Disturbing the Peace
Sketch: Local map, Leonia marked
When the police were called to a house on Glenwood Avenue in Leonia, New Jersey, on the afternoon of January 8, 1975, they believed they were responding to a report that a woman was having a breakdown. A neighbor, Lucy Bevacqua, told police that her neighbor was outside screaming and would not stop.
The house in Leonia, NJ
Edwinna Romaine had come hopping out of her house, screaming at the top of her voice words like “gun” and “basement.” She had then collapsed, and Mrs. Bevacqua had seen that her feet were bound. Edwinna had not stopped screaming the whole time, but had offered nothing coherent, so Mrs. Bevacqua had run to call the police.
Sergeant Robert MacDougall went closer to see if he could get information from her. When she saw him, Mrs. Romaine cried, “My God! They’re killing my family!” While hyperventilating in panic, she managed to explain that two armed men had entered her home and taken her friends and relatives prisoner. They had guns and knives. She thought someone was being murdered.
Livingroom with cords and irons on floor
MacDougall freed her bound feet and called for backup, then cautiously approached a back door of the house, which stood open. He went inside. Through a hallway, he entered the kitchen and then approached the living room. It was easy to see that someone had turned over things over and cut cords off of lamps and the vacuum. That made the officer even more cautious. He surmised that those cords may have been used to tie people up. He was about to take the stairs to the upper floor when he saw someone’s hand come up from behind a couch. He readied his revolver and demanded that the person come out into the open.
Slowly, a woman showed herself to him. She was crying and heaving so hard she was unable to speak. He wanted her to tell him what was going on, but she couldn’t. Her feet were tied as well and all she could get out was, “Upstairs.”
Sketch: Second Floor plan
MacDougall helped her from her bonds and instructed her to leave the house.
According toThe Door-to-Door Killerby Thomas Downs, the officer heard what sounded like someone was in pain or great fear. He had no idea what to expect, so he kept his revolver ready. It wasn’t safe to go without backup, but if there was a murder in progress, he felt he had to stop it.
Second bedroom where victims found
When he ascertained that someone was in a specific bedroom, he carefully entered. Then he put down his gun. The three people in the room, two women and a young boy, were victims, not perpetrators. All of them were naked. One young woman was on the floor, her hands bound and with a lot of adhesive tape over her face. He wondered how she could breathe. The other woman lay on the bed, also bound, with the boy lying against her.
MacDougall freed them and asked what was happening. They told him that a man had come into their home and threatened them with a knife and pistol. He had tied them up and he had an adolescent boy with him.
MacDougall’s backup arrived and he went to meet them, and they learned from the two women waiting outside that more people were in the basement. The officers went down the stairs, revolvers ready, into complete darkness. Detective Richard Quinton called out to anyone who might be there.
Sketch: Basement floor plan
No one replied.
They flipped on a light switch. At once they saw a young woman in a white dress and shoes lying on her back near a wall. Her hands were bound together and her clothes were heavily stained with blood. As they came closer, it was clear to them that she was dead. Someone had slashed open her throat from one side to the other.
Then they heard a man groaning nearby and tensed. This could be their killer. With caution, they looked for the source. But this person, too, was a victim.
Basement furnace and Mr. Welby
He was on the floor near the furnace, his hands bound behind his back, his feet bound together, and his pants and underwear pulled down to his feet. Adhesive tape had been wound over his head, covering his mouth, nose, and eyes, but he appeared to be otherwise unharmed. The officers freed him and he immediately asked about the others. There had been eight of them in the home, he said, including him, and he learned that everyone but a young woman were free and unharmed. The police led the man, whose name was Frank Welby, out past the young woman’s body. He was horrified that she had been murdered so close to where he had been. He’d heard nothing because of the furnace.
A search of the house indicated that the perpetrators had left. No one in the home knew who they were. The officers called in to alert the rest of the town’s police force to be on the lookout. They then tended to the victims and started asking questions. Flora Rheta Schreiber (The Shoe-Maker) and Thomas Downs both provide details, with some from The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Didi Wiseman, 28, had come with her 4-year-old son to see her parents, Edwinna and DeWitt Romaine. DeWitt was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack he’d had a month earlier and Edwinna had gone to see him. Didi’s 21-year-old twin sisters, Randi and Retta, still lived there, but were out that morning. Retta was with her boyfriend, Frank Welby, and Randi left for the hospital when Didi came in. Didi was going to look after her bedridden, 90-year-old grandmother until someone returned to take over.
Around 1:30, she said that she had seen a swarthy, dark-haired man and slender boy with long dirty-blond hair walking hand-in-hand on Greenwood Avenue near the house, and she had recognized them as a couple she had seen earlier when taking her daughter back to school after lunch. They were strangers, not people from the neighborhood. The man was rather scruffy and did not look like a salesman, but Didi had not given them much thought.
Composite sketch of wanted man
To her surprise, they were soon on the front porch, knocking at the door. Didi went to open it to ask what they wanted. Salesmen did not generally call in this area and it was strange to see this man and boy come up the walk. They were dressed in ordinary clothes, but they made her vaguely uneasy. In fact, they exuded an odd smell, though she could not place the odor.
The older man told her that he was a “John Hancock salesman.”
She did not know what to say, and he asked her if anyone else was at home.
She asked him to leave. Instead, he forced her back into the house. His son followed without a word.
Composite sketch of the youth
Shocked, Didi tried to push him back, and they struggled. The boy just stood and watched. The man drew a revolver out of his coat, but Didi continued to try to shove him toward the door.
Didi’s son Bobby came into the living room, and seeing his mother, he began to scream. It was an opportunity for the intruder. He pointed his gun at the child, which made Didi stop for fear he’d harm her son. That allowed him to come all the way into the house. The boy closed and locked the door.
The man grabbed Didi by the hair and told her he was going to rob the place. She had better do what he said. Bobby continued to scream. Didi felt helpless and she worried about her grandmother upstairs.
The man ordered Didi to close her eyes and not look at him, although it seemed rather late for that. Just before she obeyed, she saw the boy streak into the room behind her. She also saw a knife in the man’s hand.
He wanted to know who else was there, so she said her grandmother was on the second floor. Dragging Didi by the hair, he forced her up the steps. Bobby ran to her side, holding onto her clothes as he screamed.
They checked the grandmother to be certain she could not get out of bed before the intruder forced Didi into another room on that floor. There he told her to sit on the bed while he put adhesive tape around her head, covering her eyes. With each wrap, she became more terrified. He stuck a cloth of some kind into her mouth and taped over that as well. Then he demanded that she remove her clothes. She feared he was going to rape her in front of her son. When she did not comply, he removed them himself. Once that was done, he asked if she expected anyone else to come home. She nodded mutely, hoping that might intimidate or get rid of him. He placed her hands behind her and taped them together, then pulled off her rings.
Then he pushed her onto the bed and tied her ankles together with some kind of cord. As he was doing this, Didi heard him instruct the boy to lock the doors downstairs. She wondered where her son was, but then heard him protest as the man apparently was removing his clothes as well. Within moments, she felt the 4-year-old pressed against her body. She could not begin to understand what this man was doing, but she was relieved to have her son close to her. In The Shoe-Maker, Schreiber says that he told the boy to roll over and pretend he was asleep.
Her captor then forced her onto her back, seemingly to rape her, but she was having her period and he made some comment that indicated he was put off by that.
Just at that moment, the doorbell rang downstairs. Someone had arrived at the house. Schreiber says that this deflected the man -— so he told her when she interviewed him — from killing the elderly woman in the next room. Whoever it was, they did not have a clue as to what they were about to encounter. Didi hoped the intruders might take the opportunity to slip out. She could not have guessed what they were about to do.
House of Hostages
Randi Romaine, one of the twins, now had her own story to tell. She was the person who had rung the doorbell when she found the door locked. She had returned from the hospital.
The door opened and she expected her older sister or nephew, but she did not know this man at all. What was he doing in her home?
He smiled at her, as if to ease her suspicions, and then grabbed her and put a gun to her head. He told her he was robbing the house and instructed her to comply. He locked the front door again before telling her to close her eyes. She did so and then felt him push her up the steps. She heard him talk to someone named John. He asked for money and she gave him $5.
Composite sketch of wanted man
In her own room, she saw Didi and Bobby, nude but apparently unharmed, and showed the frightening man where he could find her money. Then he told her to remove her clothes. She was startled and unwilling to comply. He pulled out a knife, so she quickly obeyed. When he asked her if anyone else was coming home, she tried to scare him. She said that she soon expected a lot of people and he just had time to get away. He didn’t move. Instead, he concentrated on tying and gagging her. He threatened her with the knife to make her submissive. She saw his son watching and felt humiliated as the man pushed her on her back. But she, too, was having her period, which seemed to stop him.
The man went out, leaving his accomplice in the room to search for valuables and money, and soon Randi could no longer hear him. She tried to free herself and then she heard the doorbell ring. The boy went downstairs and it wasn’t long before Randi realized that her mother had come home and was now a hostage as well. And that wasn’t all.
Composite sketch of the youth
Edwinna Romaine had come home with Retta and Frank. They had knocked on the door and had been met by the swarthy intruder, with his gun leveled at them. He commanded them to come in and do as he said. Edwinna began to breathe so hard she thought she might have a heart attack.
The man told the women to lie facedown on the living room floor near the television, and Frank was to lie by the fireplace. He stripped them all of their jewelry and watches, and tied their feet together with cords he had cut from the lamps, Venetian blinds, and vacuum cleaner. Then the man and boy went through the house, turning things over, breaking things, and banging around.
Edwinna and Retta both managed to work their hands free, but they remained as they were to await an opportune moment to try to escape.
Once again the doorbell rang. Now an eighth person was about to come into this insane situation.
When the man opened the door, they heard the voice of a young woman, Maria Fasching, a nurse from the hospital. She was reproaching this man, telling him to leave this family alone after all they’d recently been through. How she had known what he was doing was a mystery—one that would never be solved. (Schreiber gives a slightly different account, adding that Fasching had just come for a visit and did not reproach the man until she was inside.)
The man told her he was robbing the house and she would have to come in and do as he said. She was forced to lie facedown next to Frank, across his legs, yet she continued to tell this man to leave the family alone.
Then Frank was told to get up and he was forced down the basement steps. At six-foot-three, he was a likely threat lying where he was, but the women all feared what might happen to him down there.
He was gagged with a handkerchief and his head taped securely with adhesive tape. The robber threatened him with a knife and pulled his pants down, letting him know how vulnerable he was.
Tape case used to bind victims
A few minutes later, he heard the nurse, Maria, being brought down into the other room. Then the furnace blower came on and Frank could make out nothing more. He thought he heard screams, but he could not be sure.
Everyone in the house heard them, and Maria’s last words were to call for help and to shout, “I’m drowning!” Indeed, they all later learned that she had drowned in her own blood as it spurted from her cut arteries into her throat.
Edwinna began to scream. She couldn’t stand what was happening and believed they were all going to be killed, one by one. She pulled herself loose and with her feet still bound, she hopped out of the house and out into the street, where her neighbor saw her and called the police. Retta shoved herself under the couch. Everyone else waited and wondered what was going to happen next.
The boy shouted, “Someone’s loose,” and he and the man left the house by the back door.
That was the tale, and the investigation began at once.
The Slightest Clue
Not far away, an important piece of evidence was found. A woman walking her dog had seen a man and boy run down a hill, bend over in a puddle of water to do something, and then run away. The man had taken off his shirt and tie and left them lying on the ground. The woman called the police, and they confiscated the discarded shirt and tie, which appeared to have bloodstains on them, for testing. The puddle, too, appeared to have been used to wash blood away. In the mud was a clear footprint, which they set to work to cast.
Shirt found with blood on sleeve
At the Romaine home, Detective Robert Roseman looked for evidence as well. He made a list of what the family believed had been taken. However, much of this was recovered in the house, apparently abandoned when the burglars had fled the scene in haste. There were some watches and rings still missing, and money. The officers dusted for prints and found several rolls of adhesive tape, a bloody footprint, and some tape with hair on it.
They also looked for witnesses and found many people in the neighborhood who had seen the man and boy walking together that day—not only there but also in nearby Fort Lee. Apparently the odd couple was spotted there first. But they did not appear to be from around there. No one knew who they were.
One person told him the boy had knocked at his door and asked if the Joneses lived there. Apparently it was a way to see who was at home. It seemed as if this man and boy were just staking out places to rob. A bus driver said he had picked up two passengers who had a strange appearance that matched the offenders and had transported them to New York City. He said they had seemed to be in a hurry.
It was not difficult to trace their route from the park to the bus stop, since they had discarded things like watches, bracelets, rings and the leather knife sheath along the way. The police even found the knife, still bloody, and it was a match to the wounds the murder victim had suffered. Then they found a .32-caliber revolver cast aside in some bushes, and the Romaines recognized it as the gun the man had used to threaten them.
The autopsy of the murder victim indicated that not only had her throat been cut, but she had also been stabbed below the left breast, penetrating the heart, and below the left armpit, which had penetrated a lung. There was no evidence that the killer had attempted to undress her. She had died from a severe loss of blood.
Neither of the weapons found could be traced to an owner, but the discarded shirt had been manufactured in Philadelphia. A laundry mark, difficult to decipher, revealed the letters KAL. The crime lab set to work on it.
Shirt with laundry tag
Prosecutor Larry McClure figured that this odd couple had done burglaries before, so he sent out a description of the man/boy team and received back four separate incidents in New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania towns. All of the victims into whose homes the man had gained entrance agreed, according to Downs, that the man had a peculiar odor about him. Their MO was to have the boy knock on doors and ask if someone named Jones lived there while the man waited in the street. Whenever a young woman with a nice build answered, especially one with children to be used as leverage, they would force their way inside to rob the place, strip the woman, tie her up, and subject her to sexual assault. Often the woman was tied to the box springs of a bed.
The man had ordered three of the women he’d bound to perform oral sex on him, and he had unsuccessfully tried to rape one of them. At another home, he had forced four female members of a bridge club, who had arrived one by one, into various humiliating positions in the nude. He made one woman look at his knife, as if it was a substitute for his penis. He had also cut one on the chest. Then he and the boy had run. From that home, they managed to escape with $20,000 worth of goods. At another, they took $5,000 in valuables. They always got away on a bus.
Unknown fingerprints from house were Kallinger’s
Only after the fatal incident in Leonia, New Jersey, were these various crimes finally connected. Unknown fingerprints were collected from the Romaine house, but the FBI could not identify them. They could only hope that someone would report these two before they struck again.
Then on January 14, the team apparently showed up in Margate, New Jersey.
Brown writes that a woman reported that a knife-wielding man and boy had entered her home and knocked her out, but had taken nothing. They’d had a strange odor about them, she said. Even after a murder, in less than a week they were back at their crimes. The police were surprised at their boldness.
Composite sketch of wanted man
But the incident turned out to be a hoax, based on reports from Leonia. This woman had used up police resources for some petty personal reason, and the investigators were back to square one. Except for one thing.
Composite sketch of the youth
The laundry mark on the shirt discarded in Leonia had been cleaned up and it now read Kalinger. But no one named Kalinger had a police record in any of the relevant towns, including Philadelphia and New York.
Detective Roseman decided to do some gumshoe investigation. He took the shirt with him to Philadelphia and discovered that the shirt maker sold to only one outlet, the Berg Brothers store on North Front Street. Roseman went there in the hope that he could find a clerk who might remember a swarthy, smelly man like that described by the victims. But he was disappointed. No one could place the man.
Yet the shirt had to have been purchased there, so there was some chance that the man lived in the general vicinity. Now it became a matter of looking up the name Kalinger in the phone book—a daunting task. Roseman called the police department one more time and quickly found out that they did indeed have a record for a man by such a name, but it turned out to be Kallinger, not Kalinger.
With the correct surname in hand, Roseman went from one laundry and shirt-service place to another until he got the full name: Joe Kallinger. The owner of Bright Sun Cleaners on North Front Street recognized the shirt from the distinctive smell. It came from a chemical that Kallinger used in his shoe repair business. Roseman learned that Joseph Kallinger lived in Kensington in northeast Philadelphia. That’s where his shop was located as well. He had a wife and five children. The police knew of him because of the way one of his sons had mysteriously died in 1974. They had been watching him, waiting, certain he would one day slip up.
From those who had investigated the case, Roseman learned the full story.
Kallinger had seven children by two different wives. The first two children were grown, but the five from his second wife were all living with him at home. Joey was the boy in question, and the issues involved in his death that same year were difficult to untangle. It appeared to start with a complaint to the police, as described in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In 1972 when he was 12, Joey had come to the police station with his 9-year-old brother and his 13-year-old sister. A 19-year-old neighbor boy had accompanied them (possibly the sister’s boyfriend), and they had accused their father of severe abuse. The children explained that they were afraid to go home. They offered a range of things their father had done to hurt and humiliate them, and this friend corroborated their tale by describing how Kallinger had once threatened them at gunpoint. He was clearly a dangerous man. He even hit the children on the knees with a hammer. A physical examination at the hospital indicated that they did have suspicious burns and bruising.
However, when the police called on them, both Kallinger and his wife denied that such things went on, and they complained that the children had run away. They might have gotten hurt any place. Kallinger was nevertheless charged with three counts of abuse and he had to go before the court. Two doctors gave him a psychological work-up, which indicated an IQ of 84 and a history of problems since the age of 15. He seemed suspicious of women. He had been diagnosed once during the divorce proceedings from his first wife with a nervous disorder, and on another occasion, he’d been found sitting outside on some steps in a full state of amnesia. He complained of headaches and doctors at that time thought he suffered from sexual anxiety. The court-appointed doctors diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. They recommended that he be committed and that upon release, he and his family receive supervision. (An extensive report of their testing and diagnosis can be found in Schreiber’s book.)
This might have helped the situation, but it was not to be.
Other doctors who came into contact with Kallinger did not feel as strongly about this diagnosis. They said he had problems but was competent to stand trial. Although collection of information about the family revealed that all of the boys were emotionally disturbed, these doctors apparently did not see a connection with Kallinger’s mental health issues. They considered him to be merely self-centered and immature. However, they added, all of the family members should go through counseling.
Kallinger went to trial and was convicted of all charges and sentenced to a short prison term. Since he’d already been in jail for seven months awaiting trial, he was released.
Then in February 1973, Kallinger’s three accusing children appeared in court to submit affidavits to the effect that they had lied; the charges against their father were false. (The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the children changed their report while Kallinger was still in jail, which set him free. Downs says he was already out before they went to court. Schreiber emphasizes that lots of poor decisions were made, because Kallinger should have been placed in a mental institution, but says that the judge decided that the father should be supporting his family and let him go before the kids recanted.)
The judge had no choice but to clear Kallinger’s record, although the police who had initially talked with the children believed there was something very odd about their sudden retraction. Downs says they suspected that since Kallinger was now back home, the children were afraid of what he might do. Yet they could not be persuaded to change their stories again. They said they’d made it up because their father was too strict.
Years later, Kallinger told Schreiber that he began to call them the “total gods” because they had overpowered “the king.” He was afraid of them and said that he asked them for the sake of his business to go say they had lied about the charges. They agreed because they thought the family would then make more money and live better.
Joey, who had been in some trouble already, acknowledged his part in bringing false charges and he ended up in a Bucks County reformatory. Social workers had evaluated him as being seriously disturbed, and he’d had some homosexual encounters, so it seemed he needed professional observation. He even saw a psychiatrist.
Yet he received weekend passes, and he turned up in the offices of the Philadelphia Bulletin, beaten up and on a pair of crutches. He said that he’d fallen off a train and had broken his leg.
The newspaper workers called Kallinger, who came in and began to argue with Joey, insisting that he return to the reformatory. He did, and in May 1974 he was released. Two months later in July, Kallinger took out a life insurance policy on Joey and his younger son. Joey’s would pay $45,000 in the event of his death.
By the end of that same month, Kallinger went to the police to report that Joey was missing. They did a search but turned up nothing.
In August, a wrecking crew found Joey. His body lay in a sub-basement area of a building scheduled for demolition at Ninth and Market Streets. Broken bricks and rubble had covered him, making the body difficult to see. The pathologist could not determine a clear cause of death, but he thought the boy had been buried alive. (Another boy from north Philadelphia had suffered a similar fate that same month in an abandoned factory building.)
Almost at once, Kallinger filed a claim with the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company. They refused to honor it. Kallinger argued that he had taken out insurance on two of his sons (because of his five children they were the most reckless) and the other one was not dead. The company did not budge. They could not prove murder, but they did not buy Kallinger’s tale, partly because of his history as a poor insurance risk.
Ten years earlier, he’d taken out insurance on a building that had then been damaged by fire. He collected $15,000. Within the week, there was another fire and another payout. Two years went by before there was yet a third fire and payout for damage. When a fourth fire broke out in the vacant building, the fire department charged Kallinger with arson. The charges were eventually dropped for lack of proof, but the claim was never paid. Nor was the cause of the fires ever determined.
Then only two months after Joey died, another of his sons was found wandering around Camden with injuries to his head. Kallinger explained this as an accident.
The Philadelphia homicide squad was suspicious of this man and they tried to get proof against Kallinger, but he filed a lawsuit claiming harassment. The court sided with him. But the squad did not forget. When Detective Roseman came calling, they had plenty to tell him. They even had a picture of Kallinger to show him.
While they confirmed what they suspected, several officers staked out Kallinger’s home to keep an eye on his whereabouts, awaiting the word to go after him.
Roseman and police in the other affected jurisdictions showed the photo to the victims, and everyone identified Kallinger as the perpetrator. He looked very much like a composite drawing that had been made after the Harrisburg incident. The boy who had accompanied him could have been either of the two younger sons. The boys were both slender, with long, blond hair.
When the investigation was complete enough to press charges, the police were ready to move in. It was Friday evening, January 17. Maria Fasching would have turned 22.
The Philadelphia skyline
The police converged on the home at 100 East Sterner Street, near North Front Street, around 9:45 that evening to arrest Joseph Kallinger, 39, and his 12-year-old son. Joseph had seen them coming and had crawled through a hole that led to his mother’s house to phone his lawyer. He told the arresting officers that he would make no statements until his lawyer arrived. He merely offered that he was innocent.
According to reports in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the two were accused of kidnapping, tying the four women in a home in Susquehanna County on December 3, wounding one, and removing $20,000 in cash and jewelry. They were brought in for questioning by not only the local detectives but also Detective Roseman and the detectives from the other jurisdictions. It wasn’t long before Kallinger was charged with the murder of Maria Fasching.
Ring found at Kallinger home
First, however, he was going to trial for the crimes near Harrisburg, and when he could not post bail he was taken to a jail in Dauphin County. Both Kallinger and his son were suspects in a seven-week, three-state crime spree, including robbery and rape. The son was sent to the Dauphin County juvenile detention center to await his fate. His fingerprints, along with his fathers, were matched to those found in the Harrisburg suburb home. Police suspected that Kallinger may have taken his other son on at least one of the expeditions, but prosecutors did not move to place him into custody.
Fingerprints compared with the unknowns
Kallinger’s wife, Elizabeth, protested all of this, saying that too much tragedy had been visited on her family. Her son had died a year before, her sister right afterward, her mother faced surgery, and now this. It was all a terrible mistake. Her husband had not done these things. “I can’t take much more,” the paper reported her as saying. She had an 18-month old daughter living there with her, along with her daughter, now 16, and her stepson, 21, and the youngest son, now 11.
The police searched the home and his mother’s home next door found valuables connected to several of the homes that had been burglarized during the seven-week spree. These pieces they removed for evidence.
Reporters from The Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed neighbors and shop owners in the area, all of whom knew the reclusive cobbler. In chorus, they said they were certain that Kallinger was innocent. He was no murderer.
A 14-year-old boy who had known the deceased Joey talked to a reporter about his death, claiming he had seen Joey get into a green sedan with a gay older man, and it was his opinion that the man had murdered Joey. But he had no reservations about Kallinger’s guilt. “I think he did it,” he said, referring to the crimes. “He was a mean old man.”
At the police station, detectives continued to talk to Kallinger. They had plenty of evidence, from witnesses to physical evidence, and they felt sure they had their man. Now they had to work on motive. What had seemed obvious at first—self-enrichment—was anything but. Kallinger was to present a very odd and puzzling portrait.
The Mind of a Demented Cobbler
As Kallinger was taken from the interrogation room, Downs writes, he happened to see his son sitting in another area waiting to be processed.
“If you tell them anything,” he said to his son, “I’ll kill you.”
Police and social workers tried to get the boy to explain why his record of school absences coincided with the dates of each crime, but he refused to talk.
Mrs. Kallinger went public with her theory, affirmed by Kallinger’s lawyer, Malcolm Berkowitz, that the police had a vested interest in putting Kallinger in prison. He’d once brought a lawsuit against them and won. They were holding a grudge. The lawyer suggested that the shirt found in Leonia had been planted. Fingerprints found at the scene were “flimsy” evidence. Mrs. Kallinger insisted that the jewelry the police had taken from her home was her own costume jewelry.
Yet as the investigation continued through the spring and over the summer, it was clear that Kallinger was a distrustful paranoid man with strange habits. He did not want his wife or children having any friends and he had hostile relations with many people on his block. It was he and he alone who talked with the children about sexual matters, and he seemed strict and authoritarian—much like his adoptive parents, who had been Austrian and who had adopted him specifically to work in their shoe repair business. Once Joe was in jail, Mrs. Kallinger seemed greatly relieved and did not want to have him back in her home. For the first time in a long time, she told a social worker, she was free.
In the meantime, Kallinger was preparing his defense. He began to talk about how God had a mission for him: he was to assist people whose brains had been adversely affected by shoes that were poorly constructed. He said that the devil in various guises had pursued him for over one thousand years.
In August, Kallinger was given a psychiatric examination for two hours to determine if he was competent to stand trial. Dr. John Hume concluded that Kallinger suffered from antisocial personality disorder, a far cry from a real mental disorder, and that he was faking insanity. He seemed to feign trouble with his memory and he mentioned having visitations from God. His intellectual limitations–having dropped out of school in the eighth or ninth grade—were obvious, but he talked coherently and appeared to understand exactly what he was asked. Organically, he appeared to be normal. Neurological tests came up with no glaring results. The psychiatrist also questioned another inmate, who told him that Kallinger had killed the nurse because she refused to provide oral sex. He also had mentioned that his robberies were paying for his defense and that he was going to fake insanity. (However, Hume also pointed out that this report was suspect, given the other convict’s reputation for trying to get his time reduced by providing information.)
Hume concluded that at the very least, Kallinger knew right from wrong and was competent to stand trial.
The first trial in late spring 1975 ended early. Kallinger brought a Bible and The Life of Christ to read throughout the jury selection process and legal preparations. However, when a sheriff’s matron let slip in front of the jury that Kallinger was a suspect in a murder, the judge declared a mistral and it was rescheduled for later that year.
The second trial, which lasted eight days, began on September 8, 1975 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Kallinger was charged with four counts of robbery, four counts of false imprisonment and one count of burglary, among other charges. He came before Judge John Dowling, and his team consisted of Malcolm Berkowitz and Arthur Gutkin. The prosecution team was Leroy Zimmerman and Richard Guida.
Once again, Kallinger read the Bible throughout, seeming to pay little attention except when his attorney asked him something.
All four victims were called from the home where they had planned a bridge party, and three had positively identified Kallinger as their attacker. Then police officers took the stand to testify that some pieces of jewelry they had found in Kallinger’s home during a search had been identified by the victims as theirs. They also testified that fingerprints lifted in the home where the victims had been assaulted were a match to Joseph Kallinger. There wasn’t much more the prosecutor needed to do to establish that Kallinger had been in the home on the date of the incident, and had taken the things reported missing. His son was never brought in.
But the defense wanted to raise the issue of his mental state at the time of the offense. They called Mrs. Kallinger and a physician, but their primary case rested on Kallinger taking the stand in his own defense. It soon became clear during his testimony that they hoped the jury would see for themselves what a disturbed man he was. He mentioned that “there are lots of periods that I can’t recall,” and claimed that God communicated with him by touching his arm and conveying specific feelings. He discussed his “mission,” which was to construct special heel plates for shoes so that people’s souls would be align in the right ways for God’s coming in 1978, three years hence.
“The heel of the foot is an area of the body that controls the mind and if pressures are placed against the various parts that surround the heel of the foot, it blocks off various valves leading to the mind.” Supposedly, that situation made people feel tired. [It should be noted that while this information may have sounded strange in 1975, it's not so far-fetched any longer, with shoe companies making many claims about the health of the foot and the right footwear, including attention to the heel.]
Kallinger also indicated that he was the son of God and that for 961 years he had existed as a butterfly.
Yet as strange as this information was, from a reading of the court transcripts, Kallinger seemed to understand the questions, to know what he was saying, to make no odd outbursts or unrelated comments, and to exhibit a coherent thought system. While he was hesitant at first to discuss his beliefs (delusions), once he got going, he displayed the same type of manner that individuals who are faking often present—an attempt to make an impression on people with how strange he was rather than to hide from others what would be deemed abnormal.
For much of his testimony, Berkowitz took him through his workday, placing emphasis on the chemicals that he used and the fact that he had not ventilated his work space very well. The attorney was getting at the idea that during the period when the crimes had occurred, Kallinger had suffered the ill effects of the chemical fumes.
“I was having a lot of problems with seeing,” Kallinger admitted. ”I was having a lot of problems with my speech, my breathing, with – it was just ridiculous. My eyes would twitch – hands would shake, various things like my sense of touch would be altered.”
Berkowitz failed to call anyone to the stand to corroborate this sudden change in Kallinger’s behavior. Nor did he enlist professionals to testify to the effects of the fumes and the statistics on how many other people who used it suffered similar mental problems. He merely had Kallinger read off the cautionary notes on the label of the products. Yet it should also be noted that the prosecutor did not counter any of this with experts of his own, or even with an objection.
One rather startling contradiction was that when Kallinger’s youngest daughter was having health problems, he had written numerous letters to specialists across the country in search of a solution. That’s fairly organized and coherent intellectual behavior from a man who was claiming such extensive disability. No one seemed to notice the behavioral discrepancy. He had also taken care of his children over the years, did the family accounting, ran a 12-hour-a-day business, and taken care of his bed-ridden mother, because according to him his wife was not very good at these tasks.
Yet despite his apparent competency to run a home life, he still claimed that he had no memory of being at the home of the victims who were now accusing him. He could not understand how their valuables had come into his mother’s home, and he believed that at the time of the incident, he was probably taking one of his regular naps.
“The only thing that makes any sense to me,” he said, “is that someone came into my shop, picked up my prints and placed them on the door by reversing some tape or something.”
The prosecutor did not cross-examine him much, but did ask him about the ventilation in his home. As a parting question, Zimmerman also asked, “What kind of butterfly were you?”
This was meant to show the jury the nature of the faking. If one was a butterfly for over nine centuries, one would presumably know what kind.
Kallinger did not have a quick come-back. He just said, “Oh, no particular kind.”
During the final day, Kallinger was literally dragged into court, protesting that he was too ill to attend. He’d been vomiting all night. The judge did not excuse him.
In closing, Zimmerman emphasized the positive identifications, the fingerprints, and the stolen jewelry. The burglary was well-planned. Kallinger’s attorneys said that he was in Philadelphia on the day the crime had taken place, but even if he had been at the home where the incident occurred, he did not know what he was doing and he did not know that it was wrong. He suffered from “toxic derangement” from the chemicals he inhaled in his years of work as a cobbler.
The case went to the jury on September 19. Both sides wondered how these twelve people would be affected by Kallinger’s testimony, but they did not have to wait long.
The jury took less than an hour to find Kallinger guilty. One of them told the press that she had never believed that the defendant was out of touch with reality, as presented by the attorneys. Another juror said, “The insanity issue didn’t confuse us.” Some of them believed that Kallinger had faked his responses to the insanity examinations.
The defense had seven days to appeal the verdict.
Just before sentencing, Berkowitz asked Judge Dowling for reconsideration of another competency hearing. He felt that certain things had occurred in prison just prior to this trial that merited a re-examination. Purportedly, for example, Kallinger felt there was a ghost in his cell—the torso of a boy named Charlie, who talked with him and persecuted him. Berkowitz wanted a pre-sentence psychiatric examination.
Judge Dowling pointed out that the defense’s own experts had not felt that Kallinger’s condition justified a defense of insanity. They had been on the fence about his mental condition.
Berkowitz countered that he was not discussing legal insanity but the condition of schizophrenia that needed to be considered and treated in the context of present competency to be sentenced. He admitted to the strength of the state’s physical evidence implicating Kallinger in the Harrisburg-area crime, but thought that the single-day incident had to be judged in the context of Kallinger’s life as an adoptee with a mental illness and a history of family disturbances, who had been harassed for some time by the police and falsely arrested. While in jail before, his business had run down to nothing. Two weeks after his most recent arrest, his mother had died, and his daughter had a rare disease.
“The circumstances involving all these events in his personal life,” Berkowitz went on, “conspired to break down this man’s ability to live as a sociable human being.”
He asked the court for mercy.
The judge simply told Kallinger that he was an evil man who had not only treated his victims badly but had told one that he would return to “get” her. He had also exposed a 12-year-old boy to his crimes, and “to corrupt your own son is vile and depraved.” He viewed the defendant as violent and dangerous, and sentenced him to not less than 30 and not more than 80 years in the State Correctional Institution at Rockview.
Kallinger, who had the right to speak at that time, declined to do so.
Preparations to extradite him to New Jersey for his murder trial were already underway. He awaited this in Huntingdon State Correctional Institution.
Downs says that with the verdict and sentence, Kallinger began to realize that he had to do something more drastic to bring attention to his mental illness. Whereas he had not acted out in his jail cell before, he started up now. He threw excrement at guards, stopped up his toilet to keep “Charlie” from getting him, placed cups of water under his bed, and mixed his urine with plum juice and orange juice to pass it off as evidence that he was ill. The consulting psychiatrist there who observed him each day believed he was faking.
Dr. Hume went in to do another evaluation for competency and came to the same conclusion. Joseph Kallinger was not mentally ill. He was trying to impress people with symptoms that he simply did not have. In fact, now that he had observed him for some 28 hours at the trial, he thought that Kallinger was clear-headed enough to consult with his attorney and to be in touch with reality. He was a manipulator.
Then Kallinger’s new defense attorney, Paul Giblin for the New Jersey trial, hired Dr. Irwin Perrs from Rutgers University Medical School. Perrs spent 14 hours interviewing Kallinger, and decided that he was schizophrenic. He had seen the reports of Hume and others who had close contact with Kallinger, but thought that the man evidenced certain borderline symptoms of psychosis. Yet he also admitted that “much of the behavior is not in keeping with psychosis…much of the behavior has had a …’game playing’ quality.” He noted that Kallinger seemed to enjoy perplexing people who were interviewing him. Nevertheless, Perrs concluded that Kallinger did not appreciate the nature of his actions and was eligible for the insanity defense.
But even as these doctors examined him, Kallinger was enlisting his own spokesperson.
The “Definitive” Profile
From prison while awaiting his murder trial, Joe Kallinger sent a letter to Professor Flora Rheta Schreiber. At the time, she was teaching English and Speech at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan and had authored one other book, the best-selling nonfiction book about Sybil, the woman with 16 personalities. No one then realized that much that would happen after Sybil’s diagnosis would place in doubt many people involved in that case and in the multiple personality syndrome movement it inspired.
To give some background, before the 1973 book, there were around 50 known cases throughout the history of psychiatry. During the two decades following it, more than forty thousand had been diagnosed. That was a perplexing increase. A movement sprang up and many therapists made a living at specializing in multiple personality disorder. Many of these “alters” were induced with hypnosis and once people realized that their “recovered memories” weren’t accurate, quite a few specialists in MPD were successfully sued. Then Dr. Herbert Spiegel spoke up and his revelation eroded the movement’s foundation.
He had taken over Sybil’s care while her regular psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, was on vacation. He told the New Yorker that Sybil was not a genuine case but was merely an impressionable patient with other problems. While he was with her, she asked him if he wanted her to be “Helen.” She told him that’s what Dr. Wilbur would want. He told her just to be herself and she seemed relieved.
He thought she had been coached and had yielded to it. In Spiegel’s presence, she had shown dissociative characteristics and an ability to enter into a hypnotic trance, but he had seen no evidence during his sessions with her of a single one besides her own.
Although Schreiber was an English professor and not skilled in clinical issues involved in psychosis and malingering, she appeared to be eager to write yet another book about mental illness, and this time from a man who claimed to go in and out of reality. That potentially left her rather vulnerable to manipulation by someone who wanted to use her for his own ends: she had prestige, media influence, and she was willing to give part of her earnings to her subject. In The Shoe-Maker, while she enlisted some psychiatric opinions, she relied mostly on her own assessment.
Her primary problem throughout the book was that she accepted the hearsay gossip of neighbors, third-party reports of what someone said, and also the self-report of a man who was trying hard to make people view him as psychotic. First, conspicuousness is an unusual behavior in the truly psychotic, and second, with little corroboration from others of his internal confusion, we have no way of knowing how true the information is. If Kallinger was a psychopath, as indicated by Dr. Hume, then he had a strong tendency to indulge in the “poor me” themes found throughout the book, and in a “see what the world has made me” attitude.
On Trial for Murder
At no time in any of the four trials of Joseph Kallinger was his son brought to the stand. He was sent to a juvenile facility for supervision until he was twenty-one. He did not offer any testimony or ever talk with anyone about what had happened. Eventually he went to a foster home and changed his name.
Kallinger went on trial in Hackensack, New Jersey on September 13, 1976 for the murder of Maria Fasching and for numerous other charges related to his taking of hostages, assault, and theft of property. It took nine days to seat a jury and then the trial began. Kallinger had pleaded not guilty. If the state showed proof of his guilt, then the plea would change to insanity.
While this trial went over much of the same territory when addressing the defendant’s state of mind, with even more experts on both sides, the prosecution also had the shirt and tie, along with a photograph of Kallinger wearing the shirt and tie. They had his son’s fingerprints on a broken piggy bank. Prosecutor Larry McClure called all of the witnesses from the Romaine home who had been held hostage and assaulted in various ways, and each person who had assisted with linking Kallinger with the discarded bloody shirt. Downs says that they had all picked him out of a line-up.
During the testimony, Kallinger acted out in ways he had not done in his Pennsylvania trials. He swept his arms over his head, kicked his feet, chirped, and kept talking and shouting until he was eventually removed from the courtroom. If he were truly this psychotic, it would have been noted in prison and he would have been medicated. It seemed to many like a show even to members of the jury.
Medical men with strong credentials on both sides testified to opposing diagnoses. It could have been confusing, but finally it was up to the jury to decide. There was no doubt that Kallinger was involved, but there could be doubt about the degree of his appreciation of his actions.
On October 13, after two hours, they found Kallinger guilty. The day after, the judge sentenced him to life in prison, with the possibility of parole. His sentence was not appealed. He then went to Camden to await a trial on his crimes in Lindenwold.
Thomas Downs tries to analyze how a man with no apparent criminal record could suddenly go off on a crime spree at the age of 39 and he uses a popular misconception about schizophrenia to make a case for a latent personality inside an otherwise normal person. Schreiber, too, thinks of Joe’s criminal side as his “sinister double,” as if “that other person” was responsible and not the real Joseph Kallinger.
Yet according to Dr Richard Noll’s Encyclopedia of Schizophrenia, this mental illness is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, character disturbances in affect and thinking processes. It is not about having two personalities inside one body, but about a specific way of processing information about reality that is seriously distorted.
Kallinger might better be classified as having a schizotypal personality disorder, which involves a pattern of peculiar ideas, peculiar appearance, and deficits in interpersonal relationships. These problems are not severe enough to be diagnosed as schizophrenia, but they do show a pervasive personality structure. Such people are generally uncomfortable in social situations (Kallinger kept his family from much social contact), exhibit odd beliefs (his need to make people better via shoe supports), may look odd or unkempt (he did), and be hostile and paranoid (he was). Yet a personality disorder is not a severe mental illness.
According to some reports, Kallinger set fire to his cell in 1977 and was transferred to a mental institution in Trenton, where he stayed for three weeks. There he tried to suffocate himself with plastic. Yet he also successfully argued before a judge to be allowed to defend himself in his fourth trial. But he wrote so many letters to the judge and set yet another fire that he was removed as his own counsel and appointed someone else. The trial lasted two weeks, with all the same experts and issues. Among other charges, he was found guilty of armed robbery and breaking and entering.
The next year, he was moved to a hospital for the criminally insane in Waymart, Pennsylvania. He tried to kill another prisoner there. In 1996, he died from a seizure.
The Other Murders
Schreiber claims that during her extensive interviews Kallinger confessed to two other murders: that of his son Joey and that of another boy from his neighborhood. She accepted Kallinger’s account that “something emerges” from within him that he did not understand. In the fashion of the 1970s, she looked to his childhood for the answer.
Kallinger’s adopted parents apparently were strict, and by his description, rather unloving. At one time, they took him for a hernia operation and told him that the doctor had also fixed his penis so it would never get hard. That apparently gave him a complex about his size. Nevertheless, he did father seven children and did demand oral sex from three of his victims. It does not seem as if he had a serious sexual dysfunction, apart from an unhealthy fear about his penis being small. Yet with no evidence for the actual incident, Schreiber wrote that the parents symbolically “castrated” his ability to grow up normally. That’s apparently also what made him want to kill with a knife. Her analysis of his penis-fixation as a result of this ordeal is extensive, but essentially the knife transformed him from victim to victimizer. It became his penis substitute and he apparently became obsessed with the male organ.
He told Schreiber that he had a lack of empathy — one of the traits of a psychopath — but she took this to mean that he was abused into withdrawal. As for the degree of physical abuse he suffered, she had only his word for it. He also terrorized other boys with a knife — a clear sign of conduct disorder as a precursor to future violent conduct. She faulted the parents for that (and everything else).
His first marriage was bad as well, with a woman who refused to take responsibility for their two children. Around this time, he said, he learned that holding a knife in his hand would help him achieve an erection for masturbation. He claimed that since the age of 15 he had hallucinations of God and the devil, and that these were responsible for the fires he had set to burn down his building. The voices had told him to do it. [That he gained quite a bit of money from these acts is not mentioned here.]
He detailed for Schreiber a long and complex history of hallucinations—which no one else had ever seemed to know about. He went over his foot experiments at length, and then talked about his abuse of his children. He was sadistic and she attributed this to his own child abuse.
By the winter of 1973-4, Kallinger believed he had a mandate to destroy mankind. He was supposed to kill everyone with a butcher knife, and he enlisted his son as an accomplice. They would ride the bus to towns they’d never been to and his son would break into houses to rob them. Supposedly, the boy alone committed two dozen robberies in all [although no one ever tried to link such incidents with the 1975 incidents, despite tremendous publicity]. Then his son demanded that Joe go into the houses, too, and supposedly they successfully robbed dozens of homes throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. [Schreiber does not link any of these to police reports or newspaper accounts.] Kallinger claims that it was his son who endangered him.
Then Kallinger received the supernatural order to kill three billion people. But he didn’t know how to kill. He told this to his son, who supposedly cheerfully told him he’d be glad to do it. [This seems unlikely, since his son could not even rape a woman when given the chance.] One day in July 1974, says Kallinger, they spotted a boy on Fifth Street in Philadelphia. His name was Jose Collazo and he was ten. They took him to an isolated area in an abandoned factory, snipped off his penis, shoved shears into his rectum, and killed him. Kallinger says he kept the dismembered penis.
[The newspaper report on the boy's discovery on July 9, 1974 indicates there was a slight laceration in the groin and no injury to the rectum as Kallinger had described. He could easily have read the account -- he admitted that he had -- and used it for his ploys. Kallinger's discussion of the wounds and the gag they taped into in the boy's mouth would have alerted police to homicide, but there is no mention of that. Kallinger said they had killed him around 4, and he was found at 6, but the medical report said he had been dead between four and ten hours. The discrepancies are worth noting, along with the fact that Schreiber did not look up the police reports.]
Two weeks later, he said that he and his son lured Joey to an abandoned building with the promise of taking photographs and killed him there. They pushed him into some water, chained to a ladder, where he drowned, and during all this Kallinger had an orgasm. Schreiber says that Kallinger’s schizophrenic dissociation protected him from feeling guilty. He could just as easily have been a psychopath, without remorse.
The day the police accused Kallinger of killing his son, he told Schreiber, was the day “Charlie” the ghost showed up. She believed him. She made no mention of a possible motive of self-enrichment through the insurance money. She concluded that the murder was guided by a powerful hallucination.
During the crime spree that began toward the end of that year, Kallinger said that his son threatened him with an ultimatum: if we don’t kill, I won’t go out again. So he had no choice but to begin. Throughout the rest of the crimes, he claimed that he watched as his “double” did cruel things to people. Yet his accounts are remarkably detailed and coherent for a man with memory loss and the sense that he was out of touch with things.
He says he chose Maria Fasching as the sacrificial lamb because she was easiest to get up off the floor, not because she was pretty. He commanded her to go into the boiler room and chew off the penis of the man he had hog-tied. She refused. Then at “Charlie’s” command, he began to stab her.
He and his son ran for the bus and when they reached New York, they had pizza. Kallinger knew that his godly mission had begun — something of a contradiction, since he’d already killed two boys. Schreiber says this contradiction was due to a memory lapse.
In support of his psychosis, Schreiber reports Kallinger’s histrionics in court, but fails to address how he could have been psychotic and so controlled during his assault and break-ins. In other words, if this was his psychotic behavior, then what was that? The prosecutor certainly noted it and had four experts testify about it.
Schreiber writes somewhat defensively that the jury believed the larger team of experts merely because there were more of them. She did get some prominent psychiatrists to look over her interviews with Kallinger, and even to meet with him, and said that they believed he was schizophrenic. Yet she did not seem to understand that psychosis is not equivalent to legal insanity. Psychotic people are often convicted because they show in their criminal behavior that they know what they are doing is wrong. Even in his confessions, Kallinger seems to know that what he did was wrong.
Whether he was actually a serial killer or even psychotic is anyone’s guess. The professionals could not agree. Kallinger may simply have been a psychopath who liked to confuse and manipulate people, and enrich himself. While it makes sense that he might have killed his son for money, or even in a disturbed frame of mind, we don’t know that he did.
He spent much of his remaining time in prison writing poetry and fixing the shoes of the prison personnel, and Schreiber’s book has become the basis for which many people evaluate the man.