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California author examines life of Joseph Kondro

California author examines life of Joseph Kondro

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A California woman has published an e-book about the life of Longview child-killer Joseph Kondro, who died in prison last May at age 52.

Lori Carangelo of Palm Springs, Calif., based her 25-page self-published book, “Kondro: The Untold Story of the Longview Serial Killer,” on letters Kondro wrote to her between 2009 to 2011 while serving a life sentence at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Kondro, who was adopted as a child, reached out to her initially because she has helped many adoptees find their birth families at no charge, said 67-year-old Carangelo, whose roughly 20 other e-books include “Adopted Killers” and “Chosen Children 2012: Billion Dollar Babies in America’s Failed Fostercare, Adoption & Prison Systems.”

In 1999, Kondro was convicted of kidnapping, raping and strangling two Longview girls: 8-year-old Rima Traxler in 1985 and 12-year-old Kara Rudd in 1996. Authorities also suspected (but couldn’t prove) Kondro killed 8-year-old Chila Silvernails of Kalama, whose strangled, nude body was found in a creek bed a day after she vanished on her way to catch the school bus. Silvernails’ mother had dated Kondro.

Carangelo exchanged letters sporadically with Kondro for two years in the hope he would reveal other murders so families of the missing would finally have answers, she said.

Based on Kondro’s letters — at least 65 pages of neatly printed and typed missives about his life written in an unfailingly courteous and respectful tone — she said it seemed he enjoyed having a pen pal. Kondro already knew about his birth family and didn’t need her help regarding his adoptive history.

The burly, smooth-talking, violent man seemed intrigued by the idea his story could wind up in a book or a movie. Kondro sent Carangelo photos from his childhood and signed several privacy releases to give Carangelo access to all his official data, including medical and psychiatric records.

“As to your question about what would I like to see result from publication of my story? I would like to take people on the other side of a way that a serial child rapist and killer thinks,” he wrote.

Kondro told Carangelo he hoped to explain “what happened to a good, healthy kid, and cause the reader to take better care of their children. Look what I have taken. I took a whole community’s children.”

Based on Kondro’s letters, Carangelo assembled a tale that begins with Kondro’s adoption as a baby. Born in Michigan to a troubled Native American mother with six other children, Kondro was given at birth to a white couple 2,000 miles away in Castle Rock, Wash. Although his adoptive mother was protective of Kondro as a child, Kondro said he felt he didn’t belong and that his parents regretted adopting him.

From early childhood, Kondro had anger issues that launched a disturbing pattern of behavior. He began drinking at age 7, carrying a knife, fighting other kids and killing neighbors’ pets. Around that age Kondro also started molesting young neighborhood girls, a habit that he continued well into adulthood before any of his victims reported it.

As a child, he began to wonder how far he could take his sexual desires, and he fantasized about killing, he told Carangelo.

The book details Kondro’s graphic recollections of the murders of Traxler and Rudd and later, his paranoia in prison, where other inmates wanted to kill him for his crimes.

Kondro repeatedly asked Carangelo to send him law enforcement records of the Traxler and Rudd murders, including crime scene and autopsy photos. The records would help him recollect details of the crimes, he wrote. Carangelo said she refused, not understanding why he would want them.

According to Carangelo, Kondro didn’t want to reveal any more killings to her because he feared the prosecutor might reinstate the death penalty in his case. Carangelo contacted a legislator and a nationally known missing children’s advocate to propose “Rima’s Law.” The legislation would offer to waive the death penalty if suspected or convicted killers disclosed all their victims and the site of their remains.

Carangelo said she did not receive a reply.

Carangelo let her correspondence with Kondro lapse in 2011 while she was battling cancer and working on other projects. After not hearing from Kondro for many months, she did an online search and found news items relating to his death on May 3, 2012.

According to the death certificate she requested from the funeral home, Kondro died of end-stage liver disease due to Hepatitis C. Carangelo called the prison to ask if he’d made any deathbed confessions and was told he had not.

In her book, Carangelo speculates about Kondro’s possible involvement other unsolved killings in Washington, including that of Silvernails, and she tries to draw connections between Kondro and other killers who were adopted. It is critical, she said, for adopted children to be encouraged to explore their feelings about being adopted.

“(Adopted killers) have the feelings bottled up, and they don’t release them except with a kill or another way,” she told The Daily News. “That’s what I get out of their stories.”


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