|Died||December 21, 1929
|Cause of death||Execution by electrocution|
Span of crimes
|December 3, 1928|
Peter Kudzinowski (August 13, 1903 – December 21, 1929) was an American serial killer whose known victims were a 20-year-old friend, a 5-year-old girl, and 7-year-old boy whose murder he stood trial for.
He admitted to being intoxicated when he committed his crimes. Eventually, he confessed to his crimes while drunk and because of the weight of his conscience, and was sentenced to death by the state of New Jersey after a quick legal process. Kudzinowski spent a year on death row before getting executed in the electric chair.
Peter Kudzinowski was born on August 13, 1903 in Dickson City, Pennsylvania, to Polish immigrant parents Paul and Veronica. He is frequently and incorrectly referred to as Polish-born.[a] He was the youngest of four boys and grew up in the Scranton area.
Kudzinowski fractured his skull when he was in sixth grade by diving into a shallow pool. Afterwards, he refused to go to school anymore, according to his older brother Frank. Kudzinowski worked in the mines as a young man, and later held a job in the Lackawanna Railroad yards in Secaucus.
Kudzinowski confessed to having murdered 20-year-old Harry Quinn in Scranton in March 1924. The two were friends and were traveling to Spring Brook together, where Quinn was looking for a job with the Spring Brook Water Supply Company. This was the last Quinn's family heard of him. Eventually, not having heard from him in a couple of years, they thought he had abandoned them and had been trying to get in touch with him through newspaper advertisements. It was not until after Kudzinowski was captured for the murder of 7-year-old Joseph Storelli in 1928 that they found out what really happened to Quinn, when Kudzinowski confessed to murdering their relative four years earlier by crushing his head with a stone after they had gotten into a fight over a bottle of whiskey. Kudzinowski's brother Frank recalled that shortly thereafter, Peter came to visit him and and told him he had been in a scrape and needed money with which to leave town, neglecting to tell his older brother what actually happened.
He also murdered Julia Mlodzianowski, a 5-year-old girl from Jersey City, who was at a school picnic at Lake Hopatcong on August 19, 1928. Although after he was captured, he told reporters he "had doubts" that he had actually murdered her.
Kudzinowski met 7-year-old Joseph Storelli in a "half drunk" state late afternoon on November 17, 1928 on First Avenue in East Village, New York. Kudzinowski accosted two other children at the same location, but they ran away. He lured the boy away with the promise of a box of candy and a visit to a motion picture show. He then took him by the Port Authority Trans-Hudson train to Journal Square in Jersey City and finally walked him to the meadows near Secaucus. When Joseph tried to get away, Kudzinowski knocked him down and hit him several times. Worrying that the boy's cries would attract passing cars, he slashed his throat, covered the body with the boy's overcoat, and left him.
Storelli's father later took his family back to Italy, leaving behind only Joseph's older brother, who became involved in criminal activities. He served a year in prison, was at one point arrested for robbing a high-stakes card game, and eventually shot and killed by police.
Kudzinowski was a suspect in the disappearance of Billy Gaffney, who vanished in 1927. Albert Fish would later claim to have murdered Gaffney. Both serial killers worked in the same time frame and in the same geographic area and killed children. He was also a suspect in the murder of Irving Pickelny, who disappeared from Brooklyn in February 1927.
Capture and confession
Kudzinowski was captured in Detroit, where he was jailed for public intoxication. He confessed to Storelli's murder to his jailer, who laughed at him. He was released after sobering up. On December 3, Kudzinowski drunkenly staggered up to a police traffic booth and told the officer there that he was "wanted by the police." Upon being asked whether he meant for murder, he replied "You'll find out." He was visited in jail by Detroit detectives who obtained the "rough edges" of his confession. Kudzinowski was primarily motivated to confess because of the burden of his conscience weighing on him, stating "I'm willing to pay the penalty, and the sooner it's over, the better. I had to confess. It was troubling me."
Kudzinowski was then quickly brought to Jersey City to stand trial. The state brought in a medical expert, who characterized Kudzinowski as "psychopathic personality". The defense brought its own experts who analyzed the X-rays made after the diving accident in his youth. He was found guilty of first-degree murder on November 17, 1928. When asked if he had anything to say before the sentence was passed, Kudzinowski remained silent. He was sentenced to die in the electric chair at Trenton State Prison in the week of February 24, 1929. Kudzinowski stated he was ready to die and felt he would probably commit more murders if he were ever set free again.[b][c] He lost an appeal on October 14. A final appeal to Governor Larson of New Jersey to have his death sentence commuted to life in prison on grounds of insanity was denied on December 17.
While imprisoned on June 23, 1929, Kudzinowski's father Paul died. He had been in rapidly declining health ever since he suffered a complete breakdown upon hearing the news that his son was a murderer, reportedly "aging in years".
Kudzinowski appeared to remain unmoved and showed little concern over his predicament up until the night of his execution by electric chair on December 21, 1929, but he appeared nervous and was unable to repeat the prayers uttered by his priest when the moment itself came.
- His father, Paul, had immigrated in 1893; his mother, Veronica, between 1894–97. Both were recorded as residents of Dickson City, Pennsylvania in 1900:
- US census, 1900: Recorded as Kudzenski; Paul's recorded immigration year: 1893, Veronica's recorded immigration year: 1894
- US census, 1910: Recorded as Kojonski; Paul's recorded immigration year: 1893, Veronica's recorded immigration year: 1895
- US census, 1920: Recorded as Kudsinowski; Paul's recorded immigration year: 1893, Veronica's recorded immigration year: 1897
- US census, 1930: Recorded as Kutzinowski; Paul deceased, Veronica's recorded immigration year: 1895
- New York Times; Jan. 12, 1929: "I am up against it, I am ready to go. If I got out of here I probably would do the same thing again."
- New York Times; Dec. 10, 1928: "I'm glad I told the truth, because I know I ought not to be at large. I might have killed half a dozen more people if I had stayed free."
- New York Times; Jan. 11, 1929.
- New York Times; Dec. 10, 1928.
- The Scranton Republican; Dec. 6, 1928.
- New York Times; Dec. 8, 1928.
- New York Times; Dec. 11, 1928.
- New York Times; Dec. 13, 1928.
- New York Times; Dec. 21, 1928.
- New York Times; Oct. 15, 1929.
- New York Times; Jun. 12, 1934.
- New York Times; Feb. 18, 1936.
- New York Times; Jan. 10, 1929.
- New York Times; Jan. 17, 1929.
- New York Times; Dec. 18, 1929.
- The Scranton Republican; Jun. 24, 1929.
- New York Times; Dec. 21, 1929.
- "Detroit Jail Reveals Crime", The Scranton Republican, December 6, 1928,
Peter Kudzinowski Informs Michigan Authorities He Murdered Harry Quinn.
- "Tried to Lure Two, Boy's Slayer Says", New York Times, December 8, 1928,
Miner Admits He Sought to Get Small Girl and Boy on East Side to Go With Him.
- "Big Guard to Meet Boy's Slayer Here", New York Times, December 9, 1928,
Jersey City Detective Squad to Protect Kudzinowski From Any Violence.
- "Boy-Killer Spirited to Jersey City Jail", New York Times, December 10, 1928,
Kudzinowski Is Met in Newark Instead of Here by Guard of 20 Detectives.
- "Slayer Confesses to Third Murder", New York Times, December 11, 1928,
Kudzinowski, Prisoner in Jersey City, Admits He Strangled a 5-Year-Old Girl.
- "Slayer Re-Enacts his Third Murder", New York Times, December 12, 1928,
Shows Police Spot at Lake Hopatcong Where He Killed 5-Year-Old Girl.
- "Boy's Slayer Brought Here on Secret Tour", New York Times, December 13, 1928,
Kudzinowski Revisits Spot on East Side Where He Met 7-Year-Old Victim.
- "To Ask Sanity Test For Slayer of Boy", New York Times, December 16, 1928,
Counsel Announces Course After Kudzinowski Is Turned Over to Hudson County.
- "Slayer Of Boy to Get Mental Examination", New York Times, December 21, 1928,
Jersey City Judge Says State Will Bear Reasonable Expense.
- "Kudzinowski Trial Jan. 9", New York Times, December 28, 1928,
Slayer of Boy Will Plead Insanity in Jersey City Court.
- "State Rushes Trial of Slayer of Boy", New York Times, January 10, 1929,
Prosecution of Kudzinowski Completed in 3½ Hours in Jersey City Court.
- "Five Experts Call Slayer Not Normal", New York Times, January 11, 1929,
Only One Alienist Testifies Kudzinowski Is Sane as Trial Nears Its End.
- "Finds Boy's Slayer Guilty in an Hour", New York Times, January 12, 1929,
Jury Returns Verdict of First Degree Murder Against Confessed Kidnapper.
- "Boy's Killer is Calm at Sentence to Die", New York Times, January 17, 1929,
End Set for Week of Feb. 24 as New Trial and Insanity Motions Are Denied.
- "Father of Kudzinowski Dies", The Scranton Republican, June 24, 1929,
Had Been Ill Since Son's Confession of Brutal Murders.
- "Slayer of Boy Loses Jersey Appeal", New York Times, October 15, 1929,
Higher Court Refuses to Set Aside Murder Conviction.
- "Denies Slayer's Appeal", New York Times, December 18, 1929,
Larson Refuses Clemency for Murderer of Joseph Storelli.
- "Slayer of Boy Dies in Electric Chair", New York Times, December 21, 1929,
Kudzinowski Put to Death in Trenton for Killing Joseph Storelli.
- "Card Game Hold-up Surprised by Police", New York Times, June 12, 1934,
One Alleged Robber Is Caught, Other Escapes After a Player Gives Alarm.
United States Census
- "Paul Kudzenski", United States Census, 1900; Dickson borough Ward 2-3, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; page 19B, line 76, enumeration district 18.
- "Peter Kojonski", United States Census, 1910; Moosic Ward 4, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; roll 1357, page 44A, line 13, enumeration district 39.
- "Peter Kudzinowski", United States Census, 1920; Moosic Ward 4, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; roll 1578, page 15A, line 19, enumeration district 73.