Arthur Shawcross (born June 6, 1945 - died November 10, 2008) is an American serial killer, also known as The Genesee River Killer. He claimed most of his victims after being paroled early following a conviction for murdering a child.
He was born in Maine, but the family moved to Watertown in New York State when he was young. Shawcross dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and when he was 19 he enlisted in the army. He fought in the Vietnam War where he was to later confess he had murdered and cannibalized two young Vietnamese girls, although there is nothing to back up this claim.
Back in civilian life, living in Watertown once more, Shawcross married four times, but his wives invariably left him after a short time because of his violent and erratic behavior. It was there, in May 1972, that he murdered 10-year-old Jake Blake. He lured the boy to some woods where he assaulted and strangled him. Four months later, he raped and killed an eight-year-old girl named Karen Ann Hill.
Arrested for these crimes, Shawcross confessed to both murders but was later able to obtain a plea bargain with the prosecutors. He would plead guilty to killing just Karen Ann Hill on a charge of manslaughter, instead of first-degree murder, and the charge of killing Jake Blake would be dropped. With little evidence to go on, prosecutors went along with this, and the self-confessed double child killer was given a 25-year sentence.
Shawcross served 15 years before he was released on parole in March 1987. He had difficulty settling down as he was chased out of homes and fired from workplaces as soon as neighbors and employers found out about his criminal record. Eventually he settled in Rochester, New York, and lived with a woman named Clara.
Starting in March 1988, Shawcross began murdering prostitutes in the area, claiming 11 victims before his capture less than two years later. The victims were:
- Patricia Ives, 25
- Frances Brown, 22
- June Cicero, 34
- Darlene Trippi, 32
- Anne Marie Steffen, 28
- Dorothy Blackburn, 27
- Kimberly Logan
- June Stotts, 30
- Marie Welch, 22
- Elizabeth Gibson
- Dorothy Keller, 59
They were usually strangled and battered to death, and were often mutilated as well. Most of them were found near the Genesee River.
All the victims were murdered in Monroe County, except for Gibson, who was killed in neighboring Wayne County.
After the last victim's body was found in January 1990, the police decided not to remove it and instead keep surveillance on the area, based on a psychological profile that suggested the killer would return to the scene.
Sure enough, Shawcross was spotted masturbating as he sat in his car on a bridge over the creek in which the body of his final victim was floating. He was arrested and eventually confessed in custody.
In September 1990, Shawcross was tried for the 10 murders in Monroe County. The trial was televised and drew high ratings. Shawcross pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury found him sane and guilty. The judge sentenced him to 250 years' imprisonment.
A few months later, Shawcross was taken to Wayne County to be tried for Gibson's murder. Rather than claim insanity this time, he just pleaded guilty and was given a life sentence.
Officials said Shawcross complained of a pain in his leg on the afternoon of November 10, 2008, his date of death. He was taken to Albany Medical Center, where he went into cardiac arrest. Shawcross died at 9:50 PM. He was cremated.