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Serial killer Arthur Shawcross murdered 11 women from 1988 to 1990 in upstate New York, earning the nickname "The Genessee River Killer."
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The body was not Felicia Stephens but that of missing prostitute June Cicero. She had also been mutilated post-mortem, as well as sawn practically in half.
Even more importantly, the helicopter spotted a man standing on the bridge next to a small van. He appeared to be either masturbating or urinating. Fortunately for the authorities, Shawcross had, as speculated, returned to the scene of one of his crimes to relive the pleasure of the attack.
Patrol teams on the ground were alerted to the vehicle, which had sped away. They finally tracked down Shawcross via the car's registration, which was in the name of his girlfriend Clara Neal. When approached, Shawcross agreed to assist the police with their enquiries. When they asked for his driver's license, he admitted he did not have one and then revealed that he had been in jail for manslaughter.
Police were confident they had their killer, and further questioning revealed the earlier child deaths and a grandiose account of his Vietnam War service, which was later discounted. A photo taken of him during the initial questioning soon confirmed his identity as "Mitch," and official enquiries unearthed the reason for Shawcross' sealed record, which prevented the police from tracking him down sooner.
Still, police were unable to get Shawcross to admit to the murders—until they confirmed that a piece of jewelery he had given to Clara Neal previously belonged to victim June Cicero. When police threatened to implicate her in the killings, Shawcross capitulated and admitted to most of the murders, giving detailed excuses about why he had been "forced" to kill each one. He even admitted to the killing of two undiscovered bodies, those of prostitutes Maria Welsh and Darlene Trippi, leading investigators to their bodies. His formal confession was nearly 80 pages long.
In November 1990, Shawcross went on trial for the 10 murders that had occurred in Monroe County. The last victim, Elizabeth Gibson, had been killed in neighboring Wayne County. 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.
The prosecution was quick to dispute the claims about his childhood and military service, casting doubts on Shawcross' testimony. The physiological evidence about brain science and genetic factors was, at best, spurious and beyond the understanding of the jury. It was also hindered by poor presentation on the part of the expert witnesses called to testify.
Shawcross was declared sane—and guilty of 10 instances of second-degree murder. The judge sentenced him to 25 years for each count, a total of 250 years imprisonment. A few months later, Shawcross was taken to Wayne County to be tried for Elizabeth Gibson's murder.
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