The Alphabet Murders

From November 16th, 1971 till November 26th, 1973 there were three child murders in Rochester, New York. All three victims were aged either 10 or 11 years old, they all had a first and last name that started with the same letter, they were sexually assaulted, strangled and dumped in a town whose name started with the same first letter as each victims name.

Victim 1: Carmen Colón.

On November 16th, 1971 a 10-year-old Colón was running an errand around 4:20 pm at a pharmacy. Around 5:10 pm Colón was seen by motorists driving along Interstate 490, they reported that they saw her naked from the waist down and running away from a reversing vehicle. Witnesses would later report that Colón was seen being led back submissively to the dark-coloured Ford Pinto Hatchback.

Two days later, a couple of teenage boys found Colón’s lifeless and semi-naked body near Churchville in a gully near where witnesses had last reported seeing her along Interstate 490. An autopsy found that Colón had a fractured vertebra and skull with scratches all over her body. She had been raped and strangled to death.

Victim 2: Wanda Walkowicz.

On April 2nd, 1973 a 11-year-old Walkowicz was running an errand around 5 pm at a deli. Around 5:15 pm Walkowicz was seen leaving the deli and walking home alone, witnesses reported seeing her struggle to carry a bag of groceries and that Walkowicz was leaning up against a wire fence to try and get a better grip on the plastic bag, whilst a brown car was driving past and some witnesses reported seeing Walkowicz standing next to the brown car talking to the driver.

The next day, Walkowicz’s body was found in Webster along State Route 104. The position of her body suggests that she was thrown out of a moving vehicle and then her body had rolled down the embankment. An autopsy found that Walkowicz was raped, strangled to death, she had defensive wounds and there were traces of semen, pubic hair and white cat fur even though the family didn’t own a cat. Her body had been redressed before being dumped.

Victim 3: Michelle Maenza.

On November 26th, 1973 a 11-year-old Maenza was walking home from school at around 3:20 pm. According to witnesses, Maenza was seen around 3:30 pm crying in a beige or tan coloured vehicle that was speeding away. At 5:30 pm a man holding the wrist of a young girl believed to be Maenza, was seen standing next to his beige or tan coloured vehicle with a flat tire, with witnesses reporting that the man was acting strange.

Two days later, Maenza’s body was found lying face down in a ditch in Macedon. An autopsy revealed that Maenza had been the victim of blunt force trauma, she had been raped, strangled to death, she had traces of semen in her underwear, a palm print on her neck and white cat fur even though the family didn’t own a cat.

Notable suspects:

Suspect 1: Miguel Colón.

Miguel who was Carmen Colón’s uncle from her father’s side was considered by authorities to be a likely suspect since he had begun a relationship with his brother’s ex-wife and Carmen’s mother. Miguel had also purchased a vehicle just weeks before Carmen was murdered that was similar to the vehicle witnesses reported seeing in pursuit of her on the day of the murder. After authorities searched his car they found that the interior and exterior of the car had been cleaned thoroughly and they also found a doll belonging to Carmen in his car.

Miguel had told his friends two days after his niece’s murder that he was planning to leave the country because he had “done something wrong in Rochester”. Four days after Carmen Colón was murdered, her uncle Miguel Colón moved out of the country and relocated to Puerto Rico.

Authorities ended up going to Puerto Rico in 1975 but after the newspaper published an article saying that authorities were planning on questioning him about the murder, he originally fled but then he agreed to be extradited to the United States to be questioned.

Once he returned to the United States he faced questioning about his whereabouts on the day of his niece’s murder but he was unable to provide a credible alibi. However, since all the authorities had was purely circumstantial evidence and there was no physical evidence linking him to the murder he was never formally charged with the murder.

In 1991, following a domestic assault incident where Miguel had shot and wounded his wife and brother, Miguel Colón committed suicide.

Suspect 2: Dennis Termini.

Dennis was a local fireman who was known as the ‘Garage Rapists’ because he was known to have raped a minimum of 14 teenage girls and young women between 1971 and 1973.

He was considered to be a strong suspect because he owned a beige car that matched the description of numerous witnesses and he lived near where Michelle Maenza was last seen alive.

On January 1st, 1974 just over a month after the last victim was murdered, Dennis had attempted to abduct a teenage girl at gunpoint but was unsuccessful after the teenager started screaming. Then shortly after, he successfully abducted another teenage girl but was followed by police and before they captured him he committed suicide by shooting himself.

A forensic examination of Dennis’ car found the fur of a white cat but it’s not known if it is a match to the white fur found on the victims. In January of 2007, his body was exhumed for authorities to obtain a DNA sample so they could compare it to the semen recovered from Walkowicz’s body, the test came back negative.

Suspect 3: Kenneth Bianchi.

Kenneth was an ice cream vendor who was known to have worked near the first two murder scenes. He was considered a suspect because he owned a similar vehicle to the one described by numerous witnesses.

The most compelling reason why authorities believe he could be responsible for the murders is that once he moved from Rochester to Los Angeles after the murders, he along with his cousin Angelo Buono, Jr. committed the murder of 10 young girls and women between 1977 and 1978. These murders would later be known as the notorious Hillside Strangler murders.

Suspect 4: Joseph Naso.

Joseph became a suspect after it was discovered that before he committed the 4 murders of prostitutes in California, he lived in Rochester.

There was no physical or DNA evidence to link him to any of the Alphabet Murders and therefore has never been charged. However, for the 4 California murders, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Aftermath:

Although authorities interviewed over 800 suspects, still to this day no one has been formally charged or arrested in connection with these murders.

Rest In Peace Carmen Colón, Wanda Walkowicz and Michelle Maenza.

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