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NOTORIOUS: The weepy voiced killer

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TWIN CITIES, Minn. (KTTC) -- In the early 1980s, Minneapolis and St. Paul were terrorized by a violent offender.

It started News Years Day, 1981. Karon Potack was brutally beaten with a tire iron and left for dead on the Pierce Bulter Road near Malmberg Manufacturing. Shortly after, a 9-1-1 call came in with a weepy person asking authorities to send a squad for a girl that's hurt.

Soon, other crimes started sharing similar characteristics. All women, all wearing the color red and all with one person wanting to work with police to catch the predator: the assailant, himself.

"At that point, they knew they had a serial killer," long time WCCO-TV, a Twin Cities based television station, reporter Caroline Lowe said.

A budding crime reporter in 1981, Lowe had an idea.

"I asked the police chief, if I could put the audio that they had to their phone center back then," she said. "Because, it was very distinctive, and I was sure if the viewers heard it they would know who it was."

According to Lowe, WCCO played the audio on its broadcast. Policed started a direct telephone line, accepting any tips to finding the weepy killer.

Long time WCCO-Tv reporter Caroline Lowe, started reporting on Paul Stephani's crimes in 1981.

"Nothing came of that," Lowe said. "About five months later, another person was attacked. And she died. It was Kimberly Compton."

Eighteen-year-old Compton was stabbed and killed with an ice pick.

"Please find me," the anonymous caller begged 9-1-1 operators. "I just stabbed somebody with an ice pick. I can't stop myself."

The tearful phone calls soon dubbed the attacker as the "weepy voiced killer." The patterns continued.

"If somebody dies with a red shirt on, it's me," the called cried.

The man behind the voice remained a mystery -- and another woman was savagely murdered. 40-year-old Barbra Simons. She was stabbed more than 100 times. The man responsible would eventually be identified as Paul Michael Stephani.

Stephani was caught in 1982, after stabbing Denise Williams with a screwdriver. Williams survived, and in the attack, Stephani was hurt. Authorities recognized his voice when he called for medical help. Upon his conviction, he was sentenced to prison, serving 18 years for the attack on Williams, and 40 for murdering Simons.

Paul Michael Stephani, otherwise known as the "weepy voiced killer."

"He always denied," Lowe said. "Even though he called and confessed and told people where to find these victims. He always denied he had committed the crimes."

Denied -- until Dec. 19, 1997. Stephani was diagnosed with melanoma cancer, with a less than a year to live. Stephani confessed to multiple murders -- even one, police hadn't connected him to.

"He had details that only the killer knew," Lowe said.

Before Stephani's death, Lowe interviewed him in prison.

"It was the first serial killer I covered," she said. "First killer as a brand new reporter and here, many, many years later. That was a full circle moment."

Stephani later wrote Lowe a letter, asking for his victims' family addresses. He wanted to apologize and send them flowers. Lowe didn't respond.

While the crimes of the "weepy voiced killer" are horrific, there was some sort of resolution. He served time for his crimes.

But, there are families they don't have that resolution, that don't have answers about what happened to their loved one. One of those stories is Jodi Huisentruit. While not a Minnesota case, Huisentruit was a Minnesota native. She went missing more than 25 years ago, on her way to work as a morning news anchor in Mason City, Iowa. She's never been seen or heard from since. Lowe has since made it her mission to find Jodi.

Beret Leone

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