumped it. He was afraid that police were closing in on him.
Barely two weeks later, despite a heavy police presence in the area, Arthur picked up sex-worker June Cicero. He attempted (and was unsuccessful) to have sex with her and just ended up strangling her. There is definitely no pattern to these murders - sarcasm! Don’t yell at me! He disposed of her body in the Salmon River. And here comes the embellishment. He states that he returned to the frozen body later with a small saw and removed part of her vagina and ate it.
His final victim (at fucking last!) was another sex-worker - Felicia Stephens (unfortunately, I could not find a picture of her). He, once again, strangled her and dumped it near those of June Cicero and Dorothy Blackburn. What makes Felicia’s death different from the others is that she was the only black woman he murdered during this entire time.
It’s time to catch this mother fucker.
On January 3, 1990 (I was born 3 days later!), Arthur became infatuated with the idea of having sex with June Cicero’s corpse. He was not an avid news watcher so he was unaware that the police presence had increased ten-fold in the last few weeks.
On this day, he stopped on a bridge that crossed the Salmon River and ate his lunch. From his vantage point he could see the frozen outline of June. And he enjoyed his fucking sandwich and ice cream. While he was “enjoying himself”, a helicopter passed overhead. They must have thought it was suspicious that he was just parked on a bridge so they began to follow him. Eventually, they requested ground support to follow him. They found him at his wife, Rose’s, work. She worked at an Adult Home. Not really sure if that means like a retirement home or like adult daycare. Police followed him inside and found him in the basement. They asked for ID and started questioning him about why he had stopped on the bridge.
They knew at this point that June’s body was in the river and her recovery had begun.
Arthur claimed that he had stopped to pee but when the helicopter showed up, it spooked him and he returned to his car and finished in a bottle. This story did not fly with the investigators.
They took him in for questioning but he was still not under arrest at this point. He sat and talked to them for hours and answered all of their questions voluntarily. Even questions about his past convictions. He was later released but was put under constant surveillance.
Arthur was picked up again the next morning to “clear up some inconsistencies in his story.” They were finally onto him. Fucking hooray.
and guess what…? HE CONFESSED TO IT ALL!!!
He lead police to each gravesite and positively identified the victims by photographs. He was charged with all of the murders that were attributed to the Genesee River Killer.
At his trial, he received no mercy from the jury and after a mere 6-hours of deliberation they found him guilty and he was sentenced to 250-years in prison. Not enough, in my opinion. He had attempted to enter a not-guilty plea by reason of insanity (stating that his troubles all started when his mother would punish him by ramming a broomstick handle up his ass) but his attempts at appearing “zombie-like” in the courtroom was a massive failure.
Despite the gruesome and just nasty piece of walking shit that this man is, he married Clara (Rose died in 1997).
He breathed his last on November 10, 2008.
Thank fucking GOD!
OMG! I finally got through this massive story. I am wiped. I hope you enjoyed this first entry into the Secret Library. I will be sure to send emails whenever new stories are added so you won’t have to miss a thing.
Until next time my lovelies,
Stay Curious & Don’t Panic
"The Misbegotten Son," by Jack Olsen. - Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, New York.
"Arthur Shawcross: The Genesee River Killer" by Dr. Joel Norris. - Windsor Publishing Group, New York.
"The New Encyclopedia of Serial Killers," by Brian Lane and Wilfred Gregg. - Headline Book Publishing, London.
"Overkill - Mass Murder and Serial Killing Exposed," by James Alan Fox and Jack Levin. - Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, New York.
"Journey into Darkness," by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. - Random House, London.
"Serial Murderers and their Victims - Second Edition," by Eric W. Hickey. - Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont California.
"Whoever Fights Monsters," by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman. - Simon and Schuster, London.
"Mindhunter," by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. - William Heinemann, London.