The House of Horrors
Police knocked on the door and it was soon answered by Kendall's mother. The officers informed Kendall's parents and sister of the purpose of the visit. They were taken to the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department while the police began their search. Within the hour, they located the first body. The house was immediately surrounded by police and secured. "We were resolved to preserve the scene at any cost," said Lt. Siegrist. Rather than work the house throughout the night, the New York State Police decided to process the crime scene beginning at daylight.
99 Fulton was a two-story green colonial home situated in the middle of the block, sandwiched in between two other similar houses. It looked like any other home on the block, although it had a slightly run-down appearance. According to the Town of Poughkeepsie assessor's office, the house, which was built on less than a quarter acre, sold in 1975 to a McKinley H. and Paulette Francois for $11,500. The neighborhood is average when compared to others in that section of town and many homes in that same area rent to college students.
In the morning, the police, dressed in sterile white suits and wearing anti-putrefaction masks, entered the home. The house was filled with garbage that was strewn everywhere, on the floors, furniture, in the sinks and closets. Clothes were piled on every inch of floor space and sheets were pulled over the windows. One detective remarked in all his years on the job, he had never seen such wretched living conditions. The stench was overpowering, it permeated every room, every corner and seeped out into the street like some toxic cloud.
Within one hour, hundreds of people gathered outside the building. The word had spread that Kendall Francois had been arrested for murder. Dozens of people from the media descended upon the neighborhood. Spotlights and cameras soon lined the street as the police went about their morbid business. Relatives of some of the victims arrived to watch the gruesome story unfold. A woman's body was found in the attic. Then another. And still another. Some spectators ran from the scene, gagging on the oppressive smell of death and garbage.
District Attorney William Grady told the newspapers: "Based on what the suspect told us, the eight bodies are inside that house." Slowly, in a grim pageant of death, the bodies were removed from the house. The corpses were in various states of decomposition, some far advanced beyond the putrefaction stage. Insect activity was widespread and there were indications of rodent presence. The bodies were located in several different areas of the structure, often covered with clothes or blankets.
The New York Daily News said, "When cops went to the green, aluminum-sided house at 99 Fulton St., they were nearly bowled over by the stench of rotting flesh." Detectives knew that it would be days before identifications could be made. Estimates of time of death in such cases are difficult, if not impossible, to determine. There is only one rigid rule: the longer period of time between death and the estimate, the more inaccurate the estimate will be.
Also present in the growing crowd on Fulton Avenue was Patricia Barone, mother of Gina Barone, who was reported missing back in December, 1996. Mrs. Barone stood bravely with her family but she was prepared for the worst. "In my head, I'd come to terms with it. I had a feeling she was gone all this time. I always felt that when the good Lord thought I was ready to hear it, I'd hear it," she told reporters from the N.Y. Times.
Over the next five days, the police investigators continued their search for bodies and evidence. The crowds got bigger, the media was everywhere. Relatives of victims gathered outside and held vigils in remembrance of their loved ones. On September 5, the eighth and last body was removed from the Francois home. By then, the first body found was identified as Catina Newmaster, the last girl to be reported missing. Identifications of Gina Barone, Sandra French and Catherine Marsh quickly followed. A few days later, Wendy Meyers, Kathleen Hurley and Mary Giaccone were also identified.
Police made another gruesome discovery: one body, later identified as Audrey Pugliese, 34, was from New Rochelle, NY; she had not been reported missing. How she came to be inside the house, no one knew. Only the enigmatic Kendall Francois could provide a clue, but he wasn't talking. Kendall was charged with second-degree murder on the morning of September 2. Represented by an attorney, he would not make any further statements. But he was well known in the city of Poughkeepsie. One prostitute told the Journal, "Most of us knew him. We did crack together."