Journalist obsessed with Kendall Francois killings details letters she sent him in new book

By Olivia Lambert

Kendall Francois killed eight prostitutes. Photo / NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Kendall Francois killed eight prostitutes. Photo / NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Kendall Francois was always painfully polite, but he had dark, sadistic desires to kill sex workers.

He lived in Poughkeepsie in New York, where he murdered eight women and dumped five in the attic and three in the basement.

He lived in a putrid and squalid home, with garbage piled up on the floor.

The stench seeping out of the home was repulsive but for two years the bodies rotted in secret.

The murders were evil and bizarre, and caught the attention of a reporter for the New York Times. Claudia Rowe, a journalist, became obsessed with the case and formed an odd friendship with Francois when he was jailed, which she details in a new book The Spider and the Fly.

In Rowe's book, she details the relationship they formed and when she later visited him, her heart "pounded the way it had with boys in high school".

His victims were aged between 25 and 51 and they all had a little something in common.
Francois' first victim was Wendy Meyers on October 24, 1996. She was working on the street when Francois pulled up in a red car and they went back to his house.

He strangled her, washed her body in the bathroom and discarded her body in a garbage bag. She was hidden in the attic.

He later told police that Ms Meyers was paid and left after they had sex.

His next victim was Gina Barone, another sex worker. According to a Discovery Channel investigation into the murders, she was looking for a drug fix.

Sandra French and Kathleen Hurley. Photo / New York State Police
Sandra French and Kathleen Hurley. Photo / New York State Police

Francois picked her up in December 1996. He strangled her to death in his car and stashed her in the attic alongside Ms Meyers.

Then a month after that, Francois found the next victim, sex worker Kathleen Hurley. The police had suspicions of Francois because of other sex workers' assault complaints.

Two months later, Catherine Marsh went missing and was killed.

In November 1997, Mary Healey Giaccone was reported missing and in June 1998, mother of three Sandra Jean French was killed.

Wendy Myers and Gina Baron. Photo / New York State Police
Wendy Myers and Gina Baron. Photo / New York State Police

Two months later he picked up sex worker Audrey Pugliese and dumped her dead body in his house. That same month, Catina Newmaster, who worked the streets like the other victims in Poughkeepsie, went missing.

Most of the women looked oddly similar, with gaunt features and straggly black hair.

According to research into the crime by Radford University's Department of Psychology, he tried to pick up another victim but she got away. Francois was arrested in September 1998 and was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2000.

Catherine Marsh and Mary Giaccone. Photo / New York State Police
Catherine Marsh and Mary Giaccone. Photo / New York State Police

As a young man Francois, an African American, was picked on for his weight, he was more than 100kg, and didn't talk much. He played sport in high school and later joined the army. He began killing two years after he was discharged.

According to the Department of Psychology, there was no history of abuse or drug use. It is not believed he ever abused alcohol. He was just 25 when he started murdering sex workers.

A clear motive wasn't established, but he had contracted HIV when he started having sex with sex workers.

"Kendall Francois is an individual that does not display the characteristics one would normally expect of serial killers," the Department of Psychology wrote in its research.
"While most serial killers are white males, Francois is an African American, making him very unique.

"When examining his childhood, it is interesting to see that there is no detectable history of abuse, head injuries or brain abnormalities. However, this did not guarantee a wonderful childhood for Francois, as he grew up impoverished and did not enjoy the comfort of a large group of peers while in school."

Claudia Rowe at a launch for her book. Photo / Twitter / @ltcoff
Claudia Rowe at a launch for her book. Photo / Twitter / @ltcoff

The Department of Psychology said Francois had been subjected to ridicule because he had bad body odour. When he was jailed, the New York Times journalist, Rowe, became oddly obsessed with Francois and began writing him letters to get inside his mind.

Francois liked the attention from Rowe and said if she was going to ask him questions, he needed to know every detail of her life.

In Rowe's book, she details the relationship they formed and when she later visited him, her heart "pounded the way it had with boys in high school".

In Francois' first letter to Rowe he said he would answer questions if she was honest with him.

"I want to know about your hometown, childhood house, elementary school and high school up through college, your first car, your first kiss, the dress you wore under your graduation gown, I want to know the first time (if ever) you gave a guy a blow job, the first time you had intercourse, the last time, people you hate at work, affairs, when (if ever) you dyed your hair, the types of computers you have/use," he wrote.

In Rowe's book, she speaks about how she tried to get Francois to divulge his deepest and darkest thoughts but he ended up teaching her more about herself and made her understand why she lashed out and made bad decisions when she was younger.

Rowe became special to Francois because she took him seriously, was honest with him, and didn't ridicule him.

Rowe released her book this month, following Francois' death in jail in 2014.

- news.com.au

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