By CARLA KOLBE
For the Recorder
WELLS -- Accomplished North County/Adirondack author Lawrence P. Gooley was taken by surprise this week by a standing room only crowd that filled the Wells Community Hall for the presentation of his book, "Terror in the Adirondacks."
The author was present on behalf of the Virginia Hosley Free Library in Wells to discuss the book and sign copies.
"I expected to sell maybe a half-dozen books and was hoping to see maybe 20 people here," said Gooley.
To his surprise, and to the surprise of the local library's volunteers, the town hall began filling thirty minutes early, and the demand of additional chairs was being set up to accommodate the growing crowd.
Gooley and his partner Jill McKee sold out of the featured read even after retrieving an additional box stowed in the car.
Terror in the Adirondacks, was on a topic very real and very close to people who lived and visited in and around this area 40 years ago. Gooley's story is on the life of serial killer Robert Francis Garrow Sr., whose reign of terror in 1973 left the Adirondack Mountains with a trail of corpses that lead to the largest manhunt in New York state's history at the time.
Garrow killed his last victim, Philip Domblewski, 18, of Schenectady, between Wells and Speculator off Old Route 8B on July 29, 1973. Other members of Domblewski's camping party: David Freeman, 19; Nicholas Fiorello, 20; and Carol Ann Malinowski, 23, were tied up but managed to escape in different directions and seek the help of people as they arrived in Wells and Speculator.
"It was the good people of Wells that took it upon themselves to believe the crazed story one of the young escaped victims told and acted quickly," said Gooley.
The manhunt ensued with endless roadblocks set up to check all vehicles and warn motorists Garrow may be on the road posing as a hitchhiker.
The search with helicopters and search dogs with its many roadblocks are what so many local residents still remember today, as it created so much fear. The manhunt began on July 30 and would end on Aug. 9 that summer in Witherbee. The effects the ordeal had on local residents are still vividly remembered.
Kathleen Towers of Wells can show you a slight deformity in her thumb today due to the fear stirred up from the Garrow manhunt.
"I was a child then and I was so scared that in haste getting out of my parents car I slammed my thumb in the door," said Towers. "To this day, I look at it and still remember the fear I was filled with"
Wells resident Leona Aird still remembers the phone call her husband William, the Hamilton County Coroner at the time, received that day in 1973.
"I heard him say 'I'll be right there' as he quickly left to attend the Domblewski murder scene" said Aird who keeps a astute account of the Garrow ordeal filed in a complete scrapbook she displayed.
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey said he was a young Gloversville police officer at the time, and can remember the details of Robert Garrow very well.
"We wanted to gather our own search party to help" said Lorey.
William and Doris Guyon now of Northville were residents of Benson in 1973. They remember having to be stopped every couple miles for their car to be searched just on a simple, routine task of going to the store during the time of the Garrow manhunt.
"Keep in mind in those days, drivers many times had to turn off their cars, and get out, having to use the key to open the trunk" said Gooley. "There was no button to push and open the trunk. The stops were lengthy and the motorist may then drive a few miles up the road and be subjected to another one" Gooley continued.
First hand accounts from people in attendance on Sunday were numerous. Event coordinator and library board member Mary Ellen Stofelano also pointed out that although the town hall was near capacity in attendance, there were still many residents who did not attend because their emotions still run too deep remembering the Robert Garrow incident.
One woman who pleaded not to be identified said she was called for jury duty on the Garrow trial. She said she was sickened with fear as Garrow rolled past her within inches in his wheelchair for the jury selection process. She wanted nothing to do with the trial and believed Garrow was guilty from the beginning. She was dismissed as a juror.
Garrow's sick, twisted and abused life is described in the book. Author Gooley, an avid outdoor enthusiast and hiker himself admitted having difficulty initially writing the book knowing the emotions he would stir for the victims and people involved.
"I was teen growing up in Chaplain, just coming into my own. All I wanted to do was be outside and hike. In those days you never thought twice about strangers, everyone was friendly" said Gooley. "Then Robert Garrow came along and ruined everything. To this day I still look over my shoulder, and I always will" Gooley admitted.
"My stomach still turns as I passed through Warrensburg, and entered into Wells today thinking of Garrow" Said Gooley.
Gooley read over 800 newspaper articles and cross referenced that with more than 2000 pages of court records and testimony on Robert Garrow, coming with what he feels is the most complete story of his life.
An award winning author of 11 books and a true historian, it was a task he felt he had to undergo. Some of the information he discovered was so disturbing, that he would have to stop his task and ended up writing another book, while he was researching the information for Terror in the Adirondacks. Much of the information came first hand from the testimony of Garrow himself.
In 1973 the manhunt ended with Garrow being shot and recovering from his wounds at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh. Although physicians said he was fine, Garrow claimed he was paralyzed and was in a wheelchair for years to come.
Garrow was found guilty in July 1974 of the Domblewski murder, and received 25 year to life sentence in prison. He was convicted for three other murders and seven rapes throughout Essex, Onondaga and Warren counties, but to this day cold cases from the late 1950s are being looked into as possibly the work of Garrow.
Because Garrow was believed to be paralyzed, he managed to get himself transferred to a minimum-security prison with a hospital wing at Fishkill State Correctional Facility.
In September 1978, Garrow was visited by his son Robert F. Garrow Jr., who managed to slip a handgun past guards in bucket of chicken slathered with gravy. The next morning as a guard attempted to wake Garrow, a dummy was discovered in his cot made from pillows and blankets.
A Northville native, Michael Halloran is among the credited in Gooley's book as aiding in Garrow's final capture. Two of Halloran's sons, Dave and Dan, were present on Sunday because they know first hand the story of Robert Garrow. Their father, Michael Halloran was the first state police officer to the scene of the Domblewski murder and also worked on the 12 day manhunt.
According to information attained by the author, he states in his book, "Lieutenant Halloran, now Captain Halloran, his efforts and experience were described as critical in bringing this final manhunt to a successful conclusion."
Halloran knew from experience with Garrow that he would not venture far from his location and would be close by.
On Sept. 11, 1978, Garrow now 42, was found in a hiding spot close to the prison as Halloran predicted. Garrow fired with his handgun at police and was then shot down. Seventeen shots were fired at Garrow, and according to the autopsy he was hit by four of them.
Much was learned throughout the prison system throughout the Garrow ordeal. Changes is medical treatment procedures, evaluations and classifications of inmates, and security rules were revamped. Building 13 at Fishkill State Correctional was closed down after Garrow's escape.
The memory and fear this Adirondack serial killer subjected upon the area is still an emotional topic to most anyone involved as proved in Sundays highly attended informational presentation.
"Terror in the Adirondacks" can be purchased at book stores throughout the area and from the authors own online store The North County Store, Bloated Toe Enterprises, PO Box 324, Peru, NY, 12972, or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.