On September 25, 1973, serial killer Harvey Carignan — nicknamed the “Want Ad Killer” because he lured many of his victims using want ads before raping and bludgeoning them to death — was arrested in Minnesota.
Carignan, who was also dubbed “Harvey the Hammer” due to his weapon of choice — a claw hammer — murdered at least five victims in a killing spree that spanned over two decades.
He was convicted of attempted murder, attempted rape, assault, burglary, murder, and sodomy — and his rampage was even more tragic due to the utter failure of the criminal justice system to keep him behind bars.
Carignan had been sentenced to hang in Anchorage, Alaska, for the murder of a woman in 1949, but the sentence was reversed in 1951 when authorities determined that the sheriff soliciting his confession had been over-zealous. So, after serving nine more years on a conviction for attempted rape, he was paroled in 1960.
After his release he was arrested multiple times for burglary, assault, and other crimes, and in 1965, Carignan was again sentenced to a term of 15 years in Washington. Despite his extensive criminal history, with time off for good behavior, once again he was set free in 1969.
Harvey married a Seattle widow shortly after his parole, but the marriage soon crumbled. He remarried in 1972 — once again to a widow — but after making advances to his teenage stepdaughter, the marriage was on the rocks by 1973.
In May, a young woman named Kathy Miller answered Carignan’s advertisement for employees at a service station that he leased. The girl was missing for a month before two boys discovered her remains while hiking on an Indian reservation north of Everett, Washington. She had been bludgeoned with a hammer, and her body was nude and wrapped in plastic.
Though police detectives in Seattle were suspicious, there was nothing to connect Carignan to the crimes. Carignan left Seattle, but resurfaced in Solano County, California, on June 20 when a speeding ticket put him in the area where half a dozen women had been murdered in the past two years.
On June 28, Marlys Townsend was assaulted at a bus stop in Minnesota. After being clubbed, she woke in Harvey’s car. He tried to force her to perform a sex act on him, but she was able to escape by jumping out of the speeding car.
On September 9, 13-year-old Jewry Billings was hitching rides to her boyfriend’s house, when Carignan pulled up and offered her a ride. Once she was in the car, he threatened her and forced her to perform oral sex while he sexually assaulted her with the handle of his hammer. He released her after the attack, but she was so traumatized that she kept the rape secret for several months.
Almost exactly a year later, on September 8, 1974, he picked up Lisa King and June Lynch, both 16, while they were hitching rides in Minneapolis. Once they were on the road, Carignan stopped the car and started beating June. When Lisa ran for help, he sped away and left June bleeding on the roadside.
Carignan struck again on September 14, after offering Gwen Burton a ride — then choking her, beating her, and raping her with his hammer handle. He dumped her in a field to die, but she miraculously managed to survive and was able to crawl to a nearby highway for assistance.
On September 18, Carignan picked up Sally Versoi and Diane Flynn. He assaulted them — but they escaped when he ran out of gas and had to stop at a station.
Two days later, his last victim, 18-year-old Kathy Schultz, did not return on schedule from her college classes. Her corpse was found next day in a corn field 40 miles from Minneapolis.
In late September, police found the body of Eileen Hunley, who had briefly dated Carignan. Hunley disappeared on August 10, and was found five weeks later. Her skull had been caved in with a hammer.
By now, investigators were beginning to put the pieces together. After Minneapolis police made contact with detectives in Washington, survivors began picking Carignan out of a lineup.
Among Carignan’s possessions, investigators found maps with 181 red circles drawn in areas of the United States and Canada. Many of the locations were areas where women had gone missing, and spanned several states.
Carignan took the stand at his murder trial, and told the court that the voice of “God” told him that the women were whores, and that he should “degrade and kill” them. Carignan reportedly believed he’d failed God, as one of his intended victims didn’t die. Carignan claimed that God is a figure wearing a “large hood” and “you can’t see his face.”
But the jury didn’t buy Carignan’s defense, or his lawyers’ claims of mental illness. He was convicted, and is still currently serving his 400-year sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility.
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