Joseph Christopher in 1981
|Born||Joseph G. Christopher
July 26, 1955
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
|Died||March 1, 1993
Attica Correctional Facility, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||Male breast cancer|
|Other names||The .22-Caliber Killer
The Midtown Slasher
|Criminal penalty||60 years (overturned)
Span of killings
|State(s)||New York, Georgia|
Joseph G. Christopher (July 26, 1955 – March 1, 1993), also known as the .22-Caliber Killer or the Midtown Slasher, was an American serial killer who gained notoriety for a series of murders in the early 1980s. He is believed to have killed at least twelve individuals and wounded numerous others, with almost all being African-Americans.
Joseph G. Christopher was born in Buffalo, New York on July 26, 1955, as the only son born to Therese (née Hurley) and Nicholas Christopher. His mother was a registered nurse, and his father was a maintenance worker with the city's Sanitation Department. Joseph had two older sisters and one younger sister.
His father was an outdoorsman and hunter who taught Joseph, at a young age, how to shoot and handle weapons. Joseph had a passion for the outdoors and according to friends exceeded all of his other interest.
He enrolled in the automotive mechanics program at Burgard Vocational High School in 1971, and was remembered as a quiet student who did well in his shop courses before dropping out in early 1974. He was later said to be "very intelligent, though he wasn't book-smart." He then worked a series of odd jobs before securing employment as a maintenance man at Canisius College, where he shared a midnight shift with a black co-worker. He was fired in March 1979 for sleeping on the job and returned to live with his parents.
Christopher, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, reached out for assistance after noticing his mental health slipping in 1978. He tried to admit himself to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in September 1980.
The Psychiatric Center professionals told him he wasn’t a danger to himself or others, this was a common practice at a time when such centers were being downsized. Instead, the center officials recommended counseling therapy. Fourteen days after he left the center, the killings began.
Christopher's killing spree began on September 22, 1980, when he committed four murders in the space of 36 hours with a .22 caliber sawed-off rifle. These murders led to the media epithet of the .22-Caliber Killer. He committed two more murders on October 8 and October 9, both times bludgeoning his victims to death and then cutting their hearts out. These murders were unable to be solved and Christopher enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 1980, being stationed at Fort Benning, GA. He soon received Christmas leave of absence (vacation) and arrived in Manhattan, NY on December 20, where, on December 22, he committed four more murders; this time stabbing his victims to death. He then returned to Buffalo and stabbed another African-American man to death on December 29, as well as another in Rochester, NY on December 30, before returning to Fort Benning in January.
When back at Fort Benning, Christopher attacked a fellow soldier, Albert Menefee, Jr., with a paring knife in what was described as an unprovoked attack. Menefee survived the attack and Christopher was placed in the fort's stockade where he cut himself with a razor. In a subsequent psychiatric session, he stated to a psychiatrist that he "had to" kill blacks. This admission caused Christopher's home to be searched by the police. There the police found evidence linking Christopher to three murders, which led to his indictment in April 1981 and his transfer back to Buffalo for his trial on May 8.
Trial, imprisonment and death
He pled not guilty to the three murders and refused counsel by lawyers hired by his mother, opting instead to represent himself. He was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to 60 years in prison, but this ruling was overturned as the trial judge had barred the defense from presenting expert psychiatric testimony about Christopher's ability to stand trial. He was later found competent to stand trial, and appeared in court again in 1985 under various charges which led to him being sentenced to life imprisonment. While imprisoned, Christopher claimed credit for 13 killings. He died in prison due to a rare form of male breast cancer on March 1, 1993, at the age of 37.
- Farber, M. A. (16 May 1981). "BUFFALO SUSPECT'S FRIENDS ARE MYSTIFIED". NY Times. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- Warner, Gene (2 July 2016). "A new look at the .22-Caliber Killer". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- "So-called Midtown Stabber kills his first victim". History.com. Retrieved April 3, 2013.
- Profile of Joseph Christopher, frankedobson.com; accessed December 9, 2014.
- Profile of Joseph Christopher, brucecorris.blogspot.com, September 2011; accessed December 9, 2014.
- "BUFFALO MAN GUILTY IN '80 KILLING". NY Times.
- Profile of Joseph Christopher, Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database; accessed December 9, 2014.
- Profile of Joseph Christopher, artvoice.com; accessed December 9, 2014.
- "The FBI Files". TVGuide.com. CBS Interactive Inc. 30 May 2000. Retrieved 22 January 2017.