I put my knife on the ground, and she grabbed it. We had a fight…I finally got my knife away from her, and she got stabbed.
Garrow

Robert Francis Garrow Sr. was an American pedophilic abductor and serial rapist-turned-spree killer. In 1973, while awaiting trial for rape, he turned fugitive and later killed four people before being recaptured. He eventually attempted another breakout, only to be shot down by prison guards returning fire. His trial spurred the controversial "Buried Bodies Case".

Background and Early Crimes

Garrow was born in 1978 near Dannemora, upstate New York, the son of French-Canadian parents. He had five siblings, one of whom died at an early age, while another, the oldest, was given away at birth. Robert Sr. was a violent heavy drinker, while his wife, Margaret, was described by one of her daughters as a violent, cruel person without any compassion. She would beat Robert with whatever was handy: a belt, a brick, a crowbar. She rendered him unconscious at least once. With no education nor friends, Robert was sent to work on a neighbor's farm in Moriah at 7, remaining there approximately until the age of 15. Perhaps because of his isolation, Robert, possibly as young as 10, began having sexual intercourses with animals on the farm. He also masturbated with milking machines. At the age of 15, he was sent to a reform school for beating his father. Released a year later, he joined the U.S. Air Force.

In the military, Robert suffered ridicule for his bed-wetting, a lifelong habit that he had managed to keep secret until then. After stealing money from a sergeant, he was court-martialed and condemned to six months in prison in Florida. He was later condemned to another year after attempting to escape. Released, he was discharged. He returned to upstate New York, where he worked at several menial jobs, though he was unable to maintain a steady employment. In 1957, he married a local girl, Edith, eventually fathering a son with her. They moved to Albany, where Robert got a job in a fast food restaurant he later burglarized, being consequently arrested. He later claimed to have engaged, while being married, a relationship with a gay attorney who abused him, and who he described as a sexual sadist.

In 1961, he was arrested for the rape of a teenage girl, spending almost eight years at Clinton Correctional Facility, where he claimed to have been abused by prisoners. Released, he found work at a bakery, later claiming he kept committing rapes of very young girls in Syracuse. In 1972, he was again arrested on charges of unlawful imprisonment and drug violations: he had tied up two female college students, though they later refused to press charges. In 1973, he was once more arrested on charges of sexually assaulting two little girls in Geddes. Released on bail, he never appeared at the scheduled court date, prompting the authorities to issue an arrest warrant, which officially made Garrow a fugitive.

Killing Spree and Arrest

A Robert Garrow wanted poster

On July 11, 1973, Garrow, who at the time resided in Syracuse, New York, picked up Alicia Hauck, a sixteen-year-old student who was hitchhiking on her way home from school. He raped her in the rear of an apartment complex, then she attempted to escape, prompting him to stab her to death. He disposed of the body inside Oakwood cemetery.

On July 20, in Wevertown, New York (not far from where his parents lived), Garrow tied to a tree and stabbed to death Daniel Porter, a twenty-two-year-old Harvard student camping in the Adirondacks with his girlfriend, Susan Petz. Then he abducted Susan, keeping her with him for four days, while also raping her. The last day she attempted to escape, and was stabbed to death by Robert during a struggle. He disposed of her body by shoving it inside the airshaft of a mine in Mineville, New York.

On the morning of July 29, 1973, a group of friends from Schenectady, Phil Domblewski, Carol Ann Malinowski, David Freeman and Nick Fiorello, were camping in the Adirondacks near Wells, New York (about 25 miles from the Porter murder scene). They were spotted by Garrow, who pulled over his VW hatchback, went over to the first tent he saw, and proceeded threatening the campers at gunpoint, telling them he wanted to siphon some gas out of their car. Domblewski objected, at which point he marched them into the woods, made them tie each other to separate trees, and repeatedly slashed, then stabbed Phil (the most backsliding of the group) in the chest, killing him. At that point, both Freeman and Fiorello had loosened up their ropes and escaped. Within minutes, a dozen men from Wells were searching for Garrow, who had meanwhile escaped into the woods.

After a brief car chase with the New York State Police on the night of July 31, Garrow had to discard his vehicle. In the meantime, the authorities had brought hundreds of troopers, several helicopters, and bloodhounds, to help in their search. They also brought Garrow's wife and child to the scene. Eventually, on August 10, Garrow's sister, Agnes, who had contacted police after Robert had come visiting her, was spotted bringing some food into the woods behind the house. When cops investigated, Garrow emerged from behind some trees and began to run. Though ordered to stop, he kept running, prompting the officers to open fire. He was hit in his back, leg, and left hand. After a brief struggle, he was handcuffed and put in custody.

Trial, Escape, Death, and Aftermath

Garrow alleged to have been left paralyzed by the shots, and, although his claims were disbelieved by doctors, he sued the State of New York for $10 million, citing negligence on the part of the State medical staff who treated him. He was moved to a medium security prison in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. At his trial, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury rejected his plea and found him guilty of second-degree murder, sentencing him to 25 years to life. Garrow began his sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility, tough, in 1978, he was transferred to medium-security Fishkill Correctional Facility, due to his purported paralysis. On September 8, 1978, he escaped from prison armed with a .32 caliber revolver which his son, Robert Jr., had surreptitiously brought to him. He was eventually spotted by some guards in the nearby woods, while waiting for the manhunt to widen up so that he could keep running. He shot at his pursuers, who returned fire, killing him.  

A grand jury indicted one of Garrow's lawyers, Francis Belge, with whom he had shared the location of two victims' bodies, on charges of violating the New York Public Health Law concerning disposal of bodies. The court eventually granted the attorneys' motion to dismiss the indictment, citing that communications between Garrow and Belge as to the whereabouts of the bodies were protected by the attorney-client privilege. The latter became known, in American legal history, as the "Buried Bodies Case". 

Modus Operandi

As a serial rapist, Garrow usually approached his victims with a ruse (such as offering to pick them up for a ride, or claiming to be a police officer). He also made use of a toy gun to ensure himself they would have done is bidding. On at least one occasion, he employed ropes to incapacitate his victims.

During the course of his killing spree, Garrow employed a .30 caliber rifle to scare his victims, then proceeded tying them to trees (or made them tie each other). He usually stabbed to death his victims as they attempted to escape or rebel against him. During his prison escape, he utilized a smuggled-in .32 revovler.

Known Victims

  • 1961: Syracuse, New York:
    • An unnamed teenage boy (pistol-whipped with a toy gun)
    • An unnamed teenage girl (raped)
  • Unnamed dates: an unspecified number of young girls in Syracuse (all raped after his release)
  • 1972: Two unnamed college students (both tied up; presumably intended to rape)
  • 1973:
    • May, 31: Geddes, New York: Two unnamed girls (both abducted and raped)
    • July, 11: Syracuse, New York: Alicia Hauck (abducted and raped, then stabbed)
    • July, 20: Wevertown, New York:
      • Daniel Porter (tied to a tree and stabbed)
      • Susan Peltz (abducted, repeatedly raped and stabbed on July 24)
    • July, 29: near Wells, New York:
      • Phil Domblewski (tied to a tree, then stabbed)
      • Carol Ann Malinowski (tied to a tree; survived)
      • David Freeman (tied to a tree; survived)
      • Nick Fiorello (tied to a tree; survived)

On Criminal Minds

  • Season Eleven
    • "Profiling 101" - While Garrow was never directly mentioned or referenced on the show, he appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Thomas Yates - Both were serial offenders-turned-spree killers who grew up in dysfunctional households where they were heavily abused by a female family member (Garrow's mother and Yates' grandmother respectively), were juvenile delinquents, targeted female college students, and killed their victims by stabbing them. Also, both had a relationship with a woman with whom they tried to stay out of trouble, only to eventually return to their old habits. Finally, both escaped from prison and were ultimately shot and killed by a law enforcement officer. Yates also appeared in Season Twelve.

Sources

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