Alphabet Murders: The Cold Cases that Shocked Rochester

Between 1971 and 1973, a spree of murders haunted the town of Rochester, New York. All three victims were girls aged 10-11. All three girls had been raped prior to being strangled and then dumped near a freeway.

The peculiar thing about this case was the fact that all three victims’ first and last names begin with the same letter. That’s not all, their bodies were all found in towns that began with the same letter too.

Was this just a coincidence or was this something that the murderer had planned? An intense investigation was launched and over 800 suspects were interviewed but no one was ever charged for the crimes and the case remains unsolved to this day.

In this article, we will explore the “Alphabet Murders”, the victims, and the cast of characters that were suspected of committing these horrible acts. 

The victims, Carmen Colón (L), Wanda Walkowicz(M) and Michelle Maenza (R) from a police handout

The First Victim: Carmen Colón

Ten-year-old Carmen Colon was the first victim of the Alphabet Murders. On the evening of November 16, 1971, she was sent on an errand by her grandmother to pick up a prescription from the local pharmacy which was just one and a half blocks from her home. 

When she got to the pharmacy around 4:30 pm, the pharmacist told her that the medication was not ready. Carmen then went outside to wait for the prescription to be filled.

Witnesses then claim they saw the girl enter a car that was parked at the curb. She never returned the prescription and she never returned home.

Carmen Colón, 1971. The first victim

About an hour after she was seen leaving the pharmacy, Carmen was next seen running away from a reversing car on the shoulder of Interstate 490. She was naked from the waist down and flailing her arms trying to get someone’s attention.

It was rush hour and it is estimated that over 100 vehicles passed the scene before one of the witnesses saw her being led back to the vehicle by a man. Of all the people who saw Carmen that day, not one of them stopped to help her. 

Two days later, Carmen’s body was found in a gully near I-490 outside the town of Churchville. Her pants were found close to where she was seen running along the highway.

Her autopsy showed that she had been raped before she was strangled to death. She also had a fractured skull, a broken vertebrae, and her body was covered in fingernail scratches. 

The murder of Carmen Colón was reported in the Times Union and the Democrat and Chronicle newspapers. A combined reward of $2,500 was offered for any information on the killer. The neighborhood pitched in and eventually, the reward money climbed to $6,000.

The Rochester Outdoor Advertising Company gave free use of five of their billboards for one month to post a picture of Carmen and a headline: Do You Know Who Killed Carmen Colón? 

The billboards gave police many new leads but nothing substantial. Despite the hard work of law enforcement and the local community, no one was ever arrested for the murder. 

The Murder of Wanda Walkowicz

Over a year had passed since the murder of Carmen Colón. The news surrounding it had largely died down. On the evening of April 2, 1973, Wanda Walkowicz was sent to the market by her mother to pick up some groceries.

She then started walking alone down Conkey Avenue. When Wanda failed to return home after several hours, her mother called the police and a search was launched that involved over fifty detectives. 

Wanda’s body was discovered the next day by a police officer at the bottom of a hill next to State Route 104 in the town of Webster. The damage to her body suggested that she was thrown from a moving vehicle.

The autopsy report brought back bad memories of Carmen Colón when it was discovered that Wanda had been raped and then strangled to death. The police also found white cat fur on the body even though Wanda’s family didn’t own a pet with white fur. 

Eyewitnesses called the hotline established for the case and told police that they had seen Wanda struggling to carry a bag of groceries before talking to someone inside of a brown or tan colored car. Another witness said they saw a girl matching Wanda’s description being forced into a tan-colored vehicle. 

The police refused to believe that the murders of Carmen Colón and Wanda Walkowicz were connected and the investigation hit a dead end. In the fall of that year, after a local television station aired a reconstruction of Wanda’s murder and investigation, police received over 200 calls.

However, despite the renewed interest in the case, the police still had no new leads. 

Michelle Maenza: The Final Victim

Just seven months later, 11-year-old Michelle Maenza was reported missing when she didn’t come home from school. Michelle was last seen by her classmates walking towards a shopping center.

Another witness said that they saw Michelle in the passenger seat of a brown or tan vehicle driving along Ackerman Street around 3:30 pm.

Around 4:30 pm, a girl matching Michelle’s description was seen sitting in a car at a fast food restaurant, in Panorama Plaza in Penfield. 

Around 5:30 that evening, a man remembered seeing a car with a flat tire on the side of the road. He stopped to see if the driver needed help.

When he rolled down his window to ask if they needed the help, the driver pushed Michelle behind him and stepped in front of his license plate to obscure it from view. The expression on the driver’s face made the good Samaritan feel like his help was not wanted and drove off. 

A newspaper article about Maenza’s disappearance

Maenza’s body was discovered two days later, face down in a ditch along a rural road in the town of Macedon, about 15 miles from her home in Rochester. Her autopsy revealed that she had been raped and strangled to death, just like the others.

There were also strands of white cat hair on her clothes. An examination of her stomach contents revealed traces of a hamburger and onions eaten one hour before her murder, proving that she had been at the fast food restaurant.


After the death of Michelle Maenza, police could no longer ignore the fact that all three murders share too many similarities to be a coincidence. 

  • Carmen Colón’s body was found outside the town of Churville. 
  • Wanda Walkowicz was found in the town of Webster.
  • Michelle Maenza was found in Macedon.

All three girls were from poor Catholic families who had been bullied at school. They had all been raped and strangled to death before being dumped near a road.

Police eventually questioned over 800 possible suspects. A couple of them were very strong contenders but there wasn’t enough evidence to charge them with a crime.

Miguel Colón

Miguel Colón was Carmen’s paternal uncle. He had become close to her mother after she and her husband divorced.

On the date of Carmen’s murder, he could not prove where he was and no one could be located to corroborate his claims. His car also matched the description of the brown or tan vehicle that witnesses saw.

Despite strong evidence pointing at him, it was all circumstantial and he was dropped as a suspect.

Dennis Termini

Dennis Termini, also known as the “Garage Rapist” is known to have committed a minimum of fourteen rapes of teenage girls between 1971 and 1973. He also owned a beige vehicle similar to the vehicle observed by several witnesses. 

In an unrelated case in 1974, Termini attempted to abduct a teenage girl and was pursued by the police. The chase ended with Termini taking his own life. An examination of Termini’s vehicle revealed traces of white cat fur.

Kenneth Bianchi

Kenneth Bianchi worked as an ice cream vendor in Rochester during the times of the murders and worked close to where the first two bodies were found.

In 1976 he moved to Los Angeles where he became the notorious Hillside Strangler. Along with his cousin, Angelo Buono, they killed 10 girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 28.

Despite living in Rochester at the time of the murders and having driven a vehicle matching the description of the one witnesses saw, Bianchi was never formally charged in connection to the Alphabet murders. He continues to staunchly deny any involvement in the case. 

Kenneth Bianchi, who was later arrested for the Hillside murders

California Murders

In 2011, a cold case was reopened that involved a string of four murders from 1977 to 1994 leading to the arrest of Joseph Naso. He was charged with murdering four prostitutes whose first and last names began with the same letter.

Was this just all a big coincidence? After all, Naso was from New York and had lived in Rochester during the 70s. Police tested Naso’s DNA and compared it to the semen found on the body of Wanda Walkowicz – but it wasn’t a match.


Was it all a coincidence that these victims’ names all started with the same letter or was this a pattern in someone’s sick game? Fifty years later the Alphabet Murders remain unsolved and with so many of the suspects already dead, it will probably never be known who committed the murders.


Double Initial Murders: Michelle Maenza

Alphabet Murders

New York Newspapers. (November 19, 1971). “Reward for Missing Child’s Slayer Now $2,500.” Democrat and Chronicle, Page 43.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top