CONTENT WARNING: Information or topics visited in this article, such as sexual assault, child abuse and violence, may be triggering to some readers.

Every town has a dark past, and Rochester is no exception. Many gruesome murders have taken place throughout its history, some more recent than others. They all leave a heavy feeling in the hearts of Rochester’s citizens.

The Double Initial Murders

Between 1971 and 1973 three young girls between the ages of ten and eleven were found dead near Rochester, NY.

All three victims were found to be sexually assaulted and strangled. These murders were later dubbed the "Double Initial Murders" or the "Alphabet Murders," because each victim had a first and last name starting with the same letter.

On Nov. 16, 1971, ten-year-old Carmen Colon went missing after reportedly leaving her house to run an errand for her grandfather. Her lifeless body was found on a rural road just outside Chili, NY two days later.

The murder of Colon shocked the Rochester area and created a time of unrest. Parents no longer had the luxury of being careless or comfortable.

"The murder of Colon shocked the Rochester area and created a time of unrest."

Even with extra police patrol, no new leads were found in regard to the murder of Colon.

Over a year later in April 1973, 11-year-old Wanda Walkowicz was kidnapped while grocery shopping alone several blocks from her house. She was found dead the next day on the edge of a highway in Webster, NY.

After the discovery of Walkowicz’s body, more police officers and troopers were added to the case in hopes of finding some clues as to who might be committing these horrible crimes.

The only evidence found at the time was a DNA sample from Walkowicz’s clothes, but no matches were made.

Michelle Maenza was walking home from school by herself on Nov. 26, 1973, when she was abducted.

Maenza was seen in the front seat of a large brown car by several witnesses that day after she had already been reported missing. Two days later, she was found on the side of a road several miles away.

By interviewing several witnesses, police were able to create a composite of what the suspect looked like and eventually released it to the public.

Even after receiving hundreds of calls from Rochester citizens with tips on the case, Rochester police officers were still not able to make an arrest.

To this day, the murderer (or possibly murderers) of Carmen Colon, Wanda Walkowicz and Michelle Maenza have not been found.

The Genesee River Killer

The Genesee River Killer, later found to be a man named Arthur Shawcross, was proved to have killed 11 women and two children. He confessed to the killing of several others, but had no evidence to prove it.

In 1972, after returning from the Vietnam War, Shawcross sexually assaulted and murdered two children: 10-year-old Jake Blake and eight-year-old Karen Ann Hill.

There were several witnesses placing Shawcross with both children before their disappearances, which put him at the top of the suspect list.

Shawcross later confessed to both murders but was only prosecuted for one due to a lack of evidence. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but only served 15 before being released on parole.

About a year after being released, Shawcross returned to murder, but for unknown reasons started targeting prostitutes instead of children.

In March 1988, Dorothy Blackburn’s body was found dumped in the Genesee River. Unfortunately, very little evidence was collected from the crime scene.

After Blackburn’s death, several other bodies began to surface: Anna Steffen, Dorothy Keeler, June Stott, and many others.

With patterns emerging between these murders, the name "Genesee River Killer" came to be.

The police believed the murderer to be someone who was a regular in the prostitute scene, and with that lead they were able to get the description of a man known as Mitch from local prostitutes.

In Nov. 1989 the top suspect, Mitch, was spotted with Elizabeth Gibson before her kidnap and murder. This evidence gave the police a short boost in the case, but did not lead to the capture of the suspect.

Then another body was discovered, and police made the decision not to disturb it, in hopes that the killer might return to relive the murder. As predicted, police discovered Shawcross, who fit the description of ‘Mitch,’ in the area and arrested him.

After confessing, Shawcross was prosecuted for ten Monroe County murders. During the trial in Nov. 1990, Shawcross pleaded insanity but was later found sane and guilty by the jury, sending him to prison for several life sentences. 

"[Shawcross] was later found sane and guilty by the jury, sending him to prison for several life sentences."

Shawcross was later tried for an eleventh murder in Wayne County and plead guilty, gaining another life sentence.

Shawcross served for only 18 years before dying in 2008, at the age of 63.

The Rideout Murder

This well-known case revolved around a single murder: the murder of Craig Rideout.

Craig’s body was found on July 21, 2016 after being brutally beaten and strangled in his own home.

It didn’t take long for several suspects to be brought into police custody, including Craig’s wife Laura, Laura's new boyfriend and one of Craig's closest friends, Paul "P.J." Tucci and Craig's two sons Colin and Alex.

Craig and Laura were going through a divorce, and were still having issues deciding on who would gain custody of their youngest children. It is believed that this was the issue from which the motive stemmed.

However, this issue did not only affect Laura, it also heavily affected their son, Colin. Colin sided with his mother on the divorce and did not appreciate any actions that Craig attempted to make in terms of mending their relationship.

Laura and Colin were found guilty and charged with second-degree murder, and Alex was charged with two counts of tampering with evidence because it was proved that he took part in the disposal of Craig's body.

Currently, both Laura and Colin remain in prison, while Alex was released in March 2021 after serving three and a half years.