The 12 Days Of Crime

The Murder Of Roseann Quinn Was Ultimate Victim-Blaming Case

Roseann Quinn was victim-blamed as the press focused on the fact that her body was found nude and she had been (gasp!) sexually active while unmarried.

For more on holiday-related crimes and murder, tune in to Homicide for the Holidays on December 3 at 8/7c and read our 12 Days Of Crime series here

Roseann Quinn was the original single girl in the big city, until tragedy struck on the evening of New Year’s Day, 1973. A school teacher who lived on the West side of New York City, Quinn was a bubbly, vivacious and outgoing woman with friends from all walks of life (which seems like a stranger thing to say now, but at the time it was quite unique). But Quinn had a dark side too—she was prone to bad relationships, and had a string of violent partners who would often leave her battered and bruised. One left her irreparably so that fateful New Year’s Day, and Quinn would go down in history as the epitome of how our culture can slut shame and victim blame as the press focused on the fact that her body was found nude and she had been—gasp!—sexually active even though she was not married. 

Meeting her friend John Wayne Wilson at a bar across the street from her apartment on New Year’s Day would prove to be a terrible way to ring in the new year. Wilson had just finished drinking with his friend Geray Guest (who left before Quinn arrived), and Quinn and Wilson went promptly to her apartment where they smoked weed and attempted to have sex. Later, Wilson would say in a statement that he couldn’t get it up—but then who can on New Year’s Day, after all that partying.

Wilson claimed that Quinn insulted his manhood, and in the grand tradition of an attack on a white guy’s ego, he lashed out, stabbing Quinn 18 times in the neck and abdomen. Wilson then methodically showered, covered Quinn’s body, cleaned his fingerprints off the murder weapon and anything he’d touched in Quinn’s apartment, and left. He then called Guest to confess, but Guest thought Wilson was just making it up in an attempt to get Guest to pay for his plane ticket home to Miami (which tells you what kind of a person Wilson was if his friend thought he was being so wildly manipulative). Guest gave Wilson enough money to leave New York, and Wilson hightailed it to Miami where he collected his wife, Kathy, and took her to Indiana.

Quinn wasn’t found until January 3rd—the nightmare of all single people, being dead and undiscovered—when the school she taught at sent someone to check on her, as it was uncharacteristic of her to not just show up. After she was found, it was feared her killer would never be discovered. There was no forensic evidence and no eyewitnesses at the bar could offer a description of the man Quinn was with that night. What they did remember was Geary Guest’s face, and the NYPD released a sketch of his face to the public.

At the same time, Guest read about the murder in the newspaper (because it was BT, “Before Twitter”), and realized Wilson had not been lying about the murder. After agonizing over what to do and consulting friends, his therapist and an attorney, he finally turned Wilson into the police, in exchange for his own immunity (because he could be considered an accessory after the fact, as Wilson already confessed to him, and he gave him the getaway money).

Wilson was apprehended in Indianapolis and brought back to New York where he was put on suicide watch, and in May, he succeeded. After an altercation with a prison guard, Wilson said he would kill himself, and the guard threw bed sheets into the cell, encouraging him to do it. Wilson hung himself with those sheets on May 5. The whole grisly story of Quinn’s death inspired the book (1975) and movie (1977), Looking for Mr. Goodbar. If this not-so-happy new year’s crime intrigues you, check out Oxygen’s Homicide for the Holidays, where you can find out about grisly, seasonally themed crimes to lead you from Thanksgiving all the way to New Year’s Eve with a gruesome trail of blood.

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