Between the end of 1980 and August of 1982, three women were murdered and two others attacked in Minnesota’s Minneapolis–Saint Paul area. The assaults turned out to be the work of the same man—a shadowy figure who contacted the police himself after most of his crimes, begging them to stop him before he killed again. “I just stabbed somebody with an ice pick,” the high-pitched voice sobbed into the phone. “I can’t stop myself. I keep killing somebody.”
His tendency to call police and tearfully confess his crimes led authorities to dub the assailant the “Weepy Voiced Killer.” But who was he, and what drove him to commit these heinous deeds, only to express such emotional remorse afterward?
Who Was the Weepy Voiced Killer?
Born in 1944, Paul Michael Stephani was the second of 10 children, raised in what has been described as a “highly religious household.” He made his way to St. Paul, Minnesota in the mid-1960s, where he variously worked as a shipping clerk and a janitor. He was employed at Malberg Manufacturing Company before being fired in 1977. Three years later, his first victim was found near the machine shop at Malberg Manufacturing. Stephani was married for a time and fathered a daughter before getting divorced.
Over the course of less than two years, Stephani killed three women and brutally assaulted two others. Each time, with one exception, he called the police afterward to tearfully confess to his crimes—though never giving them his name, or any other information that could identify him.
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In the calls that led the media to dub him the Weepy Voiced Killer, Stephani apologized for his crimes and begged police to stop him. “I couldn’t help it,” Stephani said in one of his calls to the police. “I don’t know why I had to stab her. I’m so upset about it.”
The Weepy Voiced Killer’s First Victim
At three o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Eve, 1980, police received the first-ever phone call from the Weepy Voiced Killer—though they didn’t know that at the time. All they knew was that a nearly hysterical, high-pitched voice directed them to a spot near the Malberg Manufacturing Company machine shop off Pierce Butler Road because there was a “girl hurt there.”
Police found a gruesome scene when they arrived on the scene. 20-year-old Karen Potack was lying naked in the snow. She had been bludgeoned more than 10 times with a tire iron, the beating so bad that it cracked her skull and left her brain exposed—yet she somehow survived.
Potack had come into St. Paul for a New Year’s Eve party with her sisters, but had left the party around midnight. She wandered around the city intoxicated until she had the misfortune to cross paths with Stephani. However, the damage from her assault was so severe that she was left with multiple brain injuries, and couldn’t identify her assailant. For now, the Weepy Voiced Killer was free to stalk more victims.
The Weepy Voiced Killer Strikes Again
Tragically, the Weepy Voiced Killer’s other victims weren’t so lucky. In 1981, 18-year-old Kimberly Compton got off a bus in St. Paul, Minnesota. Within hours, she was dead, stabbed with an ice pick more than 60 times.
Stephani called police multiple times after the murder of Compton. Two days after her death, he called to say that he was sorry and that he would be turning himself in—but he never did. The next day, he called to correct some of the media coverage around the attack. Then, on June 11, eight days after the brutal murder, he called the police again and, in a barely coherent voice, cried, “I’m sorry for what I did to Compton.”
Sorry or not, though, Compton wasn’t the Weepy Voiced Killer’s last victim. In July of 1982, 33-year-old Kathleen Greening was found drowned in her own bathtub at her home just outside St. Paul. At the time, police didn’t connect Greening’s death with the Weepy Voiced Killer. The attack was much less brutal than the other slaying, and no phone call was made following her death.
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Then, in August, Barbara Simons met Stephani at Hexagon Bar when she offered him a cigarette. Stephani offered her a ride home. Unfortunately, that ride would be her last.
A newspaper carrier found Simons’ body alongside the Mississippi River the next morning. She had been stabbed more than 100 times. Shortly thereafter, the police received another phone call. “Please don’t talk, just listen,” the now-familiar voice of the Weepy Voiced Killer said. “I’m sorry I killed that girl.”
The Weepy Voiced Killer’s Last Victim
The police now had a description of Stephani, thanks to eyewitnesses linking him with Simons on the night of her death. However, he wasn’t brought in just yet. Instead, he picked up Denise Williams, his final victim, on August 21. They met on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, where he offered her $100 to “have some fun.”
Williams, a 19-year-old sex worker, rode with Stephani to his apartment in St. Paul, where they engaged in a sex act before he offered to drive her home. Williams would later state that she realized something was wrong when Stephani eschewed the freeway in favor of back roads through suburban neighborhoods.
When they reached a dead-end, Stephani began stabbing Williams with a screwdriver before she was able to bash him over the head with a glass bottle she found on the floor of the car. Her screams drew the attention of a neighbor, who confronted Stephani before the killer fled the scene.
Upon arriving home, Stephani realized that he was injured quite badly, and called the St. Paul Fire Department for medical assistance. Authorities recognized his voice as that of the Weepy Voiced Killer, and Stephani was finally brought into custody.
Where Is the Weepy Voiced Killer Now?
Paul Michael Stephani was convicted of the murder of Barbara Simons and the attempted murder of Denise Williams. Though his own sister and ex-wife testified in court that they believed Stephani’s voice matched that of the Weepy Voiced Killer, there simply was not enough evidence to conclusively link him to the other attacks.
He received a sentence of 40 years in prison. In 1997, Stephani was diagnosed with skin cancer, and given only about a year to live. With the diagnosis functionally a death sentence, Stephani told authorities that he wanted to confess to his other crimes and apologize to the families of the victims.
“To this day, I can’t believe it,” Stephani said of the murders he committed. “I wake up in the morning thinking and hoping I’m dreaming all this.” It was only when Stephani confessed that any connection was made between the Weepy Voiced Killer and the drowning death of Kathleen Greening, which had gone unsolved for over 15 years. In all, Stephani confessed to three murders and two vicious assaults.
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“I don’t know what to do except say I wish I could turn back the clock,” the Weepy Voiced Killer said in his confessions. The next year, Paul Michael Stephani, who had caused so much pain and havoc, was dead from skin cancer at the age of 53.
So did Paul Michael Stephani truly regret his crimes, or were his tearful phone calls to police and the media just an attention-seeking ploy? We may never know, but Stephani insisted his apologies were genuine. “All I can say is I’m sick and I’m sorry,” Stephani said before he died, “if sorry means anything after 15 years.”
Sources: Star Tribune, Ranker, FindACase, Morbidology
Featured image: Morbidology