The Poughkeepsie Killer
Kendall Francois (born July 26th, 1971) is a serial killer from Poughkeepsie, New York, convicted of killing eight prostitutes, from 1996 to 1998.
In October 1996, Wendy Meyers, age 30, was reported missing to the Town of Lloyd Police, in Ulster County, New York. She was described as a white female, with a slim build, hazel eyes and short brown hair. She was last seen at the Valley Rest Motel in Highland – a small town situated near the banks of the Hudson River south of Kingston.
In December 1996, Gina Barone was reported missing by her mother, Patricia Barone. Gina was 29 years old and had a small build, brown hair and an eagle tattooed on her back. On her right arm she had another tattoo that read simply “POP.” She was last seen November 29th, 1996 in Poughkeepsie on a street corner, apparently having a dispute with an unidentified man.
In January 1997, Kathleen Hurley, 47, disappeared. She was last seen walking along Main Street in the downtown area of Poughkeepsie. Hurley, like the others, was white, had brown hair and a small build. The letters “CJ” were tattooed on her left biceps. The same month, City of Poughkeepsie Police, following an extensive investigation and placed Francois’ home at 99 Fulton Avenue under surveillance; prostitutes around this area reported that he was notoriously rough during sex.
In March 1997, a woman named Catherine Marsh was reported missing by her mother. She was last observed November 11, 1996, also in Poughkeepsie. Four months had passed since she was last seen alive. Like the other girls, she was white, small build, blue eyes and brown hair.
A month later, Poughkeepsie Police made a decision to contact the F.B.I. for help. Although the F.B.I. investigators were interested, they were limited by the circumstances of the case: in order to establish a profile of a suspect, they needed a crime scene.
In November 1997, Mary Healey Giaccone was reported missing. This report was actually initiated by the police. Her mother died the previous month. Her father, a retired New York State corrections officer, came to the police to ask for help in locating Mary so he could tell his daughter of her mother’s death. Police soon discovered that she was actually last seen alive in February 1997 on the same Poughkeepsie streets as some of the others.
On June 12 1998, Sandra Jean French, a 51-year-old mother of three, disappeared. Her daughters reported discovered her car three blocks from Francois’ home.
In August 1998, Catina Newmaster disappeared. The circumstances fit with many of those of the other missing women: She frequented the same streets of downtown Poughkeepsie, where she was last seen, and physically resembled the other women who had been reported missing.
They had all been murdered by Kendall Francois.
On September 1st, 1998, Kendall Francois was strangling an abducted prostitute when she managed to break free and flee his home at 99 Fulton Avenue, a short walk from Vassar College. Later that afternoon, City of Poughkeepsie Police Detective Skip Mannain and Town of Poughkeepsie Police Detective Bob McCready were in their unmarked car preparing to hand out flyers asking the public for help in the Catina Newmaster disappearance.
As the detectives pulled into the same gas station that Francois just left, Deborah Lownsdale came up to the car and told them that a woman, who was now walking away, said that she was just assaulted. The detectives quickly located the woman, who confirmed the attack. She was brought into the police station where she filed a complaint against Francois.
That same afternoon, the police returned to 99 Fulton Avenue to talk with Francois about this most recent attack (Francios also lived at this address with his parents). They asked him to come into the police department to discuss the report; he agreed and was taken to headquarters.
Over the next several hours, Francois eventually made many admissions regarding the disappearance of the women. He was arrested and charged with a single count of murder in the death of Newmaster. A search warrant was drawn up and on September 2nd, 1998, shortly after midnight, a team of detectives, the district attorney, EMS crews, crime scene processors, and police officers searched Francois’ home and discovered the many bodies of his victims.
He had buried them in his home, John Wayne Gacy style!
How did his parents not suspect anything?!
Trial and Sentence
Two days after his arrest, Francois was indicted for the murder of Catina Newmaster. On September 9th, he appeared in court, and a plea of “not guilty” was entered on his behalf. A month later, on October 13th, he was charged with eight counts of first degree murder.
Under New York State law, first degree murder, which includes serial murder, gives the District Attorney the option of pursuing the death penalty. Though the D.A. makes the decision to ask for that sentence, it may only be imposed by the jury which has heard the case; Francois’ attorneys chose to plead guilty on 23rd December, before the D.A. had decided whether to seek the death penalty, thereby avoiding trial by jury and therefore the possibility of death.
On February 11th, 1999, the Dutchess County Court ruled that the guilty plea could not be accepted. Later it was discovered that Francois contracted HIV from one of his victims. His defence team took the case to the State Court of Appeals, which upheld his guilty plea in a ruling in March 2000.
On August 11th, 2000, Judge Thomas Dolan formally sentenced Kendall Francois to life in prison without parole. He was incarcerated in Attica Correctional Facility until his death on September 11th, 2014 (aged 43).