(March 4, 1936–September 11, 1978) was an American serial killer who was
active in New York in the early 1970s.
Born in the Upstate
New York village of Dannemora, Garrow grew up in a poor family of
farmers. Garrow later said that his parents were severe, violent
disciplinarians who regularly physically abused their children with
whatever was handy, even bricks. (His accounts have been confirmed by
The police were called
several times throughout the years to break up violent fights between
Garrow and his alcoholic father; after a particularly brutal episode
when Garrow was 15, he was sent to a reform school.
He joined the Air
Force upon his release, but was court-martialed a year later for
stealing money from a superior officer and spent six months in a
military prison in Florida. After a failed escape attempt, he spent a
year in another stockade in Georgia.
Garrow also later
reported a long history of sexual dysfunction and paraphilias; he
committed several acts of bestiality with the farm animals he worked
with throughout childhood and adolescence, and would often perform
sadomasochistic masturbation with milking machines.
Garrow returned to New York in 1957,
married and fathered a son. His life did not improve, however; he was
fired from a series of menial jobs, including from a fast food
restaurant he burglarized, and was involved in an abusive homosexual
relationship with a man he later described as a sadist. He was arrested
for rape in 1961 and spent seven years in prison. Soon after he was
released, he committed a series of rapes; many of his victims were
children. He was arrested for the rape of two prepubescent girls, but
jumped bail and became a fugitive. His crimes soon escalated to murder.
He murdered four people in July 1973, including a
young woman whom he kidnapped and repeatedly raped before killing, and a
high school-aged camper in the Adirondacks a few days later, spurring on
a statewide manhunt (at the time, the largest in New York State history).
Garrow was tracked down, cornered, and shot in the foot, arm, and back
by a Conservation Officer. He survived, but alleged that he was
partially paralyzed. Garrow was treated at CVPH Medical Center in
Plattsburgh, NY, where doctors denied his claims of paralysis.
He sued the State of New York for $10 million,
alleging that the state's doctors had been negligent in treating the gun
shot wound which lead to his alleged paralysis. He was moved to a medium
security prison in exchange for dropping the lawsuit and was later found
to be faking his paralysis.
Garrow pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but
the jury rejected it and found him guilty of first-degree murder,
sentencing him to a term of 25 years to life in prison. Garrow began his
sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility (maximum security) in
Dannemora, NY, on July 2, 1974. Due to his alleged paralysis, however,
Garrow repeatedly requested transfer to the Elderly and Handicapped Unit
(minimum security) within the medium-security Fishkill Correctional
Facility. In September, 1977, a death threat against Garrow prompted his
transfer to Auburn Correctional Facility (maximum security). It was not
until early 1978 that Garrow was transferred to Fishkill.
Garrow's lawyers (Francis Belge and Frank Armani),
with whom he had shared the location of two victims' bodies, were
accused of withholding evidence from the court, but were exonerated by a
jury who thought they were obeying attorney/client privilege.
Escape and Death
Garrow escaped from the Fishkill prison on September
8, 1978. He was in possession of a .32 caliber pistol he had obtained
from his son, who concealed the weapon inside a bucket of chicken he
brought to his father during a visit. Garrow was spotted by guards three
days later a few hundred yards away from the prison walls and shot at
his pursuers, but was killed when they returned fire.
By Mark Gado
The stocky, bullish-looking man studied the two girls
as they walked down the deserted street in upstate Geddes, New York, on
the morning of May 31, 1973. They were wearing neat, colorful dresses
and an innocent, playful look; the kind he preferred and often
fantasized about. He licked his lips and methodically rubbed his hands
together with the anticipation of the moment when he would have them all
He observed the girls carefully through his tinted
glasses as he opened the door to his car and stepped onto the pavement.
He glanced up and down the street, careful to take notice of anyone who
happened to walk by. There was no one. The traffic light at the end of
the block turned red, but the street was empty. The man then walked
briskly, following the girls as they strolled past the row of houses
that lined the avenue.
He placed both of his large hands into his pockets,
feeling the blade of the folded knife in his right hand. One of the
girls sensed there was someone following her and she turned to see who
it was. She wasn’t too concerned, because she had lived there her entire
life, all 9 years of it. The town was safe. Her friend, who attended the
same school, had just turned 11. She absently glanced at the man over
her shoulder. They made eye contact, the predator and the prey, and for
one brief moment, he relished in the innocence of his victim.
The excited man quickened his pace
until he came to within two feet of the victims. “Stop!” he called. They
came to a sudden halt and looked behind them. “Police!” he said and
showed them a phony badge, which he immediately placed back in his
pocket. It really didn’t matter since neither girl would know a real
badge if they saw one.
He told them that he was a police
officer from the nearby town of Camillus. He said they had to come down
to the police station to help him find a lost dog. He was polite yet
firm. They had to come he said and emphasized that point. They had no
choice he said. He escorted the girls back down the street and herded
them into his car while he scanned the area for any witnesses.
He drove around aimlessly until he
spotted a place in the fields where there were no houses or farms. He
parked his car on Maple Road in Camillus and took the girls out of the
back seat. They walked up to the top of the nearby hills where, once he
was sure there was no chance of being interrupted, he laid a blanket
down onto the grass. It was a breezy, spring day.
“C’mere!” he said to the 9-year-old. The girl looked
up, her wide eyes full of fear and worry. She froze when she looked over
at her friend unsure what to do next. They didn’t know what the man
wanted. The stranger pulled a plastic handgun out of his rear pocket. It
looked real and must have been terrifying to the children. He stuck the
gun in the face of the 9-year old. “C’mere! I said!” he ordered.
“I had the girls play with me, if that will help you
any,” the man told a jury later, “and one of them committed an act of
sodomy, orally, and that is what happened.” Their nightmare with this
man lasted three long hours. The only redeeming factor of the encounter
was that he let the girls live. He was fully capable of murder and soon
he would kill others who weren’t so lucky as these two.
His name was Robert Francis Garrow, the predator.
Garrow was born on March 4, 1936, the son of French-Canadian
parents near the village of Dannemora in upstate New York. Robert Garrow
had five brothers and sisters; one brother died at a very early age.
Another brother, the oldest, was given away at birth and his whereabouts
have never been ascertained.
The senior Robert Garrow was a mineworker and a heavy
drinker who took out his frustrations and anger on his son. But his
mother, the 5-foot-1, 270-pound Margaret Garrow, was well known in
Mineville and her hostile, callous disposition weighed heavily on
Robert’s stunted development. “My mother was an extremely cruel person,”
one of her daughters said later. She was a violent, unforgiving woman
who beat her children and displayed little compassion or understanding
for any of them. “I more or less block everything out of the past,” said
her daughter Agnes years later, “I more or less closed it out of my mind,
anything as a child.”
Margaret beat Robert often and sometimes used
whatever was handy at the time, including a crowbar, a belt or even a
brick. On more than one occasion, she had assaulted the boy to a point
where he was rendered unconscious. “My mother hit my brother Robert
extremely hard with a piece of stove wood… I thought he was dead and I
threw some water on him,” said his sister Florence in 1974. “My mother
used to whip him all the time.”
With no formal education and no friends, Robert was
left to fend for himself. He had no peer companionship and no meaningful
adult supervision. At the age of 7, he worked on neighbor’s farms for
which his mother collected his pay. “My father gave him away to a farmer
down in Moriah and he worked there on the farm until he was
approximately 15 years old,” his sister Florence said later to the court.
Throughout the early years of his development,
whenever he was at home, Robert endured frequent beatings from both
mother and father. He spent most of his days and nights tending to
livestock and performing chores that needed to be done. And most times,
Robert was alone. Perhaps because of this isolation, Robert began having
sexual contact with the animals on the farm. He had intercourse with
cows, horses, sheep and dogs. When he first began this practice he may
have been as young as 10.
“When I was probably about 10, 11, 12 years old,
because I had no friends and I never used to play…I didn’t know no
children or anything. Of course I had to fool around with calves, horses,
cows, you know,” Garrow said during court testimony. He continued these
activities for years without being discovered. He may have experienced a
sense of gratification with animals that he was unable to achieve with
humans. “I never had dates. Never knew anybody,” Garrow said later. “I
kept doing it for 10 years or so…then after, on other farms I worked,”
he said later. “And I used to put the milking machine on myself...you
know, masturbate myself with it.” Garrow’s bizarre habits continued for
many years. At the age of 15, he was sent to a state reform school for
punching his father in the face after a heated argument. When he was
released from the school a year later, he joined the Air Force.
In the military, Garrow suffered severe and constant
ridicule for bed-wetting, a life-long habit that he managed to keep a
secret until then. He later got into trouble when he stole money from an
Air Force sergeant. He received a court martial and was sentenced to six
months in a military prison in Florida. Garrow escaped from custody but
was apprehended several days later. He was sentenced to one year in
another military stockade in Georgia. After completing the prison term,
he was discharged from the service. He had spent nearly two years in the
service, almost all of it in jail.
Garrow returned to the upstate New York area where he
worked at several jobs, but was unable to maintain steady employment. In
June 1957, he married a local girl, Edith, in the Adirondack town of
Lowville, some 20 miles south of Watertown. It would be the first time
in his life that he had sexual relations with a female. Within a few
months, the couple moved to the city of Albany where he got a job in a
fast food restaurant. Soon, Garrow was arrested for burglarizing the
Then in 1961, when he was 25 years old, he was
arrested for the rape of a teenage girl after he knocked out her
boyfriend with the butt of a pellet gun. The police were able to locate
Garrow, who immediately tried to avoid arrest. During a hot pursuit,
police fired several shots at the suspect who was eventually captured.
After a trial, in which he was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison, he
was shipped out to Clinton state prison, better known as Dannemora, the
dumping ground for New York’s toughest inmates.
He spent almost eight years in prison. When he was
released in 1968, Garrow maintained a quiet existence working in a
bakery and trying to stay out of trouble. But in 1972, he was arrested
again in Syracuse, New York, on charges of unlawful imprisonment and
drug violations. Garrow had tied up two female college students but
later they refused to press charges.
Then in 1973 he was accused of the sexual assault on
the two little girls in Geddes. After he was released on bail, Garrow
disappeared and never showed for the scheduled court date. An arrest
warrant was issued and on that day, Garrow officially became a fugitive.
Murder in the Woods
On the morning of July 29, 1973, a group of friends,
Phil Domblewski, Carol Ann Malinowski, David Freeman and Nick Fiorello
were camped in the Adirondacks near Wells, New York.
They were from Schenectady, where they knew one
another from high school. They loved to fish and hike through the
Adirondack forests. After pitching their tents near Old Route 8, south
of the village of Speculator, they spent the night in the woods and were
about to crawl out of their sleeping bags.
A few miles away, an orange colored VW hatchback was
traveling northbound on the two-lane highway. Robert Garrow was behind
the wheel. He had just picked up a cup of coffee and some doughnuts from
a gas station a few miles back. As he sped down the smoothly paved road,
Garrow admired the sparkling river that runs parallel to the highway,
making Route 8 one of New York’s most scenic highways.
The old VW sputtered along, emitting sporadic clouds
of blue smoke from its exhaust, a sure sign of burning oil. When Garrow
approached the teenager’s campsite, which could be seen from the road,
he noticed two tents set up not far from the pavement. Garrow pulled the
VW over to the side and shut down the engine. He gulped down the
remaining coffee, grabbed his .30-caliber rifle and walked into the
Garrow went over to the first tent he saw. He pointed
his weapon at Carol Ann Malinowski and David Freeman who were still in
their sleeping bag. “There was this couple in this tent,“ he said at
trial, “they had no clothes on…I had my rifle with me and I asked them
for some gas…I remember her putting her pants on…I don’t think she put a
bra on, she didn’t have one.” He soon rounded up all four campers at
gunpoint and told them he wanted to siphon some gas out of their car.
But Phil Domblewski objected. Garrow brandished his rifle and pointed it
at the group. He marched them all into the woods. “I’ve killed before
and I will again if I have to!” he told the frightened teenagers.
Garrow was physically a big man. He weighed 210
pounds and stood 5 feet 11 inches. He was larger and more intimidating
than any of the campers. “Then is where everything, you know, all that
pressure where I went berserk, I didn’t know what to do,” he told the
court later. Once he herded them into the woods, he tied them all to
separate trees, out of sight of one another. “I remember having people
tie each other up and, I don’t know which one tied which one up…the girl
was tied up last,” Garrow said. The terrified victims tried to reason
with the stranger but Garrow seemed not to hear them. Domblewski
especially refused to back down.
After he successfully tied Domblewski to a tree face
forward, he placed the rifle down. He reached into his pocket and
removed a knife that was honed to a deadly sharpness. And then, in a
brutal assault, Garrow attacked the defenseless teenager and slashed him
several times across the chest. “I went berserk I guess or something and
I hit him with the knife,” he later told a jury. He then plunged the
blade into the boy’s chest, killing him instantaneously. The teenager’s
final gasps for life were heard by the others.
“What are you doing to him?” Carol Malinowski cried
“It’s okay. I’ll be done in a minute!” Garrow calmly
replied. In the meantime, the two males had managed to loosen the ropes
and escaped. They ran for help while Garrow started to walk deeper into
the woods. Within minutes, a dozen men from the nearby town were
searching the brush for the killer.
Domblewski’s body was found still tied to a tree,
slumped down to the ground, his head resting on his chest. There was
blood everywhere, on the tree, in his clothes and in the grass. Garrow
had also left his knife, covered with his fingerprints, on the ground
next to the body. The men scoured the woods in the vicinity, searching
every cave and hole, every ravine and gully. But he was too late. He had
already escaped in the orange VW.
The hunt was on.
Adirondack Park is a vast wilderness in upstate
central New York. Though not as well known as Yellowstone National Park
and yet three times as large, it is a sparsely populated region. The
preserve consists of nearly six million acres, almost 10,000 square
miles, which is bigger than the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts,
New Jersey, Rhode Island or Vermont.
Its geography is as diverse as it is large. The
western segment of the park is a gentle, flowing landscape of lakes,
streams and rolling hills. In the northern and eastern sections, its
characteristics are dramatically different. There are 50 high peaks and
most of these mountains are more than 4,000 feet. The park contains
thousands of miles of trails, hundreds of lakes and streams and
spectacular views of an untouched wilderness that probably has not
changed substantially in thousands of years.
It is America’s most unique park where small
communities lay hidden away in isolated valleys and forests. Even the
most experienced outdoorsmen can easily become lost within its immense
borders. And for someone running from the police, the Adirondack
wilderness can be a good place to hide.
After the Domblewski killing, Garrow escaped into the
woods near the town of Wells. He drove his orange Volkswagen hatchback
through the Adirondack Park on isolated dirt roads until it was spotted
by the State Police on the night of July 31. A chase began and the VW
charged through the thick forest at neck-breaking speed, mowing down
trees and bushes along the way. Garrow eventually crashed the car in an
area called Coon Creek.
He jumped from the VW and ran through the woods with
state cops in hot pursuit. Within a few minutes, he managed to get away
from the two troopers who were hopelessly tangled in the heavy
underbrush. He slowed to a walk and began to make his way east. Garrow
was comfortable in the wilderness; he had grown up in a very similar
environment and knew how to survive in the wild.
By nightfall, Garrow realized that the police would
be out in full force. He had to keep moving across the park and obtain
access to an escape vehicle. Meanwhile, the New York State Police had
brought in hundreds of troopers, several helicopters, bloodhounds and
platoons of local law enforcement. A command post was set up near the
base of Mt. Pleasant, not far from the Wells campground and huge
searchlights were activated at the edge of the forest. Garrow’s wife and
child were also located in Albany and brought to the scene. The search
continued around the clock.
“As far as we’re concerned, he’s definitely in there,”
a senior police official at the scene told reporters. While troopers
scoured the woods with dogs and flashlights, Domblewski’s companions
identified the killer through photographs. The abandoned VW had also
been traced to Robert Garrow and the next day an arrest warrant charging
him with murder was issued by the Wells Town Court. Suspicion grew that
Garrow was also involved in the killing of another Adirondack camper a
few weeks before.
A Harvard student, Daniel Porter, 23, of Concord,
Massachusetts, was found murdered in the park in a similar fashion and
his girlfriend, Susan Petz, 20, of Skokie, Illinois, was missing.
Porter’s body was found on July 20 about 25 miles away from the scene of
the Domblewski murder scene.
Soon, police helicopters arrived over the town of
Wells. As they circled above the forests, the voices of Edith Garrow and
her son Robert Jr. blasted through giant loudspeakers. “Honey, this is
Edith!” the recorded message began, “Won’t you please come out? Leave
the rifle in the woods!” Garrow’s son also asked his father to give up.
“We don’t want you to get hurt!” he pleaded. As the helicopters
crisscrossed over the area near Wells, Garrow continued hiking north
toward the town of Speculator. He was still carrying the .30 -caliber
Over the next few days, Garrow was spotted several
times by residents, but he managed to evade capture by running into the
woods. Bloodhounds picked up his trail on several occasions only to lose
it again in the tangled mass of vegetation and dense forests. Garrow
purposely walked in and out of streams to confuse the dogs, a trick that
bought him more days of freedom.
Then on August 7, word arrived that Garrow was brazen
enough to visit his sister, Agnes, in Mineville. She told police she had
no idea where he went after he left her. But during the brief visit, she
saw that his right hand was injured and bleeding. “He said that he was
in some kind of a …they had some kind of…not a fistfight, they were
fumbling over it or something, there was a knife involved, he said he
stabbed…a guy got stabbed,” she said later at trial. Dozens of cops
descended upon her home and surrounded the area. But again, Garrow
slipped into the forest and escaped. The police doubled their forces and
expanded the scope of the operation almost to the Canadian border.
On August 10, a conservation officer who was part of
a team that staked out Garrow’s sister’s home, saw Mrs. Mandy’s son
carrying food into the woods behind the house. When cops investigated,
Garrow suddenly emerged from behind some trees and began to run.
“Halt! Stop! Police!” they yelled.
Garrow, still armed with his rifle, continued to run.
The cops opened fire and hit the suspect several times. He fell to the
ground wounded in his back, legs and left hand. After a brief struggle,
police handcuffed Garrow who continued to resist. It was over in a few
seconds. After 11 days and the largest manhunt in New York State history,
Robert Garrow was finally in custody.
"She Got Stabbed"
After his arrest, Garrow met with his court-appointed
attorneys, Francis Belge and Frank Armani of Syracuse. Belge was a
graduate of Albany Law School and Armani had attended Syracuse Law. They
knew and respected one another but had never worked together before.
Although Garrow wanted to help in his own defense, he seemed less than
truthful. His attorneys had to learn whatever their client knew in order
to defend him properly and they wanted no surprises at trial.
But Garrow was uncooperative and claimed a loss of
memory whenever critical subject matter arose. In late August 1973, the
attorneys decided to try one more time.
Garrow was already a suspect in several other
homicides. On July 11, 1973, Alicia Hauck, 16, had disappeared on her
way home from high school in Syracuse, New York. Garrow had lived in
Syracuse at that time and had been observed near the school on the same
day. Alicia had not contacted her family since that day, and a body had
not been found.
On July 20, in Weavertown, New York, the body of
Daniel Porter, 22, was found at a campsite where he and his girlfriend,
Susan Petz, had spent the night. Porter was tied to a tree and stabbed
to death. Susan Petz had not yet been found. Garrow’s parents also lived
just a few miles from the scene of the incident. In both cases, police
suspected Garrow and the similarities between the Porter killing and the
Domblewski murder were striking.
Since his arrest, Garrow insisted he had nothing to
do with the missing girls. But Belge and Armani had to know the truth.
During this interview with Garrow, the two lawyers pleaded with him to
cooperate and advised him that cooperation would mean a better deal for
“I picked her up hitchhiking,” Garrow finally said to
Belge. He said that he took the Hauck girl to the rear of an apartment
complex in Syracuse where he raped her. “We had sex on the hill behind
the apartments…all of a sudden and for no reason, she tried to run away…she
got hysterical. I got scared and hit her with my knife,” he explained to
the two attorneys. When Belge asked if he killed the girl, Garrow
replied, “Yeah, I think so!” Garrow said that he hid Alicia Hauck’s body
in the Oakwood cemetery in Syracuse. As far as he knew, the body was
Garrow went on to describe how he had killed Daniel
Porter in late July after he came upon the camper and his girlfriend
Susan Petz. He said that he stabbed Porter after they had a fight.
Garrow told Belge how he kidnapped the girl and kept her with him for
four days while he sexually assaulted her. He said that on the last day
she made an attempt to escape.
“I put my knife on the ground, and she grabbed it. We
had a fight…I finally got my knife away from her, and she got stabbed,”
Garrow said. And when he was asked where her body was, he replied, “I
shoved her body down the airshaft of a mine.” He gave Belge and Armani
detailed descriptions of where the bodies of both girls could be found.
The attorneys realized that Garrow was now implicated in at least four
murders. But his confession would never make trial. Whatever Garrow told
them, including the details of the murders and the location of the
bodies, could not be revealed.
It was information that was considered “privileged”
because it was told from client to attorney and therefore protected from
scrutiny by anyone, including the police and the D.A.’s office. It was
similar to a priest and a confessor or a doctor and a patient. Nothing
could persuade them to reveal the secret of where the bodies were buried.
Not even the desperate pleas from the victim’s
Belge and Armani decided to corroborate their
client’s confession. They drove up to Mineville, New York, to the area
that Garrow had described during their last interview. It was near this
town that Garrow said he tossed the body of Susan Petz down a mineshaft.
This area was honeycombed with deserted mines leftover from an era when
mineworkers dug everywhere in the hills.
The two attorneys arrived at the scene in mid-afternoon.
It was late August and the weather was hot and humid. Using Garrow’s
instructions, they managed to get to the area he described. It was
located at the base of a mountain near the entrance to an abandoned
mine. They began their search on foot. For several hours they explored
the hills and found nothing. They began to think they were in wrong
But Francis Belge managed to locate a mineshaft that
looked promising. He lowered himself into the hole while Armani held
onto his hand. Using a flashlight, he searched around in the cool
darkness 30 thirty feet below the surface.
“Do you see anything?” Armani called down.
“Help me up Frank!” came the reply. When he came back
to the surface, he told Armani he may have found Susan Petz. But he
wanted to take pictures. Belge retrieved a Polaroid camera and Belge
went back down into the hole. When he came back up the second time, he
was sure. There was a girl’s body at the bottom of the air shaft. Garrow
was right; the body was where he said it was. Now, the lawyers had no
doubts: Garrow was a murderer.
They discussed what to do with this information.
While they sat on the edge of the mineshaft and the body of their
client’s victim almost within sight, Belge and Armani reached a
conclusion that neither attorney was happy about: they had an obligation
to protect their client.
They could not reveal this information to anyone
because it would represent a breach of confidentiality and a violation
of the code of legal ethics. They were also bound by law not to reveal
what their client had told them. They couldn’t even tell the victim’s
family members, who by then were wracked with grief and bewilderment
over their missing daughter.
The attorneys also decided that they should go to
Syracuse and search for the body of Alicia Hauck. The next day, the two
men were on the vast Oakwood Cemetery property in Syracuse, where Garrow
said he had hidden the body of a girl he killed back in July. They
already knew from newspaper reports that there was a missing 16-year-old
girl in Syracuse named Alicia Hauck who vanished while she was walking
home from school.
Garrow said that he killed a girl fitting her
description near the cemetery and hid her body behind a shed. At first
they were unable to locate the remains. The attorneys returned to the
jail where they had another interview with Garrow. He prepared a map to
show exactly where he had placed the girl’s body.
The next day, Belge returned to Oakwood Cemetery
without Armani and instead took a friend. After searching through the
bushes for hours, they located the remains of Alicia Hauck. Her body was
in an advanced state of decomposition and partially destroyed by animal
activity. According to Armani, “Her skull had been torn from her body…Belge
picked up the skull…placed it above the girl’s shoulders, then
photographed the remains.” He had altered a crime scene and tampered
But he was still convinced that he could tell no one
of what he had found.
The Adirondack town of Lake Pleasant is located 40
miles due north of Amsterdam, New York. It is a quiet community, which
depends heavily on summer visitors for economic support.
The tourists come from New York City, Albany and
other metropolitan areas to enjoy the lakes, hike the wilderness or
simply relax in the serene beauty of the Adirondacks. Dozens of cottages
and summer homes line the picturesque shores of Lake Pleasant, nestled
in a cradle of low lying mountains and hills that are typical in the
Hamilton County area. Located along State Route 8, the county municipal
offices consist of a courthouse, a sheriff’s office and a jail.
Security for the trial was of the utmost concern to
law enforcement officials since Garrow had already proven his tendency
to escape from custody. Dozens of police officers surrounded the tiny
court building and snipers were placed strategically around the
intersection of Route 8, ready to take out Garrow should he decide to
make a break. Some people thought police were overreacting since Garrow
was confined to a wheelchair and hardly seemed capable of making an
During his capture on August 9, 1973, he was shot
several times. He later claimed his wounds had paralyzed him on one side,
though doctors disagreed over the severity of these injuries
But the trial would go forward nonetheless. After
pretrial motions were settled, the decision was made to begin the legal
process. Starting on May 9, 1974, more than 750 people were called for
jury duty in Hamilton County. Attorneys Belge and Armani scrutinized the
pool carefully, mindful of the tremendous amount of publicity generated
by the Garrow case. Local officials were overwhelmed by the reporters
who descended upon their community to cover the trial. By early June, a
jury was selected that was acceptable to both prosecution and defense.
The trial began on June 10.
One by one, Nick Fiorello, Daniel Freeman and Carol
Malinowski testified about their experiences on the day of Phillip
Domblewski’s murder. They all identified Garrow and said he seemed to
know exactly what he was doing during the entire time they watched him.
Carol Malinowski testified that Garrow spoke to her at length during the
ordeal but luckily, did not assault her.
The prosecution team, led by Hamilton County D.A.
William Intemann, also called crime scene technicians who described the
campground where the murder took place. Dozens of articles of evidence
were introduced, including crime scene photographs of the victim, which
graphically portrayed the killing. One photograph displayed the lifeless
body of Domblewski still tied to a tree, slumped over in a brutal
execution-type slaying, that could only have been done by a cold-hearted
killer. The impression was not lost on the jury.
On June 17, after what seemed like an airtight case
against a smirking Robert Garrow, who often sat in his wheelchair
mechanically taking notes, the defense began its case.
The first witness was Robert Garrow.
Garrow sat in the wheelchair uncomfortably, his heavy,
thick frame slumped down, making him appear less threatening. As he
spoke, his dark glasses would sometimes fall below his eyes. He glanced
nervously around the courtroom while Francis Belge asked him about his
early life in upstate New York. He went on to describe his years on the
farm when he was a child, working from dawn to late at night without any
“I used to get up at three o’clock in the morning. I
never used to hit the bed till 11 o’clock at night or so and I did this
for seven days a week all my life,” he said. Garrow was always on bad
terms with his mother and father.
The police responded to his house on several
occasions to break up fights between him and his drunken father who once
attacked the young boy with a crowbar. At the urging of Belge, Garrow
told the jury of having sexual intercourse with the animals on the farm.
He said it continued throughout his teenage years and even on other
farms where he worked for neighbors.
Garrow told the court of his many problems with the
law and of being arrested for crimes like rape, sodomy and burglary. He
said that while he was out of jail in Albany he became sexually involved
with a male attorney who physically abused him during sex.
“I had a good build, husky build, and he started by
taking pictures of me in his basement cellar…then it got down to where
we got out in the woods, used to take pictures and used to have me play
with him, et cetera, and so forth. I was against it, you know,” he said,
“I had scars all over my back from a whip.”
“So while you were married some sadist was whipping
you, is that it?” asked Belge.
“Um hum, taking pictures, everything,” Garrow replied.
He said that he was later arrested for rape in Albany and spent eight
years in prison at Auburn and Dannemora where he had sex with the other
prisoners. “Well I guess they refer to it as sodomy, I guess,” he said,
“both oral and anal.” But while he was in prison, Garrow also took
college courses on subjects such as science, geometry, algebra and
theology. “That’s all I did, was study and study, even at night, keep
busy,” he told the jury.
After he got out of prison in 1968, Garrow continued
his violent ways. He testified that he committed a series of rapes in
the Syracuse area, some with very young girls. He said he would wander
the streets at night and when he came upon a good target, he would force
the victim in the woods. “I supposedly had a gun, which was a cap gun,
and we marched off in the bushes, and so forth, and we had intercourse,”
he said in a monotone.
During another rape, he abducted a girl who was
parked in a car with her boyfriend. “She was in a car, she was naked
with a guy on top of her, and I opened the door…telling them I was a
park patrol or something, and so forth…I had intercourse with her too,”
He also told the court about the attacks on the two
little girls in May 1973. “A couple of young girls, I supposedly had
sodomy with them and had incest with them. I guess one of them was
around 10 or 11, according to the indictment,” he said. Garrow testified
he took them to a hilly area in Camillus where he sexually assaulted
both victims. “I think there was one of the girls that took her dress
off, or lifted it up, if that will help you any,” he said to a stunned
courtroom. “The other girl I had her play with me.”
Garrow often gave his testimony in a flat monotone
tone as if he were talking about something mundane. He seemed agreeable
and cooperative when Belge asked the questions. The attorneys could ask
him anything, and he would tell them. But at times, he was evasive and
whenever it suited him, Garrow had memory loss. He frequently
contradicted himself, sometimes in the same sentence, and some jurors
rolled their eyes during his testimony.
But the story was just beginning. Murder was next.
"Bluntly, She is Dead"
Garrow rocked back and forth in his wheelchair from
time to time, rubbing his bad leg as if to remind the jury that he was
in pain. Of course, that may have worked against him since the jury knew
full well that he was shot while running from the police during an 11-day
manhunt. He pushed his glasses up his nose occasionally and sometimes
wiped the perspiration from his face with the back of his hand. He told
the court about the killing of Daniel Porter and his girlfriend, Susan
Petz, alternately taking the blame for the crime and at other times,
minimizing what he had done.
“It’s not too far from Speculator, anyways…this guy
comes up to my car and had long hair…I had my rifles and stuff…I want
you to know that,” Garrow said to Belge, “I said something because he
got mad…we got in an argument and before I knew it, I don’t know exactly
what happened…I try to tell you as much as I can by putting pieces
together, this guy got killed.”
“How did he get killed?” asked Belge.
“By a knife, and I was told that he was stabbed
several times, he was cut across the chest,” Garrow replied without
missing a beat.
“He had a girl with him, didn’t he?”
“She came out to help him, and I hit her,” Garrow
said. He took Susan Petz as a hostage, he explained, because she “was
very polite and everything, we had a wonderful conversation.” He told of
raping the girl prisoner for the next three days killing her on the
fourth day when she tried to escape.
“I guess I stabbed her,” he told the court.
“And what did you do with the body?” he was asked.
“Pushed it down the mine shaft,” he replied, “I ran
and I ran and I ran until …I came to my sense then, and I came to my
sister’s house. I noticed my hand was all bloody, my shirt was all torn.”
Garrow told the court that he could barely remember what happened
afterward and that he often became confused during acts of violence. As
he continued with his testimony, he recalled another murder.
“And there was another young lady involved,” he said
slowly, “In other words, to put it bluntly, she is dead.” The courtroom
got very still. Garrow stared straight ahead, as if in a trance. “Last
year, ’73, that was probably part of the reason I was scared, running…”
His voice trailed off.
“What happened?” Belge asked.
“This young lady was hitchhiking…she skipped summer
school that day...we had a conversation and everything, you know, and so
we had intercourse there…this is down below the cemetery…we got into a
little argument and she grabbed a hold of my knife and everything went
berserk after that!” Garrow rolled the wheels of his chair to face away
from the jury. He rubbed that portion of his leg where fragments of
police bullets still remained. “I don’t remember much of it…she could
have been 16, 17, 18, I don’t know…I don’t even know her name…we fell on
the ground, I just went berserk, that’s all. She was strangled with a
rope, or with a piece of wire or something.”
Of course, the girl’s identity was already known by
the police and everyone else. Her name was Alicia Hauck and her body had
finally been found in December 1973, months before the trial started.
After he killed her, Garrow said, he ran to downtown
Syracuse. He went back to his car and then drove home where he had
dinner with his wife, Edith. Then Garrow informed the jury of how he had
told both his attorneys, Francis Belge and Frank Armani, the details of
each of these murders and where the bodies of the victims could be found.
He said these conversations took place months ago and that the attorneys
had brought him photos of the dead girls for him to identify.
For three days, Garrow testified to a series of seven
rapes and four murders whose details both shocked and angered the court.
Whenever he seemed like he was coming to the end, he would remember
another crime or another rape and go into long, convoluted details about
the event. Belge let him continue unchecked for it was his hope that the
jury would decide that Garrow was insane and come to the conclusion that
he was “not guilty, by reason of insanity.”
However, it was an unrealistic expectation because
the truth was obvious to nearly everyone: Garrow both knew the
difference between right and wrong and was aware of the consequences of
his actions. If a defendant meets those criteria, he cannot be insane.
It didn’t matter how many people he killed or if he’d had sex with farm
animals and masturbated with the milk machine.
On June 27, 1974, with both the prosecution and the
defense finished with the presentation of their case, Judge Marthen
charged the jury. “If you find beyond a reasonable doubt that the
defendant, at the time he acted was not suffering from a mental disease
or defect of such a nature that he lacked substantial capacity to know
or appreciate the nature and consequence of his conduct and that conduct
was wrong…then you must return a verdict of guilty of murder,” he said
to the court. This was the standard instruction for a finding of “not
guilty by reason of insanity” verdict.
Although Garrow was obviously a deranged individual,
his attorneys had offered no proof that he did not know that killing a
human being was wrong. He had run from the police, which indicated guilt,
and testified that he had killed before. He also said he had concealed
the bodies and expected to go to jail for what he had done. All these
facts pointed to a man who knew that murder was wrong. After only two
hours of deliberations, the seven-man, five-woman jury reached a verdict.
At 6:22 p.m. that day, the jury returned to the court
and announced their verdict. Garrow was found guilty of murder in the
first-degree. He accepted the decision without any apparent emotion and
was quickly wheeled out of the courtroom after the jury was polled.
On July 1, Garrow was sentenced to 25 years to life.
“I’m sorry it happened,” he said of the murders. Garrow was transported
to upstate Clinton prison, in Dannemora near the Canadian border.
Garrow’s injuries continued to pain him and he frequently complained of
paralysis. But his physical condition may not have been as severe as he
made it out to be. A physical exam, conducted before the trial,
indicated Garrow was malingering and exaggerating his injuries for his
In an affidavit filed February 21, 1974, Doctor Frank
Dick wrote his findings. “Robert Garrow’s failure to walk is partially
subjective…there is no restriction of the movement of Robert Garrow’s
left leg when he left Physician’s Hospital in Plattsburgh, New York on
September 19, 1973,” the doctor wrote.
Furthermore, he pointed out “the alleged problem
regarding his back is in the opinion of your deponent entirely
subjective because there is no apparent cause for this problem as the
gunshot wound received in the back was entirely superficial.” Under
constant surveillance by the Correction Department and pumped full of
painkillers, which he demanded for his alleged injuries, Garrow fell
into the routine of prison life. But for attorneys Francis Belge and
Frank Armani, the trouble was just beginning.
The public fury over their conduct in the defense of
Garrow grew into a firestorm following the revelations that the two
lawyers had withheld the location of the bodies of Susan Petz and Alicia
"In the Highest Tradition"
A state court directed the state bar association to
investigate the behavior of both lawyers during the defense of their
client, not only for ethical violations but for criminal conduct. The
press continued to report the story and the issue became part of a
national dialogue on the ethics and morals of defense attorneys. The
New York Times reported that Belge and Armani “told neither police
nor one of the dead woman’s parents who had come to them seeking
information concerning her whereabouts. They only came forward with
their jolting admission only after their client had waived the privilege“
(June 17, 1973).
Everywhere, it seemed, controversy followed Belge and
Armani. In July 1973, Onondaga District Attorney Jon Holcombe announced
that a grand jury would probe the conduct of both lawyers to ascertain
if their behavior constituted a crime. “Citizens are in an absolute rage
here,” he said to reporters on July 1. Armani was furious and said he
was “stunned and shocked” by Holcombe’s decision to convene a grand jury.
“Any lawyer with any guts who knew what he was doing would have done the
same thing,” Armani said to the press, “but the law profession is
composed of many different kinds of lawyers.”
But Belge and Armani had supporters as well. A well-known
Chicago attorney told the Los Angles Times: “I’m in complete
agreement with these lawyers. They operated in accordance with the
highest traditions of the legal profession.” The concept of lawyer-client
confidentiality is long-established in U.S. history and by 1973, it was
written into law in 48 of 50 states.
Professor David Mellinkoff, author of The
Conscience of a Lawyer and an expert on legal ethics, explained the
complexities of the issues. He told The New York Times that a
lawyer is obligated to protect a client’s confidentiality but, as an
officer of the court, he cannot alter or conceal evidence in an ongoing
investigation. The bodies of Susan Petz and Alicia Hauck were considered
evidence and, during their visits to their gravesites, Belge and Armani
may have disturbed the crime scenes.
A lot of people wondered why one of the lawyers
didn’t simply contact the police anonymously and tell them where the
bodies were buried. At least the families of the victims could have
closure and the victims would have proper interment. But according to
some legal experts, even that would have been a violation of oath. And
evidence, such as hairs, fibers or blood gathered at the scene of the
crime could have been used against their client.
In February 1975, a grand jury proceeding was begun
in Onondaga County to decide if Belge and Armani had committed any
crimes when they refused to tell the police, or anyone else, about
Garrow’s admissions. When Armani testified, he told the panel how the
case had affected him personally. “God only knows that this thing drove
me crazy; it really bothered me. And if there was any way I could have,
I would have told Mr. and Mrs. Hauck. But my hands were tied. And as a
result, this thing has cost me dearly. My law practice failed. I spent
nearly $40,000 defending Garrow…I’ve lost about every friend I have. But
there was nothing else I could do. Please believe that!”
On February 25, 1975, Francis Belge was indicted by
the grand jury for health law violations pertaining to a speedy burial.
Given the issues involved, it seemed a trivial charge. The same jury
refused to indict Armani on any charges and he was exonerated.
Apparently the jury felt that Belge had gone a little further than
Armani when he moved Hauck’s body during his visit to Oakwood cemetery
in Syracuse. On the day the decision was announced, Armani suffered a
Both lawyers received death threats during and after
Garrow’s trial. They took to carrying loaded guns in their briefcases
and lived in fear for many years that someone would take revenge for
their stubborn defense of a ruthless killer like Robert Garrow. Their
respective law practices crumbled. Clients and friends deserted them.
Debts piled up. Belge gave up his practice and moved to Florida. Armani
stuck it out and, over the years, he was able to salvage his practice.
Escape From Fishkill
Garrow spent the first few years of incarceration at
Dannemora and Auburn Prison. In both institutions, he claimed that he
received unfair treatment and was the victim of police brutality at the
hands of the New York State Police. He also said that he was partially
paralyzed by gunshot wounds he suffered during his capture in 1973.
As a result, Garrow filed a $10 million lawsuit
against New York State citing these and other complaints. Perhaps due to
his lawsuit, Garrow was transferred from Dannemora to the less secure
facility at Fishkill, New York, where living conditions were a vast
improvement over what he was accustomed to at Clinton. The Corrections
Department later said that the inmate’s physical condition was the only
issue in the transfer. “No consideration other than the fact we had an
immobile inmate,” was the motivating factor in the transfer, a deputy
commissioner told the press in early September 1978.
Fishkill Correctional Facility is a sprawling complex
located in the rolling hills outside the village of Fishkill in Duchess
County. It was built in 1896 on 600 acres of farmland and became a
medium-security prison during the 1960s. Fishkill also contained the
notorious Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane where,
until the 1970s, inmates were sometimes incarcerated for decades for
minor infractions. But the prison was the target of a great deal of
criticism during this time for its security procedures.
From 1973 to 1978, an incredible 32 inmates had
escaped from the prison. Due to his medical condition, Garrow was placed
in a housing unit called the Elderly and Handicapped section, better
known as the E & H building.
On the night of September 8, 1978, Garrow placed a
dummy that he had constructed from rags and wire onto his cell bed. He
tucked a .32-caliber automatic handgun into his waistband and walked out
the front door of his cell. An investigation later indicated the gun was
smuggled into Fishkill prison in the bottom of a bucket of fried chicken.
(Garrow’s 18-year-old son, two inmates and an inmate’s wife were
ultimately arrested and charged for the incident.)
Because he was held in the E &H building, where,
security was not as good as it should have been, Garrow was able to walk
out of the ward unchallenged. He exited the building and carefully made
his way to the chain link fence that surrounded the facility. He managed
to climb the fence and drop down to the other side. Then he crawled to
the edge of the woods several hundred yards away from the E & H building.
Once he had reached an area where he felt safe hidden away in the
underbrush, he secreted himself in a spot where he could observe the
By morning, guards discovered Garrow missing. Retired
Correction Lieutenant Larry Lisotta, 65, recalled the event well. “We
couldn’t believe it. The most notorious prisoner in the system had
escaped right under the noses of the guards. It was hard to take,” he
said recently. “The entire staff went on alert. The Corrections
Emergency Response Team (CERT.) was called out from Greenhaven,” Lt.
Lisotta said. The CERT was a special squad made up of specially trained
personnel to handle prison emergencies, such as riots, hard to control
inmates and escapes.
Police also responded and surrounded the area.
Officials believed that Garrow had already left the area and was on his
way to the Adirondacks where he felt safe. “The feeling was that he was
already in Syracuse,” said Lt. Lisotta. “We searched every inch of the
area around Fishkill Prison. But it was a big area and covered with
forests. Also right next to the prison was a major interstate highway,
route 84 where he could have hijacked a car somehow. But the truth was
we didn’t know where he was.”
The public was outraged and scared, especially the
communities near the prison facility. Garrow’s crimes and his propensity
for violence were well known. “I can’t think of anybody more dangerous
to have running around loose,” a police representative told the press.
Search teams from nearby police departments flooded
into western Dutchess County. Hundreds of cops, assisted by a wide
variety of equipment, aircraft, police vehicles and dogs, descended upon
the area around Fishkill Correctional Facility. All stolen car reports
in nearby communities were meticulously investigated. Roadblocks were
set up everywhere. But unknown to anyone at the time, Garrow was less
than two hundred yards away from the prison.
He had found a hole in the ground, crawled in and
covered himself with brush and leaves. For three days, he lay there, not
daring to make a sound, studying the activity around him. More than
once, searchers came within a few feet of where he was hiding. Still, he
did not flinch.
On the third day of Garrow’s escape, a CERT team
member made a pivotal discovery. Not far from the prison walls, a
correction officer located a portable transistor radio. Officials
quickly traced the serial number of the radio and found it belonged to
Garrow. “That radio convinced us that he was still near the prison,”
said Lt. Lisotta, “because we knew we had searched that area previously
and no radio was found.”
On September 11, at about 6 p.m., Greenhaven
Correction Officer Dominic Arena, 25, performed another search through
the fields on the western edge of the prison.. This area was just a few
yards from a chain link fence that encompasses the grounds of Fishkill
prison. It was also just a stone’s throw from Interstate 84, where
thousands of cars passed by every day. “We had an idea that someone
could pull over and pick up Garrow very easily without being caught. I
think that whoever it was probably drove by several times but was afraid
to stop because we had so many officers out searching the area,” said Lt.
Lisotta recently. As Officer Arena walked slowly though the bush that
afternoon, he heard a quick movement a few feet away. At first he
thought it might have been an animal. Suddenly, Robert Garrow emerged
from his hiding place and began firing his automatic handgun. Arena was
hit in the leg by the first blast and fell to the ground.
The CERT. team opened up with shotguns, rifles and
handguns. Garrow was hit with a barrage of gunfire. He was sent reeling
backwards and was dead before he hit the ground. An autopsy later
determined that three .38-caliber bullets had pierced his heart and
Attorneys Francis Belge and Frank Armani paid a heavy
price for their questionable conduct in defense of Garrow. For years,
they continued to defend their decision to withhold information that
would have led to the discovery of Susan Petz and Alicia Hauck. Both men
believed their conduct was in compliance with their oath as attorneys.
“To Belge and me, this oath was and is a serious
matter, a sacred trust. At the time we took our oath of office, neither
of us had the slightest idea of the awesome consequences it would
someday carry,” Armani later wrote. In 1984, Frank Armani co-authored a
book called Privileged Information, which is a lengthy
explanation of why the two lawyers did what they did.
The grand jury indictment against Belge was
eventually dropped and neither attorney ever faced any criminal charges
for their conduct during the Garrow case. The New York State Bar
Association later found there had been no violation of legal ethics when
they failed to report the location of the dead bodies to authorities.
Belge died at age 63 in Lake Worth, Florida, in 1989.
As a result of Garrow’s sensational escape, Fishkill
Correctional Facility instituted new procedures that vastly improved its
security and alleviated fears of the surrounding community. As bad as
it was, Garrow’s escape was not the worst scenario for the prison’s
reputation. It was just the latest in a long series of escapes from the
facility. In May 1977, 10 inmates escaped from the prison in a mass
outbreak that had citizens and politicians outraged. Four of the
escapees were convicted killers. All were captured without loss of life.
In the fall and winter months, the roads in Lake
Pleasant are usually quiet and serene. But during the hectic summer
season, a multitude of tourists can be seen hustling through the rustic
Adirondack village tending to their chores and shopping excursions.
The community has long since returned to a sense of
normalcy since the terrible events of 1973 and the trial of Robert
Garrow. “I was only a teenager when that all happened,” said County
Clerk Jane Zarecki recently, “but I went to the trial often and I tell
you, I never heard of such things in my life. I almost couldn’t believe
it. During that time period, the town became paranoid, people locked
their doors, slept with loaded guns under their pillows.”
In a sense, Garrow destroyed or affected almost
everyone he came into contact with, including his own family. His son,
Robert Jr., was eventually convicted in the jailbreak of his father and
was sentenced to four years in prison for his crimes. He has been in
trouble with the law several times over the years. But Garrow would
never live to see his son in jail. Even during his own trial, he had a
premonition he wouldn’t live very long. “I feel bad about it all…right
now, you got me living on borrowed time,” he told the court.
A newspaper editorial, published a few days after
Garrow’s death, put into harsh words what a lot of people already
believed, “Justice was served in the shooting death of Robert Garrow
this week…he was a malignant cancer on the society that fostered him...less
than useless to the human race” (Poughkeepsie Journal, September
14, 1978). Garrow is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York,
not far from where Alicia Hauck was murdered.
M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE: Sex./Sad.
Stabbed/bludgeoned two men and two women
25 years to life on one count, 1974; shot
dead in prison break Sept. 11, 1978