The serial killer whose calling card was brutality: Handyman's shock confession to EIGHT sex murders

One of America's worst serial killers: Alfred Gaynor has just confessed to four more murders - meaning he has killed at least eight women. Investigators are questioning if there are any more

One of America's worst serial killers: Alfred Gaynor has just confessed to four more murders - meaning he has killed at least eight women. Investigators are questioning if there are any more

A former handyman was revealed as one of America’s worst serial killers after admitting to the brutal sex murders at least eight women.

Alfred Gaynor was already serving a life sentence for four killings when he made the shocking confession.

Now prosecutors in Springfield, Massachusetts, have added four more murders to his grim list – and they are considering bringing another two charges linked to the deaths of a 20-year-old mother and her toddler daughter that he is suspected of carrying out fourteen years ago.

Gaynor held Springfield in a grip of terror for three years between 1995 and 1998.

Women’s bodies were discovered in alleys, cars and homes before Gaynor was finally arrested and put behind bars by a judge ten years ago.

Even after he was convicted, the killer stuck to his story that he was innocent.

He only changed his mind after his mother passed away and a nephew was accused of a murder that Gaynor insisted he was responsible for.

The victim’s families have mixed feelings about finally knowing what happened to their loved ones.

‘Some people are just evil through and through,’ said Janice Ermellini, whose 34-year-old daughter, Jill Ann, was killed in 1997 by Gaynor in an abandoned truck shortly after she moved to Springfield from Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

Jill Ann Ermellini, aged 34, was found on June 16, 1997

Jill Ann Ermellini, aged 34, was found on June 16, 1997

Robin M Atkins, aged 29, was found on October 25, 1997

Robin M Atkins, aged 29, was found on October 25, 1997

‘When he finally confessed, I felt like a weight was removed from my shoulders. But that day in court when I heard the gruesome details, it's different. There's no peace. It goes through my mind constantly,’ she added. 

Gaynor remains relatively unknown beyond Springfield, where he met several of his victims in their mutual search for crack cocaine. Others were low-income single mothers, often acquaintances, whom he robbed for drug money.

James Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston, said Gaynor may not have garnered as much notoriety as other serial killers because — rightly or wrongly — people might have viewed his murders as less random than, for example, Ted Bundy's rapes and killings of college students and young girls in the 1970s.

JoAnn C Thomas, aged 38, was found on November 1, 1997

JoAnn C Thomas, aged 38, was found on November 1, 1997

Yvette Torres, aged 33, was found on November 15, 1997

Yvette Torres, aged 33, was found on November 15, 1997

‘When you have a case of a serial murderer like Bundy, who looks like he could be the guy at the next desk or the next house, that's intriguing and scary at the same time to people,’ Fox said.

‘Whereas if you have a serial killer whose behavior is consistent with the stereotype of a criminal or murderer, it's not so fascinating to them.’

Gaynor was no stranger to police. The burly 6ft man worked occasional odd jobs in the 1990s, but mostly moved from one crack fix to the next, according to court testimony and files. He had also been tried and acquitted of a rape charge in 1997.

Loretta Daniels, aged 38, was found on February 2, 1998

Loretta Daniels, aged 38, was found on February 2, 1998

Rosemary A Downs, aged 43, was found on February 11, 1998

Rosemary A Downs, aged 43, was found on February 11, 1998

In the eight murders, his calling card was brutality: Authorities say several of the women were tightly bound, some had socks or other objects jammed in their throats, and the rapes involved violence that went beyond sexual gratification. In three cases, the women's bodies were found by their children.

Gaynor insisted for years that he was innocent, even after his first four murder convictions in 2000. It was only after the death of his 67-year-old mother, a woman described as his family's matriarch and one of his strongest supporters, that he admitted he was a rapist and killer.

Joyce A Dickerson-Paey, 37, who was found on February 19, 1998

Joyce A Dickerson-Paey, 37, who was found on February 19, 1998

He told police and prosecutors that he kept quiet until after her death because he ‘just couldn't destroy everything she believed in.’

With eight convictions, Gaynor now joins the ranks of several more notorious U.S. serial killers, including New York's 'Son of Sam', David Berkowitz (six convictions); executed Florida prostitute and killer Aileen Wuornos (six); and executed Connecticut serial rapist Michael Ross (eight).

And now, his victims' families await a final chapter: whether he'll be indicted based on his confession in two more 1996 deaths — 20-year-old Amy Smith and her 22-month-old toddler, Destiny, who was trapped for days without food or water in a sweltering apartment with the strangled woman's body.

Gaynor blames his actions on the crack cocaine he once told police was his ‘first and last love.’

He says he killed his first victim in April 1995 when 45-year-old Vera Hallums let him sleep on her floor. He beat her with a kitchen pot and bound her with electrical cords. He said he had planned to rape her, but that she strangled first on the cords.

Four slayings followed in 1997, then three more in the first three months of 1998. In most cases, Gaynor stole cash and items to pawn for drugs: Mickey Mouse earrings from one woman, a few coins for bus fare from another.

Massachusetts has no death penalty. Gaynor is serving his eight life sentences in a maximum-security prison, where he holds a menial job and, at one point, stirred controversy by trying to sell his artwork online.

‘We live with her death every day,’ Jose Torres said of his sister, Yvette, whose body was discovered on a bathroom floor by her 11-year-old son. 

‘The pain is still there and at some times, it's unbearable,’ he added.

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