Robert Garrow (March 4, 1936–September 11, 1978) was an American serial killer who was active in New York in the early 1970s.
Born in the Upstate New York
village of Dannemora
, Garrow grew up in a poor family of farmers. Garrow later said that his parents were severe, violent disciplinarians who regularly physically abused
their children with whatever was handy, even bricks. (His accounts have been confirmed by his siblings.) The police were called several times throughout the years to break up violent fights between Garrow and his alcoholic
father; after a particularly brutal episode when Garrow was 15, he was sent to a reform school
. He joined the Air Force
upon his release, but was court-martialed
a year later for stealing money from a superior officer and spent six months in a military prison in Florida
. After a failed escape attempt, he spent a year in another stockade in Georgia
Garrow also later reported a long history of sexual dysfunction and paraphilias; he committed several acts of bestiality with the farm animals he worked with throughout childhood and adolescence, and would often perform sadomasochistic masturbation with milking machines.
Garrow returned to New York in 1957, married and fathered a son. His life did not improve, however; he was fired from a series of menial jobs, including from a fast food
restaurant he burglarized
, and was involved in an abusive homosexual
relationship with a man he later described as a sadist
. He was arrested for rape
in 1961 and spent seven years in prison. Soon after he was released, he committed a series of rapes; many of his victims were children. His crimes soon escalated to murder
He murdered three people in July 1973, including a young woman whom he kidnapped and repeatedly raped before killing. He was arrested weeks later for the rape of two prepubescent girls, but jumped bail and became a fugitive. He murdered a high school-aged camper in the Adirondacks a few days later, spurring on a statewide manhunt. After murdering four other teenagers, Garrow was tracked down, cornered and shot in the foot by a Conservation Officer. He survived, but was partially paralyzed. He sued the State of New York for $10 million alleging that the state's doctors had been negligent in treating the gun shot wound which lead to his alleged paralysis. He was moved to a medium security prison in exchange for dropping the lawsuit and was later found to be faking his paralysis. (See Ethical Problems in the Practice of Law by Lerman and Schrag, pages 164 -175.)
Garrow pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury rejected it and found him guilty of first-degree murder, sentencing him to a term of 25 years to life in prison. Garrow's lawyers (Francis Belge and Frank Armani), with whom he had shared the location of two victims' bodies, were accused of withholding evidence from the court, but were exonerated by a jury who thought they were obeying attorney/client privilege.
Garrow escaped from prison on September 8
, and smuggled out a gun. He was spotted by guards three days later a few hundred yards away from the prison walls and shot at his pursuers, but was killed when they returned fire.