JOHNSTOWN - Oneida County authorities announced Friday that John W. Hopkins, the late former city resident who gained notoriety as Fulton County's only known serial killer, was likely the man who stabbed teenager Joanne Pecheone to death in Utica in 1972.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott D. McNamara issued a news release indicating his case against Hopkins - who committed suicide in 2000 while serving 58 years in state prison for the murder of two Fulton County girls in the late 1970s - is completed.
"It has been 37 years since the death of Joanne Pecheone," McNamara's release concluded. "During those years, evidence has been collected, new leads developed, forensic proof evaluated, re-evaluated and more. The case has been aggressively pursued by different generations of law enforcement ... In view of the expansive history of the case, the volume of information collected and the implications of that information, it is our opinion that John Hopkins is the perpetrator of this crime."
Authorities concluded Hopkins, who was 19 in 1972, raped and repeatedly stabbed the 19-year-old Pecheone to death and left her body tied to a tree along a wooded path off South Park Drive in Utica.
Hopkins, who killed himself with a razor blade in prison at age 46, stabbed all his victims. He had stood trial three times in 1980 in Fulton County Court. He had been arrested in 1979 after a 15-year-old girl was abducted near Northville and taken to a wooded area in the town of Palatine. She survived with knife wounds. Hopkins was acquitted in that attack.
He had been found guilty of the 1978 murder of 17-year-old Sherrie Carville. She was walking on Route 29 near a nightspot in Johnstown. He was also convicted in the 1976 murder of Gloversville teenager Cecelia Genatiempo, who was abducted on South Main Street in Gloversville.
In the Pecheone case, Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said today Oneida County authorities built up a strong case against Hopkins.
"They definitely developed and submitted evidence that Hopkins was the murderer," Sira said.
She said Oneida County authorities substantiated leads and compared evidence from crimes in both counties, including "similar cars and similar body styles."
Witnesses said photographs of the 19-year-old Hopkins, with his floppy, reddish-blond hair, were similar to the person they observed in the Pecheone case.
Also, one of the witnesses, who was 12 at the time, was snowmobiling and said a vehicle that took off at the time was similar to Hopkins' Chevy Nova.
Sira said the witness also noticed an ear abnormality - one ear larger than the other - that is visible in his high school graduation photo.
The news release noted that "points of similarity" in the two counties' cases included the ages of the victims and how they were walking alone, and how the victims were found gagged.
From 2008 to 2010, Sira said Fulton County officials were helpful in obtaining DNA samples from Hopkins' relatives in the area, but they couldn't be accurately matched with evidence from Oneida County because the evidence had deteriorated over the years.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.