Born in Rockland County, New York, Biegenwald was frequently beaten as a child by his alcoholic father. At the age of five, Biegenwald set fire to their home and was sent for observation at a Rockland County Psychiatric Center.
By the age of eight, Biegenwald was drinking and gambling; at age nine he underwent electroshock therapy at New York’s Bellevue Hospital. After his therapy, Biegenwald was placed in the State Training School for Boys in Warwick, New York. During his years there, Biegenwald was accused of theft and inciting other inmates to escape. During trips to visit his mother in Staten Island, he would steal money from her. When he was 11 years old, he set himself on fire in his mother’s home. When Biegenwald was 16 years old, he graduated from the eighth grade and was released from the Training School to attend high school. Biegenwald dropped out of high school after only a few weeks.
Soon after dropping out of school, Biegenwald went to Nashville, Tennessee, where he stayed for two years. Biegenwald stole a car in Nashville, and was arrested in Kentucky by federal agents for transporting a stolen car across state lines. He was returned to his mother on Staten Island in 1958.
The first murder
After being returned to his mother, Biegenwald stole another car and went to Bayonne, New Jersey. There, Biegenwald robbed a grocery store, shooting and killing the clerk, Stephen Sladowski. Biegenwald fled the state after the murder, but was captured two days later in Salisbury, Maryland, after shooting a police officer there. Biegenwald was extradited to New Jersey, where he was convicted of murder and given a life sentence. Biegenwald was released in 1974 for good behavior after 16 years imprisonment.
Back on the outside
Biegenwald worked odd jobs for the next three years and kept a low profile. In 1977, Biegenwald was suspected in a rape, and was wanted for failing to report to his parole officer. Biegenwald was arrested in Brooklyn in 1980 on the rape charge, but was released after the victim failed to pick him out of a lineup. Biegenwald got married after being released, and he and his wife moved to Asbury Park, New Jersey. There, Biegenwald was befriended by Dherran Fitzgerald, who would play a role in several of his future murders.
Biegenwald struck again on January 4, 1983, when he shot and killed 18-year-old Anna Olesiewicz in Ocean Township, New Jersey. He had found the young woman walking down the boardwalk in Asbury Park, and lured her into his car. Olesiewicz’s body was found by children playing in a wooded lot behind a Burger King on Route 35 and Sunset Avenue, fully clothed with no signs of sexual assault and with four bullets in her head. A friend of Biegenwald’s wife went to police after Biegenwald showed her another young woman’s body that he had hidden inside his Asbury Park home’s garage.
Police surrounded Biegenwald’s home on January 22, 1983, while Dherran Fitzgerald was visiting. Both Biegenwald and Fitzgerald were arrested, and a search of the home revealed a small cache of weapons and drugs. Police confiscated a pipe bomb, handguns, a machine gun, Rohypnol, marijuana and a live puff adder, as well as floor plans for several area businesses.
During questioning, Fitzgerald told of a body of a third young woman that Biegenwald had showed him hidden in his garage. Fitzgerald told police that he helped Biegenwald transport the body to his mother’s house in Staten Island and bury it in the basement. Fitzgerald went on to say that while he was digging in the basement, he exhumed a body that Biegenwald had buried there some time before. Fitzgerald led police to three other bodies in addition to the two buried in Staten Island.
As the investigation went on, police located a ninth victim, William Ward, who was buried in a shallow grave in Neptune City, New Jersey. Ward was a prison escapee whom Biegenwald had befriended. The friendship was apparently short lived, as Biegenwald shot Ward five times in the head and then disposed of the body.
Police only had enough evidence to charge Biegenwald with five counts of first degree murder. Fitzgerald turned state’s evidence and his testimony was crucial in convicting Biegenwald. In return for his testimony, Fitzgerald was only charged with one count of possession of a weapon and one count of accessory to murder after the fact, and served a 10-year prison sentence. Fitzgerald was released from New Jersey State Prison in 1994.
A Monmouth County jury found Biegenwald guilty on all five counts of first degree murder. Biegenwald was sentenced to death by lethal injection, but the sentence would later be overturned by an Appellate Court. Until his death, he was serving four life sentences without the possibility of parole at New Jersey State Prison.
Biegenwald died at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey, said Corrections Department spokeswoman Deirdre Fedkenheuer in an interview to the Associated Press. An autopsy revealed that Biegenwald died of respiratory and kidney failure.