Arresting the Cincinnati Strangler: Tracking Down a Serial Killer

“They were terrified. The locksmiths and the hardware stores couldn’t keep locks in stock.”

In December 1966, residents of Cincinnati, Ohio were frightened. Over the course of more than a year, a serial killer had raped and strangled seven women, most of them elderly. The first murder took place on December 2, 1965. On December 9, 1966, police found the body of Lula Kerrick in the elevator of her apartment building. Her death by strangulation resembled that of other victims; however, Kerrick had not been sexually assaulted.
By now the serial murders had terrorized the city. A police hotline received 800 tips per day. Officers checked out more than 15,000 cars and Halloween trick or treating was moved to daylight hours so residents could be safely in their homes by dark.
The Cincinnati (OH) Police Department assigned a special squad of 22 men to investigate the murders. They quickly logged over 100 hours of overtime and investigated more than 1000 leads. One of those leads included reports of a brown and cream-colored car seen near the locations of several of the murders. A man jotted down the license plate of a car as an unfamiliar man fled his apartment building.

Posteal Laskey, Jr.

Acting on that tip, Cincinnati police arrested Posteal Laskey, Jr. just four hours after they found Lula Kerrick’s body. The 29-year old former cab driver was only charged with the murder of one victim, Barbara Rose Bowman. Police determined Laskey stole a cab and picked up the 31-year old Bowman. Police said Bowman was struck by the cab, then fatally stabbed and strangled when she tried to get away. Several witnesses indicated they’d seen Bowman get into the cab Laskey was driving.
Cincinnati Patrolman Frank Sefton was the first officer to arrive at the scene of Bowman’s murder. ”They were terrified,” Sefton said of the public after Bowman’s killing. ”The locksmiths and the hardware stores couldn’t keep locks in stock. There was a huge demand for them. … Because of the hysteria, everybody was absolutely petrified.” 1
Laskey’s arrest sparked racial tensions in Cincinnati. Laskey was African-American; all of the victims were white. Five witnesses stated Laskey was at home at the time of the Bowman murder, but much of the evidence against Laskey was based on witnesses who placed him in the vicinity of the murders as well as the description and license plate of the car. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a special trip to the city to plead for calm.  Hundreds of National Guardsmen were deployed to Cincinnati as protests became violent. Police were certain they had the right suspect, citing that the murders stopped after his arrest; Laskey’s family was convinced he was a scapegoat.
Laskey was sentenced to die in the electric chair but his execution was commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was abolished in Ohio. Laskey remained incarcerated until his death in 2007. He was buried on the grounds of the prison.
1 From the The Cincinnati Post, March 1, 2002