The amount of cannibals in American history is probably a lot higher than you’d expect. People with a desire to murder have a pretty big Venn diagram circle with people who have a craving for human flesh. People like Arthur Shawcross, the Rochester, NY based killer who killed 12 women and ate the genitals of several of them.
A shocking story like that sounds like something out of a horror film, but Shawcross is a real person to have walked and terrorized this Earth. Earning himself life in prison, Shawcross spent his life being tortured by others, and found freedom in the same torture he once received from those closest to him.
A childhood full of abuse
When he was younger, Shawcross claims his mother would put objects up his anus without permission, and at age six, he received oral sex from his aunt. Later on, as a teen, he had a sexual relationship with his sister. Maybe it was all the abuse at home, but Shawcross was a bully at school until he dropped out at 16.
At 21, Shawcross was drafted into the military to fight in Vietnam. When he came home, he boasted of the grotesque and evil action he saw on the battlefield, but it was later recorded that Shawcross never saw combat. While enrolled in the military, an Army psychologist noted he derived sexual pleasure from fire starting.
Discharge from honorable work to dishonorable
After being discharged from the military, Shawcross and his wife at the time moved back home to New York. Shortly after, the two divorced, and Shawcross acted out in the form of arson and burglary. Getting five years for the crime, he was released just short of 2 years on good behavior, mainly for rescuing a guard during a prison riot.
Returning to his hometown of Watertown, NY, Shawcross got a job at the public water works and remarried. But less than a year after getting released from prison, Shawcross raped and killed a 10 year old boy. His body wasn’t discovered until 4 months later.
Just a few days before the boy’s body was discovered, Shawcross took his next victim: an 8 year old girl. A day after, Shawcross was arrested for the girl’s death, and was later charged for the murder of the boy. He took a plea deal for an insurmountable amount of time, but max 25 years.
Sending the predator with the prey
After only 14 years in prison, inexperienced prison officials let Shawcross go, against the warning of prison psychiatrists who called Shawcross a “schizoid psychopath”. When released, Shawcross failed to find a town that would welcome him, meeting outrage from several NY towns and their citizens. He finally found peace in Rochester.
After laying quietly in Rochester, Shawcross started on another killing spree, specifically aiming against sex workers in the area. Between March 1988 and December 1989, Shawcross killed the various victims across Monroe County and Wayne County.
His last victim, June Cicero was found on January 3rd, 1990, and two days later, Shawcross was caught and arrested for her murder. While in custody, they connected him to the other 11 murders, though they could only charge him for 11, not 12.
Naturally, with so many psychiatrists involved in his care, Shawcross naturally attempted to plead not guilty by insanity. Psychiatrists on the stands sold the fact he had brain damage, PTSD, and multiple personality disorder, as well as sexual abuse as a child.
Maybe these arguments left Shawcross off of death row, but he was still sentenced to 250 years in jail, for a life sentence without parole. In 2003, while in prison, a British journalist interviewed Shawcross about his crimes, discussing the unmentioned cannibalism in his case.
From there, Shawcross bragged about eating the vulvas of three of his victims, but glossing over the claims of eating the genitals of his first victim, the 10 year old boy. Five years after the documentary, Shawcross entered cardiac arrest and passed away.