The names Ted Bundy, Zodiac Killer, Jack the Ripper and Jeffrey Dahmer resonate across America, while the names of other men who committed horrific crimes do not. Such is the case with Joseph Paul Franklin.
Franklin hated Black people and Jewish people. A damaged man with a childhood of abuse, he appointed himself judge and executioner of his hated groups and went on a four-year murder spree starting in 1977. In that year, he shot and killed an interracial couple in Madison, Wisconsin; firebombed a Chattanooga, Tennessee, synagogue; and fired on worshippers leaving a suburban St. Louis synagogue, Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel in Richmond Heights.
In the Tennessee incident, Franklin thought people were in the synagogue, but none were, so his bomb didn’t kill anyone although it destroyed the building. In the St. Louis attack, one man died and two others were wounded (full disclosure: My family attended services at that synagogue but not on that particular Saturday).
The trademarks of Franklin’s attacks had already emerged in these crimes: anonymous attacks in cities that were far apart. The 1970s was a good time for serial killers in part because law enforcement departments rarely shared information, and what information they did share usually had to be mailed. Computers were in their infancy.
So a killer who moved between law enforcement jurisdictions, especially between states, could expect to remain unidentified, at least for a long time. Franklin exploited not only that weakness but also his lack of involvement in his victims’ lives — they didn’t know him and never saw him.
In 1978, Franklin shot an interracial couple in Chattanooga; the woman lived. He also shot and seriously wounded Larry Flynt, publisher of the hardcore pornography magazine Hustler, and wounded Flynt’s lawyer. Franklin had been offended by Hustler’s inclusion of interracial sex.
In 1979, Franklin shot and killed a Black Taco Bell manager — the killer was upset that the man worked closely with white women. His deadliest year was 1980. He shot and seriously wounded Urban League president Vernon Jordan in Fort Wayne, Indiana; shot and killed two Cincinnati cousins in their early teens who were Black merely because he had the chance; shot and killed an interracial couple in Johnstown, Pennsylvania; shot and killed two white hitchhikers in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, whom he believed had dated Black men; and shot and killed two Black men in Salt Lake City.
“The Killer’s Shadow” is by the man whose professional work was fictionalized in the Netflix series “Mindhunter.” John Douglas helped launch the FBI’s unit on criminal profiling. As a tale, this one lacks memorability, mostly because Franklin’s crimes are so similar.
Douglas’ narrative also suffers from a couple of stumbles — the rabbi at the synagogue in St. Louis was Rabbi Skoff, not Skeff. The FBI building is light yellow, not gray. And he uses the phrase “ass-pucker” one or two too many times. He dredges up a couple of chestnuts from his past interviews, like Charles Manson insisting on sitting on the back of a chair so he would be higher than the FBI agents and David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz admitting with a laugh that his tale of being motivated by a demon inside his neighbor’s dog was a lie.
Douglas wants to link Franklin to today’s social justice climate, and to an extent, that’s valid. Franklin, after all, selected most of his victims because they were Black or had good interracial relationships. But Franklin was also viciously anti-Jewish, a type of hatred not part of today’s activism. (Franklin was put to death in Potosi, Missouri, in 2013 for killing Gerald Gordon at the St. Louis synagogue.)
Because of Franklin’s poisonous ideas, Douglas views him as more dangerous than the usual serial killer, who murders for power or pleasure. Luckily, Franklin failed to draw anyone to his cause and failed to make a lasting name for himself.
Remember these notable area serial killers?
Remember these notable St. Louis-area serial killers?
Glennon E. Engleman
Glennon E. Engleman was a dentist who partnered with women in murder plots; he eventually pleaded or was convicted of five murders. But detectives suspected he committed more.
He was caught after the 1980 death of Sophie Marie Barrera, 59, who owned a dental lab, and sued Engleman because he hadn't paid some bills. Engleman, with an accomplice, planted a car bomb; Berrera was killed when it exploded near her lab's office on Miami, east of South Grand Boulevard. At the same time he was charged in her death, he was charged with the 1976 shooting death of Peter J. Halm.
Halm was married to a dental hygienist, Carmen Miranda Halm, who worked in Engleman's office. His widow testified that she and Engleman plotted for her to marry so they could kill her husband for insurance money. Jurors found Engleman guilty of the various charges in 1980 and 1981. (She received immunity for her testimony.)
After his convictions in those deaths, Engleman was charged with killing Arthur Gusewelle and his wife Vernita, in November 1977; and their son Ronald, who died in April 1979. Engleman pleaded guilty to the three murders in June 1985. Ronald Gusewelle's widow, Barbara Gusewelle Boyle, was also convicted of murder for her husband's death. Engleman plotted to kill the couple, and then Ronald Gusewelle, for insurance money that he split with the widow.
Engleman died in prison in 1999.
He was never charged with the 1958 shooting death of James Bullock, who had married Engleman's first wife after she divorced the dentist. Bullock was found shot near the Art Museum in Forest Park, and the investigation and questioning of Engleman and the widow was closely followed in the news.
He was also never charged in the 1963 death of business partner, killed in an explosion that, at first, looked like a work accident. Eric Frey died at the dragstrip near Pacific that Bullock's widow invested in after she received $64,500 in insurance money. Engleman was a director at the dragstrip.
Engleman's defense attorney said, in 1985: "No, his motives were not money. He would treat people for nothing, and there were acts of kindness and charity in his background.
"I think probably his desire to control individuals was his driving force — to make all the little dummies walk in line and sing at the same time."
A St. Clair County jury found Lorenzo Fayne guilty of killing five children in 2001, and decided he should face the death penalty.
In 2003, Fayne's life, along with others on Illinois' death row, was saved when Gov. George Ryan commuted remaining death sentences.
During his trial, defense attorneys said that Fayne was mentally disabled with a low IQ. They also described an abusive childhood, including a rape at a juvenile center when he was 10 years old.
In confessions to police, Fayne said he first killed someone because he wondered what it would be like to break someone's neck.
• 1989: Aree Master Hunt, 6, of Centreville, was beaten to death under a highway overpass in Frank Holten State Park.
• 1992: Faith Davis, 17, stabbed to death when she interrupted a burglary.
• 1992: Fallon Flood, 9, strangled at East St. Louis Senior High School.
• 1993: Glenda Jones, 17, was stabbed to death in a secluded area behind Martin Luther King Jr. High.
• 1992: Latondra M. Dean, 14, attacked and stabbed as she crossed a field to her East St. Louis home.
Joseph Paul Franklin
Notorious for shooting and paralyzing Larry Flynt, Joseph Paul Franklin was a racist who was convicted of a 1977 sniper killing at a Richmond Heights synagogue.
Franklin shot and killed Gerald Gordon, and wounded another man. Detectives said he picked the Richmond Heights synagogue at random.
Franklin wasn't charged with the crime until 17 years after it happened, when he was serving life sentences in Illinois for other murders.
Flynt was shot in March 1978 in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Franklin, in a letter years later, confessed to that shooting (then said it was a hoax). Franklin said a Hustler photo of an interracial couple infuriated him.
Besides the Missouri murder, he was also convicted for killing an interracial couple in Wisconsin and two black men, jogging with white women, in Salt Lake City.
Franklin confessed to more than 20 murders. He was executed in Missouri in 2013 at 63 years old.
Bertha Gifford was described as "a tireless attender of funerals, a visitor of sick persons and a connoisseur of stories dealing with violence, illness or blood." She often visited sick neighbors, in one case bringing tomatoes, milk and butter, staying for hours to administer medicine.
Neighbors in Catawissa didn't suspect that she was poisoning people until two boys died in her care in 1925, and Edward Brinley arrived at her house in 1927, falling-down drunk. Gifford said that she and her husband cared for Brinley, "and I put some arsenic in the medicine" a doctor left for the visitor. She said the arsenic was to calm stomach pains. Brinley died.
Gifford was arrested in August 1928; jurors found her guilty, but insane in November. By then, people suspected she killed up to 18 people, "at whose bedsides [she] was a volunteer nurse and who died suddenly." She was even suspected in the death of her first husband in Hillsboro.
"When the physicians taxed her with poiston murders, tears stood in her eyes, her nostrils dilated, and she said in her quaking voice: "But I wanted to help them. I wanted to do good," read the 1928 article about her conviction.
Theodis Hill has said in letters that he has committed five murders.
In 2013, Hill, 50, of Jennings, pleaded guilty to strangling Janice Mayhew in 2008 and Sierra Sullivan in 2009. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to strangling Fanny Mae Hill (no relation), then 56. Those three murders happened in St. Louis.
Hill also pleaded guilty to a murder in Arkansas, the strangling death of Marissa Lowe, 40, of Forrest City, Ark. He was charged with another Arkansas murder, of Katherine Dawson, 48.
Some of his victims were killed after doing drugs with Hill; in another case, police say Hill went into a rage after smoking crack and suffocated a victim with a pillow.
Hill is currently serving a life sentence at the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Mo.
Timothy Wayne Krajcir
Timothy Krajcir admitted to killing nine women across four states; most of the murders happened in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Five of his victims lived in Cape Girardeau.
Imprisoned in 1983 for sexual offenses, Krajcir was connected to the murders after DNA evidence was analyzed decades after the murders.
In 2008, detectives listened for four hours as Krajcir detailed his crimes. He confessed after prosecutors promised to waive the death penalty for his crimes.
Krajcir selected victims at random, and didn't kill all the women he attacked. In at least one case, an innocent man died in prison after being convicted of attacking a woman who was really stabbed by Krajcir.
• August 1977: Mary Parsh, 58, and Brenda Parsh, 27, a mother and daughter killed at Mary Parsh's home in Cape Girardeau. Krajcir raped Brenda, and killed both women.
• November 1977: Sheila Cole, 21, who was abducted from her car in a Walmart parking lot, then shot and killed after Krajcir raped her.
• May 1978: Virginia Lee Witte, of Marion, Ill., who died of strangulation after going grocery shopping.
• March 1979: Joyce Tharp, of Paducah, Ky., whose nude body was found behind a church
• 1979: Myrtle Rupp, 51, of Berks County, Pennsylvania
• January 1982: Margie Call, 57, who was raped and strangled in her home a week after Krajcir saw her in a grocery store parking lot.
• June 1982: Mildred Wallace, 65, who Krajcir followed home from a grocery store. While entering the home through a window he broke, Krajcir cut himself on glass, leaving DNA that linked him to the crime. He raped and shot her.
• April 1982: Deborah Sheppard, 23, a student at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. DNA left at the scene of her murder linked Krajcir to her death.
Anthony Joe LaRette
Anthony Joe LaRette was executed in 1995, at 44.
He confessed to raping and slaying more than a dozen victims in 11 states during the late 1960s and 1970s.
He was sentenced to death for the killing of Mary Fleming, 18, of St. Charles, who was murdered in July 1980. She interrupted a burglary at her home, and LaRette slashed her throat then stabbed her in the chest. LaRette was convicted in 1981.
In October 1988, he called a Missouri investigator from prison and began confessing. In the end, he confessed to more than a dozen killings, and gave details about other murders.
Jerry Lee Little Jr.
Sister Patricia Ann Kelley worked with the poor, as leader of Dollar-Help and Energy-Care. The Sister of Charity was killed in 1987 in the EnergyCare office, in the Saum Apartments in the 1900 block of South Grand. Two years before she was killed, Rose Jackson was killed; she visited prisons with a religious group. That's where she met Jerry Lee Little Jr., the man later convicted of killing her, Kelley and two other women.
Little was sentenced to nine life terms in prison in 1990. He was 33 at that time.
Before he was sentenced for killing four women, he raped four others; he had been in prison for years before the four murders in the 1980s. He and two of his victims lived in the same apartment building.
• 1985: Rose Jackson, 60, of the 2700 block of Hampton Avenue, was killed in anger when she wouldn't give him money, according to a confession.
• 1987: Sister Patricia Kelley, 50.
• 1988: Imogene Jackson, 28 (unrelated to Rose Jackson), was raped and strangled in her apartment at the Saum.
• 1988: Doris Hayes, 48, of the 2900 block of Hickory, was a guard and teacher at the St. Louis Training Center, which Little attended; she was strangled in her home in the 2900 block of Hickory Street.
Three days after police arrested Maury Travis in June 2002, he hanged himself using a jail bedsheet.
Detectives linked Travis to 13 deaths; some thought he killed as many as 20. At least two women survived violent encounters with him; one was brain-damaged and the other declined to press charges when police were called after she ran out of his home screaming in 2001.
The Ferguson resident apparently had plans to build cells in his basement, where police found several videotapes of Travis with some of his victims. He lived in the 1000 block of Ford Drive.
In 2002, Post-Dispatch reporter Bill Smith wrote a profile of one of the victims; five days letter, Smith got an anonymous letter claiming credit for 17 murders. The letter included a computer-generated map to a location where police found a body. That map allowed police to find Travis.
Police described Travis' victims as drug-addicted prostitutes. Some had never been reported missing, making identifying bodies difficult. DNA linked him to several of the victims.
• Alysa Greenwade, found in 2001 (formally charged)
• Teresa Wilson, 36, found in 2001 (Court documents link him to her death)
• Betty James, 46, found in 2001 (formally charged)
• Verona Thompson, 36, found in 2001 (Court documents link him to her death)
• Yvonne Crues, 50, found in 2001 (Court documents link him to her death)
• Brenda Beasley, 33, found in 2001 (Court documents link him to her death)
• Cassandra F. Walker, 19, found in 2001
• Several unidentified women
Unsolved - Interstate 70 serial killer
In the 1990s, someone killed six shop clerks across the midwest, but detectives have been unable to solve the case.
Nancy Kitzmiller, 24, was killed in May 1992, while she was working at Boot Village, a shop off Zumbehl Road in St. Charles County.
Other clerks were killed at small stores along Interstates 70 and 35 between Indianapolis and Wichita, earning the killer the "I-70 killer" nickname.
In 2016, police offered a $25,000 reward for a unique gun that may have been used in the killings. The Erma Werke ET-22 is a long rifle caliber, semi-automatic pistol with a luger action and an 11.75 inch barrel.