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Outrage grows to release of killer

By Kimball Perry, Post staff reporter

As he sped through Price Hill's rain-soaked streets 35 years ago to the scene of what he thought was a car wreck, Cincinnati Patrolman Frank Sefton had no idea he would play a part in ending an infamous crime spree linked to a killer dubbed the ''Cincinnati Strangler.''

''That was a really gruesome scene up there,'' said Sefton, who retired from the police department in 1987 and now works for the city Office of Municipal Investigation.

At the intersection of Ring Place and Grand Avenue, he saw a Yellow Cab in the middle of the street. Nearby on the pavement lay Barbara Bowman, her clothes askew, her right foot almost severed, her throat cut and bleeding profusely.

It would be nearly four months before police would arrest Posteal Laskey for the crime, ending a string of assaults on women that terrified the city.

Laskey was convicted and sent to prison in 1967; next week, the now-64-year-old inmate will make another bid to the Ohio Parole Board for freedom, this time after 35 years behind bars.

''They were terrified,'' Sefton said of the public after Ms. Bowman's killing. ''The locksmiths and the hardware stores couldn't keep locks in stock. There was a huge demand for them. ... Because of the hysteria, everybody was absolutely petrified.''

Laskey was sentenced to death, but that was commuted to life in 1972 when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen wants the Parole Board to know that there is still strong opposition to Laskey's release.

''Purely and simply, he's a serial killer, and unless the Parole Board knows something we don't, serial killers shouldn't be let out,'' Allen said. ''He got a break once when it was commuted in 1972.''

Almost 400 e-mails - all of them against parole for Laskey - have been received, Allen said. E-mails can be sent to via the prosecutor's Web site at http://www.hcpros.org/parole.

Although he was convicted of just one murder, police were convinced Laskey committed at least six others.

Ms. Bowman, a 31-year-old single secretary, left the Lark Cafe, 3001 Vine St., at 2:15 a.m. on Aug. 14, 1966, in a cab driven by a short, thin black man.

Laskey had previously worked for Yellow Cab and using a master key he'd had made, stole cab No. 870.

After Ms. Bowman's murder was reported, two people told policethey had stopped and asked a man and woman in that cab for directions.

Police suspect that scaredLaskey so much that he stabbed and choked Ms. Bowman and, when she tried to flee, ran over her with the cab.

''The viciousness of what he did to her that night was unbelievable,'' Sefton said.

''I asked a man standing there to help me and he threw up it was so bad.''

Ms. Bowman had been stabbed seven times in the neck, raped, and strangled - perhaps with the pearl necklace she wore.

As Laskey tried to drive the cab away from the scene, it hit a street sign, breaking a tie-rod, affecting the ability to steer. He hailed another cab and got away.

Laskey had been interviewed by police during the crime spree, but they had no proof of his guilt. He was a suspect because of his conviction - he served four years in prison - for an earlier assault that bore a chilling resemblance to the string of 1966 attacks.

Still unable to put a name on the face, police were baffled as to who was killing, beating and raping women - mostly elderly ones.

Police finally got the break they needed after someone saw the license number of a man who forced his way into a West Court Street apartment on Dec. 8 and tried to assault the woman who lived there.

The next day, using that license plate number, officers arrested Laskey.

Even though Cincinnati had 16 homicide detectives at that time, so many others were called in from other areas, Sefton said, that 54 detectives were on the case when Laskey was caught.

Sefton has little sympathy for Laskey and doesn't care if a sick old man who has served 35 years in prison wants to be freed.

''You want to take a risk of letting him out? With these sexual serial killers, you just can't predict what they will do,'' Sefton said.

''If it was just Bowman, her case alone would be enough to keep him in for life. There's no question people like that shouldn't be let out.''

Publication date: 03-01-02




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