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I was ordered to kill. Who ordered me to kill? Who set up the conspiracy? I don’t know.

Joseph Gerard Christopher, also known as the ".22-Caliber Killer" and the "Midtown Slasher", was an American schizophrenic serial/spree killer who murdered at least eleven African-American men and one Hispanic man over a five-month span between 1980 and 1981.

He acted in Buffalo and nearby communities in New York State, then moved to Manhattan, New York City, before returning to his original area of activity. Because of this, he was at first deemed to be two separate killers, also due to the different modus operandi.


Christopher was a Buffalo, New York, native. He grew up in a predominantly Italian neighborhood, the son of Nicholas and Therese (née Hurley). His father was a maintenance worker with the city's Sanitation Department until his death in 1976, while his mother was a registered nurse at Deaconess Hospital.

Christopher also had three sisters, two of them older than him. As a youngster, he helped build a three-room cabin on a plot of land his father bought in Ellington, New York. Nicholas, whom Christopher adored, was an avid outdoorsman and hunter, who taught his son how to shoot and handle weapons. After attending parish classes at a Roman Catholic church, he enrolled in public schools and, in 1971, entered the automotive mechanics program at Burgard Vocational High School. He eventually dropped out in 1974, being remembered as a quiet, unassuming student.

Christopher began living of odd jobs he performed for his neighbors and for a furnace repairman. He also set up a small home-improvement business with a friend, which eventually turned unsuccessful. During this period, he tried enlisting in the Army but was rejected, apparently because he had hernia. In late 1977, he took a job as an unarmed security guard during a strike at Buffalo's American Brass Company. After that, in early 1978, he found work as a maintenance man at Canisius College, where he met and fell in love with a gun club instructor, eventually joining the club and applying for a National Rifle Association certificate as a pistol instructor himself. On one occasion, he was reprimanded by a college security guard for carrying a weapon.

After putting an end to his relationship with the instructor in late 1978, he reportedly started acting weird, as if something was troubling him. He had an argument with a co-worker over a purported stolen knife, which Christopher eventually found under the seat of his own truck. In 1979, he was dismissed by Canisius for sleeping on the job. Afterwards, he returned to live with his parents, started drinking, and had his gun permit suspended for unknown reasons, after informing the police that he had lost a weapon.

In 1978, Christopher had noticed his mental health was slipping. In September 1980, he turned to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center to seek assistance, but was told that since he wasn't a danger to himself or others he could not be admitted. This was a common practice at the time, when such centers were being downsized. He was recommended counseling therapy instead. Fourteen days after he left the center, the ".22-Caliber Killings" began.


The .22-Caliber Killer[]


The .22-Caliber Killer's composite sketch.

From September 22 to 24, 1980, four black males ranging from 14-43 years of age were slain by a spree shooter who was described by witnesses as a "white youth". The first and third killings occurred in Buffalo, while the others took place in nearby Cheektowaga and Niagara Falls.

Connecting the incidents, besides the victims' race, was the murder weapon, a .22-caliber sawed-off rifle, which prompted the press to nickname the attacker the ".22-Caliber Killer". The murders caused Buffalo's African-American community to complain about nonexistent police protection, and there were fears of an imminent campaign of genocide from some paramilitary white supremacist organization. Eventually, a task force was formed to deal with the case.

Things got even worse when the bodies of two African-American cab drivers, Parler Edwards and Ernest Jones, were found in Amherst and Tonawanda, on October 8 and 9. They had been beaten to death, and their hearts had been removed postmortem. On October 10, in Buffalo, Collin Cole, a hospitalized black man, was almost strangled by an unknown assailant who, according to witnesses, approximately matched the description of the ".22-Caliber Killer". The attempted strangler, before attacking Cole, reportedly said he hated black people. After these occurrences, the FBI became involved, and profiler John Douglas traveled to Buffalo in order to assist local authorities.

The Midtown Slasher[]

On November 13, 1980, Christopher finally managed to enlist the U.S. Army, being stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia. He was later given Christmas furlough, during the course of which he went to Manhattan, New York City, arriving there on December 20. Two days later, the murder spree attributed to the so-called "Midtown Slasher" began. Five African-American men and one Hispanic were attacked in as many stabbing attacks, over a twelve and a half-hours span. Only two of the latter survived their wounds.

Returning to Buffalo, Christopher knifed four more black men, from December 29 until January 1, 1981. Only one of them ended up being killed: Roger Adams. He later vehemently denied being responsible for a similar attack on a fifth man, one Albert Menefee, on December 31.

Arrest, Trial, and Death[]

Christopher's mugshot

Christopher's mugshot.

Christopher, wearing a ski mask, while being led to the courtroom

Christopher, wearing a ski mask, while being led to the courtroom.

Christopher was eventually arrested on January 18, 1981, after attacking a black fellow soldier, Leonard Coles, with a knife, in Fort Benning. He later attempted suicide with a razor, and revealed, during a subsequent psychiatric session, that he "had to kill blacks". This admission prompted the authorities to search his former residence, near Buffalo, were, among other things, quantities of .22-caliber ammunition, a gun barrel, and a sawed-off Ruger 10/22 rifle were recovered.

In April 1981, he was indicted on charges of having committed the .22-caliber shootings, plus the stabbings occurred in Buffalo through December 29 and January 1. In New York City, he was also indicted on two of the knife attacks attributed to the "Midtown Slasher". On May 8, he was brought back to Buffalo for his trial.

In October, Christopher waived his right to a jury, and chose to represent himself. Two months later, he was found incompetent to stand trial, but the ruling was then overturned, bringing to his conviction on three charges of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 60 years of imprisonment to life. In July 1985, his conviction was overturned on grounds that the first judge had improperly barred testimony pointing toward mental incompetence. Three months later, in Manhattan, a jury rejected Christopher's insanity plea, convicting him of the two stabbings in New York City. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and eventually died of male breast cancer in 1993, at Attica Correctional Facility.

Christopher admitted to the press of being responsible for at least thirteen murders out of seventeen attacks, implicitly including in the list the cab drivers' murders, although he never definitively confessed nor denied them. Reportedly, he had indeed confessed the two killings to psychiatrists and to the authorities, but was never charged with them. On the other hand, he vehemently denied being responsible for the attempted strangulation on Collin Cole and the non-fatal stabbing of Albert Menefee.

Modus Operandi[]

Sawed-off Ruger

A Ruger 10/22 sawed-off rifle, very similar to the one employed by Christopher in his shooting spree.

While operating as the ".22-Caliber Killer", Christopher employed a sawed-off Ruger 10/22 rifle, equipped with a rotary magazine and concealed in a brown paper bag, to shoot his victims at close range, during blitz attacks. When he supposedly killed the two cab drivers, he bludgeoned them to death, then removed their hearts postmortem. From the beginning of the Manhattan killing spree onward, he would attack and stab his victims to death with a knife.


The ".22-Caliber Killer" was profiled by John Douglas as a mission-oriented asocial loner with an assassin personality, who had, in the past, joined hate groups or even groups with positive goals or values, such as a church, and was now convinced that he was contributing to the cause. He had a gun fetish and military background, and would have been discharged out of psychological issues or failure to adjust to military life. He was also a rational and organized individual, with a "logical", although delusional, system of beliefs.

While unsure as to whether the "Midtown Slasher" spree could have been attributed to the .22-caliber shooter, Douglas was nonetheless convinced that it was committed by the same type of individual: a racist who killed in a blitz-assassination style. He speculated the ".22-Caliber Killer" may had turned to knife attacks because the noise of a firearm could have drawn attention in a highly populated area such as Manhattan.

For what concerns the attacks and mutilations on the cab drivers, Douglas was prone to not attribute them to the ".22-Caliber Killer", but he thought they were probably triggered by the latter. While the racial element still persisted, they were committed by a more disorganized, obsessive-compulsive, and possibly hallucinatory individual, who was, in all probability, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.

The crime scenes reflected rage, over-control, and overkill. If the same individual had committed both the shootings and the cab drivers' killings, that would have meant he suffered a severe personality disintegration between the two set of murders. Plus, in all likelihood, the heart remover's fantasies had been building for a long time, several years at least.

Christopher was indeed a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, claiming he was "ordered to kill" as part of a "conspiracy".

Known Victims[]

All the attacks, with the exception of the last one, took place in New York State.

  • 1980:
    • September 22, Buffalo: Glenn Dunn, 14 (shot twice)
    • September 23:
      • Cheektowaga: Harold Green, 32 (shot twice)
      • Buffalo: Emmanuel Thomas, 30 (shot to death)
    • September 24, Niagara Falls: Joseph L. McCoy, 43 (shot twice)
    • October 8, Cheektowaga: Parler Edwards, 71 (possibly; bludgeoned to death; his heart was cut out)
    • October 9, Buffalo: Ernest Jones, 40 (possibly; bludgeoned to death; his heart was cut out)
    • October 10, Buffalo: Collin Cole, 37 (possibly; survived; was almost strangled)
    • December 22, Manhattan, New York City: (stabbed all of the following)
      • 11:30am: John Adams, 25 (survived)
      • circa 1:30pm: Ivan Frazier, 32 (survived)
      • 3:30pm: Luis Rodriguez, 19
      • 6:50pm: Antonie Davis, 30
      • circa 10:50pm: Richard Renner, 20
      • 11:00pm-12:00am: Carl Ramsey
    • December 29, Buffalo: Roger Adams, 31 (stabbed to death)
    • December 30, Rochester: Wendell Barnes, 26 (stabbed to death)
    • December 31, Buffalo: Albert Menefee, 32 (possibly; survived; was stabbed)
  • 1981:
    • January 1, Buffalo: (both survived; suffered minor injuries)
      • Larry Little
      • Calvin Crippen, 23
    • January 18, Fort Benning, Georgia: Leonard Coles (survived; was attacked with a knife)
  • Note: Christopher claimed to have killed a total of 13 victims.

On Criminal Minds[]

While Christopher was never directly mentioned or referenced on the show, he appears to be an inspiration for the following unsubs:

  • Season Three
    • Jonny McHale ("True Night") - Both were psychotic serial-turned-spree killers and one-time mass murderers who lost a relationship prior to their crimes (McHale's fiancé was brutally murdered, while Christopher broke up with a girlfriend), targeted men (though two of Christopher's victims were teenagers) of specific groups (McHale targeted gang members involved with the 23rd Street Killers, Christopher targeted people of color), committed attacks outdoors before progressing to attacks indoors, killed them with bladed weapons (though Christopher also shot some), argued with people they knew over slights and paranoia due to their psychosis, were profiled as motivated by rage and deteriorating in their stability, attempted to murder (and succeeded in McHale's case) six male victims in a matter of hours at the peak of their sprees, were arrested after an attack on someone they knew (McHale killed his girlfriend's killer, while Christopher attacked a soldier he was stationed with), and were identified by evidence found from searching their homes (McHale made illustrations based on his crimes, while Christopher kept the murder weapons he used at his house).
  • Season Nine
    • Clifford Walsh ("The Road Home") - Both were spree killers with former jobs in maintenance, developed alcoholism before their sprees, killed specific types of male victims (Walsh killed victims with criminal records or associated with his family's murders, while Christopher killed men and boys in marginalized racial populations), killed by means of shooting (though both also used other means), killed four victims in a massacre within a span of an afternoon (though Christopher's mass murder went into the evening), were motivated by vendettas (Walsh wanted to avenge his family and rid the public of criminals, Christopher had paranoid delusions of racial conspiracies), and were stopped after a murder attempt on someone they knew (Walsh targeted the mother of his family's killer, Christopher targeted a soldier he was stationed with).
  • Season Ten
    • Danny Lee Stokes ("Protection") - Both were schizophrenic serial-turned-spree killers who lost a parent before their murders (Stokes' mother and Christopher's father, respectively), worked in blue-collar jobs, their schizophrenia worsened due to alcoholism and lack of treatment, they primarily targeted men (though Stokes also killed women, while two of Christopher's victims were teenagers) due to paranoid delusions, shot them to death in the streets (though they both killed in other places too), and were active in major urban cities. They became more violent and struck more frequently as their killings progressed, had composite sketches of them released to the public, were arrested after an attack (fatal in Stokes' case) where they resided, and had a violent episode around the time they interacted with police (Stokes shot at police, while Christopher tried to kill himself with a razor).
  • Season Twelve
    • Trey Gordon ("In the Dark") - Both were psychotic serial/spree killers who had fathers that practiced hunting, committed their crimes after their fathers died, primarily targeted men (though Gordon also killed women), initially shot them with rifles in one area of activity, but later switched to stabbing them with knives in another (although Gordon still shot victims while operating as the "Home Invasion Unsub"), and as a result they were initially profiled as two separate killers and given two separate nicknames, and were both apprehended after attempting to kill a final victim. Also, Gordon having OCD may be a reference to how John Douglas profiled Christopher as having it (although he apparently didn't).