Gerald Eugene Stano (September 12, 1951 – March 23, 1998) was an American convicted serial killer. He killed at least 22 women, and confessed to killing 41.
He was born in Schenectady, New York. His given name at birth was Paul Zeininger. His biological mother neglected him to such an extent that when she gave him up for adoption at six months old, county doctors declared him unadoptable. They said he was functioning at "an animalistic level" - even eating his own faeces to survive. He had four biological siblings; they, too, were given up for adoption. Norma Stano, a nurse, eventually adopted Paul, renaming him Gerald Eugene Stano.
By all accounts, the Stanos were loving parents. Nevertheless, discipline problems plagued Gerald. He was a bed wetter until the age of 10. In school, he earned Cs and Ds in all subjects except music (at which he excelled). He lied compulsively, and was once caught stealing money from his father's wallet to pay members of the track and field team to finish behind him, so he would not be viewed as a complete failure. During his youth, he was often bullied. At the age of 14 or 15, he was arrested for a false fire alarm and later for throwing rocks at cars from a highway bridge.
Stano did not graduate high school until he was 21. After receiving his diploma, he enrolled in a computer school, graduated and began working in a local hospital. Soon after, he was fired for stealing co-workers' money. After moving with his parents to Ormond Beach, Florida he could not hold down a job; he was fired from one after another. The reasons most often given were Stano stealing money or being late.
Officially, Stano admitted that he began killing in the early 1970s, when he was in his 20s but also claimed to have begun killing in the late 1960s, at the age of 18. Several girls had gone missing in Stano's area of residence at that time, but since insufficient physical evidence was found when these claims were investigated almost 20 years later, Stano was never charged. He was most active in Florida and New Jersey. He was arrested after a woman named Donna Hensley had come to the police station bleeding and had accused Stano of having sliced her.
Stano admitted his first murder was committed in New Jersey in 1969. He also confessed to having killed six other women in Pennsylvania. After his moving to Florida he may have murdered up to 30 or more women. One gruesome killing was the 1973 stabbing of 17-year-old hitchhiker Cathy Lee Scharf.
He also confessed to killing a young woman in 1978 or 1979, claiming she was a prostitute. Her remains were located in Daytona Beach in 1980. The confession was confirmed by his memory of her clothing.
By his 29th birthday, he was in prison for allegedly murdering 41 women. His victims were killed by different methods, such as gunshots, strangulation, and stabbing, but none of them were ever raped. He was housed with fellow serial killer Ted Bundy until Bundy's execution in 1989.
Stano was found guilty of 9 murders. He received eight life sentences and one death sentence, the latter of which was carried out by electric chair on March 23, 1998 in Florida State Prison. For his final meal, Stano requested Delmonico steak, a baked potato with sour cream and bacon bits, salad with blue cheese dressing, lima beans, a half gallon of mint chocolate-chip ice cream, and 2 litres of Pepsi. Stano's final statement proclaimed innocence and directed blame for his false confessions at the lead investigator, Paul Crow. He stated:
Controversy has long accompanied Gerald Stano's criminal history, with some believing that Stano was actually a 'serial confessor', including his arresting officer, Detective James Gadberry, who challenged the decision to accept Stano's first confessions as valid and, in 1986, signed a legal affidavit stating unequivocally that Sergeant Paul Crow was responsible for "spoon feeding" Stano the intimate details of unsolved homicides. According to Gadberry's affidavit, Stano merely parroted the information back to Crow while other veteran homicide officers later made statements to the effect that, they too, had witnessed Paul Crow 'helping' Stano to confess to crimes he had not committed.
Crow's colleagues recalled how he actively gathered information on unsolved or "cold case" murders from foreign jurisdictions. During sworn testimony in Orlando Federal Appeals Court in 1993, Crow himself recalled using copies of stories from the local newspaper to locate details about murders to which Stano later confessed, including the murder for which Stano was later executed.
In 1995, Crow was removed from office by a grand jury appointed by Florida Governor Lawton Chiles, citing corruption.
Further controversy surrounded the fact that Stano, in spite of his 41 murder confessions, was brought to trial for just nine homicides, and that of 17-year-old Cathy Lee Scharf, who was murdered in December 1973, was worth a death sentence. A conspicuous lack of physical evidence corroborating Stano's confessions made it virtually impossible for jurisdictions in Florida to prosecute, and Stano's previous convictions were exclusively the result of his own guilty pleas.
Following a hung jury, prosecutors introduced the testimony of a jailhouse informant, Clarence Zacke, who was later discredited when another man against whom he had testified, Wilton Dedge, was released after serving 22 years for rape when lawyers for the Innocence Project established that his DNA did not match that found on the victim.
During a secretly recorded conversation with freelance reporter Arthur Nash in 1997, Zacke admitted that he had lied regarding Stano and other defendants, including Wilton Dedge. He said his testimony had been fabricated with the assistance of two county prosecutors who offered him incentives in exchange for testimony.
In late 2007, an FBI lab report surfaced which concluded that Stano could not have been the source of unidentified Caucasian pubic hairs that were recovered from Scharf's body. The report was never presented as evidence by the public defender representing Stano. The source of the pubic hairs was not identified, and they were destroyed shortly after Stano's execution in the Florida electric chair in 1998.
- Flowers, Anna (1993). Blind Fury. Pinnacle Books. ISBN 978-1558177192.
- Kelly, Kathy; Montane, Diana (2011). I Would Find a Girl Walking. Berkley. ISBN 978-0425231869.