Joseph Kallinger

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Joseph Kallinger
Born Joseph Lee Brenner III
(1935-12-11)December 11, 1935
Northern Liberties Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died March 26, 1996(1996-03-26) (aged 60)
State Correctional Institution - Cresson, in Cresson Township, Cambria County, Pennsylvania
Cause of death Heart failure
Other names The Shoemaker
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment
Spouse(s) Hilda Bergman(?–?)
Children 7
Conviction(s) Arson,
Child abuse,
Victims 3
Span of killings
July 7, 1974–January 8, 1975
Country United States
State(s) New Jersey
Date apprehended
January 17, 1975

Joseph Kallinger (December 11, 1935 – March 26, 1996)[1] was an American serial killer who murdered three people, including his teenage son, and tortured four families. He committed these crimes with his 15-year-old son Michael.[2]

Early life[edit]

Kallinger was born Joseph Lee Brenner III at the Northern Liberties Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Joseph Lee Brenner, Jr. and his wife Judith. In December 1937, the child was placed in a foster home, after his father had abandoned his mother. On October 15, 1939, he was adopted by Austrian immigrants Stephen and Anna Kallinger.[3] He was abused by both his adoptive parents so severely that, at age six, he suffered a hernia inflicted by his adoptive father. The punishments Kallinger endured included kneeling on jagged rocks, being locked inside closets, consuming excrement, committing self-injury, being burned with irons, being whipped with belts, and being starved.[3] When he was nine, he was sexually assaulted by a group of neighborhood boys.[3]

As a child, Kallinger often rebelled against his teachers and his adoptive parents. He dreamed of becoming a playwright, and had played the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in the local YWCA's performance of A Christmas Carol in the ninth grade.[4] When Kallinger was 15, he began dating a girl named Hilda Bergman whom he met at a theater which he was allowed to visit on Saturdays.[5] His parents told him not to see her, but he married her and had two children with her. She later left him because of the domestic violence she suffered at his hands. Joseph Kallinger was hospitalized at St. Mary's on September 4, 1957 due to severe headaches and loss of appetite which doctors believed was a result of stress surrounding his divorce. Kallinger remarried on April 20, 1958 and had five children with his second wife. He was extremely abusive towards his wife and his children, and often inflicted the same punishments on them that he had suffered from his adoptive parents.[3]

Throughout the next decade, Kallinger would spend time in and out of mental institutions for amnesia, attempted suicide and committing arson.

Criminal career[edit]

He was arrested and imprisoned in 1972 on child abuse charges after three of his children went to the police. While in jail, he had scored 82 on an IQ test and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and state psychiatrists recommended that he be supervised with his family. The children later recanted their allegations, however.[6]:6 Two years later, one of his children, Joseph, Jr., was found dead in the rubble of an old building[1] two weeks after Kallinger took out a large life insurance policy on his sons. Though Kallinger claimed that Joseph, Jr. had run away from home, the insurance company, suspecting foul play, refused to pay out the claim.[7]

Beginning in July 1974, Kallinger and his 15-year-old son Michael went on a crime spree spanning Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New Jersey. Over the next six weeks, they robbed, assaulted, and sexually abused four families and murdered three people, gaining entrance to each house by pretending to be salesmen. On January 8, 1975, they continued their spree in Leonia, New Jersey. Using a pistol and a knife, they overpowered and tied up the three residents. Then as others entered the home they were forced to strip and bound with cords from lamps and other appliances. This culminated in the killing of 21-year-old nurse Maria Fasching, the eighth person to arrive. She reprimanded Kallinger for his behavior and he responded by slitting her throat. Finally, another of the house residents, still bound, managed to get outside and cry for help. Neighbors saw her and called the police, but by the time police arrived the Kallingers had fled, using the city bus as their getaway vehicle and dumping their weapons and a bloody shirt along the way.[7]

Arrest and imprisonment[edit]

Police began investigating Kallinger after gathering physical evidence (a blood-stained T-shirt) and eyewitness testimony that he and his son had been seen in the area. They soon found out about Kallinger's history of domestic violence, Joseph Jr.'s unsolved death, and a series of arsons targeted against buildings he owned.[1] Kallinger and his son were arrested on kidnapping and rape charges, and eventually charged with three counts of murder in New Jersey state courts. Kallinger pleaded insanity, claiming God had told him to kill.[8] He was found sane, however, and sentenced to life in prison on October 14, 1976. Michael Kallinger, meanwhile, was judged to be under his father's control. He was sentenced to a reformatory. Upon his release at 21, he moved out of the state and changed his name.[2] While in prison, Kallinger made several suicide attempts, including attempting to set himself on fire. Because of his suicidal and violent behavior, Kallinger was transferred to a mental hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. He was transferred to a mental hospital in Philadelphia on May 18, 1979.


Joseph Kallinger died of heart failure on March 26, 1996 at SCI Cresson.[9] He spent the last 11 years of his life on suicide watch.


  1. ^ a b c "'World of Criminal Justice' on Joseph Kallinger". Bookrags. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Joseph and Michael Kallinger". Frances Farmer's Revenge. Retrieved 20 April 2012. [unreliable source?]
  3. ^ a b c d Greenlief, Christopher; Amanda Hall; Jenna Hafey. "Joseph Kallinger: 'The Shoemaker" (PDF). Retrieved 2 May 2012. [unreliable source?]
  4. ^ Schriber, Flora (1984). Th Shoemaker. New York, NY: Nal Penguin INC. 
  5. ^ Schriber, Flora (1984). Th Shoemaker. New York, NY: Nal Penguin INC. 
  6. ^ Ramsland, Katherine. "The Enigmatic Cobbler: Clever or Crazy?". truTV Crime Library. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Mariotte, Jeff (2010). Criminal Minds: Sociopaths, Serial Killers, and Other Deviants. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 
  8. ^ "Experts in Murder Trial Say Shoemaker is Schizophrenic", The New York Times, 30 January 1984.
  9. ^ Dominic, Sama. "Joseph Kallinger, Shoemaker Jailed For 3 Infamous Killings". Interstate General Media, LLC. Retrieved July 23, 2013.