If you are from Rochester NY, or at least the upstate area,you know at least part of the story of Arthur John Shawcross. His criminal career began with crimes like burglary and arson, but the craziest thing about his past is that he had already been imprisoned once for murder. His first two victims were innocent children, a boy age 10 and girl age 8. He served 14 1/2 years on a 25 year sentence for these slayings even before the killing spree that made him famous and earned him the moniker of “The Genesee River Killer.”
Shawcross moved to Rochester in 1987 and resided in the Cadillac Hotel located on Chestnut, then moved to Normandie on Alexander, right near the heart of the city. No one knew of his grisly past, a colossal screwup/coverup attributed to the parole office by not informing any resident about the killer in their mist. He went on to murder 12 women during his bloody 2 year period of abominable savagery.
The eventual capture of Shawcross had all the drama of Hollywood thriller. He was caught by a police surveillance team as he urinated outside of his sky blue 1984 Chevy Celebrity, in very close proximity to the waters where he dumped his final victim. It was said that he even used the car itself to commit his final murder, rolling up the window and strangling a prostitute when she stuck her head through the window at a stop light. Prosecutors had the door of the vehicle removed to be entered into evidence for use at the time of trial.
Arthur John Shawcross was tried and convicted of ten counts of murder in Monroe County and 1 count in Wayne County. He was sentenced to over 250 years in prison for his heinous crimes, many which were found to have been committed in his vehicle. The car itself belonged to his girlfriend Clara Neal and she too was thought to be involved in these gruesome acts. At the time of his confession though Shawcross made it know he acted alone and that she was never aware of his proclivity for homicide. Which brings me to the question that may be on the minds of people who, like me, tend to latch on to the most inane details that others barely pay any attention to at all? What happened to the car?
There was no way after finding out his true nature and the macabre details of events that transpired in the vehicle would Clara, who I assume is now his ex-girlfriend, want to ever ride or be seen in it again. Well, as it turns out she left the car in police custody, and like all cars that are left for dead in the hands of the authorities, it was put up for auction. SOLD! A murder mobile with enough bad juju in it to give Stephen King the creeps!
It took 21 long years before that tiny percentage that cared enough to ask a pointless question got an answer. In December 2011 the D&C ran a local news piece about Paul Kubrich of Webster; the proud owner of a sky blue 1984 Chevy Celebrity minus a front passenger side door to boot. Paul acquired the car when his father passed and remembered him telling him stories of its origin and significance; which coincidentally is why he was listing the car for sale to the tune of $15,525. A hefty sum for a car that could only be described as a real p.o.s. in my eyes. I mean, could murder really up the value of car?
Digging deeper into the whereabouts Shawcross’ veritable “hell on wheels” led me into the shadowy and morbid world of murder memorabilia. Ok, so for the many uninformed people such as myself, there is actually a very large market for items and knick knacks either owned or created by serial killers. A second piece on a D&C Watchdog blog reported that Shawcross in particular had the parts to his car and other various items being sold on a site called SerialKillersInk.net with bids starting as low as $110 for a swatch of the seat and as much as $1600 for a hubcap. I gather they must have sold because they are no longer listed on the site, although if you were so inclined you could have purchased a letter written by him, his recipe for rabbit stew, or a signed picture of him with whom I could only surmise was either and ex-wife or girlfriend. Mind you, I said could have. It seems that the site is all out of stock, and unless he can find a way to work from beyond the grave, will not be receiving any new musings from the putrid mind of Arthur J. Shawcross.
Still, why the obsession with death and those who became infamous for their enjoyment of killing? Why do we watch Dexter and cheer for the murderous antihero? Sure, if you understand the plot of Dexter then you know he in fact only killed “bad guys” that he personally vetted to be sure of their guilt. A whimsical, off kilter, noble, but slightly underhanded gesture made by the producers to pull viewers into the mind of a psychopath hiding amongst the so called normal people. After all, even though you know its ghastly and inhumane, your natural curiosity begs to find out, why?
My curiosity led me to email a man known simply as Eric, the owner of SerialKillersInk.net. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I initially wrote him but what got was a very revealing insight into human nature that I found to be a bit frightening and over all very disconcerting. “True crime and specifically murder, is a money-making business”, as stated by Eric. This was the single most powerful statement he made in his response, and was one I had heard and thought I at least partially understood before I began my research into the deadly sedan used by Shawcross to ferry the bodies of his victims to their final resting places. A closer look reveals the ugliest truth of them all: Murder is more than just a money maker; it is big business on a world wide scale.
Do you know how many people died during the First World War? Over 16 million are believed to have perished. The Second World War took the lives of over 60 million. A lesser known fact is that prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the sinking of U.S. ships by German u-boats, American supplied weapons to both sides of the war. At the time that the rest of the world was fighting Americans were wallowing in the depths of the Great Depression. The war was essential to the economic rebound that occurred in the early 40’s. If you take a look throughout the entire world in our documented history you will find examples of people in power benefiting from bloodshed.
A man born into poverty knows only the struggle and pain that comes with being a have-not. There aren’t too many jobs to be had where he lives. Eventually he grows tired of his destitute life and finds another much more illegal way to get his small taste of the so-called highlife. A taste he believes is so sweet he would kill for a chance to sample it just once. His desire causes him to devalue a human life to the point where taking one is less about the consequences and more about the gain.
A business man sits in his corner office. Maybe he wasn’t always wealthy but by now he is so far removed from that life it wouldn’t really matter. He outsources most of his business and does nothing to serve the communities his products are sold in. He is for all intents and purposes trying to bleed them dry. The properties that he owns are hovels that are near the point of collapse. They are breeding grounds for crime and violence. He could fix them but that would affect his bottom line, and in business that all that matters is the bottom line.
Both of these men kill. For one of them it’s fast, so fast in fact that by time he stops to think of the repercussions it’s over. For the other its slower, and more methodical, he is so displaced from the act that people are no more than figures and factors without faces or feelings. They are both murderers whose paths are littered with the bodies of the people they forsake to achieve their goals. Which brings me back to SerialKillersInk and other sites like it that sell the artwork and personal items of some of the nation’s most notorious criminals.
Despite the perceived depravity and lack of sympathy for innocent victims of the crimes SerialKillersInk is just a business, like any other, that has found a way to profit from the curious and eccentric fascinations of the masses. If there is fault to be found here then society itself is to blame.
Regimes have risen and fallen; countries have been founded and forged, with their avenues to power lubricated by carnage and darkness. So these sites that profit from the works of killers are no more than just new entrants to the world of murder for money. In fact, they may be to most civil of those who turn a profit from death.
Now back to Arthur Shawcross’s car. Maybe it’s worth money, maybe it’s not. That really depends on who is assigning value to it and those that recognize that value and acknowledge it. The truth is that its value and relevance was assigned to it by the evolution of a societal bloodlust that grows from a ravenous need for power. Forget about the car and who bought the hubcaps.
Greed and supremacy are the real vehicles of murder and every single one of are bustling about trying to find a way to get a little piece.