New York is home to the city many people think of as the capital of the world, but this state in the northern United States is also known for producing some of America’s most notorious serial killers. New York murderers Richard Cottingham, Joel Rifkin, and Robert Shulman all traveled into New York City to find many of their victims, brutally murdering women who often made their livings as sex workers in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Kendall Francois and Arthur Shawcross lived far from New York City when they were killing their victims, with the former preying upon women in Poughkeepsie — even hiding their bodies in the attic of his home — while the latter murdered victims in Rochester and dumped many of their corpses near the Genessee River.
New York serial killer Nathaniel White committed his crimes while living in the Hudson Valley, later claiming a movie inspired him to murder his first victim, while Waneta Hoyt — one of the state’s few known female serial killers — ended her young victims’ lives while residing in north central New York. Frederick Mors and Richard Angelo both murdered the elderly people they were charged with caring for as medical professionals, making them two of New York’s most disturbing Angels of Death.
Richard Cottingham — who was born on November 25, 1946, in the Bronx, New York — committed his first murder in 1967 when he strangled 29-year-old Nancy Schiava Vogel to death and left the married mother’s naked body in her car in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. More than a decade later, Cottingham killed again, beating Maryann Carr, 26, to death, leaving her corpse near a New Jersey hotel where she was discovered on December 15, 1977. Two years later, Cottingham murdered two more women — Deedeh Goodarzi, 22, and a Jane Doe — in a hotel near Times Square in New York City on December 2, 1979. After killing both of his victims, Cottingham cut off their heads and hands, leaving behind the rest of the women’s bodies which he set on fire before fleeing the scene. The following year on May 5, 1980, the lifeless corpse of Valorie Street, 18, was discovered in a hotel in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, dead from asphyxiation caused by the tape Cottingham had placed over the teenager’s mouth before raping and torturing her.
Ten days later on May 15, 1980, he murdered 25-year-old Mary Ann Reyner — stabbing and strangling her to death — and the young woman’s badly burned body was found in a Manhattan hotel. The following week on May 22, 1980, Cottingham — a married computer operator who worked at an insurance company in New York City — was apprehended when he was caught torturing Leslie Ann O’Dell, 18, in the same New Jersey hotel where one of his victims was discovered earlier in the month. A search of the serial killer’s home turned up evidence linking him to the murders, and Cottingham — who was dubbed the “Torso Killer” and the “Times Square Ripper” by the media — was given nearly 300 years in prison for his vicious crimes. This New York serial killer is currently incarcerated in a correctional facility in New Jersey.
Born in Richford, New York, on May 13, 1946, Waneta Hoyt married her husband Tim in 1964 when she was 17, and the couple went on to have five biological children. The Hoyts’ first child, James, was born on May 31, 1966, but he passed away on September 26, 1968, when he was just 28 months old. Waneta gave birth to four more children — Eric, Julie, Molly, and Noah — but none of them lived to see their first birthdays, with he Hoyts’ last biological child dying on July 28, 1971. Doctors attributed the deaths of all three boys and two girls to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) until a forensic pathologist working on a murder case in 1985 reviewed an article about the Hoyt children — which had been published in a pediatric journal in 1972 — and told a prosecutor she suspected foul play.
However, it wasn’t until the prosecutor became the district attorney in 1992 that the pathologist’s concerns were investigated; on March 23, 1994, while living in Oswego, New York, Waneta Hoyt was questioned about her children’s deaths, and she reportedly confessed to killing them via suffocation. Although Hoyt later denied harming her five young children, she was given 75 years to life in prison on September 11, 1995, making her one of New York’s few known female serial killers. However, only a few years after she was convicted of murdering her children, Hoyt died of pancreatic cancer in a New York correctional facility on August 9, 1998; she was 52.
From October 1996 to August 1998, Kendall Francois murdered at least eight women who ranged in age from 25 to 51, raping his victims before strangling them to death with hands. Francois — who was born on July 26, 1971, in Poughkeepsie, New York — hid his victims’ lifeless bodies in the house he shared with his parents and sister, telling his family the smell of human decomposition coming from the attic was coming from a dead racoon. This New York serial killer’s first known victim was 30-year-old Wendy Meyers, a sex worker Francois allegedly contracted AIDs from, whom he choked to death in October 1996. Over the course of nearly two years, Francois — who worked at multiple schools as a custodian and hall monitor — went on to murder at least seven other women.
Francois, who was dubbed the “Poughkeepsie Killer” by the media, was apprehended on September 2, 1998, after a woman he tried to murder — Christine Scala — escaped from his garage and went to the police about her terrifying ordeal. Shortly after he was brought in for questioning about assaulting Scala, Francois confessed to murdering several women. On August 7, 2000, this New York serial killer was convicted of eight counts of murder, and he was given multiple consecutive life sentences for his crimes. Francois died of natural causes on September 11, 2014, in the Wende Correctional Facility; he was 43 years old.
Born in Vienna, Austria, on October 2, 1889, Carl Menarik began using the alias Frederick Mors after emigrating to New York City in June 1914. Following his arrival in the United States, Mors found work as a porter at a nursing home for orphans and elderly people in the Bronx. From September 1914 to January 1915, Mors is believed to have murdered at least eight elderly men and women using chloroform and arsenic, and his crimes were discovered after nursing home staff noticed the increased mortality rate and contacted law enforcement. Investigators quickly learned many of the nursing home’s patients were afraid of Mors, and when he was questioned about the deaths, the orderly confessed to killing several elderly men and women in order put them “out of their misery.”
The admitted New York serial killer was deemed criminally insane, and he was sent to the Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York. However, while Mors was awaiting deportation back to Austria, he escaped from the hospital in May 1915. While no one is certain exactly what became of the confessed Angel of Death after he fled the institution, it’s likely Mors has been dead for decades.
In early 1991, Nathaniel White killed his first victim — 29-year-old pregnant mother of two, Juliana Frank — by stabbing her to death, later claiming the killing was inspired by the movie RoboCop 2. White, who was born on July 26, 1960, went on to murder five other victims: Angelina Hopkins, 23; Laurette Reviere Huggins, 34; Adraine Hunter, 27; Christine Marie Klebbe, 14; and Brenda Whiteside, 20. After ending his victims’ lives by stabbing, beating, and strangling them to death, White dumped their battered bodies all over New York’s Hudson Valley region — including in an abandoned farmhouse in the town of Goshen.
White was arrested by police on August 2, 1992, after a witness identified him as one of the last people to be seen with Adraine Hunter shortly before she was stabbed to death on July 30, 1992. The New York serial killer confessed to murdering Hunter, and the following year on April 14, 1993, White was convicted of multiple counts of murder and sentenced to 150 years to life prison for his crimes. White is currently behind bars at Attica Correctional Facility, one of New York’s most notorious supermax prisons.
Robert Shulman — who was born in Hicksville, New York, on March 28, 1954 — murdered at least five women between 1991 and 1996. According to the serial killer, his victims were sex workers he picked up in New York City and took back to his home on Long Island to smoke crack and have sex. After using drugs, Shulman — a postal worker — beat the women to death with a variety of objects, including a baseball bat, a hammer, and barbells. Then, after ending the women’s lives, he dismembered their corpses and dumped their remains in Brooklyn, Yonkers, and Medford. Shulman was arrested on April 6, 1998, after law enforcement linked him to the sleeping bag found on the body of his last victim, 28-year-old Kelly Sue Bunting.
When Shulman was arrested for Bunting’s murder, he confessed to killing four additional victims, Lori Vasquez, 24; Lisa Ann Warner, 18; and two women whose remains have never been identified. Initially, Shulman was given the death penalty for his disturbing crimes, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after the New York State Court of Appeals abolished capital punishment in 2004. However, this serial killer died just two years later on April 13, 2006, in Albany at the age of 52.
From July 29, 1976, to July 31, 1977, David Berkowitz — who was born on June 1, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York — murdered six people and wounded several more, making him one of the notorious serial killers the world has ever seen. Many of Berkowitz’s victims were young couples who were parked in cars in the New York City area, and he was initially dubbed the “.44 Caliber Killer” by the media because of the handgun he used to commit his crimes. On April 17, 1977, Berkowitz murdered Valentina Suriani, 18, and Alexander Esau, 20, in the Bronx, leaving a note addressed to the police at the crime scene. In the letter, Berkowitz referred to himself as the “Son of Sam,” the moniker by which he is best known.
This New York serial went on to shoot at least four more people, killing 20-year-old Stacy Moskowitz in Brooklyn on July 31, 1977. However, the Son of Sam was apprehended by law enforcement on August 10, 1977, when police managed to link Berkowitz to the crime scene because of a parking ticket he received around the time Moskowitz was shot to death. Following his arrest, Berkowitz — who was working at the post office at the time he was apprehended — confessed to the killings, and on June 12, 1978, he was given multiple sentences of 25 years to life for his crimes. This convicted serial killer has refused to attend his parole hearings, claiming he think he should spend the rest of his life behind bars. Currently, Berkowitz — who said he committed the killings because of orders he received from his neighbor’s dog — is incarcerated at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York.
Born on January 20, 1959, Joel Rifkin was adopted by a young couple as baby and raised on Long Island in East Meadow, New York. Rifkin committed his first murder in 1989 when he killed 25-year-old Heidi Balch, a sex worker he picked up in New York City and brought back to his widowed mother’s home. After murdering Balch, Rifkin — who was nicknamed “Joel the Ripper” by the media — dismembered the young woman’s lifeless body, placing her severed head in a paint can which he discarded near a golf course in Hopewell, New Jersey. While Balch’s head was found shortly after she was murdered, the 25-year-old wasn’t identified until 2013. Rikin went on to murder several more victims, many of them women he met in Manhattan and Brooklyn, dismembering their corpses after beating and strangling them to death and then dumping their remains all over New York state.
Thankfully, this serial killer’s crimes were discovered on June 24, 1993, when police attempted to stop him for a traffic violation, leading to a high speed chase that resulted in a crash. When officers approached Rifkin’s vehicle, they noticed the odor of human decomposition, and they found the dead body of 22-year-old Tiffany Bresciani in the bed of his truck. Rifkin was questioned by police, and he eventually confessed to murdering 17 women. The following year on May 9, 1994, Rifkin was given 25 years to life for killing Bresciani, and he was eventually convicted of several other murders, making it unlikely he will ever be released from prison. Currently, this New York serial killer is serving 203 years to life in the Clinton Correctional Facility.
Over the course of just a few months in 1987, Richard Angelo ended hte lives of at least eight elderly men and women while he was working as a nurse at the Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York. Angelo — who was born in Long Island on August 29, 1962 — murdered his victims by giving them lethal doses of a powerful paralytic that caused them to go into respiratory arrest. Thankfully, this New York serial killer was apprehended when one of his patients complained of feeling ill after being treated by Angelo, and a drug test revealed the elderly man had been given a muscle relaxant that hadn’t been prescribed by his doctor.
Angelo was arrested in October 1987 for assaulting the patient, and he confessed to administering fatal doses of muscle relaxants and paralytics to several other elderly men and women. During their investigation, officials discovered the New York serial killer had given the medications to the patients to make them incredibly ill because he wanted to look like a hero in front of his colleagues when he saved the men and women’s lives. Angelo was found guilty of one count of manslaughter, one count of criminally negligent homicide, and two counts of murder, and on January 25, 1990, the New York serial killer was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. Currently, Angelo is behind bars at the Great Meadows Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York.
Born in Kittery, Maine, on June 6, 1945, Arthur Shawcross committed his first murders in 1972 when he raped and killed Jack Owen Blake, 10, and Karen Ann Hill, 8, while living in Watertown, New York. Shawcross accepted a deal that enabled him to plead guilty to manslaughter for killing Hill, and he was given 25 years in prison for ending the 8-year-old’s life. However, after serving just 12 years of his sentence, Shawcross was released from prison in April 1987, eventually settling in Rochester, New York. Less than a year after he was paroled, Shawcross murdered 27-year-old Dorothy Blackburn on March 18, 1988, strangling the young woman to death and dumping her body in a creek.
Over the next several months, this New York serial killer murdered at least 10 other women who ranged in age from 20 to 59. Shawcross killed his victims by beating, suffocating, or strangling them to death, and he often dumped their corpses near the Genessee River, causing the media to call him the “Genessee River Strangler.” This serial killer’s crimes came to an end on January 4, 1990, when police spotted him on a bridge near where the body of one of his victims, 34-year-old June Cicero, had been discovered the day before. The Genessee River Strangler pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but he was convicted of 10 counts of murder on December 13, 1990. However, while serving his 250-year sentence at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York, Shawcross was taken to a medical center in Albany where he died of cardiac arrest on November 10, 2008, at the age of 63.
Test Your Knowledge About New York Serial Killers!
What method did Waneta Hoyt reportedly use to kill her children?
Waneta Hoyt was questioned about her children's deaths, and she reportedly confessed to killing them via suffocation.
What nickname did the media give to Richard Cottingham?
Richard Cottingham was dubbed the "Times Square Ripper" by the media.
How did law enforcement apprehend Joel Rifkin?
Police attempted to stop Joel Rifkin for a traffic violation, leading to a high speed chase that resulted in a crash. When officers approached Rifkin's vehicle, they noticed the odor of human decomposition, and they found the dead body of 22-year-old Tiffany Bresciani in the bed of his truck.
Which confessed serial killer escaped from a psychiatric hospital and disappeared?
While Frederick Mors was awaiting deportation back to Austria, he escaped from Hudson River State Hospital in May 1915. While no one is certain exactly what became of the confessed serial killer after he fled the institution, it's likely Mors has been dead for decades.
What was Robert Shulman's occupation at the time of his arrest?
Robert Shulman was employed as a postal worker when he was arrested for murder on April 6, 1998.
Test Your Knowledge About New York Serial Killers!
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