February 22, 2019 11:25 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) - This month News10NBC has been taking you Inside the Evidence of the Double Initial murders. The brutal killings of three Rochester girls in the early 1970s have never been solved.
A big question that remains unanswered: Was it the work of one killer?
"There are many different theories," said Monroe County Sheriff's Sgt. CJ Zimmerman. "One or two killers? I don't know the answer."
Each girl was found in or near a town that started with the same initial as her first and last name.
Carmen Colon was dumped near Churchville. Wanda Walkowicz in Webster. Michelle Maenza was found in Macedon.
The victims were around the same age: 10 or 11-years-old. They were all abducted from Rochester, sexually assaulted and strangled.
Every investigator News10NBC spoke with agrees it could have been one killer.
"Are they connected?" News10NBC's Nikki Rudd asked Wayne County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Kevin Kuntz.
"I believe they are," he replied. "I think there's too many similarities."
Carmen Colon, Wanda Walkowicz and Michelle Maenza all came from low-income families. They were all Catholic and none of them lived in a home with both parents.
The abductions all occurred between about 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. All the girls were dumped in rural areas on the side of a road in a town matching the initials of their first and last names.
"There was definitely some similarities between those cases," said New York State Police Investigator George Grbic.
However, he believes the whole double initial thing may have been a coincidence.
"My name is also matching initial first name and last name," said Inv. Grbic. "I think it's more common than people realize."
Also, Carmen's body was technically found in the Town of Riga near Churchville.
Inv. Grbic also points out that none of the cases have been genetically linked.
"At least two of the cases, the Michelle Maenza and the Wanda Walkowicz case look more similar," said Inv. Grbic. "I'm not discounting it. I would just say I'd be cautious to link those cases."
Here's why some investigators, including an FBI profiler, believe a separate suspect is responsible for the murder of Carmen Colon.
"Carmen, when she was found, she was found partially clothed," said Sgt. Zimmerman. "Wanda and Michelle were found fully clothed."
Sgt. Zimmerman says Carmen was also found with an empty stomach. This was not the case for Wanda and Michelle. Carmen was manually strangled from the front. Wanda and Michelle were strangled by ligature from behind.
"I think there are circumstances that explain the difference," said Monroe County Sheriff's Investigator Trevor Hibbard.
Carmen was actually able to get away. She was seen the day she disappeared running half-naked along 490.
"It kind of makes sense that she would be half-clothed, that the strangulation was a lot more personal from the front," said Sgt. Zimmerman.
So what about suspects?
Joseph Naso is a convicted serial killer on death row. He lived in Rochester at the time of the Double Initial murders. A woman he killed in California had the same name as one of the victims in the Double Initial murders: Carmen Colon.
Kenneth Bianchi also grew up in Rochester. He's known as the Hillside Strangler for a string of murders in California.
"Those suspects have been ruled out by DNA evidence," said Inv. Grbic.
Dennis Termini, a Rochester city firefighter, was also a suspect. He killed himself in 1974 when police tried to question him about the attempted rape of an 18-year-old woman. Termini's body was exhumed. The DNA did not match.
"Another person of interest was Carmen's Uncle: Miguel Colon," said Sgt. Zimmerman.
He had left Rochester for Puerto Rico shortly after Carmen's murder. Police found a doll of Carmen's in his car. Miguel Colon came back to Rochester but was never charged.
In 1991, police say Miguel Colon shot his wife and brother-in-law during a domestic dispute. Police responded to his home and Colon shot himself.
Some people believed infamous serial killer Arthur Shawcross could have committed the crimes.
Det. Inv. Kuntz told News10NBC he was listed on the Maenza lead sheets as lead number 666.
However, he was ruled out. He was locked up in September of 1972 for killing a young boy and girl in Watertown.
For decades, people have called in tips on who the Double Initial murderer could be. After News10NBC's exclusive series, more tips are coming in.
"I think there's a strong possibility that they're still out there," said Det. Sgt. Kuntz. "I guess we won't know that until eventually the DNA comes back to somebody."
The Wanda Walkowicz case is the only one that has viable DNA with current technology.
Right now, the State Police Lab is working to develop protocols to use open source genealogy databases to find a match that could lead to the killer. Investigators believe it's that DNA that will finally solve these cases.
Click here to watch our report on Carmen Colon.
Click here to watch our report Wanda Walkowicz.
Click here to watch our report on Michelle Maenza.
Take a look at our interactive map tracing the last steps of each victim.
If you have information on the Carmen Colon case, call the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Tip Line at (585) 753-4175.
Anyone with information on the murder of Wanda Walkowicz is asked to call New York State Police at (585) 398-4100. You can also email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any information on the murder of Michelle Maenza call the Wayne County Sheriff's Office at (315) 946-5781. You can also email: email@example.com
Updated: February 22, 2019 11:25 PM
Created: February 22, 2019 07:22 AM
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