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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Is the Route 8 Killer also the New Bedford Highway Killer?

The 9 New Bedford victims
A serial killer was on the loose in New Bedford, Massachusetts, approximately 150 miles from where the Route 8 bodies were dumped, in the summer of 1988. Like the Route 8 murderer, the
New Bedford killer hunted prostitutes and/or drug addicts as his prey. From April 1988 to September 1988, a total of nine bodies were left in forested areas off of several highways leading from New Bedford. Most of the victims knew each other or were somehow interconnected through local workplaces, parks, and bars. Some of the victims were even neighbors. All of them were strangled. Some were sexually assaulted. Also like the Route 8 killer, the New Bedford killer had a penchant for the quick disposal of his strangled victims in wooded locations not far from the highway.

It took local and state police some time to locate the nine bodies in or near New Bedford city limits. Though the last New Bedford victim went missing in the summer of 1988, the last body was not discovered until the summer of 1989, long after the corpse had begun to decay and give off that foul, ammonia-like scent that trained dogs can easily find. To some extent, the Route 8 killer was not so organized. The bodies of Everett and Alvarado were found in a ravine only days, if not hours, after their respective deaths. This is an important distinction, as the longer a body is left to rot beneath the harsh elements of snow and sun, and lay vulnerable to natural predators like coyotes and vultures, the harder it is for investigators to find trace evidence at the scene of the crime. For example, hairs, often taken by birds to build nests, are gone, and prints in the mud are long lost memories.

Generally speaking, the two differences between the Route 8 serial killer and the New Bedford serial killer involve regional location, and the visibility of the bodies from the view of the road itself. Otherwise, the individuals in question bare noteworthy similarities with respect to their choice of victims and causes of death. Most importantly, it's the timing of the murders that takes the potential link between the New Bedford killer and the Route 8 killer outside the parameters of conspiracy theory, and into the realm of being a possible hit. Specifically, the New Bedford slayings abruptly ceased in September 1988. The Route 8 killings began in October 1988.

Did the New Bedford killer, who was obviously a ritualistic and highly organized offender, split town in late September or early October, move to Northwest Connecticut, and resume his activity in Waterbury?

If you want to learn more about the New Bedford murders, the book Killing Season, by Carlton Smith, is an excellent read. (Smith also wrote the bestseller, The Search of the Green River Killer).
Whereas Ann Rule, in her books, often writes about law enforcement with great admiration and respect (she was, after all, once one of them, as was her father), in Killing Season, Smith takes the dysfunctional powers to task. Evidently, in the late eighties there was a troubling division, competition, and overall lack of communication between the ranks of the local and state police in that part of the Bay State, and a tendency on the part of the DAs office to seek ego gratification through the media in hopes of future electoral wins. For this reason, according to Smith, the most savage serial killings in Massachusetts' history remain unsolved to this day.

The only suspect who was charged in the New Bedford slayings was an attorney with a taste for illegal drugs and pornography. Ken Ponte's life was turned upside down by the media circus surrounding his indictment. He was later cleared of the crimes.
Attorney Ken Ponte flees from reporters. 

As an aside, Ponte subsequently lost his license to practice law when he misused funds from his IOLTA account, the trust that attorneys are required to keep for monies belonging to their clients, not them. The big no-no of withdrawing clients' funds for personal use is frequently fueled by an attorney's ongoing substance abuse, which no doubt contributed to Ponte's irrational act. As a practicing attorney myself, I have a song that I sing in my head every time I look at the balance in my IOLTA: MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This." The legal bars of every state watch IOLTA accounts like hawks. It is drilled into the head of every law school student from day one that you do not, under any circumstances, put your greedy hands on that cash. It's just about the stupidest thing that an attorney can do. Although admittedly, living a lifestyle that results in being charged as a serial killer is a bit dumber.

But I digress.

Ponte died in his home at age 61 in 2006. No foul play was suspected. The other major suspect in the New Bedford killing spree was a serial rapist known as "flat nose." As a young boy, Tony DeGrazia's nose had been bashed in by his abusive mother. Needless to say, he carried strong rage against women. DeGrazia was never charged for the serial murders since no evidence linked him to the crimes. He allegedly committed suicide in July 1991.

Serial killers are known to possess average to above average intelligence. The ones who are not labeled as "impulsive" but rather, "ritualistic", orchestrate their seemingly random acts of violence with meticulous precision. Often, the longer a killer's murders go unsolved, the more arrogant the killer becomes. Ultimately, investigators can only hope that this false sense of superiority will lead the murderer to get careless and leave behind some damning clues at the scene of the crime. Likewise, hanging around town for a little too long can be a serial murderer's biggest mistake. Take, for example, Ted Bundy. He was known as a "compulsive driver" and this trait allowed him to avoid capture for a significant period of time. Bundy drove long distances in search of his victims. In his book, Dark Dreams, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood references one serial killer who put eighty thousand miles on his speedometer in just ten months.

If the New Bedford killer and the Route 8 killer are one in the same, then the individual was obviously smart enough to not let his arrogance at escaping justice get the best of him. He knew it was time to leave and move on to greener pastures, so to speak, where he could stump a whole new assortment of cops and detectives. Alternatively, he remained in New Bedford after his last murder in September, 1988, and chose to take grisly "day trips" to Waterbury, Connecticut.


  1. I was befriended by, followed by, stalked by Kenny Ponte in the mid-1990s. He wrote pages and pages of letters to me and constantly tried to take me out for Chinese food. He even ventured from NB to Provincetown, some 30 mins from my hometown, and stayed in a guest house, trying to entice me to come out for dinner. He had located the phone number of my parents' house and called there, announcing himself in his usual arrogant way, but what he didn't predict was that my father worked as a commercial fisherman for the "squarehead" captains out of NB and Fairhaven in the 1980s, maintained friendships there, and knew all about Kenneth. I wasn't going to meet him anyway.
    He described writing a manuscript 'from the perspective of having actually done these crimes, which of course I did not'... said he wanted to capitalize monetarily from the whole experience. He described some of the things he would put in the book, such as stuffing a sock with rocks to bash a girl's head in before strangling her. Rough. I always wondered if he just liked the attention of people thinking he might have done it. It gave him a gross kind of fame on the streets. Better than being known as a cokehead mama's boy who liked hookers to change his diapers.
    I really wonder what happened to that manuscript. He was a prolific writer.

  2. Interesting that Carlton Smith covered this case of the New Bedford murders ....his Green River writings similarly documented police and political angst. As for why the killings went unsolved ( touchy subject that it might be for some) a cross comparison with the late 80's San Diego prostitute murders ( emphasis on victim Donna Gentile's case) AND the more recent Jefferson Davis parish prostitute murders is in order. With the latter case, here, again, the victims knew each other closely, and it was this Louisiana serial murder case that was the inspiration for a story line on the TRUE DETECTIVE series.

  3. Check into the Bridgewater Institute for the sexually dangerous furlough program back in 1988 , inmates, Junior , leftwhich and one other living in Weld Square where the victims were abducted from. When they were put back in Bridgewater for good, the murders stopped. How convenient that the two victims that were never found were related to New Bedford Police officers. Check into one potential victim that got away from her abducters and the police totally ignored all the information she gave to them, she left the state fearing for her life. My sister was one of the victims. I’ve been doing my homework on this case for 30 years. Check into the New Bedford narcotic detective who some believe was involved. The list goes on. I believe they know who is responsible for these murders.