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Double Initial Murders: Michelle Maenza

February 16, 2019 01:39 PM

MACEDON, N.Y. (WHEC) -- The early 1970s was a scary time in Rochester. Three young girls were kidnapped, raped and murdered. 

This month, News10NBC is taking you Inside the Evidence of the Double Initial Murders. 

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The first victim: Carmen Colon, 10, found near Churchville. Then Wanda Walkowicz, 11, was dumped in Webster. The final victim: Michelle Maenza, 11, found in Macedon. 

The killer has never been caught. 

News10NBC's Nikki Rudd got her hands on evidence in the Maenza case never seen before. 

It was Thanksgiving weekend 1973, just eight months after Wanda Walkowicz was found dead. This time another girl with double initials was murdered the same way. 

"The autopsy revealed that the girl was strangled and death was caused by asphyxiation," said then Rochester Police Captain Andrew Sparacino. 

Michelle Maenza had also been raped. 

The 11-year-old lived with her mother on Webster Crescent in Rochester. Her parents were separated. She went to School No. 33 on Webster Avenue. 
    
 "It was the first day she was allowed to walk home by herself," said Wayne County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Kevin Kuntz.

He says on Nov 26, 1973, Michelle's uncle saw her near the North Goodman Street shopping plaza. 

"Her mother had lost her purse there a couple days prior, and Michelle was planning on looking for her mother's purse," said Sgt. Kuntz. 

Her uncle offered her a ride home, but she declined. 

News10NBC interviewed Michelle's father, Christopher Maenza, after she disappeared. 

"Well, she's a very sensitive girl, and she likes to look for friends," Christopher Maenza told News10NBC reporter Warren Doremus.  

Maenza said there was no indication of anything wrong. 

"No, nothing, not a thing. She wouldn't run away from home," said Maenza. 

Detectives later found a witness who saw Michelle sitting in the front seat of a car on Webster Avenue and Ackerman Street. 

"The car was traveling at a high rate of speed and Michelle appeared to be crying," explained then Rochester Police Detective Lt. Anthony Fantigrossi. 

That was around 3:30 p.m. 

There would be two more sightings of Michelle that day.

Around 4:30 p.m., a girl who looked like Michelle was seen sitting in a car at Carrol's Restaurant, a burger joint, in Panorama Plaza in Penfield. 

Investigators say the witness saw a man with "dirty hands" return to the car with a bag of food and a drink. 

Then, at 5:30 p.m. there was another sighting. This time on Route 350 in Walworth. 

The witness says he saw a man on the side of the road standing next to a large beige or tan vehicle. The trunk was open, and the man was holding a girl who looked like Michelle by the wrist. 

"He rolled down his window to see if the guy needed any help and basically was glared at by the individual," said Sgt. Kuntz. 

The suspect and vehicle description were exactly the same. 

"Do you believe that was Michelle?" asked News10NBC's Nikki Rudd. 

"I believe so," said Sgt. Kuntz. 
  
Two days later, Michelle was found dead less than a mile away from the sighting on Route 350. 

The Walworth Volunteer Fire Chief at the time discovered her body in a ditch on Eddy Road in Macedon. 

Sgt. Kuntz showed News10NBC pictures that have never been shared before.

"These are the boots Michelle was wearing," said Sgt. Kuntz. 

He also showed us the coat she was wearing when she went missing. It was found less than a mile away from where her body was discovered on Eddy Road. 

An autopsy showed Michelle had been strangled by ligature. 

"They believe possibly someone from behind strangled her with maybe a thin rope," said Sgt. Kuntz. "The autopsy revealed there was a hamburger and onions in Michelle's stomach, contents which would be consistent with someone feeding her a few hours prior to her death." 

This led investigators to believe it was in fact Michelle spotted at the Carrol's Restaurant in Penfield. 
  
Detectives also recovered key evidence: semen from Michelle's body and her underwear. 

DNA tests weren't available at the time, and Sgt. Kuntz says a lot of the early samples were used up. 

"So unfortunately, by the time DNA technology progressed, there was little sample left to get a profile," said Sgt. Kuntz.  

Police also found a white "Derby Plus" brand men's t-shirt along Route 350 where the witness saw a car pulled over and a man holding a girl by the wrist. 

It was a size 38/40. 

Sgt. Kuntz says it was an off-brand of Fruit of the Loom only sold at a few stores in Rochester at the time, and usually only as a promotional item. 

It was sent to a lab for DNA testing, but none was found. 

However, this time, police got a good description of the suspect from those two witnesses. 

Police released a composite of what the suspect looked like to the media. 

"I feel there's no question somebody knows this man. He was seen on two different occasions in the area we were looking," said then Det. Lt. Fantigrossi. 

The suspect was described as a white man between 25 to 35 years old. He was about six feet tall and 165 pounds. 

He was wearing a blue or dark colored ski-type vest and jeans. Both witnesses said his jeans were tucked into a pair of brown cowboy boots with belt buckles on the side. 

"They also described the individual having several days growth of beard and kind of long dirty finger nails," said Sgt. Kuntz. 

The suspect was driving a beige or tan colored car. 

A hotline was set up for tips in the case. Hundreds of calls came in, but no arrests were ever made. 
            
News10NBC's Warren Doremus interviewed then Rochester Police Captain Andrew Sparracino. 

"Are you convinced it was the same man who killed Carmen Colon and Wanda Walkowicz?" asked Doremus. 

"I'm not convinced, but I strongly suspect we're looking for the same person," said Capt. Sparracino. 

Nearly 50 years later, Sgt. Kuntz agrees. 

I definitely feel there's a good chance all three cases are connected," said Sgt. Kuntz. 

"Do you think this person is still out there?" asked Rudd. 

"I have the feeling that they are," Sgt. Kuntz replied. 

Anyone with information on the murder of Michelle Maenza is asked to call the Wayne County Sheriff's Office at (315) 946-5781. You can also email: tip@co.wayne.ny.us

Coming up next week:  the similarities and differences between these Double Initial Murders. 

Were they all the work of one killer? You might be surprised what investigators told News10NBC. 

WEB EXTRA: Archives: News10NBC's 1973 reports on Michelle Maenza 

Click here to watch our report on Carmen Colon. 

Click here to watch our report on Wanda Walkowicz. 

Click here for the composite sketch of the Double Initial Murder suspect. 

Check out an interactive map on the Double Initial Murders tracing the last steps of each victim.

Credits

Nikki Rudd

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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