July 26, 1971)
is a serial killer from Poughkeepsie, New York, convicted of killing
eight prostitutes, from 1996 to 1998. He is currently serving life in
prison for his crimes.
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
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 29, 1996
in Poughkeepsie on a street corner, apparently having a dispute with an
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,
placed Francois' home at 99 Fulton Avenue under surveillance. Area
prostitutes 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
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
September 1, 1998,
Kendall Francois was strangling an abducted prostitute when she became
free and fled 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. 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 2, 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.
Two days after his arrest, Francois
was indicted for the murder of Catina Newmaster. On September 9, he
appeared in court, and a plea of "not guilty" was entered on his behalf.
A month later, on October 13, he was charged with eight counts of first
degree murder, eight counts of second degree murder, and attempted
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 23 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 11, 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 defense team took
the case to the State Court of Appeals, which upheld his guilty plea in
a ruling in March 2000.
On August 11, 2000, Judge Thomas Dolan formally
sentenced Kendall Francois to life in prison without parole. He is
currently incarcerated in Attica Correctional Facility.
In early 1997, Poughkeepsie, New York,
police became concerned about a rash of recent missing persons. Since
October of the previous year three women had disappeared, all petite,
white prostitutes. It seemed to be much more than a coincidence. Further
alarm was raised when Catherine Marsh was reported missing in March. She
had last been seen during the same time frame as the other three women.
Police fruitlessly searched rapsheets and Jane Doe listings to try to
locate the women but had no success.
On November 13, 1997, Mary Giaccone was
reported missing when she could not be located to attend her mother's
funeral. She also closely resembled the other women. Police had no
promising suspects except a man named Kendall Francois, a lifelong
Poughkeepsie resident who lived with his parents. Police surveilled and
interviewed Francois and even poked around his bedroom but had
absolutely no reason to detain him. He remained just one of many
suspects until a January 1998 arrest for assaulting a prostitute in his
parents home, for which he served fifteen day in jail.
In June of 1998 Sandra Dean French
disappeared from nearby Dover. Her car was found abandoned three days
later in Poughkeepsie about three blocks from the Francois home. Then in
August Catina Newmaster also disappeared. Like all the other missing
women she was a short, petite, white prostiitute, with brown hair and
blue eyes in most cases.
On September 1, 1998 police detectives working on the case caught a break. Pulling into a gas station they were
confronted by a man who claimed another man had just assaulted a woman
nearby. The attacker was Kendall Francois. Officers brought Francois to
the station for questioning and soon admitted to the his involvement in
the string of disappearances. The police then obtained a warrant for the
Francois residence andshortly after midnight that night began a search
of the home.
Within an hour a body had been discovered
and by the time a search was completed police had recovered eight
corpses from the putrid, garbage-filled house, five in the attic and
three in the basement. Interested spectators nearby were overcome by the
horrid odors of trash and death emanating from the Francois home. Seven
of the missing women were among the victims. The other body was that of
a woman from New Rochelle who was never reported missing. Only one woman
remained missing and she was later mostly ruled out a possible victim
because she is black, while all of Francois' victims were whiteand found
inside his home.
Francois was indicted on eight counts of
murder and plead guilty, avoiding a possible death sentenced. Ironically
Francois contracted AIDS, possibly from one of his victims. He was
eventually sentenced to life without parole. His family denied any
knowledge of his deeds. Apparently the stink of garbage in the house
covered the odor of the bodies, keeping Francois' family clueless to his
by Martin Smith
On September 2nd
1998 prostitute Diane Franco had negotiated her latest trick in
Poughkeepsie, New York and is driven off to conclude the agreement at
his house. After the sex was finished she requested the money, her john
got angry and begins to manual strangle her using his 380 pound weight,
crushing her throat with his massive hands.
Somehow Diane with her 130
pound frame, managed to escape from her attackers grip and argued with
him, trying to persuade him to forget the incident. After a stand off of
a few minutes the john agreed to drive her back to her pick up point on
Main Street. Once there Diane races out of the car not looking back, her
john drives off not realising he was under surveillance.
Detective Skip Mannian
pulls his vehicle into the gas station where the car had just dropped
Diane off. Hearing a man screaming, Mannian heads into the store finding
attendant Jim Meadows as the source of the shouting. Displaying his
badge he asks the attendant what the problem is. Jim Meadows explained
that a woman had just come in, claiming she had been raped. Diane was
walking slowly down the road when the detective caught up with her and
convinces Diane to go to the station with him to report the incident.
During the interview Diane
admits she knew the man who attacked her, as he was a regular, giving
the officers the name of Kendall Francois. By mid afternoon 2 officers,
detective sergeant Daniel Lundgren & Jon Wagner, arrive at the home of
the suspect in Fulton Avenue requesting his presence at the station,
At 4pm the interview
begins with the reading of the Miranda rights to which Francois is willing to talk without the presence of an attorney.
The questioning centred around the alleged assault of Diane Franco with
Kendall Francois admitting that during sex he
choked her, calmed down, continued having sex then finally drove her
back to Main Street. This admission fitted in with the story told by
Diane, who was by now willing to press charges.
Normal procedure for
statements is to have both a written and then a recorded version of
events. Just after 4.30 pm the tape recorder was set up allowing a
recorded statement to be made, his Miranda rights were advised and the
recoding began. Once complete the suspect was left alone in the
interview room. After a while he calls out requesting to talk to a
prosecutor and also to see photos of missing prostitutes since 1993.
police had already been investigating the disappearance of prostitutes
in Poughkeepsie since 1996, but this suspect was asking about 1993. The
photos were given to Francois who began to look
through them. On one pile he placed the photos of 4 women saying, “I
killed them”. Another pile of 3 photos “I’m not sure about those”.
By 1 am the next morning (September
3), city cops were assembled outside the home of Kendall Francois.
McKinley Francois (father) opens the door to be greeted by detectives
informing him of a warrant to search the premises. McKinley, his wife
Paulette and their daughter Kierstyn were requested to leave the house
so the search could begin.
Having been given the
directions by Kendall Francois, the forensic specialists headed down
into the basement and find the crawl space at the rear wall
approximately 5 feet from the ground. Shining their torches into the
darkness a black plastic bag could clearly be seen.
experience told them not to touch the bags yet as crucial evidence could
be lost, so they continued to look at the packages, this time noticing
something protruding from the top of the bag. A knee joint could be seen
with the skin and tendons not yet fully decomposed. A second bag could
also be made out in the darkness, this one appeared to contain a
collection of bones.
Having made their initial
notes on the findings, the 2 investigators (Tommy Martin & Kevin Rosa)
headed back out of the basement and went to the second area of interest
given to then by Kendall Francois. In the corner of the attic, in plain
view, was a clear plastic bag containing the skeleton of at least one
person. During the next three days 8 bodies would be removed from the
crawl space (3) and the attic (5) of the house Kendall Francois shared with his parents and sister.
Born in Poughkeepsie on
July 26 1971, he was remembered by the neighbours as a large boy and
would be taunted by the local children about his size. During high
school (Arlington High School) he was an average student who kept
himself to himself, by the time he was 14 Francois had reached 6’4” and weighed 250 pounds. Due to his size
he had successfully joined the wrestling and the football (gridiron)
After graduating from
Arlington High in 1989 Francois enrolled in the
army and was based at Fort Sill in Oklahoma transferring to Honolulu
where in the late 1980’s a serial killerwas at large strangling women,
the case was not solved.
In 1994 Francois was
discharged from the army and returned to Poughkeepsie, moving back into
the family home at gaining employment as a substitute custodial worker
for the Arlington School District until April 1996 when he gained
promotion to hall and detention monitor for Arlington middle School. It
was here that Francois began to receive complaints
about his appearance and his body odour. Some of the children called him
‘stinky’ behind his back. A comment made later by the working girls in
the Poughkeepsie red light district.
On October 24th
1996 prostitute Wendy Meyers (30) was standing on the corner of Jewitt
Avenue and Main Street waiting for johns, when Francois in his red 1984
Subaru pulled over. They haggled over a price that resulted in Wendy
getting in the car. She would be driven to his house, into his second
floor bedroom where Wendy insisted on being paid first. During Francois’
confession to the police, he would remember the incident as she insisted
that the sex was over and she had to go.
This resulted in Francois
manually strangling the young woman to death.
After calming down Francois carried Wendy’s limp
body into the bathroom where he would wash it, before placing her into a
black plastic bag and carrying it into the attic where it would lay
until September 1998. Two days later, October 26, Wendy’s boyfriend
reported her missing.
A similar pattern to the
first murder occurred on November 11th 1996. The victim this
time was Gina Barone. Twenty eight year old Gina was only working the
streets that night because of a heated argument with her boyfriend,
Byron Kenilworth. Again it was after sex, when Francois got angry claiming he was ripped off. His hands gripped
tightly around Gina’s throat and not releasing until she was dead.
Francois had killed his second victim in his car
on the back streets of Poughkeepsie. Forcing the body down under the
seats of his car. Francois drove back to the
safety of his garage, where he would leave Gina’s body until the next
morning, when it would be placed in a black bag and positioned next to
Diane’s in the attic.
Two days after killing
Gina Barone, Kendall Francois kills 31 year old
prostitute Cathy Marsh. Once again Francois
suddenly became angry and squeezed Cathy’s throat until her hyoid bone
snapped and she went limp. After carrying the body from his bedroom, he
washes the corpse in the bathroom before moving it into the attic with
the previous 2 victims. Cathy Marsh would not be reported missing until
March 7th 1997.
Prostitute Kathleen Hurley
disappears and is reported missing on January 15th 1997.
Her body finally recovered
from the house of Kendall Francois along with 7
other bodies in September 1998
Kathleen Hurley had not
been seen for 3 days when she was reported missing on January 15th
1997. Mary Giaccone would disappear in Feb 1997, be reported missing on
November 13th 1997, her body would be recovered decomposing
in the attic of the Francois residence. September 1997 and Michelle Eason
would disappear, her body is never recovered.
The Poughkeepsie journal
would highlight the disappearance of the women during December 1997
asking ‘Is There A Serial Killer Loose’. The police would ask the
working girls for help in solving the mystery. A name that came up
several times in the conversations was the name of Kendall Francois. The
women complained that he would squeeze their necks a little too hard
On January 18th 1998 the police had followed
Francois to the red light district of Main Street
when they pulled him in for questioning. A polygraph was done with
respect to the missing women. Francois passed with
Francois is again cruising the streets of Poughkeepsie on
January 23rd 1998, whe he spots Lora Gallagher. Francois
persuades the prostitute to join him back at his house for sex.
It is during sex in his
bedroom that Francois’ hands grasped the neck of his captive, squeezing
hard until Lora falls unconscious. Yet the woman does not give up easily
and quickly regains consciousness. The woman fights back and manages to
get from under her attacker’s massive weight and demands to be taken
back to Main Street immediately.
The killer calms down and
reluctantly agrees to return to where he picked her up.
After being dropped off
Lora tells of her experience to one of her fellow workers, who in turn
relays the incidence to a member of the vice squad.
Lora is bought in for
questioning later that day and gives a statement about the attack. But
she would not sign the deposition until a month later on February 26.
When Lora signs her statement Francoisis arrested immediately.
His trial would begin in
May, but Francois, due to his guilty plea, would only be sentenced to 15
days. After 7 he is released, 4 weeks later he claimed another victim.
The assault trial begins
on May 18th with Francois pleading
guilty to 3rd degree assault, to which he would be sentenced
to 15 days in the county jail. Francois would only serve 7 days before he
was released on May 25th 1998
Less than 4 weeks would
pass before 51 year old soon to be grandmother Sandra French would
become Kendall Francois’ latest victim on June 12th 1998. As
with the other victims Sandra would be manually strangled during sex.
And again she would be taken to the bathroom where she would be bathed,
dried and carried up to the attic.
However by now the attic
was getting overcrowded and so the next day, Francois carried Sandra’s body down into the basement, placing her
on the floor whilst he dug a shallow grave into the crawlspace earth
where she was interred and covered with loose dirt. Audrey Pugliese
would join her buried in the crawlspace on August 12th.
Audrey was a prostitute
working Noxon Street when Francois pulled up.
Audrey recognised one of her regulars and quickly negotiated a price and
she gets into the car. Francoisdrives his companion to the house and
heads down to the basement.
Unfortunately for Audrey, Francois once again
‘flipped out’ during sex and began punching Audrey in the face, she
managed to struggle free from under her attackers massive weight and
made for the basement door and freedom, she never made it. Francois
pulled her back and carried on punching her around
the head and face. Audrey fell to the floor but the attack did not stop.
Francois used his foot and came crashing down hard
on her face, on her ribs and again on her stomach. Audrey tried to rise
of the floor but the hands clamped around her neck prevented her. The
hands would not release their grip until she was dead. Her body was
dumped on top of Sandra French’s in the crawl space.
Thirteen days later (August
25th) and Kendall Francois would commit
his final murder. Twenty five year old Catina Newmaster was another
regular of Francois red light district visits and once the price was
negotiated she got into his car. She would soon be lying on the floor of
the garage, dead. The next day she would be buried in the crawl space.
The forensic team would
close their investigation at the home of Kendall Francois after almost 4 weeks of searching for evidence. October
13th 1998 a grand jury handed down an indictment containing 8
counts of second degree murder and 1 count of second degree attempted
assault on Diane Franco. The next day Kendall Francois was formally arraigned. With Rudolf Treece as his
attorney and in front of relatives of his victims he pleaded not guilty
on all counts of murder. Thus ended his brief appearance, as he left the
courtroom he smiled to himself.
Knowing that his client
was guilty, based on the overwhelming evidence, Rudolf Treece attempted
to cut a deal with the DA. He requested a deal involving a life sentence
for Francoisin exchange for pleading guilty (and no death sentence)
would be rejected by Bill Grady. At 2.00pm on Christmas eve 1998 Bill
Grady announced that the death penalty would be sought in the case of
Dressed in the standard
prison orange and with his ankles shackled Francois would make another appearance in Judge Dolans courtroom
on June 22nd 2000. It is normal procedure for the defendant
to affirm his plea and so the questions of guilt were again asked to
Kendall Francois. However this time the answer was guilty in all 8
murder cases and again guilty in the assault of Diane Franco. Francois
would also state that no other person helped him
in committing the crimes. His attorney would also tell the court that
Francoiswas HIV positive.
Under plea bargaining, on
August 8th 2000, Francois would receive
25 years to life against each murder charge to be served consecutively,
therefore resulting in a total sentence of 200 years. In addition he
would receive between 1 and a half and 3 years for the assault of Diane
Franco. No appeal would be allowed due to the plea bargaining. His
sentence would be served at Attica prison, New York.
August 8, 2000
A court in the American state of New York has
sentenced a man to life in prison after he admitted killing eight
prostitutes over a two-year period.
The man, Kendall Francois, strangled his victims and
hid their bodies in the house that he shared with his parents in the
town of Poughkeepsie.
Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty after
he pleaded guilty -- a decision which was sharply criticised by
relatives of the victims.
Police were alerted to Francois by a ninth prostitute. After trying to strangle her, he inexplicably stopped and
let her go.
Kendall Francois: The Disappeared
by Mark Gado
During the late
1980s, when Argentina was experiencing a great deal of political unrest,
opponents to the government suddenly began to vanish off city streets.
Frantic relatives appealed to the authorities who would do little or
nothing to help them. A strong suspicion developed that the government
was deeply involved in the abductions. In truth, these people were
kidnapped by the police themselves who frequently tortured or murdered
the unfortunate victims. Many were never seen again. They were called "los
desaparecidos," the disappeared.
Something similar happened in Dutchess
County in upstate New York during the years 1997 and 1998. But "los
desaparecidos" in this case were not being abducted for political
reasons. There were much darker motives. And when the truth emerged, it
would leave in its wake at least eight women dead and a frightened,
angry community that was dumbfounded that a serial killer could live and
work undetected within their midst.
In October 1996,
one 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 just south of Kingston.
later, in early December, 1996, one Gina Barone was reported missing to
the police by her mother, Patricia Barone. Gina was 29 years old and had
a small, petite 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 29, 1996 in the City of Poughkeepsie on a street
corner apparently having a dispute with a man.
a small city of 28,000 located 90 miles north of New York City. Dutchess
County has a long and dramatic history that can easily be traced back to
the Revolutionary War. Like any other modern municipality though,
Poughkeepsie has its problems. There is a small but persistent drug
trade centered in the downtown area that periodically erupts into
violence. Prostitutes can often be seen working the same area and
shootings are not at all uncommon. Some say Gina was arguing over drugs
on that November 29. But in any event, it was the last time anyone could
remember seeing her alive.
persons report was filed with the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department
and assigned to the Detective Division. On January 1, 1997, the Divison
came under the command of Det. Lt. Bill Siegrist, a 29-year veteran of
the department. Although Wendy Meyers' disappearance was filed with the
Town of Lloyd Police Department, she was well known to Poughkeepsie
Police and frequented the downtown area of the City. Lt. Siegrist became
interested in the two cases. It seemed implausible that two girls who
traveled in the same circles in the same city should suddenly disappear.
"It seemed like more than a coincidence," he said recently.
Then in January
1997, Kathleen Hurley, 47, disappeared. She was last seen walking along
Main Street in the downtown area of Poughkeepsie. Kathleen, like the
others, was white, had brown hair and a small build. The letters "CJ"
were tattooed on her left bicep. Although it is not unusual for police
to receive missing person reports, the three cases, Hurley, Meyers and
Barone, seemed related. But people are reported missing for many
reasons. Family disputes, simple runaways, drugs and a nomadic lifestyle
are just a few of those reasons. Sometimes people are arrested in other
jurisdictions and they neglect to notify their families. In other cases,
people will simply move on to new areas only to return a short time
later. In most cases, the missing person turns up within a few days and
the report is subsequently cancelled.
the City of Poughkeepsie Police were already interested in the cases.
Lt. Siegrist made an inquiry to the Neighborhood Recovery Unit (N.R.U.),
which is the department's narcotic unit. N.R.U., like most police narc
units, spends a lot of time on the streets and deals extensively with
confidential informants (c.i.), drug dealers, convicted criminals,
prostitutes and other street dwellers almost on a daily basis.
these units are a wealth of current information. N.R.U. reported back to
Lt. Siegrist that some of the Main Street prostitutes were complaining
of a local man who was rough with the girls and had been known to be
violent during sex. They said his name was Kendall Francois who lived
over on Fulton Avenue in the Town of Poughkeepsie, just minutes from the
city's downtown area. Lt. Siegrist, upon hearing this information, then
contacted the Town of Poughkeepsie Police and made an inquiry about
Francois. They reported that Francois had recently been the subject of
an assault complaint by a prostitute.
Armed with this
information, detectives decided to maintain a video and periodic
surveillance of Francois' home at 99 Fulton Avenue. But after several
weeks of watching the residence in January 1997, no new information was
developed. One prostitute cooperated with the police and allowed herself
to be wired up and meet with Francois. The girl worked her usual spots
in the city's downtown area until Francois arrived in his white Toyota
Camry. Although she had clear instructions not to get into his vehicle,
the girl engaged Francois in conversation on a number of occasions.
Police monitored these meetings but again, no useful information was
later, on March 7, 1997, a woman named Catherine Marsh was reported
missing by her mother. Catherine was last observed November 11, 1996
also in the City of Poughkeepsie. Four months had passed since she was
last seen alive which made her case very difficult to investigate. Like
the other girls, she was white, small build, blue eyes and brown hair.
Her clothes and personal items were still at her apartment. Teletypes
from across the nation were checked for recently discovered D.O.A.s who
had not been identified. It is a routine practice for police to attempt
to match up unidentified bodies with reports of the missing. Rap sheets
were requested on all the missing girls to ascertain if they were in
Canvasses were made of the neighborhoods where the
women frequented and arrest records were checked and re-checked.
Specially trained cadaver dogs from the Ramapo Rescue Squad were
utilized to search areas in and around the city. The case came to a
frustrating standstill with no workable leads and no viable suspects.
But as Lt. Siegrist pointed out: "We had no evidence of criminality." So
on the surface, the cases were simply a series of missing persons
reports. But on another level, the Detective Division was convinced
something had happened.
In April, 1997
Poughkeepsie Police made a decision to contact the F.B.I. for help. The
F.B.I. has a vast network of resources and national experts that often
assist local police agencies in criminal investigations. 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 this instance, there was no crime scene
and worse, it had not been established that a crime had even occurred.
Simply put, there was not much the F.B.I. could do.
On October 9,
1997, Michelle Eason, 27 years old, was reported missing in the City of
Poughkeepsie. She too was last seen in the downtown area but unlike all
the others who were white, Michelle was an African American. She was
also slight of build, barely 5'2 and 115 lbs.
Then, just one
month later, on November 13, Mary Healy Giaccone, 29 years old, was
reported missing. But this report was actually initiated by the police.
Mary's mother died in October 1997. Mary's father, a retired New York
State corrections officer, came to the police to ask for help in
locating her so he could give Mary the bad news. But police soon
discovered that Mary was actually last seen alive in February, 1997 on
the same Poughkeepsie streets as some of the others. And like all the
others, Mary was small, 5'4" and weighed 110 lbs.
Police increased their
efforts on the case. The similarities between the girls were striking.
All the girls lived in or near Poughkeepsie, all had the same physical
build, several of the girls had been arrested for prostitution and most
did not have regular contact with their families. But all shared one
common bond: they had simply vanished.
For the next few
months, the police tried many different tactics to locate the missing
women. Helicopter searches were made of the Dutchess County area by air.
The Hudson River was searched on a regular basis by the State Police and
municipalities along the shores. Police informants were pressed for any
information on the case. Hundreds of people were interviewed. With no
hard evidence and above all, no bodies, police were stumped. Although
they realized the suspicious nature of the disappearances, the
investigation was at a standstill.
But there was an
ominous feeling among the detectives. A former F..B.I profiler, Gregg
McCrary, told the Associated Press that the disappearances "were well
beyond suspicious". And because some of the women were prostitutes made
the situation worse because prostitutes get into cars with just about
anyone at anytime.
the situation further, different suspects continuously drifted in and
out of the case. One man, who had arrived in the Poughkeepsie area in
the summer of 1997 from the South became a suspect when it was revealed
he was a convicted rapist. He was also mentioned in a missing persons
case down South. Almost to the very end of the case, this individual was
considered a suspect in the disappearances. Another city resident came
to the attention of the police when prostitutes said that he was very
rough with the girls during sex.
In June of 1997, another local man was
arrested for the rape and assault of a Poughkeepsie woman. Later he was
found to be in custody during the disappearances of the first three
women. A boyfriend of one of the missing was also considered suspect
because he had an extensive criminal record and assaulted women in the
past. But as various suspects were developed and abandoned, Kendall
Francois remained on the list.
public grew more concerned. A story on the case was published in The
Poughkeepsie Beat in April, 1999. Another article appeared later in The
Poughkeepsie Journal in November, 1997. Criticism of the police was
growing. There was a feeling in the community that the police were not
taking the reports seriously since the missing women may have been
prostitutes. Early on, street people were well aware of the situation
since they were accustomed to seeing these women on a daily basis. The
disappearances were very obvious to them. But the police rejected the
criticism. Lt. Siegrist said "These girls don't have set schedules. It
took time for the families to realize something was wrong, and then they
even thought for a while they might turn up" (Albany Times Union, p.
By the time the stories began to appear in the papers, the City of
Poughkeepsie Police were already working the case for more than 8
months. Of course, the public could not be told of the details of that
investigation. For now, the police had to take criticism mostly in
January, 1998, Poughkeepsie Police made a decision to interview
Francois about the missing women. They began to stake out the Francois
home at 99 Fulton Avenue. Police soon discovered that Francois had a
routine that he often followed. In the morning he would take the family
car, drive his mother to work at a nearby psychiatric center, where she
was a nurse, drop her off and then return to downtown Poughkeepsie where
he would cruise the streets.
On a cold morning in January, Lt. Siegrist
and his detectives pulled over Francois and asked him to come into the
police department for an interview. Francois, who had a calm and
respectful demeanor, readily agreed and drove his own car over to the
police station. Francois was interviewed over a period of several hours
and answered all questions police asked of him. Of course, police still
had no concrete ideas exactly what had happened to the missing girls and
no clue where they could be found. But Francois was easy to talk to and
The police, however, were not convinced. Poughkeepsie
police accompanied him to his home where Francois even let a detective
inside his room for a brief time. The detective reported back that the
inside of the house was in horrendous condition. There was garbage
virtually everywhere he could see. It smelled awful. But Francois made
no admissions and said nothing incriminating. By law, he was free to go
about his business.
Then in late
January, 1998 Kendall Francois was arrested for the crime of assaulting
a prostitute. The crime took place on the second floor of 99 Fulton
Avenue. At that time , the girl said she was picked up by Kendall
Francois on Cannon Street, Poughkeepsie near South Hamilton. Kendall
drove her to his house where he took the girl up to his room on the
second floor. They had a dispute over money and Kendall punched her in
the face knocking the girl down onto the bed. He then got on top of her
and began to choke her with his bare hands. She agreed to have sex with
him and when he finished, he brought the girl back to Cannon Street. The
victim reluctantly reported the incident to the police and pressed
charges against him. Francois was arrested and received the assistance
of an attorney. Later, on May 5, he pled guilty to 3rd degree assault, a
misdemeanor, in City Court. He spent a total of 15 days in jail.
On June 12,
1998, Sandra Jean French, 51, disappeared. She was white, 5', just 120
lbs., hazel eyes and a very slight build. She was reported missing from
the small Town of Dover, which is about 20 miles east of Poughkeepsie.
Her car was found abandoned in the Town of Poughkeepsie by New York
State Police on June 15. It was located barely three blocks from the
In July, 1998,
the Missing Women's Task Force was formed consisting of City of
Poughkeepsie, Town of Poughkeepsie and New York State Police personnel
who worked on nothing else except this case. The City contributed two
investigators, the Town gave one detective, the New York State Police
gave two investigators. The task force would be under the command of
City of Poughkeepsie Sgt. Michael Horkan.
The unit took up residence in
the city's downtown area at Market and Main Street, not far from the
police station. But the existence of the team was not announced nor was
it publicized. The formation of this team was an unusual event because
task forces such as these are usually assembled after bodies are found
and foul play is apparent. The work load was enormous. Each tip or scrap
of information had to be evaluated and acted upon.
Every day detectives
studied the teletypes from National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
These teletypes originate from every police municipality in the nation
and report on every single unidentified body in America 365 days a year.
Attempts to match up any of the girls to the reports were fruitless.
Many on the investigative team were convinced that the girls were
already dead, the victim of some unknown serial killer. Others were not
so sure. But the task force was ordered not to talk about any details of
the case, an essential point to any successful police investigation. The
need for confidentiality is paramount in murder investigations, more so
in a multiple homicide. The revelation of some significant detail or the
publication of some other aspect of the investigation could alert the
killer and wreck the case. Or worse, induce the killer to flee. "It's a
possibility that they are linked" State Police Investigator Monte Martin
told the [Journal] on July 26, 1998, "but we can't say anything at this
Just two months
later, on August 26, 1998, another woman, Catina Newmaster, 25 years
old, vanished. Like almost all the others, she was slight of build,
brown hair and was last seen in the same downtown streets of
At the police department, pressures to solve the case were
enormous. A sudden feeling of urgency descended upon the community.
There was real fear on the streets. People were afraid to come outside,
especially street dwellers. "We're low lifes, that's what it comes down
to. People don't care that we're missing because they think we don't
belong on the streets in the first place. It's not just the police, it's
the community" a prostitute told the Journal on July 26, 1998. But they
were wrong, the police were taking it very seriously and had been for
nearly 22 months. Thousands of hours of investigative work and man hours
were already expended on the case. The City of Poughkeepsie Police, Town
of Poughkeepsie, Town of Llyod, the New York State Police and the F.B.I
had all worked together on the investigation which had grown to epic
proportions. The families of the missing girls were numb from worry. In
a prophetic statement to the Albany Times, Patricia Barone, whose
daughter had been missing nearly two years, said: "If they find one of
them, they'll find all of them, I'm sure of that". She didn't know how
right she was.
Of course, she
had no way of knowing, no one knew, that not far from the Market Street
office, where the members of the task force diligently processed their
paperwork every day, a house of horrors awaited them. The home was set
on a quiet residential block, in the shadow of famous Vassar College; a
dark, gloomy, two-story house virtually across the street from a funeral
home. A house that neighbors and children knew well. They saw it every
day as they walked to work, parked their cars, rode their bicycles,
played on the street. The local mailman and some neighborhood kids, the
usual delivery people, they knew it too. They all knew the house well,
because it stunk to high heaven.
of the End
September 1, 1998, at about 8:30 in the morning, in the second floor
bedroom of this same house, a young woman was quietly being strangled.
She was a slightly built woman who had gone there to get paid for sex.
The person who was trying to kill her was a large man, a very large man,
whom she had seen before on the city streets, late at night, cruising
He had his huge hands wrapped around her throat, his thumbs
pressed deep into her flesh while she fought against him with all the
strength God could give her. Somehow, someway, she wriggled free and
convinced the man to let her go. The man agreed to drive her back to
Main Street where he had picked her up only a short time ago. They got
into his white car and drove the girl to a local gas station. But just
before he pulled into the station, the girl jumped from the car and ran
away. The man continued to drive down the street.
At the same
moment and less than one block away, City of Poughkeepsie Det. Skip
Mannain and Town of Poughkeepsie Det. Bob McCready were in their
unmarked car preparing to give out flyers asking the public for help in
the Catina Newmaster disappearance.
they saw the very large man in his familiar white Camry and waved to
him. The man quickly waved back because he recognized Det. Mannain from
previous contacts. It was Kendall Francois.
As the officers
pulled into the same gas station that Francois just left, a man came up
to the car and told the police that a girl, who was now walking away,
said that she was just assaulted. Quickly, the cops located the girl who
confirmed the attack. She was brought into the police station where she
filed a complaint against Francois.
afternoon, the police returned to 99 Fulton Street to talk with Kendall
Francois about this most recent attack. They asked him to come into the
police department to discuss the report. He agreed and was taken to
headquarters. Over the next few 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 Catina Newmaster
on August 25, 1998. The police were elated. A search warrant was drawn
up and signed by a Town court judge. And then, on September 2, 1998,
shortly after midnight, the Town of Poughkeepsie police, State Police,
City of Poughkeepsie police, a team of detectives, the district
attorney, EMS crews, crime scene processors and an army of cops, drove
over to 99 Fulton Street and entered into the house of the unreal.
The House of
police knocked on the door and it was soon answered by Kendall's mother.
His parents and sister were informed of the authority and purpose of the
visit. They were removed from the home and brought to the Town of
Poughkeepsie Police Department while the police began their search.
Within the hour, they located the first body. The house was immediately
surrounded by police and secured. "We were resolved to preserve the
scene at any cost," said Lt. Siegrist. Rather than work the house
throughout the night, the New York State Police decided to process the
crime scene beginning at daylight.
The address 99
Fulton was a two story green colonial home situated in the middle of the
block, sandwiched in between two other similar houses. The house looked
like any other home on the block. Although it had a slightly run-down
appearance, it was indistinguishable from other neighborhood homes.
According to Town of Poughkeepsie assessor's office, the house, which
was built on less than a quarter acre, sold in 1975 to a McKinley H. and
Paulette Francois for $11,500. The neighborhood is average when
compared to others in that section of town and many homes in that same
area rent to college students.
In the morning,
the police, one by one, dressed in sterile white suits and wearing
anti-putrefaction masks, entered the home. The house was filled with
garbage that was strewn everywhere, on the floors, furniture, in the
sinks and closets. Clothes were piled on every inch of floor space and
sheets were pulled over the windows. Old food, newspapers, broken
furniture, empty cans and bottles, unidentifiable junk and garbage of
every kind was strewn everywhere.. One detective remarked in all his
years on the job, he had never seen such wretched living conditions. The
stench was overpowering, it permeated every room, every corner and
seeped out into the street like some toxic cloud.
Within one hour,
hundreds of people gathered outside the building. The word had spread
that Kendall Francois had been arrested for murder. Truckloads of people
from the media decended upon the neighborhood. Spotlights and cameras
soon lined the street as the police went about their morbid business.
Relatives of some of the victims arrived to watch the gruesome story
unfold. Soon a female body was found in the attic. Then another. And
soon still another. By 2 PM, three bodies had been located and carted
outside the house. Television crews were already set up on Fulton Avenue
and they strained to catch a glimpse of the bodies. Some spectators ran
from the scene, gagging on the oppressive smell of death and garbage.
District Attorney William Grady told the newspapers: "Based on what the
suspect told us, the eight bodies are inside that house" (Fisher-Hertz,
Slowly, in a grim pageant of death, the bodies were removed
from the house. The corpses were in various states of decomposition,
some far advanced beyond the putrefaction stage. Insect activity was
widespread and there were indications of rodent presence. The bodies
were located in several different areas of the structure, often covered
with clothes or blankets. "It was a nightmare!" one investigator said.
The New York Daily News said "When cops went to the green, aluminum-sided
house at 99 Fulton St., they were nearly bowled over by the stench of
rotting flesh" (September 3, 1998).
Detectives knew that it would take
days before identifications could be made. Estimates of time of death in
murder cases are difficult, if not impossible to determine. There is
only one rigid rule: the longer period of time between death and the
estimate, the more inaccurate the estimate will be.
Also present in
the growing crowd on Fulton Avenue was Patricia Barone, mother of Gina
Barone who was reported missing back in December, 1996. Mrs. Barone
stood bravely with her family but she was prepared for the worst. "In my
head, I'd come to terms with it. I had a feeling she was gone all this
time. I always felt it when the good Lord thought I was ready to hear
it, I'd hear it" she told reporters from the N.Y. Times (Berger and
Gross, p. 1).
Over the next five days, the police investigators continued
their search for bodies and evidence. The crowds got bigger, the media
was everywhere. Relatives of victims gathered outside and held vigils in
remembrance of their loved ones On September 5, the day Mark McGuire hit
his historic 60th home run in St. Louis, the eighth and last body was
removed from the Francois home. By then, the first body found was
identified as Catina Newmaster, the last girl to be reported missing on
August 28. Identifications of Gina Barone, Sandra French and Catherine
Marsh quickly followed.
A few days later, Wendy Meyers, Kathleen Hurley
and Mary Giaccone were also identified. And police made another gruesome
discovery; one body, later identified as Audrey Pugliese, 34, was from
the City of New Rochelle, NY, who had not been reported missing. How she
came to be inside the house no one knew. Only the enigmatic Kendall
Francois could provide a clue. But he wasn't talking. Kendall was
charged with 2nd degree murder on the morning of September 2.
Represented by an attorney, he would not make any further statements.
But he was well known in the City of Poughkeepsie. One prostitute told
the Journal "Most of us knew him. We did crack together" (Vellucci, p.
 Many people
believe that a medical examiner can accurately determine the time of
death during a post mortem examination. But accuracy happens only on
television shows. Time of death estimates are subject to a vast array
of factors and circumstances (DiMaio, p. 2)
was born in the City of Poughkeepsie and grew up on Fulton Street. He
attended Arlington High School where the 6'4" teenager played football
on the school team until he graduated in 1989. He joined the Army in
1990 and went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for basic training.
Kendall attended class at Dutchess County Community College as a liberal
arts major. He continued as a student on and off until 1998. Although he
was not working at the time of his arrest, he did have several jobs in
the past. Kendall was employed at the Arlington Middle School from
1996-97, which is a few miles from Fulton Avenue, as a school monitor.
Some teachers at the school complained about Kendall's behavior,
especially toward the female students. He often played with the girls in
an inappropriate manner, touching their hair and telling sexual jokes.
Although he had a clean record at the Middle School, children had a
strange name for Kendall. They called him "Stinky".
If he is a
serial killer, Kendall Francois may not fit the accepted profile of such
an offender. That profile, established by the F.B.I.'s famous Behavioral
Science Unit at Quantico, Virginia, describes several characteristics
that are typical of killers who murder many people over an extended
period of time. Pioneers in this field of study, like Robert Ressler and
Roy Hazlewood, have performed in depth studies of many serial killers
and found they share a surprising number of common personality traits.
Research has determined that African American serial killers are rare.
Serial killings are usually committed by white males. Motivational
factors are diversified but one aspect is clear. Violent people possess
a different morality than the ordinary person. Their values and their
path to maturity do not conform to society's traditional standards.
Abnormal behavior in some cases, can often be traced to some type of
childhood trauma which caused tremendous stress upon the psyche of the
individual. Personality disturbances usually begin early in life and are
the result of various aspects of deprivation or abuse that scars the
child emotionally for years to come.
Henry Lee Lucas, Edmund Kempler and
Jeffrey Dahmer had severe childhood experiences that altered their
psychological development and inspired potent, irrational feelings of
hatred that became internalized within the self. These intense emotions,
harbored for so long inside the fragile ego system, contributed to
feelings of rage and violence which one day erupted into violence.
Ressler found that the torture or killing of small animals is one of the
common traits of those who have a propensity for violence. It can also
be a harbinger of what may come later in life.
During the time
span surrounding the disappearances, Kendall Francois lived at home
with his mother, father and younger sister, who continue to deny any
knowledge of the killings. Many people wondered how the parents could
not have known what was going on? Especially Kendall's mother who was
employed as a nurse for many years at the Hudson River Psychiatric
Center in Poughkeepsie. Surely at least she should have suspected. But
it was reported that Kendall had told his parents a family of raccoons
had died in the attic and he was having trouble removing the carcasses.
This explanation seemed to suffice. In a statement issued through their
attorney, the family had this to say: "We find ourselves plagued by
unimaginable circumstances. Our youngest son is suspected of committing
grave offenses from which his life hangs in the balance. We have
virtually lost everything, been dispossessed of our home and cast into
the street with only the clothes on our backs....The family requests
that under these extraordinary circumstances, the public and media
respect the only two items we have now, our privacy and personal
On September 4,
1998 Kendall Francois was indicted in Dutchess County Court for murder
in the death of Catina Newmaster. The indictment came as the relentless
search for bodies continued at 99 Fulton Avenue. Forensic experts had
already been summoned to assist county investigators in the post mortem
examinations. Special x-ray devices were utilized at the home to locate
bones and other body pieces that may have been hidden inside walls or
buried on the property.
In the pouring
rain, the search continued. Onlookers in the street huddled underneath
umbrellas as the media took up a watch across the street from the
Francois home. Some small trees and bushes that were growing in front of
the property were cut down by the police and were laying in a pile on
the sidewalk. Flower bouquets and other memorabilia from victim's
families and friends sat under a tree near the Francois home. An eerie
quiet permeated the scene and even the drenching rain could not wash
away the sadness of the crowd surrounding 99 Fulton Avenue. A few
blocks away, at the Holy Trinity Church, a memorial service was held
for the victims on Tuesday night. The Rev. Richard LaMorte offered
comfort to victim's loved ones and police alike, some who had been
searching the house for a week with no break. He said to the press: "in
tragedies like this, you need a religious experience. I realize some of
those police are some of my parishioners." But after an investigation
that spanned nearly two years, police were determined to search every
inch of Kendall's home. "We do not intend to leave until every bit of
forensic evidence is removed" said District Attorney Grady
(Fisher-Hertz, p. 2A). That same day, the eighth and last body was
removed from the house. Five bodies had been found in the attic and
three bodies were found buried in the basement.
day, on Wednesday, September 9, 1998, the public got their first look at
Kendall Francois as he appeared in Dutchess County Court to enter a
plea. Wearing just black pants and a white shirt, the big man stood
silently before Judge Thomas J. Dolan as a plea of "not guilty" was
entered. Kendall showed no emotion and seemed distant from the
proceedings as some of the spectators became enraged. "He killed my
daughter!" the mother of one of the victim's cried. Others almost had to
be removed from the courtroom by officers who struggled to control their
understandable outbursts. But when court officers asked some spectators
to leave, Judge Dolan permitted all the families to remain. Francois'
court battles were just beginning.
In his next
appearance on October 13, 1998, he was formally charged with eight
counts of first degree murder, eight counts of second degree murder and
one count of attempted assault. In the State of New York, Murder 1st
degree includes serial murder as defined in subdivision (xi) of PL
125.27 of the Penal Law which states "the defendant intentionally caused
the death of two or more additional persons within the state in separate
criminal transactions with a period of twenty four months when committed
in a similar fashion or pursuant to a common scheme or plan."
conviction of this charge, Francois could receive the death penalty. His
attorneys were well aware of this and as a result, on December 23, they
attempted to enter a plea of guilty to the murders.
In the State of
New York, prosecutors have 120 days from indictment of 1st degree
Murder to decide whether to pursue the death penalty and must then
notify the court of that intent. A death penalty in New York can only be
imposed by a jury, therefore a defendant who avoids a trial removes the
threat of capital punishment.
As a result, Francois's plea of guilty to
a Murder 1 indictment, prior to prosecution's notification to court that
they intend to seek the death penalty, spared his life. The very next
day, District Attorney Grady announced that his office would seek the
death penalty in Francois' case. However, the status of François' guilty
plea was unclear.
On February 11,
1999 the matter was decided in Dutchess County Court when Judge Dolan
ruled that the death penalty law, in the way it currently applies, does
not permit a plea of guilty prior to prosecution's filing of a death
penalty case. The defense team appealed the decision and the matter
headed over to the State Court of Appeals, one of the most liberal
minded courts in the nation. The case was heard on March 31, 2000. At
issue is the crucial question of whether Kendall
other future murder suspects who face execution, will be able to avoid
the death penalty, ironically, by admitting to their crimes. The New
State Court of
Appeals has promised their decision would be announced within eight
weeks. Until then, Kendall Francois waits in the Dutchess County Jail
where he has been held since September 2, 1998. Jail Administrator David
Rugar said Francois has been an average prisoner. "He has been no
problem, he gets along with other inmates and does go outside into the
yard on occasion" he reports.
The ending to
the story of Kendall Francois and "los desaparecidos" is yet to be
written. However, for one family, the saga continues. Michelle Eason,
the only African American among the missing, has not been found. As of
May, 2000, she was still missing. "Although I believed that she was a
part of this in the beginning, I don't believe it anymore" Lt. Siegrist
recently said, "All the girls involved in the Francois case were white
and were found inside Francois' home." There are no new leads in her
case. As in all missing persons incidents, however, there are many
possibilities. But up to now, her disappearance remains a total mystery.
and Gross, Jane. "Police are Criticized as Poughkeepsie House Yields
Corpses." New York Times. (p. 1, September 3, 1998).
and DiMaio, Vincent Forensic Pathology. New York, NY: Elsevier Science
and Fitz-Gibbon, Jorge. "Serial Slay Eyed." The New York Daily News
(September 3, 1998)
Larry. "Women's Corpses Found; Man Charged in 1 Death" Poughkeepsie
Journal (p. 1, September 3, 1998 and p.1 and 2A, September 5, 1998)
Vellucci, Michelle. "Suspect: Real Nice Kid".
Poughkeepsie Journal (p. 1, September 3, 1998)