Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joseph Kallinger, the Enigmatic Cobbler

House of Hostages

Randi Romaine, one of the twins, now had her own story to tell.   She was the person who had rung the doorbell when she found the door locked.  She had returned from the hospital.

The door opened and she expected her older sister or nephew, but she did not know this man at all.   What was he doing in her home? 

He smiled at her, as if to ease her suspicions, and then grabbed her and put a gun to her head.   He told her he was robbing the house and instructed her to comply.  He locked the front door again before telling her to close her eyes.  She did so and then felt him push her up the steps.  She heard him talk to someone named John.  He asked for money and she gave him $5.

Composite sketch of wanted man
Composite sketch of wanted man

In her own room, she saw Didi and Bobby, nude but apparently unharmed, and showed the frightening man where he could find her money.   Then he told her to remove her clothes.  She was startled and unwilling to comply.  He pulled out a knife, so she quickly obeyed.  When he asked her if anyone else was coming home, she tried to scare him.  She said that she soon expected a lot of people and he just had time to get away.  He didn't move.  Instead, he concentrated on tying and gagging her.  He threatened her with the knife to make her submissive.  She saw his son watching and felt humiliated as the man pushed her on her back.  But she, too, was having her period, which seemed to stop him.

The man went out, leaving his accomplice in the room to search for valuables and money, and soon Randi could no longer hear him.   She tried to free herself and then she heard the doorbell ring.  The boy went downstairs and it wasn't long before Randi realized that her mother had come home and was now a hostage as well.  And that wasn't all.

Composite sketch of the youth
Composite sketch of the youth

Edwinna Romaine had come home with Retta and Frank.   They had knocked on the door and had been met by the swarthy intruder, with his gun leveled at them.  He commanded them to come in and do as he said.  Edwinna began to breathe so hard she thought she might have a heart attack.

The man told the women to lie facedown on the living room floor near the television, and Frank was to lie by the fireplace.   He stripped them all of their jewelry and watches, and tied their feet together with cords he had cut from the lamps, Venetian blinds, and vacuum cleaner.  Then the man and boy went through the house, turning things over, breaking things, and banging around.

Edwinna and Retta both managed to work their hands free, but they remained as they were to await an opportune moment to try to escape.

Once again the doorbell rang.   Now an eighth person was about to come into this insane situation. 

When the man opened the door, they heard the voice of a young woman, Maria Fasching, a nurse from the hospital.   She was reproaching this man, telling him to leave this family alone after all they'd recently been through.  How she had known what he was doing was a mystery—one that would never be solved.  (Schreiber gives a slightly different account, adding that Fasching had just come for a visit and did not reproach the man until she was inside.)

The man told her he was robbing the house and she would have to come in and do as he said.   She was forced to lie facedown next to Frank, across his legs, yet she continued to tell this man to leave the family alone.

Then Frank was told to get up and he was forced down the basement steps.   At six-foot-three, he was a likely threat lying where he was, but the women all feared what might happen to him down there.

He was gagged with a handkerchief and his head taped securely with adhesive tape.   The robber threatened him with a knife and pulled his pants down, letting him know how vulnerable he was.

Tape case used to bind victims
Tape case used to bind victims

A few minutes later, he heard the nurse, Maria, being brought down into the other room.   Then the furnace blower came on and Frank could make out nothing more.  He thought he heard screams, but he could not be sure.

Everyone in the house heard them, and Maria's last words were to call for help and to shout, "I'm drowning!"   Indeed, they all later learned that she had drowned in her own blood as it spurted from her cut arteries into her throat.

Edwinna began to scream.   She couldn't stand what was happening and believed they were all going to be killed, one by one.  She pulled herself loose and with her feet still bound, she hopped out of the house and out into the street, where her neighbor saw her and called the police.  Retta shoved herself under the couch.  Everyone else waited and wondered what was going to happen next. 

The boy shouted, "Someone's loose," and he and the man left the house by the back door.

That was the tale, and the investigation began at once.


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