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Serial Killer In Allentown

Updated on February 29, 2020
Anita Hasch profile image

Anita's main passion in life is reading and writing. She has a interest in many different subjects.

Murder and Rape in Allentown

The peaceful tree shaded suburb of Allentown in Philadelphia was shattered when 29 year old Joan Burghardt, was found raped and bludgeoned to death in August 1992. In June 1993 15 year old Charlotte Schmoyer disappeared one morning while doing her paper route. A resident reported that her newspaper cart was standing unattended near her residence. They send somebody to investigate and eventually her body was found in a wooded area, with twenty two stab wounds and raped. Nearly two weeks later a five year old girl was beaten and raped while her parents slept. She was left for dead but survived.

Residents Were Nervous

Alone But Not Afraid

Denise San-Cali and her husband John, lived in the same road as her sister and parents. They owned a limousine and bus service and operated the business from offices within walking distance from their house. When John left on an overnight business trip on June 1993, Denise was not nervous to be left alone. In fact she left a few windows open to cool the house. That seems weird if you think that two women had been raped and murdered in the vicinity. I suppose spending your life in a peaceful suburb it just does not penetrate that it could happen to you. She was very brave, as I think most women would not have tolerated to being left alone in the circumstances. Before dawn, Denise woke up and wondered what had woken her. Then she heard a sound in the lounge. At first she thought it was her husband that had returned early, and called out to him. But nobody answered. Then she heard a noise in the bedroom across the passage. She walked into the passage. Not a good idea, she should rather have phoned her family. She banged on the spare bedroom door and shouted at the person inside. That was very brave. She then finally realized that something was drastically wrong and turned and ran down the short passage.

Peaceful Suburb

A Serial Killer Was In Their Midst

She heard footsteps and looked back. It was a young man and when their eyes met she saw a cold, blank stare. The murderer held a kitchen knife and raised his hand to stab her. Denise swung her arms upwards by instinct and knocked the knife from his hand. Running to the front door, she nearly had it open, when he grabbed her from behind by her hair. She managed to break free and ran into the front yard. But the murderer grabbed her from behind, and slammed her onto the lawn. Denise was not weak and wrestled to break free. She bit him hard on his upper arm. Then he tightened one hand around her neck and the other over her mouth. He hit her with his fist on her face and head. He raped her while she was dazed and she kept still until she saw him run away. Then she stumbled into the house and phoned the police.

As the police had very little information about the suspect, Denise and John started their own investigation. This guy had to be caught so that they could get on with their lives. John had a security system installed before Denise came home from hospital and he bought a new gun and slept with it close by as Denise now feared for her live. The murderer knew that she could identify him.

They went to visit the mother of the five year old that had been attacked and noticed similarities between the two attacks. They were convinced that it was the same man and that he had also killed the other two women. Then in July, a forty seven year old woman, Jessica Fortney, was found raped and strangled in her home. The police realized that they had a serial killer in their midst.

A Trap Is Set

A few days later the new security system went off in the early morning hours. John grabbed his gun and found the window in the den open. The police placed two officers on duty to guard Denise and the five year old.They were now both in danger because they could identify him. The officers arrived just before twelve each evening and Officer Lewis who came to the Cali’s home hid behind the couch. Denise was terrified, but her mother said she must stop seeing herself as a victim. Denise had noticed that the murderer seemed to attack near the end of the month. They decided to set a trap for the attacker and invited some friends and family over. When the last of their visitors had left, they left the den window slightly open. Officer Lewis arrived and they went to bed.

Robinson Appeals Against His Sentence

He made an appeal against his sentence and in 2001 he was re sentenced to life in prison with no parole. In 2016 he appealed against his sentence again. His lawyer said that if he succeeds, he would still not be freed as he is serving two life sentences. His father went to jail before he was born for manslaughter. He had killed his girlfriend by hitting her to death.

Denise said that when she looked into his eyes when he was chasing her, they were cold and blank. Does that not sound like somebody under drugs?

The Killer Is Caught

Before 2.00am Officer Lewis heard a noise and the attacker climbed through the den window. There was an exchange of gunfire and the attacker managed to run into the kitchen. He shook the back door but it was locked. By the time Officer Lewis had reloaded he had managed to break the glass panel and escaped. In the process he cut himself. Harvey Robinson was arrested at the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown when he sought treatment for cuts on his hands and arms. In March 1994 Robinson pleaded guilty to raping Denise and the attempted murder of Officer Lewis. In November 1994 he was convicted of raping and killing Charlotte Schmeyer, Joan Burghardt and Jessica Fortney. He was sentenced to death in the three cases but then appealed against the sentence.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Anita Hasch


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    • Anita Hasch profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Hasch 

      3 years ago from Port Elizabeth

      Thank you for your comment Patricia, you are so right. I suspect drugs play a large role in some of these killings.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from North Central Florida

      Just cannot understand what goes wrong in the wiring of individuals who become serial good to know one less is on the streets.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • Anita Hasch profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Hasch 

      3 years ago from Port Elizabeth

      Thank you for reading Martie. I agree with you on the murders. I just wondered about the 'cold blank stare,' that Denise noticed in his eyes. Is that not a sign of drugs?

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      3 years ago from South Africa

      I would rather say he could be a psychopath.

      The crime you have described in this hub happens daily down here in South Africa. The government calls it 'normal crime'. The guilty are not psychopaths, but ill-bred, heartless criminals who have no respect for life. Or should we classify them as psychopaths?

      I wish murderers could be identified at a very early stage and successfully treated and cured. Perhaps scientist will one day find a way to inactivate whatever it is in the brain that causes an urge or an ability to kill.

    • Anita Hasch profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Hasch 

      3 years ago from Port Elizabeth

      I agree Shyron. Although I still think he must have been on drugs. What evilness, and that poor little girl. Denise and her husband are special people to have made the effort to trap him.

    • Anita Hasch profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Hasch 

      3 years ago from Port Elizabeth

      Thank you for your comment John. He must have been either on drugs or mad. Thank goodness for Denise and her husband that managed to stop him.

    • Anita Hasch profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Hasch 

      3 years ago from Port Elizabeth

      Thank you for reading, Ryan. It just shows that one needs to be careful all the time.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      3 years ago from Texas

      I believe I saw something similar to this on Investigation ID. Seems killers don't need to be in special places to kill someone they just do it wherever they are.

      Stay safe

      Blessings my friend.

    • Fullerman5000 profile image


      3 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      I have family that lives in Hershey and Wilkes Barre. I lived up around Hershey for a bout a year with my aunt and uncle. I remember her telling me stories about this. Coming from Baton Rouge, La, I am no stranger to murder stories, but up there it was a bit more disturbing.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing the story of this gruesome serial killer, Anita. At least they caught him. This was a good read.


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