August 1st, 1973. Robert Garrow had been ID’d by the surviving campers as the man who came into the camp, took them hostage, and killed their friend, Phillip Dombelwski. As police looked more into Robert’s past, they found more reason to believe he was behind everything. In 1961 Robert Garrow was convicted of rape and served seven years in prison. After his release, it was believed that he committed several more rapes on young children. He was charged with the crimes but did not show up to court. After that, he became a fugitive on the run.
One of the first things the police put out to the press is that they didn’t know if Robert was behind the murder of camper Daniel Porter, the disappearance of Susan Petz. They knew that the ditched car belonged to Robert and that they believed him to be the murderer of Phillip just hours before.
As police searched the area, those who stayed behind worked with the evidence that they had. The orange car that the killer left behind could contain evidence linking him to all of the crimes.
They searched for fibers and hairs that may belong to Susan, who had not been found yet. They also looked for rope or anything else in his car that might link to the other crimes.
Now, the police had massed an enormous effort to find Robert in the woods. They gathered bloodhounds, helicopters and had almost a hundred well-trained officers go into the woods looking for Robert. What made the search so difficult was that it was the same conditions that they searched for Susan in. The underbrush was so very thick. They knew that Robert had a gun at the campsite and was not located in his car, so they feared that he grabbed the rifle when he fled from the vehicle. This would make Robert a deadly target in this environment. If he was hiding, they might not spot him until it’s too late, and he can shoot one of the officers. So they searched with much caution.
Police Major Staincamp was the commander who was heading the entire operation. The Major got an idea that Robert may come out of hiding if he hears that his family wants him to give up. Edith Garrow and her son Robery Jr. recorded their voices for police, pleading with Robert to give up. This was Edith’s message to her husband. “Honey, this is Edith. Won’t you please come out? Leave your rifle in the woods. I am here with the State Police. They do not want to hurt you and don’t want you to hurt anyone else. The children and I want you to come out. Please listen to me and do what I ask.” Robert Jr was recorded saying, “Dad, this is Rob here. Please listen. Come into the open. We don’t want you to get hurt. Please come out.”
Now, this sounds a little silly, but it was a solid tactic. The Major didn’t want his men out searching for a killer who could get the drop on officers at any point. So, this was a way to reach out to him and try and compel him to come to his senses. But this is where I feel like it fell apart. Robert was a man who ran from the trouble he was in, just to find himself with many more problems. He was desperate, and that part of his life, with his family, was the last thing on his mind.
About mid-day, police found what they thought was their first clue to Roberts’s movements since he fled from justice. Searchers found a primitive cabin in the woods. It was old but still a useable place to hide. The officer who found the cabin noticed that recent damage had been done to force entry into it. Officers surrounded the area, and they entered the residence slowly. But they found nothing. However, it did appear that someone had been inside the place recently. Detectives quickly went to the scene to look for fingerprints that could tie Robert to this location.
While all of this was going on, the county district attorney had weighed the evidence they currently had to see if they could charge Robert with the crimes. It was clear that Robert was on the run. He proved that when he didn’t show up for court on the rape case. Robert didn’t return home, and now not only had Robert been ID’d from a surviving victim, but his car last left at the scene as well. The district attorney knew that he had enough to go forward with charges with the murder of Phillip Dombelwski. In time he hoped that he could also charge him with the murder of Daniel Porter and possibly Susan Petz.
Days went by with few leads in the case. Robert seemed to just disappear. They found out that Robert knew how to survive in this environment. He was trained in his time in the military. This was not a comforting thought to officers who were out searching for him.
Officers looked for signs of Susan Petz as well. She was still missing and presumed to have been taken by Robert. But the only thing they found was a shirt that they didn’t think belonged to her and was probably Roberts or something he found. Seeing that it was in the middle of the woods, in an area that was hardly ever visited by anyone, they thought it came from Robert one way or another.
On August 3rd, 1973, officers received their first big lead. A traveler who had stopped at a roadside rest-stop noticed something odd when he pulled up. There was someone in the distance that was getting into what looked like a homemade tent. The man looked a lot like the person on the run from the law in the area. As the car driver pulled up, he intently looked at the structure, trying to see the man inside. They both made eye contact, and the man who was seen in the distance then scrambled out and ran into the woods. Instead of stopping, the driver decided to go and alert the police to what he had seen.
Following the lead, officers searched the area. The structure ended up being a lean-to made from tree limbs and was camouflaged to look natural. Whoever was inside had the perfect view of the rest stop. If someone had come into the rest stop and slept in their car, they would have been seen clearly from the structure. They also found unspent rifle cartridges.
Clearly, they were on to something here. It looked like Robert had set this up as a place where he could get the drop on an unsuspecting driver and steal their car. They had lucked out that he was spotted before this could happen. Unknowingly, the man who spotted Robert probably prevented more murders from happening.
With plenty of evidence pointing to Robert’s whereabouts, Hundreds of searchers gathered in the area of the rest stop. They believed he couldn’t have gotten far and that they could probably get him surrounded quickly. But things are never that simple when it comes to catching Robert Garrow.
Just as searchers were getting prepped and dispatched in the area, a large thunderstorm moved in. The storm was fierce and made it hard for searchers. The bloodhounds that they wanted searching in the area would not be able to work in these conditions. A helicopter couldn’t see anything from the sky, and searchers below lost all visibility. Robert Garrow was able to disappear once again.
This was incredibly unlucky for the officers. They were so close to having their suspect, but the circumstances were just not on their side. Now knowing that he had been out of the woods and trying to get on the move. Officers decided to keep a watch on Robert’s family’s homes. They held 24-hour surveillance to make sure that Robert didn’t try to make contact in person. Besides his wife and son, Robert was very close to his sister. So officers watched her home as well.
It wasn’t until three days later, August 6th, 1973, that Robert would again be spotted. It was at a gas station in Speculator, New York, where a 1968 Pontiac Tempest with an Ohio license plate stopped for gas. The attendant, who was the owner of the business, was handed five dollars for gas, and that’s when she realized that the man behind the car was defiantly Robert Garrow. The attendant didn’t let on that they knew who he was. She was able to pump his gas and let him go on his way. As soon as he was gone, she alerted authorities.
Police Major Staincamp was not going to abandon the search in the woods on this one lead. He wasn’t sold on the idea that Robert could have gotten a vehicle without them knowing. As they looked into it further, they found that a 1968 Pontiac Tempest had been stolen in the area. If you follow the trail from where the car was stolen to the gas station several miles away, it appears that the vehicle was headed in the direction of Robers Sister’s house.
To be careful, Major Staincamp decided to alert the authorities to be on the lookout in the area of Rober’s sisters’ house. They then kept searching in the area that they last saw him. There was a moment the day before when they thought they had spotted him when a man came out of the woods caring what looked to be a rifle, but when they tried to approach, the man went back into the woods and could not be found. They were not entirely sure if it was Robert or not that they spotted.
The next day, on August 8th, 1973, the stolen 1968 Pontiac Tempest was located just down the road from Robert’s sisters’ house. Officers confronted and searched Mrs. Charles Mandy’s home. When asked, she confirmed that Robert did, in fact, come to their house that morning. It was dark out, and he was able to sneak through the back door without alerting officers. She stated that Robert was unarmed, but no one believed that statement. He had his rifle in the woods, and it was not in either car that was left behind. She said that he did not stay long and didn’t want to involve anyone else because they too could get into trouble if found providing aid to him.
It was at this point, police decided that they could no longer trust Robert’s sister. Even though she did willingly give them information, she didn’t provide it until asked. Robert had apparently been gone for hours, and officers were right outside her house. She could at any time come out and told them what happened.
Detectives camped in the area of Mrs. Mandy’s home to see if they could catch Robert coming for another visit. On August 9th, officers saw something suspicious going on. Robert’s little nephew had just left Mrs. Mandy’s home and was heading into the woods. He was carrying something in his hands the whole time. Officers and Detectives followed the boy at a distance. This paid off when the boy led them straight to Robert’s hiding location.
Robert was caught off guard when officers arrived. He was ordered to stand down, but he refused. Robert began to run further into the woods, but officers opened fire and shot him with four blasts of a 12 gauge shotgun before he could get far.
Robert fell and had fractured his arm, had wounds on his chest, back, and legs. But despite all of these injuries, he was alive and no longer on the run.
Officers helped take Robert out on a stretcher, ensuring he stayed alive to answer for his crimes. As Robert was on his way to the hospital, Officers also paid a visit to Mrs. Mandy’s home. She discovered that she should have listened to her brother about not getting involved because she was arrested and charged with hindering prosecution.
Now, with Robert in custody, Officers have their first chance to question the man they think killed three campers in the Adirondack Mountains. What does he know? Is Susan Petz still alive? What will come next? Find out on part three and our thrilling conclusion to this compelling case.
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