Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Frankford Slasher

Neighborhood Watch

Now people thought that perhaps the police had arrested the wrong man.  After all, Christopher did not resemble the middle-aged white man seen with two other victims shortly before they were killed, and plenty of people had vouched for him as a decent, friendly sort.  If the police had falsely arrested him, that meant the real killer had been free all this time and had likely struck again.

Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia locator
Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia locator

On October 27, fifty citizens of Philadelphia solemnly marched the rain-soaked streets of Frankford, following the routes they imagined the killer of nine potential victims had taken.  It was windy and cold, but no one seemed to mind.  "Past the fish market," the newspaper reported, "behind which one body was found butchered with a knife; past a bar that four of the dead had patronized, and along Arrott Street, where the latest victim was found stabbed to death early last month."  They lit candles, sang hymns, and prayed, creating a tribute to "the women who couldn't be here."  They also read from the Bible and spoke out against the violence in their neighborhood.

In fact, homicide detectives patrolled the streets, watching those women who went in and out of the bars who looked like potential victims.  They hoped to get a glimpse of a man who might act or look suspicious.  Having investigated more than fifty men who were seen leaving the bars with women, they had two men under surveillance and leads on a third.  Yet with no clear pattern to the killings in terms of a timeframe or victim type, they were working blind. 

They found it surprising that in each and every case, no one had seen a man with blood on him in the streets.  All of the victims had been viciously stabbed.  Their attacker must have had quite a lot of blood on him.  They had a composite picture from witnesses, and while they had received many calls, no one had turned in a person who seemed a viable suspect.  It was the usual: Numerous elderly women had pointed to their SEPTA bus drivers, and neighbors with a grudge had guided police toward someone who made them angry.  Psychics provided empty assistance, and one tip offered witchcraft as a motive.  In fact, a cult did practice in a park close by, so that lead was not entirely discounted.

The best clue investigators had was an identification of the manufacturer of the shoe that had left a footprint at one of the murder scenes.  They did find a man who had similar shoes that were the right size, who knew that victim but ultimately was not linked to the crime (according to Newton, this person was the victim's boyfriend).

Some people called for Leonard Christopher to be released, but in November, his murder trial began.


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