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David Nightingale: Adirondack Murders, 1973

He had been born in Dannemora in 1936. The police ultimately shot him to death after he escaped from his final prison, Fishkill, in 1978. His name was Robert Garrow.

While the recent [2015] escape of two murderers into the Adirondack forests took a month to resolve, Garrow's being on the loose in the forests, while shorter, turned out to be more dangerous. 

In his early twenties, and already married, Garrow was working in Albany in a fast food place, when he knocked a young man out cold and raped the girlfriend. He spent roughly 8 years in prison for that crime, but was released for good behavior. Up until 1973 he seemed to have had little further trouble with the law. But in April of that fateful year, 1973, he abducted two pre-teen Syracuse schoolgirls, let them go, and followed up by raping and killing a 16 yr old girl --  facts that came out later. In July he accosted a young couple camping in the Wevertown area not far from North Creek and stabbed the young man to death. He kept the girlfriend in captivity, in a tent in an area he knew well, not far from his parents' home in Mineville. It came out much later that he had used her for sex for 3 days, ultimately stabbing her to death and dumping her body in a mineshaft.

At the end of July 1973 he encountered 4 young campers in Hamilton County. He noticed their camp, quite close to the road, and stopped his old VW. Carrying rifle and knife, he asked them for gas. One of the youths, only 18, had objected, but Garrow led all four into the forest, threatening them with his rifle, and tied each to well-spaced trees out of sight from each other. Because of the 18 yr old's resistance Garrow stabbed the boy to death. While this grotesque killing and screaming was going on the other three managed to loosen their knots, escape to the road and run for help.

Garrow grew up in the Adirondacks and was familiar with its forests and lakes. Now, after murdering the 18 yr old, he was on the run. He found food and soda in remote hunting camps, and despite a tape-recorded message from his wife and 13 yr old son, blared by police from a helicopter, pleading with him to give himself up, he refused to come out of the woods. He stole a car from a hunting camp near Speculator, was chased by a trooper, whose car actually broke down, and got away. That was still summer 1973 -- a time of hippies, VietNam, Watergate hearings, Patty Hearst.

1973 was also the first time in my life that I did not have to work in the summer, and some time in June my family and I set off for a small rental cottage overlooking Blue Mountain Lake. With our 5 yr old and his 13 month old baby brother, the vacation was a luxury, and we would be able to enjoy the beauty, peace, fresh air, quietness and loveliness of the Adirondacks, plus the bonus of my old Sunfish tied up at a dock down at the bottom, just across Route 28. There was a sandy cove we could go down to, where we could swim and paddle.

Near the end of our vacation peace was shattered, as Robert Garrow terrorized the Adirondacks, and state police cars swarmed Routes 28 and 30, from Long Lake to Blue Mountain to Speculator. Would he emerge from the dense woods behind us, demand food and water, rape my wife, stab the kids, take us hostage?

Then, one morning, about 5 a.m., with police cars patrolling, there was a gigantic bang. Our rental cottage shook, and I wondered whether a plane had crashed. The 7 o'clock news said there had been an earthquake -- epicenter beneath Blue Mountain Lake. [Ref.2.]

We decided we would give up the last week of our vacation and return home. Our landlord said "You don't have to leave -- that's only our little earthquake!"

Researchers from Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Seismology lab were in Blue Mountain later that day. They said they were finding interesting predictive powers from the ratio of the speeds of S and P waves, and that indeed, the massive ancient rocks of the Adirondacks did experience earthquakes more frequently than was generally known.

Nevertheless, we left. Garrow was ultimately wounded by police, and locked up in Dannemora, before being transferred to Fishkill. There is no time to describe the extreme unpopularity of his two defense lawyers for respecting the attorney-client bond, by not revealing where two of girls' bodies were. All that came out later, in particular in the book co-written by one of the defense lawyers, that I've had to refer to here, to jog my memory. [Ref.1.]


1. "Privileged Information", by Tom Alibrandi with Frank H.Armani; Harper Collins, 1984. 

Also, Harper paperbacks (1991); 10, E.53rd St, New York, NY 10022.

2. Ten years later, in 1983, there was a more severe earthquake, magnitude 5.1 or 5.2, also in the Blue Mountain region.

Dr. David Nightingale is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and is the co-author of the text, A Short Course in General Relativity.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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