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They thought it was a discarded mannequin.
A couple walking along an abandoned railroad track in Middletown, New York on March 26, 1991 spied what they mistakenly believed to be a department store dummy. It was a dead woman,
“She was brutally mutilated,” an investigator told “Twisted Killers,” airing Thursdays at 9/8c on Oxygen. “Her face was totally obliterated.”
The naked victim had been washed and suggestively posed. She was identified as 27-year-old Juliana Frank.
“Any time somebody gets killed, it cuts through you,” said retired Middletown PD Detective Barry Bernstein. “But when you know the person it cuts a little bit more through you.”
An autopsy revealed Frank had been stabbed more than 40 times — and something more chilling: She was four months pregnant and “the fetus had been cut out,” said Kevin McGrath, a retired investigator with the New York State Police.
The extreme violence struck investigators, who grappled with determining a motive. “Generally, when you see overkill, it’s personal,” said Dr. Kate Termini, a forensic psychologist.
Detectives staked out Frank’s funeral, believing that the murderer might attend. It’s not uncommon for killers to show up at a service “because he wants to see all the people who are there mourning this victim because of what he did,” said Beth Karas, former NYC prosecutor.
The surveillance yielded no viable leads. In the weeks and months after the funeral, the case went cold.
But on July 10, 1992, Frank’s homicide investigation was reinvigorated following another gruesome discovery. The naked body of Laurette Huggans, 34, was found inside her Middletown home. She had been brutally stabbed in her neck and chest and posed, investigators said.
The crime scene showed signs of a struggle. Boxes in the home indicated she was in the middle of a move, and detectives learned she was headed back to St. Vincent. The boxes were stamped the day before Huggins was found.
Detectives “knew now that she had to have been in there less than 24 hours,” said former Middletown PD Detective Warren Wagner. Evidence collected included a paper coat hanger with a bloody fingerprint.
The case took a turn with the report of two missing young women in Poughkeepsie, about an hour’s drive from Middletown. Angelina Hopkins, 23, and her cousin Brenda Whiteside, 20 vanished after being out at a club.
Then, on July 30, 1992, a woman’s body was found near an abandoned restaurant in Goshen, eight miles from Middletown. The victim was naked and provocatively posed. She was identified as Adriane Hunter, 27. She had been stabbed 47 times.
The ferocity of this slaying, like the Huggins and Frank homicides, suggested a spree killer — “someone who kills with a sense of urgency,” said retired LAPD investigator Tracey Benjamin. “There's a sense of pattern and how they are committing their murders. They’re strategic, they’re on the hunt.”
But Hopkin's relatives provided a promising lead.
“The mother and sister of Angelina Hopkins essentially began their own investigation and did a terrific job,” said McGrath, adding that they went to the bar and asked patrons for information. Their efforts led investigators to the suspect named Nathaniel White.
Bernstein recalled White’s name from a 1986 armed robbery arrest in the area. “While he was on parole, he abducted a girl off the street,” he said, adding that White was charged for unlawful imprisonment and violating parole. He spent a year behind bars and was released in 1992.
Investigators learned that Hunter and Huggins had both lived in close proximity to the suspect. Teams were sent to White’s residence, where no one responded when authorities knocked. White eventually emerged with his girlfriend and drove off. He was stopped ostensibly for a license plate violation, investigators said, and brought to the station. He was informed of his rights and questioned about the murders. White was calm, polite, reserved, and made no admissions.
Around 1:30 a.m. on August 4, New York State Police Investigator Jim McKoy told White that he would be administering a polygraph test about the Huggins murder. That crime was chosen because investigators had the most information about it. Armed with what they had learned about the time of her slaying, they knew White was lying during the test. White still denied any guilt.
But when McKoy raised the issue of the coat hanger with the bloody fingerprint, White crumbled and told all. He said he and Huggins had had sex and he then repeatedly stabbed her with scissors. He posed her body because he’d seen that done in a vampire movie, said McGrath.
He explained he picked up Hunter when he saw her walking along the road. The two had sex and, he claimed, she asked him for money. That infuriated him. After beating her he stabbed her.
White eventually admitted to beating Hopkins and Whiteside to death in the woods. He also confessed to detectives that his first victim was Frank, who was killed in March 1991. Then, for a year beginning in April 1991, he was in lockup. Investigators now understood why there was a gap between his first and second murder.
“He sat in prison, and he just became a pressure cooker,” said Benjamin. “And when he came out, he just exploded. He wanted to kill more. And he did.”
White told detectives that he met Juliana Frank on the street and the two had sex near old railroad tracks. He became enraged when, he alleged, she asked for money. He punched her and stabbed her “multiple times and cut open her belly,” said McGrath.
“He said he didn't know that she was pregnant when he killed her,” said McKoy. “But after that, for some reason, he had a thirst for blood.”
White also confessed to killing 14-year-old Christine Klebbe, who’d disappeared from a home in Goshen. She was the niece of White’s girlfriend, said detectives.
White took police to the area where he killed Whiteside and Hopkins, and search dogs located their remains as well as Klebbe’s.
White was charged with six murders in August 1992. The mass murders in the small town caught the attention of the media.
“I hear this voice in my head saying ‘She deserves to die’ … ” White told reporters in a jailhouse interview. “While I’m doing it … I enjoy it.”
White was convicted and sentenced in May 1993 to six consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison on the counts. Now 61, he is serving his 150-year sentence at the maximum security Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
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