true crime

In 1973, lawyer Frank Armani uncovered a double murder. He kept it a secret for 5 months.

For almost five months in 1973, Alicia Hauck’s family lived through the hell of not knowing whether she was dead or alive. The 16-year-old was attending summer school in Syracuse, New York, when one July day, there was a fire drill. Alicia left the building and didn’t come back. She was never seen again.

Her family didn’t know what had happened to her. Had she run away? Had she been murdered?

Day after day, her dad Bill, who managed the bowling alley, would light a candle for her at the cathedral, then walk up to the police to see if they’d heard anything about her. Her mother Marilyn, who worked for a telephone company, would sit at home and cry. As the months passed, Marilyn would worry about her daughter being out there on cold, rainy nights.

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There was a man who knew the Hauck family, and he knew what had happened to Alicia, but he wasn’t telling. His name was Frank Armani, and he was a lawyer. He knew Alicia had been murdered, he knew who’d done it, and he knew where her body was. It had been hidden in a flower dump at a nearby cemetery.

“I knew Mr Hauck from bowling, because his other daughter and my daughter were in the same class, and I knew him from church and whatnot, yeah,” Armani told a 2016 Radiolab podcast. “You’d have to be an animal not to feel the anguish of the parents, of the family.”

Meanwhile, in Illinois, the family of Susan Petz were living through the same hell. Susan was a 20-year-old college student who had disappeared while on a camping trip in New York state with her boyfriend, Daniel Porter, in July 1973. Daniel had been stabbed to death with a hunting knife, but no trace of Susan had been found.

“We were all going crazy,” Susan’s mother Roberta told the podcast. “My father, as a matter of fact, even went so far as to contact a psychic.”

Susan’s anguished parents thought their daughter’s disappearance might be linked to the murder of another camper, Philip Domblewski, in the same area around the same time. Philip had also been stabbed to death, after being tied to a tree, and his three friends had seen the man who stabbed him, as they fled in fear. Susan’s father flew to Syracuse to speak to the lawyers representing Philip’s accused killer, Robert Garrow. Those lawyers were Frank Armani and Francis Beige.

Robert Garrows murder
Robert Garrow being carried from Hamilton County jail for killing Philip Domblewski. Image: Getty.
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Susan’s father sat down with Armani and Beige, and asked them if there was anything they could tell him about his daughter’s disappearance. The two lawyers didn’t say anything. But they knew. They knew Susan had been murdered, they knew who’d done it, and they knew where her body was. They’d even seen her body – still with her blue shoes on – down the bottom of a mineshaft. Beige had taken photos, with Armani lowering him into the mineshaft by his feet, but they’d left Susan’s body there.

“I spent many, many sleepless nights over my inability to reveal the information, especially after Mr Petz came in from Chicago and talked to me,” Beige told the New York Times in 1974.

It wasn’t until December 1973 that both bodies were found – coincidentally, within two weeks of each other. Two children playing in the abandoned mine found Susan’s body, while a university student walking through the cemetery stumbled across Alicia’s.

Robert Garrow had murdered Susan and Alicia, just as he’d murdered Daniel and Philip. He’d raped both Susan and Alicia before stabbing them to death and disposing of their bodies.

Garrow had a long criminal history. He’d spent seven years in jail for rape. After being released, he’d committed more rapes, with children among his victims. He’d been arrested for kidnapping a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old from an ice cream stand and molesting them, but he was released on bail. The day before he was due to appear in court, he began his killing spree – first Alicia, then Daniel and Susan, and then Philip, the murder that led to his capture and arrest.

Armani had represented Garrow in the past over a couple of small matters, one of them involving a car accident. When Garrow was arrested for Philip’s murder, he contacted Armani again. Armani brought in another lawyer with more criminal experience, Beige.

Having been shot and wounded during his arrest, Garrow was being kept under guard in hospital. It was there that he told Armani and Beige that not only had he killed Philip, he had also killed two women and disposed of their bodies. He drew a diagram to show where they were.

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Armani and Beige found the bodies and photographed them. But they felt they were bound by a duty of confidentiality not to disclose any information that could incriminate their client. They told no one, not even the police.

“The information was so privileged – I was bound by my lawyers' oath to keep it confidential after I found the bodies,” Beige insisted to the New York Times.

When the murder trial began in 1974, Garrow admitted to all his crimes, including the murders of Susan and Alicia. As he started talking about Susan, Beige said, in court, “Is that the one I found?”

The secret was out. There was a public furore. Armani started getting death threats. He found a dead fish in his car, and his wife found an unlit Molotov cocktail in the yard.

“That was the worst moment of my life,” Armani told the podcast. “I had some horrible thoughts.”

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Garrow was convicted of murder. He was given 25 years to life. Four years later, he escaped from jail, thanks to his son smuggling him a gun in a bucket of chicken. When police found him, they shot him – and this time, he was dead.

An ethical complaint was filed against Armani and Beige. It took years to go through the courts. Beige began drinking heavily. He gave up on law and moved to Florida. Armani had a heart attack. His legal practice suffered, but he stuck with it.

Eventually, the ethical complaint was dismissed. The New York State Bar Association found that Armani and Beige had acted ethically, explaining that they had ethical obligations to keep their client’s confidential information secret.

The case is now studied in legal ethics courses in the US. Susan’s mother Roberta is not happy about that.

“I’m pretty horrified to think that this is what is considered to be correct,” she told the podcast. “Because I don't think it's ethical at all, and to think it's being taught as the right way to do things in an ethical class is totally incomprehensible to me.”

In 2010, Alicia Hauck’s younger sister, Cindy, told the Post-Standard that she didn’t hold a grudge against Armani.

“It’s just too tiresome to be angry that long,” she said.

She added that the family tried not to obsess about Alicia’s murder.

“We still love her. She’s just not with us anymore. She’s with my mother in heaven.”


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