Serial Killer: The Cincinnati Strangler

By Chris Bunton

I recently traveled to Cincinnati on vacation, and while there I did some research on the Serial Killer known as The Cincinnati Strangler.

Normally, when I travel and research these killers, I go to the neighborhoods where the killer lived or where the victims lived, or the crimes took place.

Often from visiting these areas you can get a feel for the crime. Or some sense of what might have been happening in the surrounding location or even the minds of the people involved.

However in Cincinnati, the crimes were committed decades ago and the neighborhoods have changed. The reports seem to indicate that these were lower income areas at the time of the killings. Today, many of these areas are located in neighborhoods that have been up scaled into higher class locales.

The crimes occurred from 1965 to 1966, in which there were 7 women strangled and sexually assaulted. As the media reported these crimes, the city went into panic mode. Gun sales went up, and the night life began to close down earlier or come to a halt.

During the terrifying time, police received many tips. One tip came after the murder of Kerrick, who was the final victim. Witnesses reported the license plate number of someone leaving the crime scene.

This led to the arrest of Posteal Laskey, Jr. a black musician who lived with his mother.

Upon further investigation the police learned that Laskey was on probation for assaulting a woman. He had also been employed by The Yellow Cab Company and was recently fired.

One of the victim’s, Barbara Bowman was suspected to have been killed by a person who had stolen a Yellow Cab, and pretended to be a driver picking up women. Laskey, had not given back the key for his cab when fired, and the cab used in the killings was the one Laskey had driven.

However, at this time one key could be used to operate any Yellow Cab. This is one of the reasons there were riots in the black community at this time over the arrest of Laskey. It was felt that the evidence was circumstantial, and the accusations were race related. Laskey had an alibi for the Bowman killing, with two people corroborating it.

Laskey was convicted in April, 1967 of murdering Barbara Bowman. He was sentenced to the electric chair; a sentence that was later changed to life in prison along with all other death penalty cases at the time, by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Laskey’s attorneys claimed through appeal that the court had never proven he was the Cincinnati Strangler. They also showed that terror from the news reports of the Strangler made it impossible for Laskey to get a fair trial, and that he was accused mostly due to racial bias. It was shown that the prosecutor’s office also had bias against Laskey, because they presumed him to be the Strangler without proof. These arguments were rejected by an appeals court.

After Laskey’s arrest, the Cincinnati Strangler stopped killing.

He was denied parole several times and died in prison on May 29, 2007. He was 69 years old.

The Victims of the Strangler were mostly older women who were killed near or in their own apartments.

On Dec. 2, 1965, Emogene Harrington, aged 56, was killed in her apartment building on McMillan Street. She was found by the janitor. The neighborhood today seems to be a very safe place. The apartment building is nice and clean.

On April 4th, 1966, Lois Dant, was killed in her own apartment on Rutledge Ave. She was found by her husband after he returned from Church. She was 58. The Apartment building is on a very narrow street across from houses and was currently being remodeled. It is located in the Price Hill neighborhood, where Barbara Bowman was also found.

On June 10th, 1966, Jeanette Messer was killed. She was found near her home, on a nature trail in Burnet Woods.

On April 14, 1966, Barbara Bowman was killed. She was the youngest and her murder did not match the M.O. of the other killings. Police assumed that The Strangler was interrupted, and Bowman had attempted escape. This was the murder that linked the killer to Yellow Cab, and was the only murder Laskey was convicted of. She was stabbed, not strangled. The cab and her body were found a block from her home.

On October 12th, 1966, Alice Hochhausler was found in her garage. She had been knocked unconscious, and dragged into the building; where she was strangled by the belt on her bathrobe.

On Oct. 19th 1966, Rose Winstel was strangled with an electrical cord. She was 81. She was found in her apartment.

On Dec. 9th, 1966,  Leila Kerrick was killed in her downtown apartment building. She was 81. The neighborhood today seems very up kept and clean. Again, not the location you would expect a murder to occur.

And maybe, that was the terror of the Cincinnati Strangler.  He was killing the weakest elderly women, in a terrible way, in or near their own homes where they felt the safest. It seemed random, yet planned.

It was said that the Yellow Cab, which was reported stolen, had picked up multiple fares before picking up Barbara Bowman. The killer knew exactly what he wanted, and went in pursuit of it, with cunning.

In many serial killer cases the killer is caught and convicted on evidence that points directly to them and proves them guilty. But, in the case of the Cincinnati Strangler, the only thing known is that the killings stopped, after Laskey was arrested. He was only convicted for one murder; the killing of Barbara Bowman.

If Laskey was not the Strangler; then the real killer is still out there or dead. He would most likely be in his 80’s, maybe in a nursing home, a cemetery or living next to you. He could have stopped killing or moved to another location and changed his M.O.

We won’t know for sure.

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Bio: Chris Bunton is a Writer, Poet and Blogger from Southern Illinois. He is a travel writer who currently focus on Crime Travel. He has published several articles on Serial Killers, in The Yard: Crime Blog.

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Publishing Editor for The Yard: Crime Blog.

5 thoughts on “Serial Killer: The Cincinnati Strangler

  1. Chris- I enjoyed your article very much. I grew up in Price Hill. I was in the first and second grades when the Cincinnati Strangler killings took place. You’ve got the facts all right. What I can add are a few memories as a child growing up in that time and place. What I remember most clearly is that there was fear, real fear. As each murder took place, and no clues were found, people began to buy guns, to buy mean dogs, to install deadbolt locks, etc. The city ordered that trick or treat was to take place in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon. The community was literally afraid of the dark. When the suspect was arrested, and as you pointed out, the killings stopped, the fear abated. But for a generation of Cincinnatians, what was left was a strange mix of feelings that were striking to me through that time in my life. My parents’ newspapers were filled with strange horrors almost every day, things with which people were unfamiliar. Political assassinations, mass murderers like Charles Whitman, crimes of violence were on the rise generally and of course there was Vietnam. Less than three years before Posteal Laskey was arrested were the crimes of the famous Boston Strangler. Less than three years after came the Manson Family murders. And I got a sense, from the adults, that something had gone seriously wrong with our country and by association with our safe and conservative community of Cincinnati, something or someone had turned these monsters loose, and no one could agree on what or who that was. So the fears gave way, to some extent, but the guns & locks & mistrust & suspicion, that all stayed. And like passing through a looking glass, we would never see ourselves or each other the same way again.

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