Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Frankford Slasher

The Frankford Curse

On June 20, Leonard Christopher was ordered to stand trial for the Dowd murder, since the evidence was deemed sufficient.  Two women who knew him said they had seen him that night.  One, Emma Leigh, said that he had walked into the alley behind the fish store around 1:00 A.M., and she heard a woman scream.  She left with a man in a car (Newton says a date, the paper indicates it was a client picking her up), so she did not witness any other event.  Linda Washington, the second woman, claimed to have seen Christopher leave the alley carrying his shirt over his arm and sporting a knife in a sheath hanging around his waist.

Christopher's defense attorney, Jack McMahon, stated that the witnesses had contradicted each other and their testimony would not stand up in court.  Neither would the robbery charge, because Dowd's purse, while open, still had cash in it.  It might simply have been dropped during the attack.

Defense Attorney Jack McMahon
Defense Attorney Jack

Despite the fact that the suspect had not been proven guilty, the residents of the Frankford Avenue area were relieved to know that someone had been caught.  They felt certain that their neighborhood could return to normal.  They were wrong.

Christopher, jailed without bond, was safely locked away on September 6, 1990, when Michelle Dehner was found murdered (Newton calls her Michelle Martin, as do later newspaper reports).   She was 30 and lived in a fourth-floor efficiency apartment on Arrott Street, not far from Frankford Avenue.  Once a suspect in the Durkin murder for having fought over a blanket, she was now officially off the suspect list.  She was a victim.

The police, called to the scene that Saturday afternoon, found her lying on the floor.  She had been stabbed 23 times in the chest and stomach.  Once again, it appeared to be the work of the Frankford Slasher.  There was no sign of forced entry, as was the case with the other indoor assaults, and no obvious murder weapon found at the scene or discarded nearby.  This murder scene was only three blocks from where Carol Dowd had been killed, and it was on the same street as the 1989 murder of Theresa Sciortino.

Dehner/Martin was described in the Inquirer as a hard-drinking, paranoid loner, and was even called "Crazy Michelle" by people in the neighborhood.  She was considered somewhat unconventional, sometimes barricading herself into her apartment and other times just tossing things out the window, no matter who might be standing below.  Single and hard-edged, she frequented the same bars where the previous murder victims had often gone.  A large blonde, she was often seen in sloppy sweatshirts and jeans, and spent her time wandering from one bar to the next.  Sometimes she sold soft pretzels on the street, but usually she just drank all day.  Neighbors indicated to reporters that she was not very friendly, and one person said that she did not often bathe.  A day and a half before her death, she had left the bar with a white man (Newton says this was on the evening of September 6, but that's the day she was found murdered).  In fact, people had seen her bring men home on several occasions.


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