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Joseph Edward CORCORAN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 4 - 6
Date of murders: 1992 / 1997
Date of arrest: July 26, 1997 (surrenders)
Date of birth: April 18, 1975
Victims profile: His parents, Jack and Kathryn Corcoran / His brother, James Corcoran, 30; Robert Scott Turner, 32; Douglas A. Stillwell, 30; and Timothy G. Bricker, 30
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA
Status: Acquitted after a five-day trial in 1992. Sentenced to death on August 26, 1999
 
 
 
 
 

Indiana Supreme Court

 
opinion 02S00-0508-PD-350
 
 
 
 
 
 

CORCORAN, JOSEPH EDWARD # 91

ON DEATH ROW SINCE 08-26-99

DOB: 04-18-1975
DOC#: 992454 White Male

Allen County Superior Court
Judge Frances C. Gull

Prosecutor: Robert W. Gevers, II

Defense: John S. Nimmo and Mark A. Thoma

Date of Murder: July 26, 1997

Victim(s):
James Corcoran W/M/30 (Brother)
Robert Turner W/M/32 (Sister's Fiance)
Timothy Bricker W/M/30 (friend of Brother)
Doug Stillwell W/M/30 (friend of Brother)

Method of Murder: shooting with Ruger Mini-14 Semi-Automatic Rifle

Summary: The defendant was living in a home along with his brother James Corcoran, his sister Kelly Nieto, and her fiance’ Robert Turner.

On July 26, 1997 the defendant was upstairs while his brother and Turner sat in the living room with friends Timothy Bricker and Doug Stillwell.

According to the defendant, he heard them talking about him, so he went downstairs and confronted them.

He first placed his 7 year old niece in an upstairs bedroom to protect her from the gunfire, then loaded his semi-automatic rifle.

Before they had a chance to move, the defendant shot and killed his brother, Turner, and Bricker. Stillwell fled to the kitchen, but was cornered, shot and killed.

The defendant then laid down the rifle, went to a neighbor’s house, and asked them to call the police.

A search of the defendant’s room and secure attic, to which only he had access, revealed over 30 firearms, several munitions, explosives, guerilla tactic military issue books, and a copy of The Turner Diaries. Corcoran asserted an insanity defense based upon his diagnosis as having either a paranoid or schizotypal personality disorder.

Conviction: Murder (4 counts)

Sentencing: August 26, 1999 (Death Sentence)

Aggravating Circumstances: b(8) Multiple Murders

Mitigating Circumstances:

Extreme mental / emotional disturbance; Capacity to appreciate criminality impaired; Unable to assist defense because of mental illness; Fully cooperated with police, admitted guilt; Good behavior in jail; Protected 7 year old niece before murders; No significant prior criminal conduct; Remorseful, young age (22).

ClarkProsecutor.org

 
 

Joseph Corcoran

On July 28, 1997, Fort Wayne resident Joseph Corcoran was charged with four counts of murder after killing his brother, his sister's fiancee and two other men. Apparently Joe, 22, believed the victims were talking about him and he became angry. So he went downstairs with his semiautomatic and shot the victims as they sat in a living room, eating pizza and watching television.

Three of the men were found dead on couches in the living room. The fourth man was shot in the kitchen as he attempted to escape. Officers later found 20 to 30 weapons in the upstairs and attic areas of the home.

Not the family type, Joe was acquitted of killing his parents five years ago. Now his sister -- who lost her future husband in this latest rampage -- thinks her brother did kill their parents. "I knew right then and there that he killed my parents... Everything's gone. He's ruined my life. I hope he fries... I just think he's sick. I don't know what made him do it... I don't know what it was ... maybe it was the heat."

During his first trial in 1992 police said Corcoran -- described by neighbors as a quiet loner with "movie-star looks" -- killed his parents because they were too strict, then got on a bus and went to school. Tom Wilson, Steuben County Prosecutor, said there were too many discrepancies in the Joe's story, and police turned up nothing that indicated anyone else was involved. Jurors ultimately acquitted Corcoran after a five-day trial, saying there wasn't enough evidence to convict.

On May 14, 1999 -- four days before going to trial for murdering his brother and three other men -- defense lawyer John Nimmo announced that his client was guilty. "What we're here for, what it all boils down to, is the sentencing phase," Nimmo said. "It's going to be like an Al Pacino movie. I don't let them convict my client. I'm going to convict my client."

Corcoran, now 24, is accused of shooting his brother, James Corcoran, 30; Robert Scott Turner, 32; Douglas A. Stillwell, 30; and Timothy G. Bricker, 30, because he couldn't stand to hear them talking about him. Brother James had been one of his brother's fiercest defenders when Joseph was accused of shooting his parents to death in 1992.

 
 

Joseph E. Corcoran

ProDeathPenalty

At 17, Joseph Corcoran was accused of shooting his parents because they were too strict. A jury, though, was unconvinced, and Corcoran went free.

Five years later, Corcoran was again charged with murder, this time accused of gunning down his brother, his sister's fiancé and two other men because he couldn't stand to hear them talking about him.

This shocking slaying left one of Corcoran's staunchest supporters, brother James Corcoran, dead, and another, sister Kelly Nieto, looking at the 1992 slaying of their parents in a whole new light. ''I knew right then and there that he killed my parents. I know he did it,'' Ms. Nieto said upon hearing of her brother's death. ''I've cried so many tears, I'm dry. Everything's gone. He's ruined my life.''

Police say Corcoran walked downstairs in the house he shared with his sister and opened semiautomatic gunfire on the victims as they sat in a living room, eating pizza and watching television. Three were killed on couches, while the fourth apparently attempted to flee and was shot in the kitchen.

After the shootings, Corcoran asked a neighbor across the street to call the police. When they arrived, Corcoran told them, ''You might as well just arrest me.'' Corcoran was jailed on four counts of murder after giving a statement to police admitting a role in the slayings. ''Suffice it to say,'' Sgt. Nancy Becher said, ''the suspect believed the victims were talking about him and he became angry.''

In addition to Corcoran's 30-year-old brother James, the victims included Ms. Nieto's fiancé, Robert Scott Turner, 32; Douglas A. Stillwell, 30; and Timothy G. Bricker, 30. Ms. Nieto was at the store at the time of the shootings. Her 7-year-old daughter was home, but she was upstairs and police do not believe she saw the shootings. Her eyes were covered when she was carried out of the home so she would not see the bodies.

Back at the home two days later, police technicians were still cleaning up blood stains and gathering evidence. Ms. Nieto sat outside on her front porch in the muggy afternoon heat, still unable to understand the crime, or her brother. ''I just think he's sick. I don't know what made him do it,'' Nieto said. ''I don't know what it was ... maybe it was the heat.''

Neighbors described Corcoran as a quiet loner with ''movie-star looks'' but no friends. ''All I ever saw him do was work on cars,'' said next-door neighbor Rose Heintzelman. ''I never saw him have a friend over, a boy or a girl.''

His past might explain that. Corcoran was 16 when his parents, Jack and Kathryn, were shot-gunned to death in April 1992 in their home. Police said Corcoran killed his parents because they were too strict, then got on a bus and went to school. But prosecutors had neither witnesses to the shootings nor the murder weapon.

All their evidence was circumstantial: He showed little emotion when police pulled him out of class to tell him his parents were dead. He liked guns, and his parents had a large collection in their home for hunting. No one heard the family dog, fiercely protective of Kathryn Corcoran, bark to signal an intruder.

Most damaging, Corcoran had offered several friends a shotgun and money - as much as $500 in one case - to kill his parents. His friends thought he was joking. Jurors ultimately acquitted Corcoran after a five-day trial, saying there wasn't enough evidence to convict. He moved in with his sister, finished high school and got a job. His past was always lurking, though. Heintzelman said he seemed ''paranoid.''

Donna Carr, who lived two houses away, said she saw Corcoran carrying several guns into the house two years ago. And when police entered the house Saturday night, they discovered a stash of 25 to 35 weapons upstairs. Police are still trying to determine if Corcoran owned all of the weapons and if any are illegal. ''I think that's been on his mind and on his soul the last five years,'' said neighbor Margaret Anderson. ''And I think it finally caught up with him.''

UPDATE: The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered that convicted murderer Joseph Corcoran be put to death by lethal injection in the early-morning hours of July 21. That is just days before the eighth anniversary of the grisly killings that occurred on a hot summer day at a Bayer Avenue home in Fort Wayne in 1997 when Corcoran loaded a semiautomatic rifle and killed his brother and three other men.

Corcoran said he shot the men with a semiautomatic rifle in the living room of the Fort Wayne home he shared with his brother and sister because he overheard them talking about him. Corcoran’s attorney said he is seeking a stay in federal court while he pursues a federal appeal. “It’s procedurally such a complicated case,” said Joanna McFadden, deputy public defender. “He should be spared because he has not yet effectively challenged his convictions or really his death sentence. He now wants to challenge them.”

During trial, Corcoran’s attorneys conceded their client’s guilt and tried to spare him the death penalty by saying he was mentally ill and couldn’t appreciate the impact of his actions. Since he was transferred to death row, court records have indicated Corcoran believes prison guards have tortured him with the use of an ultrasound machine that caused him pain and uncontrollable twitching.

The Indiana Supreme Court upheld Corcoran’s sentence on direct appeal and turned down a post-conviction relief appeal because Corcoran did not authorize it by the imposed deadline. Both the trial court and the state’s highest court have found Corcoran competent even though he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. They said he wants to die because he killed four people and deserves to be executed – not because of delusions.

On the day of sentencing in Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull’s courtroom, Corcoran said he wanted to waive all his appeals. His attorney also read this statement from Corcoran: “I can sincerely say I’m sorry. Not sorrow for me but sorrow for those who have good reason to hate me, because I am a horrible person, a person who needs to be punished. Though it may not be seen by others, I grieve in my own way. My sorrow remains, and I’m burdened with its shame. My actions were shameful, and they fill even me with contempt.”

A jury from Porter County convicted Corcoran in May 1999 of four counts of murder and recommended he be put to death. He shot and killed Douglas A. Stilwell, 30; James Corcoran, 30: Robert Scott Turner, 32; and Timothy G. Bricker, 30. In 1992, Corcoran was acquitted in the shotgun slayings of his parents in Steuben County. 

UPDATE:

A federal judge on Friday granted a stay of execution for a Fort Wayne man scheduled to be put to death in three weeks for killing four people, including his brother and his sister's fiance. Joseph Corcoran, 30, had been scheduled to die July 21, but District Judge Allen Sharp granted a request that the execution be blocked so that a federal court can review some of the decisions made by state courts in the case.

Corcoran's attorney, Alan Freedman, filed the appeal Monday. Among the decisions being challenged are rulings that Corcoran was competent to waive further challenges of his sentence even though he had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. Corcoran was convicted of killing four men in 1997 in a Fort Wayne house he shared with his sister because he heard them talking about him.

Police say Corcoran walked downstairs and opened semiautomatic gunfire on the victims as they sat in a living room, eating pizza and watching television. Killed were his brother, James, 30; his sister's fiance, Robert Scott Turner, 32; Douglas A. Stillwell, 30; and Timothy G. Bricker, 30. Sharp's order gives Corcoran until Oct. 25 to file his appeal. The state attorney general's office will then have 90 days to respond.

 
 


Joseph E. Corcoran

 

 

 
 
 
 
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