Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Garrow

Sacred Trust?

Attorneys Francis Belge and Frank Armani paid a heavy price for their questionable conduct in defense of Garrow. For years, they continued to defend their decision to withhold information that would have led to the discovery of Susan Petz and Alicia Hauck. Both men believed their conduct was in compliance with their oath as attorneys.

"To Belge and me, this oath was and is a serious matter, a sacred trust. At the time we took our oath of office, neither of us had the slightest idea of the awesome consequences it would someday carry," Armani later wrote. In 1984, Frank Armani co-authored a book called Privileged Information, which is a lengthy explanation of why the two lawyers did what they did.

The grand jury indictment against Belge was eventually dropped and neither attorney ever faced any criminal charges for their conduct during the Garrow case. The New York State Bar Association later found there had been no violation of legal ethics when they failed to report the location of the dead bodies to authorities. Belge died at age 63 in Lake Worth, Florida, in 1989.

As a result of Garrow's sensational escape, Fishkill Correctional Facility instituted new procedures that vastly improved its security and alleviated fears of the surrounding community. As bad as it was, Garrow's escape was not the worst scenario for the prison's reputation. It was just the latest in a long series of escapes from the facility. In May 1977, 10 inmates escaped from the prison in a mass outbreak that had citizens and politicians outraged. Four of the escapees were convicted killers. All were captured without loss of life.

In the fall and winter months, the roads in Lake Pleasant are usually quiet and serene. But during the hectic summer season, a multitude of tourists can be seen hustling through the rustic Adirondack village tending to their chores and shopping excursions.

The community has long since returned to a sense of normalcy since the terrible events of 1973 and the trial of Robert Garrow. "I was only a teenager when that all happened," said County Clerk Jane Zarecki recently, "but I went to the trial often and I tell you, I never heard of such things in my life. I almost couldn't believe it. During that time period, the town became paranoid, people locked their doors, slept with loaded guns under their pillows."

In a sense, Garrow destroyed or affected almost everyone he came into contact with, including his own family. His son, Robert Jr., was eventually convicted in the jailbreak of his father and was sentenced to four years in prison for his crimes. He has been in trouble with the law several times over the years. But Garrow would never live to see his son in jail. Even during his own trial, he had a premonition he wouldn't live very long. "I feel bad about it all...right now, you got me living on borrowed time," he told the court.

A newspaper editorial, published a few days after Garrow's death, put into harsh words what a lot of people already believed, "Justice was served in the shooting death of Robert Garrow this week...he was a malignant cancer on the society that fostered him...less than useless to the human race" (Poughkeepsie Journal, September 14, 1978). Garrow is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York, not far from where Alicia Hauck was murdered.