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Murder! Most Foul

A gallery of infamous local killers and their victims

There are a million ways to die, but when death comes at the hands of another person, it takes on a disquieting quality. If we’ve learned anything from the television show Dexter, it’s that a killer can be under our noses at any moment.

Western New York has had its share of gruesome killing sprees, calculated murders, and crimes of passion. Serial killers like the Bike Path Rapist, Altemio Sanchez, and the “.22 Caliber Killer,” Joseph Christopher, are probably the most infamous, but here is a list of some other unusual killings that have taken place in Western New York in the last 50 years, and the killers who committed them.

John Justice

Teenage Rampager

Most high school students feel pressure to go to college one day. For John Justice, a Kenmore West High School honor student, the pressure became unbearable in the fall of 1985. Justice dreamed of Ivy League schools, but his blue-collar working parents couldn’t afford to send him to Buffalo State, let alone Yale. When his parents resolutely refused to pay for his college education, Justice lost his mind. The 17-year-old picked up a five-inch hunting blade and waited in the shadows of his 13-year-old brother’s bedroom. When the middle school student entered the house, Justice stabbed him half a dozen times in the back.

With his brother lying dead on the floor, Justice waited in the family’s living room for his mother to return home from her job at the DuPont plant. When she walked through a side door of the house, Justice attacked her, stabbing her 14 times. He wasn’t done there though. After changing his blood-soaked clothes, the teenager drove his mother’s car to pick up his father at work. When they arrived home, Justice followed his father into the killing ground that was their living room. He stabbed him in the back four times.

Consumed by rage and bloodlust, Justice then slit his own wrists. The teenager sat in the house alongside the bodies of his dead family, waiting for the blood to drain from his body, but, before loss of blood could kill him, he changed his mind about suicide. He jumped into his parents’ 1980 Chevrolet and sped around a corner at 50 miles per hour, smashing into a car idling at an intersection. The other car burst into flames and the driver was killed instantly. When police arrived at the scene Justice, with his wrists still bleeding, but unharmed by the collision, screamed: “I killed my family!” Justice was convicted of four counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years. In 2005 he was released.

Grover Cleveland

Buffalo’s Hangman

During Grover Cleveland’s 1884 presidential campaign, his rivals gave him a nickname: Buffalo’s Hangman. As Erie County Sheriff, Cleveland personally executed two murderers by hanging. He pulled the lever on Patrick Morrisey in 1872 after Morrisey killed his own mother and wore the executioner’s hood again, less than a year later, when he put murderer John Gaffney to death, in public.

Grover’s nickname didn’t exactly scare voters away though. He won his bid for president with a “tough on crime” stance.

Gail Trait

Possessed Child Killer

Voodoo rites of passage and possession by Satan were not deemed adequategrounds for an insanity plea for an East Side woman who killed her four children in the summer of 1978. At least not right away.

Gail Trait, a 26-year-old student of liberal arts at Erie Community College and a single mother. snapped one day. She butchered her four children, ages two to nine, at her mother’s East Side apartment, two weeks after the children were returned to her from child protective services. Trait spent 10 years in prison before a court overturned her conviction and ruled her insane. She spent the next 10 years in a psychiatric hospital.

Robert Leroy Wayne Jackson
Buffalo City Hall Jumper

This killer had only one victim: himself. He falls on this list because of the extraordinary method he chose to commit suicide, and where he landed.

On a clear winter’s day in 1976, Robert Leroy Wayne Jackson rode the elevator up to the 28th floor, the observation deck, of Buffalo City Hall. He wandered around up there for a short period of time before scaling the eight-foot-high glass security wall and leaping off the 250-foot building. Jackson flew through the air, landing on a large flagpole, which impaled him through the chest. An unforgettable image of Jackson, skewered on the flag pole with half of the American flag still waving in the breeze, the other half stuffed into his body, was printed in Jet magazine that month.

John Cammillieri

Gunned Down at Roseland

Remember the scene in Goodfellas when Joe Pesci’s character, Tommy, is murdered just when he thinks he’s about to become a “made man”? Well, that scene might as well have been plucked straight from mob headman John Cammillieri’s life. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Cammillieri was a lieutenant for crime boss Stefano Magaddino, leader of The Arm, Buffalo’s largest crime family at the time. Unfortunately for Cammillieri, he was getting a little too powerful for his own good. He had one goal in mind, winning a top spot as leader of the Local 210, a powerful, mob-infiltrated labor union in Buffalo. This was a coveted spot and Cammillieri felt he had earned it through his reputation as a dependable man who would do favors for friends of organized crime members.

On May 8, 1974, Cammillieri called a meeting at a local cigar shop to plead his case in front of a mob council. His bid for leader of Local 210 was denied and Cammillieri stormed out of the meeting, infuriated. Later that night Cammillieri pulled into the parking lot of Roseland Restaurant, at the corner of Rhode Island and Chenango. When he stepped out of his car in the crowded parking lot, Cammillieri heard someone shout his name. Just as he was turning to respond, two shots rang out. One bullet hit the mob strongman in the back of his head; the other passed through his lower back and lodged in the outside brick wall of Roseland.

Cammillieri’s murder is thought to have set off a chain reaction of mob killings that lasted through the 1980s. His murder was never solved.

Edward Beaufort-Cutner

Rogue Sheriff

A violent coke dealer, a random shooting, a rogue cop: Sounds like all of the right elements for a thrilling movie. That’s probably what real estate agent Gayle Wolfer was thinking when she found herself on the set of the 1992 made-for-TV movie, With Murder In Mind (starring Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched, above), a film about the calculated robbery and attempted murder of Craig Bush, an extremely wealthy cocaine dealer living in a mansion in Western New York.

Bush, who was selling his house in an attempt to remove himself from the increasingly violent drug scene, hired Wolfer to help. In March 1988, Edward Beaufort-Cutner, a reserve sheriff’s deputy, arrived at the Sardinia residence of the coke dealer, prepared to commit a brazen robbery. Posing as a potential buyer, Beaufort-Cutner entered the property, strapped with handcuffs and a pistol. He cuffed Bush and Wolfer, and, while he was assuring them that he would not harm them, he pulled the trigger, shooting Bush in the head—an injury that he would survive, but in a catatonic state.

Cutner then set his sights on Wolfer. He pressed the gun to her forehead and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed, giving Wolfer a chance to escape. Still handcuffed, she fought the man, but Cutner regained his composure and shot her three times in the face and neck before fleeing the property with less than $3,000. Miraculously, Wolfer survived. Less than a year later, while at the Erie County Fair in 1988, Wolfer spotted Cutner on a horse. He was arrested, convicted of attempted murder, robbery, and burglary, and sentenced to 29-50 years in Auburn State Prison.

Andrew Ashley

Drowned in Hoyt Lake

The babysitter did it.

Sounds like a cliché, but when Andrew Ashley, age three, was found drowned in Hoyt Lake in 1961, that’s what the police thought. The child’s body was found with arms and legs bound by nylon stockings that summer. Police interviewed Ashley’s babysitter, 15-year-old Chyrel Jolls, twice, but released her both times. They arrested her a third time after the teenager confessed to abducting Ashley, but the confession was not enough to file murder charges. The case remains unsolved.

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