Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Vampire Killers

You have a friend in Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania with Collegeville locator
Map of Pennsylvania with Collegeville locator

Lisa Manderach was three weeks short of her thirtieth birthday when she went for a quick errand to Your Kidz & Mine, a new children's clothing store in Collegeville, Pennsylvania on September 10, 1995.  She took her daughter, Devon, only nineteen months old, and that was the last time anyone saw either of them alive.   The details of this case are from the Philadelphia Inquirer.  

Since Lisa's husband knew where she had gone, he sent the police to the store, where they found her car parked outside.  They searched the premises and found a stash of pornography, stains that looked like blood, long black hairs consistent with the missing woman (including a few in the vacuum cleaner bag), and peepholes drilled into the dressing rooms.  Caleb Fairley, 21, had been minding the store for his mother.  When located, he presented an even better suspect: His face was covered with fresh scratches.  He said he'd gotten them in the scramble of a "mosh pit" at a local club called the Asylum, but a doctor's examination indicated they were from fingernails.  He was arrested.

By that time, Devon's body had already been found by hikers, strangled and dumped on a hill at the Valley Forge National Park, but Lisa was not with her.  Fairley's defense attorney cut a smart deal: take the death penalty off the table and my client will tell you where he dumped the murdered woman.  The DA accepted it, because the sooner they found her, he knew, the more likely it was that they could get evidence to ensure that Fairley never walked out of prison.  Even so, the decision haunted him and drew quick criticism.  Some people believed that Lisa would have been found quickly without the deal.

Fairley showed them where he had placed the body behind an abandoned industrial building in a wooded area of King of Prussia.  From the exposed position, it was assumed that Lisa had been sexually assaulted.  She was taken for an autopsy.

The media was quick to learn about Fairley's dark background.  He'd played Dungeons & Dragons, had groped or propositioned women, was known to read pornography avidly, and collected vampire paraphernalia.  He'd also joined the Asylum, a members-only nightclub that resembled a padded cell and catered to people who dressed in Goth-style clothing and sported dramatic make-up as part of the vampire subculture. The place regularly hosted vampire live action role-playing games, such as Vampire: The Masquerade (and club members interviewed by the media pointed out that they were being unfairly stigmatized because of one person's sickness).  Overweight, Fairley had often been a target of ridicule, especially from girls at school, and tended to keep to himself.  He'd once been close to his younger brother, who had accidentally shot himself when he was four, and Fairley had told some people that he felt empty and lost.

Game: Vampire: The Masquerade
Game: Vampire: The Masquerade

After his arrest, a stain on his shirt was tested and found via DNA analysis to be a match for Lisa Manderach.  Stains at the store on different carpets matched mother and daughter, and tissue found underneath Manderach's fingernails matched Fairley's DNA.  Prosecutors surmised that Fairley had tried to rape Lisa after she entered the store, she had struggled and scratched him, so he had strangled her.  (He had so much as admitted that her resistance had made him blindingly angry.)  He then killed Devon and took both bodies to remote areas to dump.

Fairley was tried in April 1996 and convicted on two counts of first-degree murder.  He received two life terms.  Those acquainted with him could hardly believe that he could have harbored such violence, but his indulgence in pornography and vampire fantasies, coupled with his frustration over his helplessness around women, is all too often a formula for such violence of opportunity.  

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