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Speculator, NY ,

Carla Kolbe - Wells Historian Leona Aird, left, and event coordinator and library board member Mary Ellen Stofelano display Aird’s scrapbook on Robert Garrow.

Carla Kolbe - Lawrence Gooley signs a copy of his book, “Terror in the Adirondacks.”

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Hundreds turn out for Garrow presentation

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - Updated: 8:05 AM

By CARLA KOLBE

Special to the Express

WELLS - Adirondack author Lawrence P. Gooley was surprised and pleased to find Wells Community Hall packed to the walls for a presentation on his book, “Terror in the Adirondacks.”

There was standing room only when he showed up Sunday, Sept. 30, to discuss the book and sign copies. The Virginia Hosley Free Library sponsored the event.

“I expected to sell maybe a half dozen books, and was hoping to see maybe 20 people here,” said Gooley.

To his surprise, and the surprise of library volunteers, the hall began filling 30 minutes early, and additional chairs were quickly set up to accommodate the crowd.

Gooley and his partner, Jill McKee, sold out of the featured read even after retrieving an additional box stowed in their car.

The book, “Terror in the Adirondacks,” is on a topic very real and very close to people who lived and visited in and around this area 40 years ago.

Gooley’s story is on the life of serial killer Robert Francis Garrow Sr., whose reign of terror in 1973 left the Adirondack Mountains with a trail of corpses that led to the largest manhunt in state history at the time.

KILLED IN WELLS

Garrow killed his last victim, Philip Domblewski, 18, Schenectady, July 29, 1973 between Wells and Speculator, off Old Route 8B.

Other members of Domblewski’s camping party - David Freeman, 19, Nicholas Fiorello, 20, and Carol Ann Malinowski, 23 - were tied up but managed to escape in different directions and seek help as they arrived in Wells and Speculator.

“It was the good people of Wells that took it upon themselves to believe the crazed story one of the young escaped victims told and acted quickly,” said Gooley.

A manhunt ensued with endless roadblocks set up to check all vehicles and warn motorists Garrow could be on the road posing as a hitchhiker.

The manhunt with its helicopters, search dogs and roadblocks are what so many local residents still remember clearly, as it created so much fear. It began July 30 and would end Aug. 9 in Witherbee.

FILLED WITH FEAR

Kathleen Towers has a slight deformity in her thumb today due to the fear stirred up by the Garrow manhunt.

“I was a child then and I was so scared that in haste getting out of my parents’ car I slammed my thumb in the door,” she said. “To this day, I look at it and still remember the fear I was filled with.”

Leona Aird still remembers the phone call her husband William, a Hamilton County coroner at the time, received that day in ‘73.

“I heard him say, ‘I’ll be right there,’ as he quickly left to attend the Domblewski murder scene,” said Aird, who as town historian keeps a comprehensive account of the Garrow ordeal filed in a scrapbook she displayed.

Fulton County Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey said he was a young Gloversville police officer at the time, and can remember the details of Robert Garrow very well.

“We wanted to gather our own search party to help,” Lorey said.

ENDLESS

ROADBLOCKS

William and Doris Guyon of Northville were residents of Benson in 1973. They remember being stopped every couple of miles for their car to be searched whenever they went to the store during the manhunt.

“Keep in mind in those days, drivers many times had to turn off their cars and get out, having to use the key to open the trunk,” said Gooley. “There was no button to push and open the trunk.

“The stops were lengthy and the motorist may then drive a few miles up the road and be subjected to another one.”

First-hand accounts were numerous. Event coordinator and library trustee Mary Ellen Stofelano pointed out that although the hall was filled, many residents did not attend because their emotions still run too deep remembering the horror of that time.

One woman said she was called for jury duty on the Garrow trial. She said she was sick with fear as Garrow passed within inches of her in his wheelchair for the jury selection process. She wanted nothing to do with the trial and believed Garrow was guilty from the beginning. She was dismissed as a juror.

COMPREHENSIVE STORY

The book describes Garrow’s unfortunate childhood. Gooley, an avid outdoor enthusiast and hiker, admitted having initial difficulty writing it, knowing the emotions he would stir for the victims and people involved.

“I was teen growing up in Champlain, just coming into my own. All I wanted to do was be outside and hike. In those days you never thought twice about strangers, everyone was friendly,” said Gooley.

“Then Robert Garrow came along and ruined everything. To this day I still look over my shoulder, and I always will,” he admitted.

Gooley read over 800 newspaper articles and cross-referenced that with more than 2,000 pages of court records and testimony on Robert Garrow, coming up with what he feels is the most complete story of his life.

An award winning author of 11 books and a true historian, it was a task Gooley felt he had to do. Some of the information he discovered was so disturbing that he would have to stop and work on another book.

Much of the information came first-hand from Garrow’s testimony, Gooley said.

CAPTURED

The manhunt ended with Garrow shot and recovering from his wounds at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh. Although physicians said he was fine, Garrow claimed he was paralyzed and used a wheelchair.

Garrow was found guilty in July 1974 of murdering Domblewski and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He was convicted for three other murders and seven rapes throughout Essex, Onondaga and Warren counties.

To this day cold cases from the late 1950s are being looked into as possibly Garrow’s doing.

Because it was believed Garrow was paralyzed he managed to get himself transferred to a minimum-security prison with a hospital wing at Fishkill State Correctional Facility.

ESCAPE

In September 1978 Garrow was visited by his son Robert F. Garrow Jr., who slipped a handgun past guards in a bucket of chicken slathered with gravy. The next morning, when a guard attempted to wake Garrow, a dummy made from pillows and blankets was discovered in his cot.

A Northville native, Michael Halloran, is among those credited in Gooley’s book as aiding in Garrow’s final capture. Two of Halloran’s sons, Dave and Dan, attended the event. Their father, Michael Halloran, was the first State Police officer to the scene of the Domblewski murder and worked on the 12-day manhunt.

Gooley wrote in his book, “Lieutenant Halloran, now Captain Halloran, his efforts and experience were described as critical in bringing this final manhunt to a successful conclusion.”

Halloran knew from experience that Garrow would not venture far from and would be found close by the prison.

KILLED

Sept. 11, 1978, Garrow, now 42, was found in a hiding spot close to the prison, as Halloran had predicted. Garrow fired at police and was shot and killed.

The prison system learned much from the Garrow ordeal. Medical treatment procedures, evaluations and inmate classifications and security rules were revamped. Building 13 at Fishkill State Correctional was closed down after Garrow’s escape.

“Terror in the Adirondacks” can be purchased at bookstores throughout the area; from the author’s online store at sales@bloatedtoe.com; or from The North County Store, Bloated Toe Enterprises, POB 324, Peru NY 12972.

     

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