Exclusive: Alphabet Murder Suspect Released After Serving 30 Years For Rape

One of the chief suspects in New York’s Alphabet Murders has been released after serving more than 30 years in prison, Newsweek has learned.

The 76-year-old man had been serving a sentence of up to 25 years for the rape of an 11-year-old girl but was detained after his prison term was completed because he was considered a danger to the public.

He is now living on a street in Rochester, New York, with Rochester City Police Department listed as the “law enforcement agency having jurisdiction” over his release, New York state records show.

A book written about a series of child murders, known as the Alphabet Murders, identified him as a suspect and he maintained an extensive prison correspondence with one of the authors. The Alphabet Murders or Double Initial Murders occurred in upstate New York in the early 1970s.

The murder victims’ first names began with the same letter as their last names and they were all murdered near Rochester, New York, within two years of each other.

10-year-old Carmen Colon was murdered in November of 1971; 11-year-old Wanda Walkowicz in April 1973 and 11-year-old Michelle Maenza in November of 1973. All were sexually assaulted, killed and either thrown or dragged to their resting spot by a passing motorist. The killer, or killers, have never been found.

The possibility that a serial killer was deliberately selecting young girls based on the double initials in their names terrified families in upstate New York.

Many parents kept their children inside, especially if their first name and last name began with the same letter.

For the media, the case has been a 50-year-long fascination and the idea that a serial killer may have been choosing victims based on a common characteristic has added to the interest.

DNA found on two of the victims was destroyed before modern genetic technology but the DNA found on Wanda Walkowicz still exists and is being reexamined. A New York state police statement on her murder reads: “On April 2, 1973 at about 5:15 pm, 11-year-old Wanda Walkowicz went to the grocery store for her mother. Wanda made it to the store, purchased several items and was last seen walking home, but did not return home. On April 3, 1973, at 10:15 am, a New York State Trooper, while on patrol, located Walkowicz’s body at a rest area off State Route 104 in Webster, NY.”

For true crime writer Michael Benson, co-author of Nightmare in Rochester: The Double Initial Murders, the case has been sensationalized and he doesn’t believe all three murders are connected.

“The crime scenes for Wanda and Michelle are so similar that it is highly probable both were killed by the same man. The Carmen Colon case, however, was different in a number of ways. Her domestic situation was troubling, she was strangled in a different way, and covered with fingernail scratches,” he told Newsweek.

The chief suspect in Carmen Colon’s case was her uncle, Miguel Colon, who unexpectedly left the United States for Puerto Rico two days after the killing.

Former Monroe County sheriff’s detective Nicholas DeRosa traveled to Puerto Rico to try to find him, the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in upstate New York reported.

The newspaper, which has reported extensively on the case, said Miguel Colon later returned to New York and was questioned but never charged with the murder. “I was disappointed that they never threw it into the grand jury” to see whether Colon could be indicted, DeRosa told the newspaper.

In 1991, Colon took his own life inside his home on Radio Street, Rochester after a domestic dispute in which he shot and wounded his wife and brother-in-law.

Benson also believes the victims’ double initials are a coincidence and have no relation to the killings.

“There is no logical reason for the double initials to be a factor in the case. It is an interesting coincidence, but it’s a tremendous leap to say that is why they were chosen for death,” he said.

“I believe the killer is a pedophile who is in a car looking for girls of a certain age, girls walking alone and unobserved. The abductions were opportunistic, and had nothing to do with how the victims spelled their names,” Benson added.

He believes that DNA is the best opportunity for finding the double killer of Walkowicz and Maenza. “The [police] saved some of the DNA material from the Wanda Walkowicz case, and as of yet, no suspect has matched the profile. Wanda’s case can be solved,” he said.

His co-author, Rochester-based Kenneth Tubman, told Newsweek that the double initials are an unhelpful coincidence that has added “hysteria” to the case.

He also believes that Colon’s killer was likely not the same as the man who murdered the other two girls. He added that several witnesses saw Colon running naked on a motorway after she was abducted and that the circumstances and methods of killing were very different.

Tubman, a retired police officer who now works as a private detective, believes that a Rochester man jailed for over 30 years is the most likely killer of Walkowicz and Maenza.

The man was jailed for up to 25 years in 1987 for raping an 11-year-old the previous year and was then detained under civil confinement in Westmoreland prison in New York after a court decided he was too dangerous to release. Civil confinement is the formal legal process by which a person convicted of violent sexual offenses may be kept in prison upon completion of their sentence if a court believes them to be a threat to society.

Tubman only learned about the man’s release after Newsweek contacted him about the Alphabet Murders. He said he is trying to discover when the man was released and his supervision arrangements. He supplied Newsweek with official prison confirmation of the man’s release.

“He lived in the same neighborhood as Wanda and Michelle. They may have known him or they may have seen him as an authority figure when he spoke to them,” Tubman said.

“He was free at the time of the murders, he wasn’t incarcerated. He had a horrendous record.”

“Michael [Benson] became his prison pen pal and [the suspect] sent him all sorts of material,” Tubman added.

Tubman said that he is hoping technology will bring the long-awaiting breakthrough in the case.

“Every day there is a new [DNA] enhancement and it’s just getting better and better. Familial DNA evidence is getting better too. [The suspect’s] family has been tracked down but I think the police have to get a fresh sample of the suspect’s DNA and blood,” he said.

Newsweek sought comment through Facebook Messenger on Wednesday from Wanda Walkowicz’s two adult sisters, Michelle Walkowicz and Rita Walkowicz DeCann, who have been campaigning for DNA evidence to be used in unsolved murders.

On Thursday, Newsweek also sought email comment from the suspect through his former attorney.

In March 2022 a woman posted a list on the social media site, TikTok, of all the reasons she believes her late grandfather could have potentially been the Alphabet Murderer. Her grandfather is not the suspect who was released from Westmoreland prison.

“These are the reasons why I believe that my grandfather may be the Rochester Alphabet Killer,” she said at the beginning of the video.

She explained to viewers that her aunt was “good friends” with Walkowicz and that her grandfather also knew the girl. She also said that at the time, her grandfather owned a grocery store and that he spoke to Walkowicz the last day she was seen.

Newsweek sought comment from the woman through the Instagram social media site on Wednesday.

Tubman urged caution and said he has had many calls from women who said they believed their brother, father, uncle or grandfather were responsible.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

The post Exclusive: Alphabet Murder Suspect Released After Serving 30 Years For Rape appeared first on Newsweek.

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