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Arthur Shawcross (June 6, 1945—November 10, 2008) was an American serial killer, also known as The Genesse River Killer in Rochester, New York. He was born in Maine but his family moved to Watertown in New York State when he was young. While several later tests showed Shawcross’ intelligence to be sub-normal or even “borderline retarded”, he received As and Bs in his first two years of grade school. His IQ was tested to be “low-normal” when he was in the fifth grade. Shawcross was prone to behaviors such as bullying, chronic bed writing and physical violence. He eventually dropped out of high school in 1960 and when he was 21 he was drafted by the Army, in April 1967. At this time he divorced his first wife and gave up the rights to their eighteen-month-old soon, whom he never saw again.
After his tour of duty in Vietnam, he was assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma as an armorer. His second wife Linda experienced several aspects of his disturbing behavior, especially a penchant for starting fires; an Army psychiatrist told her that Shawcross gained “sexual enjoyment” from the act. Linda Shawcross also witnessed her husband kill their six-month-old puppy in a sudden fit of rage by throwing him against a wall. Shawcross moved with his wife (who would soon divorce him) from Oklahoma to Clayton, New York where he began committing crimes such as arson and burglary. His offenses earned him a five-year sentence to be served in Attica but he was eventually transferred to the Auburn Correctional Facility and would serve a total of twenty-two months. He was paroled in 1971 and returned to Watertown, eventually getting a job and marrying for the third time. In 1972, Shawcross sexually assaulted and murdered 10-year-old Jack Owen Blake after luring the boy into some woods. Four months later, he raped and killed eight-year-old Karen Ann Hill who was visiting Watertown with her mother for the Labor Day weekend. Arrested for these crimes, Shawcross confessed to both murders. Under a plea bargain he was to reveal where he laid Jack’s body. He was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. He served 14 1/2 years in prison before being released on parole in 1987.
After moving from place to place he ended up in Rochester, New York. He married Rose Walley while in Rochester. He also met Clara Neal, who became his mistress. Working nights as a food wholesaler and living near the center of town, he didn’t even have a car. People found him to be friendly, and mild mannered. They didn’t know of his dark past. In March 1988 the body of a 27-year-old prostitute was found floating in Salmon Creek. In September another body was found. Over a year later in October of 1989, a third was found and in early November, a forth. Later that month a fifth. Police believed the murders were too similar to be the work of different people. Arthur followed the news of the murders closely. He warned his wife Clara to be careful. He also hung out at the local Dunkin’ Donuts to talk with the cops about the case. He was captured soon later and was convicted of 11 murders (primarily prostitutes), with a 12th not officially charged to him. Shawcross was spotted by the surveillance team (and by an eyewitness) standing near his car, urinating, on a bridge over Salmon Creek; upon whose frozen waters the body of his final victim was dumped. He was stopped in Spencerport on January 3, 1990 and was later arrested. He eventually confessed in custody.
Shawcross, who had served in Vietnam had told many outlandish tales of committing gruesome crimes (including cannibalism), often perpetrated while alone in the jungle. From the time Shawcros returned, he told acquaintances of seeing American soldiers “skinned from their neck to their ankles”, and claimed to have decapitated two women he had victimized, “placing” their heads on poles. FBI criminal profiler Robert K. Ressler reviewed the PTSD claim and wrote that “his claim of having witnessed wartime atrocities was patently outrageous and untrue.” Shawcross was gound guilty of 10 counts of second degree murder and was sentenced to 250 years to life in prison. A few months later, he was taken to Wayne Country to be tried for Elizabeth Gibson’s murder. He pleaded guilty and was given a life sentence.
In a 2006 interview, Arthur Shawcross claimed to have been sexually abused as a child by his mother and also admitted sexually abusing his younger sister as a child. He also claimed to murder the prostitutes in revenge for supposedly having sex with an HIV-positive prostitute. A few of the prostitutes had their vaginas cut out which Shawcross ate, supposedly in order to speed up the process of death. Arthur Shawcross was held at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York until he died on November 10, 2008 at the Albany Medical Center.
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