'Mark of a Killer': Paul Michael Stephani, aka 'The Weepy-Voiced Killer', made chilling calls after every murder
Although authorities were able to apprehend Paul Michael Stephani after a years-long pursuit, they never really figured out what drove him to commit these heinous acts
In the early 1980s, three women were murdered and two others attacked in Minnesota’s Minneapolis–Saint Paul area. Law enforcement officers were baffled after realizing it was the same man behind all the assaults, and even more so after the mysterious figure contacted police after every crime and expressed remorse in a chilling, high-pitched, sobbing voice over the phone.
“I just stabbed somebody with an ice pick,” he is heard wailing in police recordings. “I can’t stop myself. I keep killing somebody.”
Paul Michael Stephani's tendency to call the police and confess his crimes through tears led him to be dubbed as the “Weepy Voiced Killer.” Although authorities were able to apprehend the killer after a years-long pursuit, they never really figured out what drove him to commit these heinous acts.
Born and raised in what has been described as a “highly religious household," Stephani moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in the mid-1960s and went on to work as a shipping clerk and then a janitor at the Malberg Manufacturing Company, from where he was fired in 1977. Meanwhile, he was married for some time and even fathered a daughter before getting divorced.
Stephani's first victim was found three years later near the machine shop at Malberg Manufacturing. He would go on to kill two more women and brutally assault two others over the course of less than two years, as explored in season 2 of Oxygen's 'Mark of a Killer', premiering April 9, 2020, at 9 pm ET.
It is important to note that barring one incident, the weepy voiced killer called the police after every crime he committed. And although he confessed to everything, he would never give the authorities his name or any other information that could help identify him.
“I couldn’t help it,” Stephani said in one of his calls to law enforcement, begging them to stop him. “I don’t know why I had to stab her. I’m so upset about it.”
The weepy voiced killer attacked his first victim on New Year’s Eve, 1980. Twenty-year-old Karen Potack was walking home from a night club when Stephani attacked her with a tire iron and left her for dead. Fortunately, Karen survived the horrifying ordeal, but had no memory of the attack due to her head injuries.
The second attack came just six months later on June 3, 1981 -- and this was a particularly gruesome episode. Stephani stabbed 18-year-old Kimberly Compton a whopping 61 times with an ice pick, a forensic examiner later found, before strangling her to death with a shoelace. The third victim, 33-year-old Kathleen Greening, was not hit or stabbed but drowned in her tub on July 21, 1982.
In fact, the crime was so different from others that police initially ruled her death as an accident until it was confirmed much later that Stephani was behind the homicide.
Stephani's fourth victim was 40-year-old Barbara Simons, who met him at a bar on August 5, 1982. She thought Stephani was handsome and charming, and so she accepted his offer to ride her home. However, she was later found dead, stabbed to death. The weepy voiced killer's final crime would take place on the night of August 21, 1982.
Sex worker Denise Williams was picked up by Stephani and driven to a dark, suburban area. Once there, the murderer brandished a screwdriver and stabbed Williams fifteen times before she somehow managed to fight him off, cracking a glass bottle over his head. Her screams for help drew the attention of a passerby and Stephani was forced to flee the scene with several cuts to his bloody face.
Police -- who had been working day and night to narrow down on the serial killer -- finally caught up with Stephani after he sought medical help for his wounds. They officially arrested Stephani as the Weepy-Voiced Killer.
Back in the precinct, detectives hoped to get a confession out of Stephani. "When I went over and opened up the file case, I had photographs of the victims. He looked up and his eyelids started fluttering, and I could almost see that he was envisioning these homicides over in his mind," Detective Don Brown, Minneapolis PD, told producers of the chilling moment Stephani unveiled his murderous side.
"His voice immediately changed. It went to a high pitch. Right away it struck me as the voice in the recordings," Brown explained. "In all my past experiences up to that point, I have never seen any person change personalities in front of me."
"I knew I had him," the detective added.
In court, Paul Michael Stephani was convicted of the murder of Barbara Simons and the attempted murder of Denise Williams. There simply wasn't enough evidence to conclusively link him to the other attacks, despite his own sister and ex-wife testifying that Stephani’s voice matched that of the Weepy Voiced Killer in police recordings.
Nonetheless, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
In 1997, doctors gave Stephani about a year to live after diagnosing him with terminal skin cancer. Realizing the diagnosis was potentially a death sentence in itself, Stephani told authorities he wanted to confess to all his crimes and apologize to the families of his victims. “To this day, I can’t believe it,” Stephani once said of the murders he committed. “I wake up in the morning thinking and hoping I’m dreaming all this.”
Stephani then admitted to killing Kathleen Green, whose drowning death had gone unsolved for over 15 years.
In all, the Weepy-Voiced Killer confessed to three murders and two vicious assaults.
Season 2 of Mark of a Killer premieres April 9, 2020, at 9 pm ET only on Oxygen.