ROCHESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT
MAJOR CRIME UNIT HISTORY
‘Alphabet’ / Double Initial Murders: Between 1971 and 1973, three children were taken off of the streets of Rochester. They were raped, strangled, and their bodies were dumped in surrounding rural areas. Each victim had the same first and last initial and were found in towns starting with the same letter. Wanda Wakowiz, 11 years old, found in Webster; Carmen Colon, 10 years old, found in Chili; Michelle Maenza, 11 years old, found in Macedon. These cases remain unsolved and the Major Crimes Unit continues to work with the New York State Police, Monroe County Sheriff, and Wayne County Sheriff to solve these murders.
“Sammy G” Car Bombing (April 23, 1978) ‘Mafia A/B War’: Decades of tension between organized crime factions in the Rochester area culminated when Salvatore “Sammy G” Gingello, a member of a notorious Rochester crime family, was killed. Several attempts on Gingello’s life had been made; however, he was ultimately killed as he and his two body guards entered his parked vehicle on Stillson Street in the early morning hours.
Serial Killer Arthur Shawcross (March 24, 1988 through January 4, 1990): It was during this time that Arthur Shawcross raped, mutilated, and murdered 11 women. The Rochester Police Department, along with its law enforcement partners, conducted in-depth interviews and detailed crime scene searches; physical and other evidence was gathered which provided an undisputable case against Shawcross. On January 4, 1990, Shawcross was arrested and confessed to the killings. He was convicted and sentenced to 250 years to life. Shawcross was held at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York, where he was held until his death on November 10, 2008.
Brinks Robbery (January 5, 1993) : On this date, 7.4 million dollars was stolen from the Brink’s Armored Car Depot at 370 South Avenue. The robbery was the 5th largest in United States history at the time. After a lengthy investigation, 4 men were arrested for their parts in the crime. Following a 7 week trial, Rev. Patrick Moloney and Samuel Millar were convicted for their part in the robbery. Both men had ties to the Irish Republican Army. Two others were acquitted by a federal jury. The robbery was documented in the Gary Craig book 7 Million, which was used as the basis for the 2022 Discovery Plus documentary, ‘Holy Heist’.
Snug Harbor Court Bombings (December 28, 1993) : Pamela Apperson and Richard Urban were killed when a bomb exploded inside an apartment at 55 Snug Harbor Court. This incident was part of a federal investigation where 5 additional bombs were delivered to other Western New York locations. Dynamite based devices were delivered to the Brockton Correctional Facility in Buffalo, NY; the Roosevelt Town Road Post Office in Massena, NY; a residence in Cheektowaga, NY; a residence in Cattaraugus, NY; and a residence in West Valley, New York. 3 people were killed and 2 people were badly injured in these bombings. The investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of Michael Stevens and his accomplice, Earl Figley. Michael Steven’s motive for the bombing campaign was to punish the family of his girlfriend.
Jennifer Koon Abduction (May 13, 1993) : Jennifer Koon, an 18 year old college sophomore at St. John Fisher College, was on the way home from work when she drove into Pittsford Plaza to buy bagels. A stranger abducted her in the parking lot and forced her to drive to an ATM and withdraw money. Jennifer was then driven to the city where she was beaten, raped, and shot. During the brutal assault, Jennifer managed to dial 911 on her cell phone. Despite the desperate efforts of responding officers, she was ultimately killed and left in her vehicle on Orpheum Street. Her murderer was convicted and is serving a life sentence.
Avenue D Quadruple Murder (November 6, 1996) : Angel Mateo was a suspect in a home invasion and attempted murder at 966 Avenue D. The victim was handcuffed, had his throat slashed, and shot multiple times. Upon his arrest for the home invasion, Angel Mateo confessed to his involvement in 4 previous murders: Peter Holley shot at 7 Lorimer St on September 22, 1995; Johvany Diaz and Joangel Toro shot at 540 Jay St on August 6, 1995 and Juan Matos kidnapped at gunpoint on Jay St and taken to 142 Saxton St where he was handcuffed, blindfolded, shot in the head and dumped at 26 Scherer St, on November 5, 1996. Angel Mateo is serving a life sentence without parole.
Schoolgirl Rapes (June 22, 2005) : Between 1993 and 1997, RPD was investigated a series of schoolgirl rapes. The perpetrator conducted morning attacks on female victims in the area of their bus stops. Victims between 12-17 years of age were dragged from behind to nearby remote locations where they were sexually assaulted. In 2005, a DNA hit returned connecting Keith Lamar Laster to the schoolgirl rapes. He was taken into custody by RPD Major Crimes Unit investigators and U.S. Marshalls in Alabama on June 22, 2005. Keith Lamar Laster was interviewed and he made admissions to MCU investigators that he had sexual contact with the Rochester school girls. Keith Lamar Laster was found guilty of rape and is serving a 50 year prison sentence.
Remington Street Double Child Murders (March 3, 1999) : José Julian Santiago, AKA “The Red Devil”, was identified in a hospital show-up procedure for the brutal attack on a family of 5 at 16 Remington St. Victims had their hands tied behind their backs, robbed of their jewelry and were shot and stabbed multiple times. Drequan Scrivens, 2 and Zyrone Scrivens, 14, died as a result of the attack. Chaquita Wims, 16, Shuntavia Scrivens, 19 and Bernetta Wims, 35, all survived their injuries. Santiago robbed the family to support his drug habit and intended to kill everyone to avoid being identified. He is serving a life sentence in prison.
Robert Spahalski Murders (November 8, 2005) : Robert Spahalski walked into Rochester Police Headquarters and confessed to killing his friend Vivian Irizarry in the basement of her home at 202 Spencer Street. Responding officers discovered her bludgeoned, partially clad body. For the next 12 hours he was interrogated by homicide investigators and confessed to 3 additional murders, spanning 15 years. Spahalski detailed the strangulation murders of Moraine Armstrong on December 31, 1990 at 509 Lake Ave; Adrian Berger on July 21, 1991 at 85 Emerson St; and the bludgeoning death of Charles Grande on October 4, 1991 in Webster, N.Y. Spahalski was a career criminal and a long time person of interest in these cases. He has an identical twin brother also in prison for murder. The pair has been the subject of several crime novels and television shows.