The serial killer in my living room

Okay, the entire unmitigated truth about the serial killer in my living room. That’s right, in my living room, two days before the Rochester city cops and the Monroe County sheriff and the big boys from the FBI figured out who’d been sweeping the streets of the Flour City of common working girls, leaving their bodies littering the bank of the Genesee River. That serial killer sat in my living room watching my TV and eating my birthday cake.

Now, I’m going to skip the blood and guts and horror and brutal mutilation. If you want that it’s easy enough to dig up. Just Google “Arthur Shawcross” and there’s more than enough to keep anyone occupied for days or weeks. Back then, I read the papers with that, “oh no! how could I have not known???” shock-horror. Gruesome details, sexual inadequacy, inferiority, superiority, all the psychological crap that comes to light when a serial killer finally gets caught.

My serial killer was one of several to come out of Rochester, New York. The

Lovely downtown Rochester, with bridge over the Genesee
Lovely downtown Rochester, with bridge over the Genesee

Hillside Strangler hailed from Rochester, but shifted to LA. He never actually killed anyone in town. There was another serial killer from there, but I can’t remember his name. They seem to run together. Unless you’re great looking like Bundy, or especially gruesome like the guy from Cincinnati who bought it mopping the floor in prison. I guess even serial killers only get 15 minutes of fame.

My serial killer wasn’t handsome or charming. About a hundred fifty pounds overweight, 45 going on 60, balding and not the best dresser. He didn’t have much smarts or a great sense of humour. The court psychiatrists claimed he was mildly retarded, but I knew him for a couple of years and he was just an ordinary dumb guy. Got his opinions from watching TV and listening to talkback radio. He loved reading Louis L’Amour westerns. I sent him a couple hundred paperbacks of all sorts while he was in the county lock-up awaiting trial.

My mom lived upstairs from him and they became friends. You know the

Mom had the 2nd floor flat on the left, he and his wife lived on the first (ground) floor
Mom had the 2nd floor flat on the left, he and his wife lived on the first (ground) floor

person on TV who’s staring into the cameras when the most evil criminal on the planet gets arrested and says, “Oh, there must be some mistake – he was such a nice man!” That was my Mom. She was interviewed on all the local TV stations, CNN and a couple of those cheesy news programmes.

He was a pretty nice guy – the sort who rushed out and shovelled the snow off the front steps of his apartment building so the older ladies who lived there wouldn’t fall on their way in or out. He once found dozens of iris corms and rose bushes dug out and tossed in the rubbish, gathered them up and gave them to me because he thought I had the most beautiful gardens. They thrived.

He was a damned fine cook, and always brought something heavenly if he happened to come over with my Mom. Made a lot of fine stews as well, which made everyone squeamish when the defence psychiatrist started talking about cannibalism. But it turned out that wasn’t true, neither were the multiple personalities. I saw the tapes. Bad acting by someone trying to get out of a real tight spot.

But all in all, my serial killer was boring. His life was boring. He worked in a food service kitchen making potato salad all day long. His wife, Rose, was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she was very sweet. When they got married, I made their wedding cake.

His girl on the side, Clara wasn’t very nice, though I only met her once – the kind of ugly that goes right down to the bone. He married her in prison after Rose died. He rode his bicycle to work and around town, even in the snowy winters. Occasionally Clara lent him her car, even though he didn’t have a licence. It turned out he used it for his crimes, which was a real drag for her, since she was still making payments on the thing when the police seized it and ripped it to shreds looking for evidence, hairs, earrings, clothing fibres. I don’t know if she ever got it back.

He died this past November – of a heart attack. Got me thinking about him and pondering. One thing I learned from the serial killer in my living room is that no matter how good a judge of character you think you are – you can be dead wrong. All that time I was locking my doors, I’d invited the devil in over the threshold with an open heart and clear mind. I stopped locking my door for a while after that, though I do now. But I don’t pretend to REALLY know who I’m keeping out or letting in.

I’ve kept on trusting people. Not sure why, but my belief in being straight with people was reaffirmed and I continue to try to treat everyone with respect and kindness.

But the best thing is – I’m serial killer proofed! Most people don’t get any – nobody gets more than one!

Published by Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

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