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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Double trouble

Anyone who lived in the Rochester, N.Y., area in the early 1970s, myself included, is all too familiar with names Carmen Colon, Michelle Maenza and Wanda Walcowicz. The three girls, ages 10 and 11, were raped and strangled between 1971 and 1973 in what became known as the “double-initial killings” because each victim had matching first and last initials.

So you’ll understand that my heart almost stopped on Wednesday when I read an Associated Press story about a Florida man, 64-year-old James E. Pressler, being linked to the 1976 rape and strangulation in Rochester of a 7-year-old girl named Michelle McMurray. I had no recollection of the McMurray case, but seeing that the victim had matching initials immediately made me wonder what I’m sure thousands of Rochesterians also wondered: Could Pressler be responsible for the still-unsolved Colon, Maenza and Walcowicz killings?

It appears there probably is no link: The McMurray case happened a few years after the other three killings; McMurray was killed around 2 a.m., while the double-initial victims all were abducted and slain in the late afternoon; and McMurray appears to have been singled out by Pressler, who knew her from working in the apartment building where she lived. Also, McMurray was found in the city of Rochester, while the double-initial victims all were found in nearby towns with initials that matched their names – Colon in Churchville, Maenza in Macedon and Walcowicz in Webster.

Further, authorities say they always considered Pressler a suspect in the McMurray case and never found any evidence that he killed Maenza, Walcowicz and Colon. (The McMurray case finally was cracked when investigators matched DNA from a cigarette Pressler recently discarded to evidence found at the crime scene 31 years ago.)

But just seeing the name of a young, female 1970s rape and strangulation victim from Rochester whose first and last initials were the same sent a chill down my spine. And reading that a suspect was in custody gave me momentary optimism that maybe, just maybe, the Colon, Maenza and Walcowicz cases were about be solved.

It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. But I, like many other people with ties to Rochester in the early 1970s, am not giving up hope.

(By the way, a movie based on the double-initial killings, called "The Alphabet Killer," is due for release later this year.)



Blogger David in DC said...

Whooo-boy does this bring back scary memories.

October 9, 2007 at 4:45 PM 

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