A.K.A.: "The Poughkeepsie Killer"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Hid the bodies in the house that he shared with his parents
Number of victims: 8
Date of murders: 1996 - 1998
Date of arrest: September 1, 1998
Date of birth: July 26, 1971
Victims profile: Wendy Meyers, 30 / Gina Barone, 29 / Catherine Marsh, 31 /Kathleen Hurley, 47 / Mary Healey Giaccone, 29 / Michelle Eason, 27 / Sandra Jean French, 51 / Catina Newmaster, 25 (prostitutes)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Poughkeepsie, New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to 8 consecutive life sentences on August 11, 2000
Kendall Francois (born 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 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 29, 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, 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 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.
On 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.
Trial and Sentence
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 assault.
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 murderous activities.
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, Francoisagrees.
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.
The 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.
The investigators 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) sports teams.
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 during sex.
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 flying colours.
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 Kendall Francois.
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.
Two months 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.
Poughkeepsie is 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.
The missing 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.
Nevertheless, 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.
Usually, 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 obtained.
Two months 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 custody somewhere.
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.
To complicate 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.
Slowly, the 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. A1).
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 silence.
In early 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 cooperative.
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 Francois home.
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 point".
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 Poughkeepsie.
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.
The Beginning of the End
On Tuesday, 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 for girls.
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.
Within seconds, 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.
That same 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 Horrors
Upon arrival, 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, Larry, p1).
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. 1).
 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)
Kendall Francois 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.
In 1993, 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 respect".
Guilty But Alive
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.
The following 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."
Upon 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
Francois, and other future murder suspects who face execution, will be able to avoid the death penalty, ironically, by admitting to their crimes. The New York
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.
Berger, Joseph and Gross, Jane. "Police are Criticized as Poughkeepsie House Yields Corpses." New York Times. (p. 1, September 3, 1998).
DiMaio, Dominick and DiMaio, Vincent Forensic Pathology. New York, NY: Elsevier Science Publishing Co.
Fletcher, George and Fitz-Gibbon, Jorge. "Serial Slay Eyed." The New York Daily News (September 3, 1998)
Fischer-Hertz, 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)