- Additional Details
- Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
- Rating: Not Rated
- Number of Discs: 1
- Run Time: 50 Minutes
- Region: Region 1
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Language: English
- Studio: A&E Home Video
- DVD Release Date: July 29, 2005
Known as the Genesee River Killer, Arthur Shawcross was born on June 6, 1945, in Maine. After dropping out of school, Shawcross enlisted in the Army and fought in the Vietnam War. He returned after the war to his childhood town of Watertown, New York, where he married and divorced four times, a period during which he committing his first murders: ten-year-old Jake Blake and eight-year-old girl Karen Ann Hill.
Arrested on October 3, 1972, Shawcross confessed to both killings, but was only charged with Karen Hill’s murder, given the lack of evidence tying him to Jake Blake’s death. After securing a generous deal with prosecutors, he was sentenced to 25 years and paroled after 15.
His release on parole in April 1987 was greeted by public outcry, and he was forced to leave the Binghamton area of New York State, where he had resettled, after a few months. His murderous history meant that he would be unwelcome almost anywhere, and authorities made the decision to seal his criminal record in order to prevent a recurrence of public alarm. Shawcross and girlfriend Rose Whalley were moved to Rochester, New York, where she became his fourth wife. It did not take him long to return to his deadly ways.
In Rochester, Shawcross took on a succession of menial jobs. His lackluster marriage to Whalley soon had him seeking solace elsewhere, including in prostitutes. The body of his first victim, a 27-year old prostitute, was discovered by hunters in March 1988 in the Genesee River. Shawcross went on to claim 11 lives in two years. In January 1990, he was captured after he returned to the scene of his final crime and in November of the same year, he went on trial. The trial was a national media event, extensively televised and widely viewed.
Shawcross’ defense team tried to build a case based on an insanity plea, citing various mitigating factors, such as his upbringing, post-traumatic stress as a result of military service, a cyst on the brain and a rare genetic defect: an extra Y chromosome in his genes that inclines those with this condition to violence. The prosecution was quick to dispute the claims and Shawcross was found sane and guilty of 10 instances of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 250 years in prison and is currently held at Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York State.