Two cases in Connecticut history changed the lives and judicial modus operandi in Connecticut for the following decades – 1950s by “Mad Dog”, Joseph Taborsky and the 1970s in the New Britain-based Donna Lee Bakery murders. The former killer of six murders, countless robberies changed the culture of drinking alcohol in Connecticut by changing the opening and closing hours of our “package” liquor stores for decades as a preventative. The latter, was a senseless mass murder crime of opportunity, targeting a bakery because an adjacent package store was closed – It was a cruel fate. For those of us who literally grew up with these crimes in our past, can we now say that the CT judicial system is more sophisticated? Do we now have better tools to deal with such criminals? None of these criminal characters were Rhode Scholars. The series of crimes were sort of “seat of the pants” and yet because of a variety of circumstances, decades apart, even execution was delayed or avoided altogether with the passage of time. This blog is meant to introduce you to just some of the historical facts, leaving you to delve further and say, yet again …if only for the victims.
Facts- Joseph Taborski and Company, Serial Killers (not to mention others, shot, beaten pistol whipped)
- Taborsky built his resume of crime beginning in the 1950’s with his brother Albert, and Arthur “Meatball” Columbe, hitting a number of liquor stores, gas stations, and other small businesses, racking up his first murder of liquor store owner Louis Wolfson who survived three days after giving a good description of the criminals;
- A mother’s love does not extend to murder…. What happened here?
- Fate interrupted an execution, as his brother was the only living eyewitness….but something happened for Mad Dog to avoid the inevitable; What was it?
- Taborsky’s comment upon release, “I’m not even going to get a parking ticket” (this time) could not have been farther from the truth…the killings and robberies continued…. What happened to cause this set of events?
- Not technology, but a shoe size helped focus yet another murder;
- Compassion for a three-year-old girl by an accomplice and testimony against Taborsky helped seal his fate at the executioner’s chair (known as old Sparky) yet again;
- Did Taborsky use his right to appeal in 1960 and what was the significance of “the fly” comment?
- Joseph Taborski is the only prisoner sent to death row in Connecticut – twice for different crimes!
Facts – The Donna Lee Bakery Murders –
Victims – The bakery owner found face down in the refrigerator room; another victim stopping to buy a loaf of rye bread; another victim picking up a date, while stopping at the bakery to ask for directions, a couple dropping by after church, a new sales clerk showed her husband a newly decorated cake she made when her husband stopped in before a Moose Lodge meeting. And then it happened –
- On October 19, 1974, it was a real life Halloween scene – A bloodbath with six bodies in the back of a bakery with 19-year-old Donna Lee Salerni, the “namesake” of her father’s bakery learning via the radio that her father was dead;
- The perps, Ronald “Tiny” Piskorski and Gary Schrager were mean drunks and drug users looking for an opportunity;
- Waiting for the owner and the money increased the death toll, and there was an ultimate irony- the owner, John Salerni had $1,350 in his pants pocket when found dead;
- A relative by marriage, who was one of the victims …and an off-handed comment, turned the tide in this instance. What contributed to catching these killers?
- Key evidence and a police diver’s discovery. What was the evidence?
- No death penalty but 150 years to life will do….
- The outcome of a parole hearing in 1997… “I’d like you to know I’m not the same man I was and the guilt and shame that I feel are sincere,” said Schrager. What were the words of the parole Chairman Michael Mullen?
- (See reference articles below and Google more info for more on these crimes!)
Conclusion –As heinous and unsophisticated as these crimes were, the crimes that rise to this level in more recent times, in my opinion, were the slayings and numerous other associated crimes upon Jennifer Hawke-Petit, her two daughters Hailey, and Michaela and the attempted murder of Dr. William Petit, Jr. in July 2007.
In his lack of wisdom, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy encouraged the CT General Assembly to prospectively repeal the death penalty in 2012. The State Supreme Court also declined to reverse the repeal of the death penalty for future crimes as of 2015. This means that 11 men on Connecticut’s death row will forever be “nurtured behind bars” with taxpayer money forever.
As of July 2015, liquor stores had the option of staying open an hour later as a result of a state law that went into effect… The former 9 p.m. closing time is now extended to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Stores are not mandated to remain open the extra hour. Sunday sales will still stop at 5 p.m.
Good Riddance Mr. Mad Dog and the Donna Lee Bakery Murderers! So, far liquor has not been the windfall the Governor predicted…nor has any other idea!