Joseph G. Christopher


Joseph G. Christopher

A.K.A.: ".22-Caliber Killer" - "Midtown Slasher"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Army private - Racially motivated attacks
Number of victims: 12
Date of murders: September-December 1980
Date of arrest: January 18, 1981
Date of birth: 1955
Victims profile: Glenn Dunn, 14 / Harold Green, 32 / Emmanuel Thomas, 30 / Joseph McCoy / Parler Edwards, 71 / Ernest Jones, 40 / Luis Rodriguez, 19 / Antone Davis, 30 / Richard Renner, 20 / "John Doe" / Roger Adams, 31 / Wendell Barnes, 26
Method of murder: Shooting / Stabbing with knife
Location: New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on November 14, 1985

A pathological racist, Christopher launched a one-man war against blacks in September 1980, claiming victims from upstate New York to southwestern Georgia. In his wake, he left an atmosphere of bigotry and violence that provoked a string of hostile confrontations in communities not known for racial animosity. His legacy of death and hatred lingers to the present day, as several of the crimes connected to his rampage -- or inspired by his example -- are officially unsolved.

The war began September 22, when 14-year-old Glenn Dunn was shot and killed outside a Buffalo supermarket. The victim was sitting in a stolen car when he died, and witnesses described his assailant as an unidentified "white youth." The following day, 32-year-old Harold Green was shot while dining at a fast-food restaurant in suburban Cheektowaga. That night, Emmanuel Thomas, age 30, was killed by a sniper while crossing the street to his home, seven blocks from the scene of Dunn's murder. On September 24, the action shifted to nearby Niagara Falls, with the murder of a fourth black, Joseph McCoy.

Investigators found that all four victims were killed with the same gun, and headlines followed their fruitless search for the elusive ".22-caliber killer." Buffalo blacks complained of nonexistent police protection, and there were sporadic incidents of blacks pelting white motorists on the streets. A cross was burned in Buffalo, and fears were voiced that the murders might be a preview of things to come, paving the way for some paramilitary racist group's campaign of local genocide.

Things got worse on October 8, when 71-year-old Parler Edwards, a black taxi driver, was found in the trunk of his car, parked in suburban Amherst, his heart cut out and carried from the scene. Next day, another black cabbie, 40-year-old Ernest Jones, was found beside the Niagara River in Tonawanda, the heart ripped from his chest. His blood-spattered taxi was retrieved by police in Buffalo, three miles away.

The local black community was verging on a state of panic now, made worse by an incident in a Buffalo hospital on October 10. A black patient, 37-year-old Collin Cole, was recuperating from illness when a white stranger appeared at his bedside and snarled, "I hate niggers."

A nurse's arrival saved Cole from death by strangulation, but his condition was listed as serious, with severe damage done to his throat. Descriptions of the would-be strangler roughly matched eyewitness reports on the ".22-caliber killer."

The action shifted to Manhattan on December 22, with five blacks and one Hispanic victim stabbed -- four of them killed -- in less than thirteen hours. John Adams, 25 years old, was the first to fall, narrowly escaping death when he was knifed by a white assailant around 11:30 a.m.

Two hours later, 32-year-old Ivan Frazier was accosted on the street, deflecting a blade with his hand, sustaining minor injuries before he fled on foot. The next four victims were less fortunate.

Messenger Luis Rodriguez, 19, was stabbed to death around 3:30 p.m. in what police described as "an apparent holdup."

No motive was suggested in the deaths of 30-year-old Antone Davis, knifed around 6:50 p.m., or 20-year-old Richard Renner, killed less than four hours later.

The last victim, discovered just before midnight, was a black "John Doe" stabbed to death on the street near Madison Square Garden.

Police were still searching desperately for the elusive "Midtown Slasher" when 31-year-old Roger Adams, a black man, was stabbed to death in Buffalo on December 29.

Wendell Barnes, 26, was fatally wounded in Rochester, on December 30, but Buffalo native Albert Menefee was luckier the next day, surviving a thrust that nicked his heart.

On January 1, Larry Little and Calvin Crippen survived separate attacks, fighting off their white assailant with only minor injuries.

On January 6, police announced that the recent stabbings were "probably linked" with Buffalo's unsolved .22-caliber shootings, but still they seemed no closer to a suspect.

The case broke twelve days later, in Georgia, when Pvt. Joseph Christopher, age 25, was arrested at Fort Benning, charged with slashing a black GI. A search of his former residence, near Buffalo, turned up quantities of .22-caliber ammunition, a gun barrel, and two sawed-off rifle stocks. More to the point, authorities learned that Christopher had joined the army on November 13, arriving at Fort Benning six days later. He was absent on leave from December 19 to January 4, with a bus ticket recording his arrival in Manhattan on December 20.

Hospitalized with self-inflicted wounds on May 6, 1981, Christopher bragged to a nurse of his involvement in the September slayings around Buffalo. Four days later, he was charged with three of the local shooting deaths, a fourth murder count added to the list on June 29, plus charges related to non-fatal Buffalo stabbings in December 1980 and January 1981. In New York City, indictments were returned in the murder of Luis Rodriguez and the non-fatal stabbing of Ivan Frazier.

In October 1981, Christopher waived his right to a jury trial in Buffalo, placing his fate in the hands of a judge. Two months later, he was found mentally incompetent for trial, but the ruling had been reversed by April 1982. On April 27, after twelve days of testimony, he was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder, drawing a prison term of 60 years to life.

In September 1983, Christopher sat for an interview with Buffalo journalists, estimating that his murder spree had claimed a minimum of thirteen lives. Reporters noted that he "did not deny" the grisly murders of Parler Edwards and Ernest Jones, but no charges have yet been filed in those cases. In July 1985, Christopher's Buffalo conviction was overturned on grounds that the judge had improperly barred testimony pointing toward mental incompetence. Three months later, in Manhattan, a jury rejected the killer's insanity plea, convicting him in the murder of Luis Rodriguez and the wounding of Ivan Frazier.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans

Buffalo man guilty in '80 killing

October 24, 1985

A 29-year-old Buffalo man was convicted yesterday of stabbing a man to death as he walked along Madison Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets in December 1980.

The defendant - Joseph G. Christopher, a former Army private - was also found guilty of stabbing a man on the E train in Manhattan the same day.

Sentencing was set for Nov. 14. The authorities described the incidents as racially motivated attacks.

Mr. Christopher, who is white, was convicted of the murder of Luis Rodriguez, a 19-year-old Bronx messenger, and the attempted murder of Ivan Frazer, 40, a Bronx cook.

Mr. Christopher was sentenced to life terms in May 1982 after being convicted of fatally shooting three black men in Buffalo in September 1980.

But the State Court of Appeals overturned those convictions last July because the trial judge had barred the defense from presenting expert psychiatric testimony about Mr. Christopher's fitness to stand trial.

Mr. Christopher still faces trial on charges that he shot to death a black man in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in September 1980.

During his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney James Fogel said that while hospitalized at Fort Benning, Ga., after trying to kill a black fellow Army recruit, Private Christopher bragged to nurses that he had killed black men in Buffalo and New York City.

The Defense attorney, Richard Siracusa, told the jury of seven women and five men that Mr. Christopher should be acquitted because ''he is not a well person, his vision of reality has nothing to do with ours.''

Soldier, 26, is found competent for trial on murder charges

February 18, 1982

The director of the Mid-Hudson State Psychiatric Center said yesterday that a 26-year-old Army private charged with murders in New York City, Buffalo and Niagara Falls had been found mentally competent to stand trial.

The statement by the director, Dr. Erdogan Tekben, came at a court hearing at the hospital. It opened the way for the return of the soldier, Joseph G. Christopher, to Erie County, where he faces murder charges in the separate shootings of three men in Buffalo. It also meant that he could be tried in New York City, where he is accused of fatally stabbing a teen-age boy and injuring another man. He has also been indicted for a homicide in Niagara Falls.

Private Christopher has pleaded not guilty to all five homicide charges. He is an involuntary patient at the hospital and requested at the hearing that he be released.

Judge Gerald Delaney of the Orange County Court postponed a decision on the private's request because it appeared that he would be returned anyway to Erie County in light of Dr. Tekben's statement. Suspect in Nine Murders

Law-enforcement officials say Private Christopher is the main suspect in a total of nine murders of black and dark-skinned men in New York State in 1980, including four in Manhattan in one day. Private Christopher is white.

Mental health officials could not say when he might be returned to Erie County or whether a formal court procedure was necessary for the transfer from the Orange County psychiatric hospital.

A State Supreme Court justice in Erie County, William Flynn, had sent him to the hospital last December after finding him mentally unfit to understand the nature of the crimes he was charged with or to participate in his own defense. Benjamin Altman, an acting State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan, made the same ruling 10 days ago based on evidence from the Erie County decision.

''It is my staff's opinion that Christopher presently is fit to stand trial,'' Dr. Tekben said. A state mental health department official said Dr. Tekben would send a letter to the Erie County District Attorney certifying the soldier's competence to stand trial.

The question of Private Christopher's ability to stand trial for the murders arose last October when he waived his right to a trial by jury.

Christopher, Joseph G.


MO: Racist who shot/stabbed black and Hispanic men

DISPOSITION: Life sentence, 1985