Alfred J. Gaynor (born December 10, 1966) is an American serial killer and rapist who committed a series of nine murders in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts from 1995 to 1998. For these crimes, Gaynor was subsequently sentenced to several counts of life imprisonment.
Little is known about Gaynor's early years. He was born on December 10, 1966 in Springfield, as one of several children. According to some, he attended the Roger L. Putnam High School, where he trained for a job as an automechanic. After school, having no education, Alfred was forced to engage in low-skill labor; later, in the late 1980s, he mastered his dream job and began work at an automobile repair shop, while periodically also engaging in day labor. At this time, he developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol. In the early 1990s, as a result of his drug addiction, he began leading a marginalized lifestyle.
In early April 1995, Gaynor began his murder spree, first starting with 45-year-old Vera E. Hellums, whom he asked to spend a night in her apartment. In the middle of the night, Alfred attacked the sleeping woman, tying her up and beating her. This caused a severe brain injury, as a result of which Hellums died. After her death, he raped the corpse, robbed the apartment and disappeared into the night. Hellums' body was found on April 20.
On June 15, 1997, Gaynor met 34-year-old drug addict Jill Ann Ermellini near his home. Having lured the woman to a parking lot under the pretense of selling her drugs, he attacked her, strangling and robbing Ermellini before hiding her body in a truck. On October 24, Gaynor met another drug addict, 29-year-old Robin M. Atkins. After using cocaine together, while in a drugged state, Alfred attacked Atkins in one of the downtown lanes, where he beat and raped her. Soon after, he strangled the victim, stealing money and other valuables from her wallet.
On October 31, Gaynor met 38-year-old JoAnn C. Thomas, who agreed to provide him with sexual services in exchange for narcotics. Once in the woman's apartment, Alfred sodomized and subsequently strangled her, leaving his fingerprints and semen on the crime scene. Two weeks later, on November 14, Gaynor went to the house of his longtime girlfriend: 33-year-old Yvette Torres. While they were abusing alcohol and drugs together, Alfred attacked Torres late in the evening, during which he strangled her. After the murder, Gaynor stole a videocassette recorder from her house, as well as a number of other items, all of which he later sold.
On February 1, 1998, Alfred went to a drug house to buy some narcotics. That evening, he met 38-year-old Loretta Daniels, who agreed to have sex with him in exchange for drugs. After they moved several blocks away from the brothel, Gaynor strangled Daniels in an alley, after which he sodomized her corpse, leaving semen traces on it. Her body was discovered the following day. Alfred repeated the process on February 10, going to the same drug house with the aim of exchanging CDs for crack cocaine. In the evening, he met 42-year-old Rosemary Downs, a drug-addicted prostitute. After meeting up with Gaynor, both went to Downs' apartment, where they used crack until the early morning. In this state, Alfred raped her, tying Downs and putting a gag in her mouth before leaving. As a result of this, she later died from suffocation.
On February 18, Gaynor strangled 37-year-old Joyce Dickerson-Peay. The day after the murder, her daughter went to the police to report her disappearance. During the investigation, witnesses said that before she vanished, Dickerson-Peay spent time with Gaynor and two other girls who were using crack cocaine, and later unsuccessfully tried to sell a number of items in exchange for crack. Alfred was later detained and interrogated on February 27. During said interrogation, a blood sample was taken from him, and while he failed to provide an adequate alibi, he was nevertheless released, since Dickerson-Peay's body hadn't been located at the time. Her corpse was finally located on March 11, and, as in previous cases, the killer's biological traces were found on the body. Based on the results from DNA profiling, Gaynor's involvement in the deaths of Rosemary Downs and Joyce Dickerson-Peay was cemented, and he was arrested again on April 10.
On April 30, 1998, during one of the court hearings, Alfred Gaynor was attacked by the son of one of his victims, Eric Downs. During the assault with a chair, Gaynor received physical injuries ranging from a mild to moderate severity. Eric Downs was subsequently charged with assault and contempt of court. As a result of the DNA examination and fingerprint evidence, the prosecutors were able to prove that the accused had indeed killed Rosemary Downs, Joyce Dickerson-Peay, Loretta Daniels and JoAnn Thomas. In May 2000, Alfred Gaynor was found guilty and received four sentences of life imprisonment without chance of parole, never having admitted his guilt.
In 2008, Gaynor suddenly turned to the Hampden County Attorney's Office with a proposal for a plea agreement. Based on the terms of the agreement, Gaynor confessed to the murders of Vera Hellums, Jill Ann Ermellini, Robin Atkins and Yvette Torres, but he also surprisingly revealed to be the killer of 20-year-old Amy Smith, who was killed in Springfield in June 1996. Alfred's nephew, Paul Fickling, was charged with and sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder in 1997. In exchange for his testimony, Gaynor demanded the annulment of his nephew's sentence and a new trial. Although his confession cast doubt on the reliability of the conviction, an agreement on the acceptance of his guilt was ultimately reached. Gaynor later explained his motivation with the death of his mother, who had died in 2006. He stated that he could not plead guilty to any killings, because he did not want to inflict psychological trauma on her.
Alfred was quoted as saying in 2008: "I just couldn't destroy everything she believed in".
In 2010, Paul Fickling's sentence was overturned. In a new trial, which took into account a deal struck with the judge, Fickling was convicted of complicity in the murder of Amy Smith and received 20 years imprisonment, taking into account the 14 years which he had already served. As for Gaynor, he was found guilty of the other 5 murders and received the same amount of life sentences. At trial, he expressed remorse of his deeds and apologized to the victims' relatives, stating that his behavioural and emotional problems stemmed from his severe intoxication and substance abuse.