Arthur Shawcross: How Many Victims Did The Serial Killer Have?

Serial killer Arthur Shawcross, better known as the Genesee River Killer, tormented upstate New York for decades until he was caught in 1990. Born in 1946 into a middle-class family, Shawcross claims he was severely bullied at school and sexually assaulted by his aunt as he was growing up, although his parents always denied any abuse and claimed Arthur was prone to fabrication (per Biography). Records show there was bullying in his childhood, but it went the other way, with Shawcross beating up other kids at school and regularly picking fights during recess (via ThoughtCo).

Shawcross was thought to have a low IQ and underperformed at school and after failing the ninth grade and dropping out. He spent the next few years committing burglaries, smashing windows, and getting involved in small cases of arson. He was even put on probation several times in the '60s for things like unlawful entry and breaking a store window.

After a short tour in Vietnam, Shawcross left the army and was eventually sentenced to five years in prison for burglary, but was released after just 22 months. He would later say that he committed his first murders in Vietnam, killing and cannibalizing women while there, though this has never been confirmed.

Shawcross' first victims were young children

It was 1972 when Shawcross found his first confirmed victim, a 10-year-old boy. He strangled and mutilated the boy before abandoning his body in the woods. Less than four months later, he raped and killed an 8-year-old girl and threw her body in the river after stuffing leaves and mud down her throat (via Biography).

When witnesses told the police they had seen Shawcross with the girl, he was immediately arrested. Although double murders should've resulted in a life sentence, Shawcross managed to arrange a plea deal. According to Oxygen, he agreed to 25 years in prison for manslaughter for the second killing and no charges for the first one in exchange for taking the police to the body of the boy.

Shawcross only served 14 of those 22 years and was released early because he claimed "he was suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after fighting in the Vietnam War." Psychiatrists bought his stories and deemed him "no longer dangerous" and Shawcross was set free in 1987. 

Within two years of his release, he started killing again

Between March 1988 and December 1989, Shawcross killed at least 11 women (he was not charged with a twelfth, believed to also have been his work). June Stott, the only victim who wasn't a sex worker, was a local resident and the first victim who Shawcross sexually mutilated after strangling her. He also cut her chest and stomach open, according to Crime+Investigation.

Shawcross' other 11 victims were all believed to have been sex workers and often homeless. Since he frequented sex workers himself, Shawcross found it easy to choose a target. He strangled, mutilated, and partly cannibalized most of his victims. During an interview after being sentenced, he confessed to a reporter he would sometimes bite or eat parts of his victims' genitals before dumping their bodies in the Genesee River (per Biography).

When police found the body of his last victim floating in a half-frozen river, they decided to leave it there, hoping the killer would return to the scene of the crime. The police found his car soon after, parked on a bridge overlooking the body. Shawcross was masturbating when he was arrested.

He was sentenced to 250 years in prison for his crimes and died of cardiac arrest in 2008. During his time in prison, Shawcross took up painting, focusing on colorful images of butterflies, smiling children, and flowers. According to The New York Post, some of his art was even auctioned off on eBay to great criticism.