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Robert Wayne MARSHALL





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Gay alcoholic - Dismemberment/disembowelment
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: 1988 / 1992
Date of birth: 1955
Victims profile: Michael Hickmott, 30 / Anthony P. Michalowski, 22
Method of murder: ???
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Committed suicide to avoid arrest on May 15, 1992

Robert Wayne Marshall is another past Edison hotel guest whom police suspect was a violent serial killer. Overwhelming evidence pointed to Marshall, 37, as the culprit in the dismemberment/disembowelment deaths of Anthony Michalowski in 1988 and Michael Hickmott in 1992.

Killers of such bloodthirsty methods usually don’t start with such gruesomeness, police say. Marshall may have killed many more, but he killed himself in 1992 as police closed in on him for the Hickmott murder. He left no suicide note.


Mon Valley murder mystery

Michalowski case still unsolved after two decades

By Jason Togyer - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

January 17, 1999

Allegheny County police Inspector Floyd Nevling was sure that someone was playing a prank when he heard that a human head had been found in a trash bin in North Versailles Township.

“Someone probably found a mannequin head left over from Halloween,” Nevling thought as he headed to the scene just as few days after Christmas 1988.

But as soon as he looked inside the garbage bag, he realized it was no joke. And soon the Mon Valley would be gripped in panic as residents all over the region reported finding human remains.

Most turned out to be parts of deers or other animals, but after two more grisly finds in North Braddock and Whitaker, the Allegheny County coroner’s office was able to positively identify the victim as 22-year-old Anthony P. Michalowski.

Police described Michalowski as a “drifter” from the North Side of Pittsburgh with no known connection to the Mon Valley.

‘Mankind has many mysteries’

More than 150 mourners attended a funeral service for Michalowski on Jan. 28, 1989, in St. Peter Roman Catholic Church near the former Three Rivers Stadium, though most of his body wasn’t recovered.

And despite hundreds of telephone tips and an investigation that spanned several states, investigators don’t know when or where he died.

Indeed, Michalowski’s death was never ruled a homicide because forensic pathologists couldn’t tell what killed him.

“I wanted to clear that case in the worst possible way,” said the man they called “The Silver Fox”—retired county homicide Detective Charlie Lenz, who led the Michalowski investigation. “That case did bug me.”

“It was one of those we knew was going to take a long time to figure out,” he said. “People said, `You’ll never get it,’ and I wanted to prove them wrong.”

“Mankind has many mysteries,” said Dr. Joshua Perper, former Allegheny County Coroner. “Add this one to the long list.”

Like his death, Michalowski’s last days are an enigma. He was seen in a Lawrenceville bar on Dec. 24, 1988, Nevling said, and police were told by witnesses that he might have been in a tavern in Great Valley Shopping Center.

No known link to the Mon Valley

But Nevling said Michalowski rarely strayed far from the North Side and had no known link to the Mon Valley.

A high school dropout who was known to disappear for long periods of time, police said Michalowski didn’t have a steady job and hung out on Liberty Avenue—then Downtown’s center for strip bars and prostitution.

“He could have been taking up with anybody and everybody,” said Lenz, who began his career with Pittsburgh police in 1950 and retired from the county in 1996. “When you’re dealing with transients, it makes (for) a difficult case to solve.”

Several Liberty Avenue regulars told investigators Michalowski was working as a male prostitute, but his family disputed the claims at the time.

Walter Engel of the North Side, who was then married to Michalowski’s mother, said recently Michalowski wasn’t homosexual—and that while he liked to party, he wasn’t the drifter police made him out to be.

‘He was a good kid’

“He was just a young kid ... he was a good kid,” Engel said. “One time I tried to get him to go into the Army, I even gave him $100. I hoped it would straighten him out—I hoped it would slow him down a bit.”

Toxicology tests on Michalowski’s remains showed high concentrations of sedatives were in his bloodstream when he died, Nevling said. That led investigators to wonder whether he was drugged into unconsciousness, then killed, or if he died of an overdose and was dismembered.

“For this to be a purely accidental death seems unlikely,” Nevling said. “Somebody had to have a pretty malicious reason to do this.”

Perper, now the medical examiner in Broward County, Fla., said the decapitation was “crude” and called it “a terrible mutilation. ... There was so little of the body.”

Michalowski’s head was found on the night of Dec. 27, 1988, behind the Able Home Center in Great Valley Shopping Center by a man who said he was scavenging for cardboard boxes. Longtime employee Ron Pedersen said the man went to a nearby drugstore to call police.

‘They were shocked’

One cashier at the center who declined to give her name said business was slow that night—until police began pouring into the store and questioning employees.

“They were shocked,” said Pedersen of North Versailles, who was running the hardware store’s service desk that night.

Detectives canvassed the shopping center trying to find someone who might have seen the bag being dumped, said Nevling, who retired from the county in 1992. “The immediate thing you do is start searching the crime scene,” he said. “You look for evidence. We really found nothing.”

As a police sketch was being released to the news media Dec. 29, another find was made in Whitaker by a black Labrador retriever named Molly, owned by John Zelena of Lincoln Avenue.

Under the shrubs at the home of Zelena’s neighbors, Bill and Flo Lackovich, Molly found what turned out to be a lung and several of Michalowski’s teeth, investigators said.

Flo Lackovich was at work in Squirrel Hill. Her husband was unwinding with the crowd at Pido’s Pub on Ravine Street in Munhall.

Whitaker was ‘agast’

“They said, ‘Hey, Bill! Your house is on TV!’“ Bill Lackovich recalled.

“Everyone was just aghast,” added Flo Lackovich. “Why did they pick our place?”

To her, it’s evidence “how crazy” the world has become. “It’s very sad,” Lackovich said. “How can you do that?”

Across the county, people began calling police and claiming they, too, had found remains.

“It was kind of a panic situation,” said Joe Dominick, former senior deputy coroner and chief of operations in the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office. “Everybody and their brother was calling the office with whatever they found.”

Their discoveries turned out to be animal remains—deer season was in full swing—until Jan. 3, 1989, when a security guard at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works found a jawbone near a pedestrian entrance on Braddock Avenue.

The next day, when a revised, computer-enhanced photo of the victim’s face was shown on television, Michalowski’s aunt called police to say the picture looked like her nephew. Dental records confirmed the identity.

WTAE hosts ‘Head-a-Thon’

Because of his frequent, lengthy absences, Michalowski had never been reported missing, Lenz and Nevling said.

On Jan. 6, 1989, WTAE-TV hosted a live, 30-minute call-in show in which county police solicited information from the public. Nevling’s teen-age children dubbed it the “head-a-thon.” Investigators were confident the tips would lead them to a suspect, and several were targeted.

“We always felt it was someone familiar with North Versailles,” Lenz said. If the suspect was from somewhere besides the Turtle Creek Valley, he said, “why not dump that head somewhere other than that damned Dumpster?”

Police pressed hard on one suspect with a history of picking up young men and choking them to unconsciousness, and on another with a violent past to whom Michalowski supposedly owed money.

Investigators were afraid whoever dismembered Michalowski was a serial killer and would strike again, Nevling said. Police watched Teletypes for months and contacted departments around the country whenever similar crimes were reported, he said.

Their best suspect was Robert Wayne Marshall, 37, of Shadyside, who was charged with criminal homicide in the 1992 slaying and dismemberment of 30-year-old Michael Hickmott. But Marshall committed suicide in the Strip District before police could question him.

Discussions with forensic psychologists and experience with similar cases enabled police to create a profile of the person who dismembered Michalowski, Nevling said. Doctors told police the suspect was likely a white male with a history of mental illness who was within 10 years of Michalowski’s age.

“The person that did this had a lot of hate, and he vented by doing what he did,” Nevling said. “It was almost certainly a male—women are getting more like men all the time, but it’s highly unlikely it was a woman. They haven’t gotten into the really brutal murders yet.”

Clues scarce; motive unknown

“You have to ask yourself, is an individual who murders another individual, then scatters the body, normal?” said Perper, the former coroner. “Certainly he’s not normal. Certainly this is a person who is very violent, but even that has to be taken with a grain of salt.”

The main difficulty in solving the case, Nevling said, was that too much time had passed between when Michalowski was last seen alive and when his remains were discovered.

“The rule of thumb is if you’re going to solve a homicide, it’s going to be done in the first 72 hours,” he said. “We were already just about at the cutoff.”

Even with today’s forensic technology, Perper doubts investigators would have had much more success.

“We identified the (victim)—that’s the important piece,” he said. “But you have to identify the cause of death and the manner of death. (If) you don’t have a body, how are you going to do that?”

DNA evidence—blood on a suspect’s clothing, for example—would have helped crack the case, Perper said.

“Short of that, I don’t see how you do it,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of the body was missing. You can’t make a determination on things that are absent.”

The Michalowski case was the kind that comes along “only two or three times in a career,” Domenick said, “particularly in an area like Pittsburgh.”

“It finds a little place in your heart,” he said.



MO: Gay alcoholic; dismembered male victims.

DISPOSITION: Suicide to avoid arrest, May 15, 1992.



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