Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Frankford Slasher

One More

4511 Frankford Ave, Newman's Sea Food
4511 Frankford Ave, Newman's
Sea Food

On April 29, 1990, at nearly 2:00 in the morning, a patrol officer discovered the nude body of Carol Dowd, 46, in an alley behind Newman's Sea Food at 4511 Frankford Avenue.  Her head and face were battered and she had been viciously stabbed 36 times in the face, neck, chest, and back.  In addition, her stomach was cut open, allowing her intestines to spill out through a long wound, and Newton reports that her left nipple was removed.  She also had defensive wounds on her hands, as if she had warded off her attacker.  The officer who found her had been checking the area due to a prior burglary, and it was estimated that Dowd had been murdered some time after midnight and before 1:40 A.M.

Police sketch of suspect
Police sketch of suspect

She had resided not far from the scene, and a witness told the police she had seen Dowd walking with an older white man only a few hours before.  Her clothing was found near her body, and her open purse was in the alley, with its contents spilled partly onto the ground.  Because nothing had been taken, robbery was ruled out as a motive (although it would later be reconsidered).

Her brother told reporters that Dowd's life had been uneventful until the late 1960s, when their brother died and she began hearing voices.  She was then diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized.  After being released into a community-based program, she moved into an apartment, where she was raped. Lately, however, she had been living in a community facility where she appeared to be happy.

The police immediately suspected the same killer from the seven previous cases in that area.  They hypothesized that he had followed each of his victims after they left area bars at night, or grabbed them before they got to some destination.  Asking around, they interviewed the employees of the fish market, and Leonard Christopher, who worked there and also lived nearby, told reporters that the store had been burglarized several times recently.  When he had seen the police in the alley that morning, he said, "I just thought they broke in again."  Either that, he mused, or they were busting someone for drugs or prostitution; both activities were a frequent occurrence in the alley.  When he learned that the police were in fact investigating a murder, he talked with them and admitted that he also had known one of the earlier victims, Margaret Vaughan.

His apparent acquaintance with the area and the victims soon placed him under suspicion.  When asked where he was during the evening before, he claimed he was with his girlfriend, but she told detectives that she had spent the night alone at home.    That inconsistency triggered more intense questioning, and investigators located a witness who had seen Christopher with Dowd in a bar on the same night that she had been killed.  A prostitute who had initially lied finally admitted that she, too, had seen them together outside the bar, while another placed him coming out of the alley by the fish store.  She said that he had been sweating and had a large knife in his belt.

A search of his apartment turned up clothing with blood on it.  Christopher called a friend at the store to tell them that the police suspected him.  That person, who remained anonymous, told the newspaper that their boss had told Christopher to clean up blood in the alley, so of course he had blood on his clothing.  Others who worked with him vouched for his good character and humanitarian nature, feeling that it was wrong to pin the murders on him.  Christopher's landlord confirmed these positive impressions, saying only that he sometimes made too much noise.

Although he was a black man and not the middle-aged white man seen with other victims, on May 5, Christopher was arrested and arraigned on charges of robbery, abuse of a corpse, murder, and possession of an instrument of a crime.   He was ordered held without bail.  Yet even as he sat in jail, another woman in the Frankford Avenue area was about to receive the same treatment as the other victims.

 

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