In the late 80’s the Frankford area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was plagued with a rash of murders. In total; nine murders were said to be committed by this individual. From August of 1985 through September of 1990 the bodies of nine women were found. All of the victims were said to have been stabbed, sexually assaulted with many left in sexually provocative positions. The victims were known to frequent popular Frankford area bars. One such bar was “Goldie’s,” the nickname for the Golden Bar situated at the 5200 block on Frankford Avenue.
On April 29, 1990, the body of 46-year-old, Carol Dowd was found behind Newman’s Seafood on Frankford Avenue. Similar to the seven victims found before her, Dowd had been stabbed and sexually assaulted. However, unlike the other deaths, Dowd’s murder brought forth a suspect; Leonard Christopher. Witnesses; two prostitutes told investigators that Christopher, an employee at Newman’s Seafood was seen with the victim near what would become the scene of the crime; the alley behind Newman’s. The two witnesses also told authorities that Christopher was seen with a large utility knife tucked in his belt.
As they’d done following each murder, Philadelphia police interviewed person’s of interest in the days following Carol’s death. Most of those questioned were patrons of the Golden Bar as well as other Frankford Avenue bars where many of the victims, as well as Christopher, frequented. On May 4th, Christopher was questioned about Carol Dowd’s murder. During questioning, he admitted to knowing Margaret Vaughan, another of the Frankford Slasher’s victims. Christopher informed investigators that he had indeed spoken with Carol Dowd before her death as well as acknowledging that, as a part of his job, he would routinely carry a knife to clean and prepare fish. Also within the guidelines of performing his duties at work, his boss, Jaesa Phang, told him to clean the blood in the alley, attributing to witness testimony that he had been seen near the crime scene.
Pressured by the public to solve the murders and based on the testimony of the two prostitutes; Leonard Christopher was arrested and charged with the murder of Carol Dowd. By arresting Christopher Philadelphia police hoped to send a message to the city that the Franklin slasher had been apprehended. Unfortunately, Philly would soon learn that nothing could be further from the truth.
The state of Pennsylvania, positive that they had solved the Frankford slasher murders gathered their sketchy persecution of Leonard Christopher. Until on September 6th, 1990 Michelle Dehner also known as Michelle Martin, was found murdered in her Arrott Street apartment. Like the other victims, Dehner was found to have been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death. At that time, Leonard Christopher had long since been in police custody. The false sense of security that the Philadelphia police attempted to give to the residents of the Frankford area had now crumbled and a new question arose; “have we arrested an innocent man?”
The prosecution conveniently overlooked statements made by nearly every witness interviewed. In most, if not all of the other Frankford murder cases, eyewitnesses described a middle-aged white man being in the company of the victims immediately before their deaths. Even Dowd was seen with an individual matching that description
shortly before her murder. However, Leonard Christopher didn’t fit that description. Christopher was a 38-year-old black man.
Knowing full well that they could not convict Christopher for the first seven murders, the state proceeded to prosecute Leonard Christopher for the murder of Carol Dowd. On December 12th of 1990, utilizing questionable eyewitness testimony of the two prostitutes and despite the lack of physical evidence and the fact that no witness testified seeing Christopher with any bloodstained clothing; they were able to secure a conviction against Mr. Christopher. The proverbial nail in the flimsily made coffin that became Christopher’s conviction came when Jaesa Phang told police that Christopher, for no reason at all, looked at her and said, “Maybe I killed her.”
To refer to this case as a miscarriage of justice is an understatement and does it a grave disservice. It is a travesty dare I say a tragedy. To this day the Frankford Slasher murders remain unsolved, leaving justice unserved for the victims and questions unanswered from their families. A broken justice system, as well as the slasher himself, destroyed the lives of ten people as well as the lives of the people that love them. This case is a prime example of a deeply flawed criminal justice system; a system designed to protect us but time after time is pressured by the media to provide answers and thereby forcing authorities to “create” a perpetrator. Without implementing proper investigation techniques or utilizing the appropriate measures for solving such heinous crimes, Leonard Christopher became the sacrificial offering to this system as well as the tenth victim in this case. Leonard Christopher was sentenced to life but died from cancer three years ago.