DNA sample may unmask Rochester Alphabet Killer
From the time Alexis Ortiz was old enough to understand, she knew about the family rumor surrounding her grandfather – and she thinks it holds water. Ortiz, a 21-year-old Rochester resident, believes her grandfather may have been the Rochester Alphabet Killer.
The Case and Ortiz’s Evidence
The Rochester Alphabet Murders were a series of murders that took place from 1971 to 1973. The murders are also referred to as the double initial murders because all three victims, aged ten through eleven, had first and last names that began with the same initial; Carmen Colón, Wanda Walkowicz, and Michelle Maenza.
All three girls were sexually assaulted, strangled, and discarded in places in Rochester that began with their same initials. Carmon Colón was found in Chili, Wanda Walkowicz in Webster, and Michelle Maenza in Macedon.
Wanda Walkowicz’s murder is the one that Ortiz believes her grandfather may have committed and she has plenty of reasons. Ortiz originally made a viral TikTok video explaining them. The first was that her grandfather knew Walkowicz.
“My aunt was good friends with her and so my grandfather knew her as well,” said Ortiz in the video.
Beyond just knowing Walkowicz, Ortiz’s grandfather may have owned or worked at a grocery store on Conkey Avenue.
“During this time my grandfather had a grocery store on Conkey Avenue and my family also lived on Conkey Avenue and Avenue A,” said Ortiz in her TikTok video.
Ortiz’s grandfather also saw and spoke to Walkowicz the same day she disappeared.
“For Wanda, they [Ortiz’s aunt and grandfather] were the last people to see her on the day that she died,” said Ortiz.
According to police reports, Walkowicz went missing at approximately 5:00 p.m. on April 2, 1973 while walking home alone on Conkey Avenue after going to the grocery store for her mother.
Ortiz believes it’s possible that her grandfather’s store may be where she got her groceries.
“It was never known what store that she went to, we just knew that she was carrying groceries walking back home and we don’t know if it was his store or if it could’ve been another store around that area,” said Ortiz.
Eyewitnesses said they saw Walkowicz conversing with the driver of a brown vehicle. Ortiz’s grandfather may have had a brown vehicle at the time.
“When she was seen walking from the grocery store, witnesses stated that she was talking to someone in a brown vehicle and he may have had a brown vehicle during that time,” said Ortiz.
Walkowicz was reported missing by her mother at 8:00 p.m. that same night. The following morning, a state trooper found her body discarded at the bottom of a hillside along a road leading to State Route 104 in Webster, approximately seven miles from Rochester. The position of her body indicated that she had been thrown from a moving vehicle.
According to police reports, Walkowicz’s autopsy revealed that she was sexually assaulted and strangled from behind with a ligature, perhaps a belt. Traces of semen and pubic hair were found on her body as well as several strands of white cat fur. The Walkowicz family did not own any pets with white fur.
“All the victims had cat hair and he never owned cats but there were cats kept at the store that he either worked at or owned,” said Ortiz.
Besides the physical evidence, Ortiz’s grandfather was reportedly going around town telling people that the body found in Webster was Walkowicz. He was also the first person to offer a reward.
“He was the first one to offer up a reward and then once her body was found, he was like ‘oh that’s her, that’s Wanda’ but how do you know if they only said they found a body? They didn’t confirm the identity so how do you know that’s Wanda?” said Ortiz.
This actually put him on the police’s list of suspects early on.
“The police did question him because he involved himself so early on in the investigation. He did make the list of suspects but then obviously they moved on to somebody else,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz also believes her grandfather resembles the police sketch from the few times she’s seen him.
“There’s one coincidence that I kind of believe in. It was that he matched the police sketch. Due to family and privacy, I haven’t put that out there but there is a police sketch that there are some similarities that I believe that he does look like,” said Ortiz.
Even on his deathbed, Ortiz’s grandfather denied any involvement in the murders.
“One of my family members asked him if he had any involvement with the alphabet murders and he still said no. You would think someone would you know, confess when they’re about to pass but he was holding on strong,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz’s grandfather’s double life
Ortiz says her grandfather lived a double life. He had marriage issues along with a gambling problem. The problems led to Ortiz’s grandmother filing for divorce. Ortiz’s grandfather then quit his job.
“My grandfather had money issues due to a serious gambling problem and once my grandmother filed for divorce, he quit his job so he could avoid paying child support,” Ortiz said in her TikTok.
After this, Ortiz’s grandfather moved to Las Vegas and no one had seen or heard from him for over 25 years. Ortiz says he didn’t even attend his own mother’s funeral.
“We don’t know the time frame of when he was in Las Vegas,” said Ortiz. “We just know that after he left my family, my grandmother and her kids, we don’t know where he went, we don’t know how long he was in Rochester until going to Vegas but when family members did track him down, they found he was in Vegas and we tried to get in contact with him. When we finally did, he had no remorse, nothing to say for leaving his family behind”
Ortiz’s relationship with her grandfather
Ortiz never knew her grandfather personally.
“I never knew him at all. I just knew of him. That he was my mother’s father,” said Ortiz.
The only interaction she had with him was at a family member’s funeral about ten years ago.
“I did meet him,” said Ortiz. “He introduced himself and then from that day on I still probably saw him a handful of times like at Christmas parties, Easter, things like that but I still never interacted with him. He didn’t reach out to me or my mom to, you know, get to know us, anything like that.”
Ortiz hadn’t even known what her grandfather looked like until the funeral.
“I’ve never seen pictures. I never saw this man a day in my life until that day,” said Ortiz.
Despite not being involved in Ortiz’s life at all, he wanted to fix the relationship on his deathbed.
“When he was dying, that’s when he wanted to start making amends. He wanted me to call him grandpa and I said ‘no, like I don’t know you,’” said Ortiz.
Taking the evidence to the police
The rumor that Ortiz’s grandfather may have been the alphabet killer had been circulating in the family for a long time.
“It’s always been like an ongoing rumor in our family because he was questioned back in the day,” said Ortiz.
After he died in December 2020 however, Ortiz’s family began to really investigate and connect the pieces together.
“After his death, we were like ‘okay let’s look a little bit more into it.’ Everything that’s online was sort of starting to connect to our grandfather,” said Ortiz.
It was too many coincidences to ignore.
“Once everything started tying together, we were like ‘okay maybe we should contact the authorities and that’s what we did,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz’s aunt is the one who contacted the investigator leading the Walkowicz case, Erik Fuenfstueck.
“She just reached out saying that she thinks that there are connections between the alphabet murders and her father and then the investigator did contact her,” said Ortiz.
After all the information was given, investigators took a DNA sample from Ortiz’ oldest aunt since they still have DNA from the case.
“Once all of our family members knew that the investigators were contacted, my oldest aunt, which is the one that was friends with Wanda, had eventually given a DNA sample because they do still have DNA from Wanda’s case,” said Ortiz.
If the DNA sample matches, which they won’t know for months, Ortiz doesn’t think it will affect her that much but hopes the families of the victims will get closure.
“Me personally, I feel like it won’t affect me. It’ll just be like you know, ‘oh I happen to be related to this person, unfortunately,” said Ortiz. “If it does come back that he is the murderer, then I feel that even though it was so long ago, it’s gonna give those families a sense of closure that finally after all these years they know what happened to their child or sister, or niece, whoever.”
Even if the sample doesn’t match, Ortiz hopes it will raise awareness again.
“If it comes back that he’s not then I hope it just brings more awareness to this case and not just this but any case that’s still unsolved,” said Ortiz.
The Rochester police were not able to give out information regarding this case.
“It’s a pending homicide investigation and we don’t really give information,” Senior Investigator Stubbe said.
If you have any information about this case, please contact the State Police Troop E Headquarters at (585)-398-4100.