The frantic search for the Windsor, Ontario slasher killer stretched over two years, 1945 and 1946. There were five victims. Two savagely shredded. One with his buttocks repeatedly slashed.
The crime was shocking – incomprehensibly violent for the city’s holdover Victorian mentality – more so when the Windsor police investigation revealed – and made public – that the slasher spree focused on the city’s secret pervert community.
One of the victims was a war veteran, wearing his Essex Scottish uniform when, after repeated random body stabbings, his throat was ripped open. Hugh Blackwood Price, 44, was also known locally as “Professor Cosmo.” Self-styled tea leaf reader. Astrologer. “Alleged homosexual.”
(Had he had a police conviction, he would have been ID’d “known homosexual.” Later, in the Gay Lib ’70s, activists were called “admitted” or “avowed” in press coverage. Today: “Well Worn Out.”)
According to a current online Windsor Police Department history detailing the slasher killings, the Royal Canadian Mounties and Detroit Police were asked for assistance.
“Windsor was now in a panic with tips flooded in about every stranger. Theories abounded and the paper likened this to a modern-day Jack the Ripper. In a few days, 30 of the usual suspects had been arrested and interviewed. Shortly after that, the number swelled to more than 100 but still with no leads.”
Detroit input included providing background data on the extensive homosexual community centering in downtown gay bars, details on how homosexuals might be spotted – code words, special dress, drink choices – and persons suspected of spending inordinate amounts of time in Windsor.
The WPD history includes, “The last victim, Joseph Gelenscer, 48, had gone down to the river to cool off when he met a young man. Gelenscer told police the stranger started talking about women. Gelenscer said he told him he was married and wasn’t interested in sex talk. He turned away. He was stabbed in the back with a kitchen knife.”
The recovered kitchen knife appeared in the Windsor Daily Star, leading to the arrest of Ronald Sears, 18. Sears’s sister-in-law saw the photo and recognized the knife as part of Sears’s extensive collection. She turned him in (for which she collected a $3,000 reward).
After a seven-hour interrogation – without food, family contact, or let up – Sears confessed. His motivation: revenge for adult homosexual seduction at age nine. Sears now faced the death penalty. He was convicted. The Ontario Court of Appeals deemed otherwise.
Five judges reviewed his case, finding that Sears’s “confession” was not voluntary, adding “this is not British justice.” Wrote Time magazine, “Last week, just 14 days before he was to have been executed, the court unanimously voided Sears’s conviction. It was the same thing as acquittal, at least on the Price murder charge. Sears might still be charged with the other murder, or the stabbings, if the police thought that they could salvage admissible evidence.
“But Ronald Sears was not worried. As he was moved out of the death cell in Windsor’s jail he said to his mother, “See, Ma, I told you not to worry; everything is going to be all right.”
A second trial followed in 1947. Sears was convicted, but also judged schizophrenic while in jail. He spent 12 years in a mental institution, dying of TB.
Incarnation: Last month Vincent J. Pavata, a Miami gay man, was repeatedly stabbed to death in his home. James Arauz, 20, – who, with a straight face, claimed he has nothing against gays per se – says he was only defending himself from unwanted sexual advances.
A Miami-Dade Police Department spokesperson doubts Arauz will be prosecuted for a hate crime.
(Look Ma! Murder by bread-and-butter knife.)