Jun 3, 2016

The Buried Bodies Case
In 1973, a massive manhunt in New York's Adirondack Mountains ended when police captured a man named Robert Garrow.  And that’s when this story really gets started.
This episode we consider a string of barbaric crimes by a hated man, and the attorney who, when called to defend him, also wound up defending a core principle of our legal system.  When Frank Armani learned his client’s most gruesome secrets, he made a morally startling decision that stunned the world and goes to the heart of what it means to be a defense attorney - how far should lawyers go to provide the best defense to the worst people?

NOTE: This episode contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault and violence.

Produced by Matt Kielty and Brenna Farrell. Reported by Brenna Farrell.

Special thanks to Tom Alibrandi, author of Privileged Information, with Frank Armani, Laurence Gooley, author of Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, Charl Bader and the students in her Criminal Defense Clinic at Fordham University, Leslie Levin and the students in her Legal Profession class at The University of Connecticut School of Law, Clark D. Cunningham at Georgia State University College of Law, Debra Armani, Mary Armani, Lohr McKinstry, Tom Scozzafava, Stephanie Jenkins, Brian Farrell, Jennifer Brumback and Nick Capodice. 

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Speaker 1:                    Wait, you're listening ...

Speaker 2:                    Okay?

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Speaker 4:                    You're ...

Speaker 5:                    Listening ...

Speaker 6:                    To Radiolab.

Speaker 7:                    Radiolab.

Speaker 6:                    From ...

Speaker 8:                    WNY ...

Speaker 9:                    C!

Speaker 2:                    C?

Speaker 8:                    Yeah.

Jad Abumrad:               Three, two, one. Hey, I'm Jad Abumrad.

Robert Krulwich:          I'm Robert Krulwich.

Jad Abumrad:               This is Radiolab, and today, we have a legal case.

Robert Krulwich:          Well, it's actually, it's really more than just a legal case.

Lisa Lerman:                 This case, it's what my husband and I refer to as a mental magnet. Once you start thinking about it, it won't go away. It gets under your skin.

Robert Krulwich:          This is Lisa Lerman.

Lisa Lerman:                 I'm a law professor at Catholic University.

Robert Krulwich:          At the Columbus School of Law, where she teaches legal ethics, and she sat down not too long ago with me and our producer, Brenna Farrell, who brought us this story, and under whose skin it also seems to have gotten.

Brenna Farrell:             Yeah, it just made me not know whether to side with my head or my heart.

Jad Abumrad:               And let me just jump in and say, this episode contains some violence, and explicit imagery in it. So if you're listening with kids, you just know that going in, and you might want to skip this one.

Brenna Farrell:             So, to get this story started ...

Jim Tracy:                     Sure.

Brenna Farrell:             Jim Tracy.

Jim Tracy:                     My name's Jim Tracy, and I'm an award-winning journalist.

Brenna Farrell:             Former newspaper guy ...

Jim Tracy:                     For the Post-Star in Glens Falls.

Brenna Farrell:             He's been reporting on this story since about 2000. He's interviewed hundreds of people, and I think the reason he's been so focused on it is that it's pretty close to home for him.

Jim Tracy:                     I live in the foothills of the Adirondacks.

Brenna Farrell:             Which is where this story begins.

Jim Tracy:                     So, Saturday night, July 28th, 1973, four young people ...

Brenna Farrell:             Ages 18 to 23 ...

Jim Tracy:                     Three men and a woman, go camping in the Adirondacks. Pulled off the road, a side road off Route 30. They made up a makeshift campsite. It was a grass clearing, they set up two tents and went to sleep for the night. And on Sunday, they woke up, and about 9 AM ...

Brenna Farrell:             Two of the campers ...

Jim Tracy:                     Heard somebody walking outside their tent. And all of a sudden, they heard the zipper on the tent go up.

Brenna Farrell:             And what they saw was this middle-aged man peering into the tent.

Jim Tracy:                     Who looked like a conservation officer. He had a fedora with a feather on it, sunglasses, a rifle. He had a buck knife, binoculars around his neck. And very calmly, he told them, almost politely, to step out of their tent, which they did.

Brenna Farrell:             He got the other two campers. He got all four of them rounded up together, and they were kind of standing in a semicircle.

Jim Tracy:                     And then, the man cocked the gun and said, "Listen, I've killed before, and I'll kill again. I'm going to take your gas. I don't want to get caught, so I'm going to tie you to trees."

Brenna Farrell:             And he started marching the kids off into the woods.

Jim Tracy:                     Took them into the woods near a brook, in pairs of two, with him behind them. The kids, of course, were scared out of their wits.

Brenna Farrell:             He pulled out some ropes.

Jim Tracy:                     Basically, he had each of them tie themselves as he pointed the gun at them, and then the last one, he tied.

Jim Tracy:                     So, after he had the four people tied, he went back to the first boy, 18-year-old Philip Domblewski and ...

Brenna Farrell:             Because the other three kids were spread out through the forest, they couldn't really see what was happening.

Jim Tracy:                     But they could hear clearly, and they heard vomiting sounds, and then they heard Philip's voice get really high, and they knew something was happening, something bad was happening to him.

Brenna Farrell:             What was happening was, the man was stabbing Domblewski with his buck knife. He stabbed him five times in the chest.

Jim Tracy:                     And when this happened, the three of them, in their panic, were able to break loose and start running. Nick Fiorello ran to his car. Carol Ann Malinowski ran through the woods. But the man caught one of them, David Freeman. He took the boy back to the campsite, and he had him lay down in a ditch next to him.

Brenna Farrell:             To kind of monitor the situation, I guess.

Jim Tracy:                     So, Freeman and the killer are laying in a ditch ...

Brenna Farrell:             And after about an hour ...

Jim Tracy:                     The men come.

Brenna Farrell:             Men that the other two campers, the ones who had gotten away, had managed to alert.

Jim Tracy:                     Locals that knew the area, they came with rifles, and all of a sudden, they spotted them ...

Brenna Farrell:             The killer and Freeman ...

Jim Tracy:                     Laying down in the ditch, and when they did, Freeman got up and ran towards the men, screaming for help, saying, "He's got a gun, he's going to shoot!"

Brenna Farrell:             And the man with the gun just kind of stood up.

Jim Tracy:                     And calmly and coolly walked into the forest. And thus began-

Brenna Farrell:             What was, at the time-

Jim Tracy:                     The largest manhunt in state history.

Speaker 15:                  Here this morning, at about 11:30, you can see a state police car is parked almost as far up the road as you can see.

Jim Tracy:                     When the manhunt commenced on Monday morning ...

Speaker 15:                  Many deputies and state police standing by.

Jim Tracy:                     It was a scene like had never been seen before up there.

Speaker 16:                  Today, we've broken down our manpower into roving patrols ...

Jim Tracy:                     Men armed with all kinds of weapons, rifles, shotguns, bloodhounds.

Speaker 16:                  That are traveling trails.

Jim Tracy:                     Helicopters.

Speaker 15:                  And it's a waiting game right now.

Jim Tracy:                     By Monday or Tuesday, they had 200 men on the case.

Speaker 15:                  Waiting to flush the fugitive out of the woods.

Brenna Farrell:             They eventually find the man's car, and they're able to run the license plate, and it comes back with an ID.

Jim Tracy:                     A 37-year-old ...

Speaker 15:                  Robert Garrow ...

Jim Tracy:                     Robert Francis Garrow, Sr., of Syracuse, New York.

Speaker 15:                  Is the fugitive police are looking for today.

Jim Tracy:                     He was an ex convict.

Brenna Farrell:             He'd been in prison for rape, served seven years.

Jim Tracy:                     Now armed with a .30-30 rifle and knife, and this story was on every TV station, CBS, ABC, and NBC. So, by Tuesday ...

Speaker 17:                  How do you feel at night when ...

Jim Tracy:                     People got panicked.

Speaker 17:                  When you're all alone?

Speaker 18:                  Well, when I'm at night, the doors are sure locked.

Jim Tracy:                     People loaded their rifles, they locked their doors for the first time, and ...

Speaker 17:                  We've noticed a lot of people leaving around here.

Jim Tracy:                     People left the area so fast ...

Speaker 19:                  A lot of them cleared out last night and the day before.

Jim Tracy:                     That they left their tents up, they left barbecues smoldering, they left behind coolers.

Brenna Farrell:             So, as the manhunt dragged on ...

Jim Tracy:                     What happened was, Garrow was able to use those camps and that food and those drinks to survive.

Brenna Farrell:             Day after day.

Jim Tracy:                     The manhunt, it's about 400 men now.

Brenna Farrell:             The police follow a lead that he had stolen a car, and he had been sighted, and they're kind of closing in on him.

Jim Tracy:                     And then ...

Brenna Farrell:             Day 12.

Jim Tracy:                     Thursday, August 9th, 1973, very, very hot day, one of the hottest of the summer.

Brenna Farrell:             That day, a conservation officer named Hillary LeBlanc spotted Garrow. He said, "Freeze," or "Drop your gun," something to that effect. And Garrow started running.

Jim Tracy:                     LeBlanc fired four times.

Brenna Farrell:             Got him in the back, the arm, and the foot.

Jim Tracy:                     Garrow went down once, got back up, and kept running.

Brenna Farrell:             They end up chasing through the forest.

Jim Tracy:                     Found a blood trail, and just in a very short time, they saw Garrow, and he was laying down in the mud.

Brenna Farrell:             Not moving. And so they thought he might be dead.

Jim Tracy:                     Because he was just laying there. But they took his pulse and everything, and he was certainly alive.

Brenna Farrell:             So, they put him in an ambulance, and they rush him to the nearest hospital, in Plattsburgh. And according to Jim, a couple of cops go with him. They're grilling him the whole time, because they think that he might have been responsible for an additional murder, and for a girl who's gone missing. But, he wouldn't talk.

Brenna Farrell:             And it's at this point that the story that I'm interested in really gets started. It's known as the Buried Bodies Case.

Lisa Lerman:                 And I think one of the things that's so fascinating about this case ...

Brenna Farrell:             This is law professor Lisa Lerman, again.

Lisa Lerman:                 Is the conflict between what a good lawyer should do, and what a good person should do in this situation.

Simon Adler:                Okay, and we are recording.

Brenna Farrell:             So the guy at the center of this conflict...

Lisa Lerman:                 Was a man named Frank Armani.

Jim Tracy:                     Frank H. Armani.

Brenna Farrell:             Hello. I'm Brenna.

Jim Tracy:                     He's a lawyer in Syracuse.

Mary Armani:               I never know whether to pronounce it Armani or [Armeni 00:07:43].

Brenna Farrell:             That's Mary Armani, Frank's wife.

Mary Armani:               In our area in [Solvay 00:07:47] they use "Armeni," but it is "Armani."

Brenna Farrell:             Couple of months ago, producer Simon Adler and I went up to visit them. They live right outside of Syracuse, New York. Mr. Armani is now in his eighties, he's retired.

frank armani:                My name is Frank Armani, and I was the attorney for Robert Garrow.

Brenna Farrell:             I'd love to have you start wherever you'd like. How did this whole story start for you?

frank armani:                Well, when you ...

Brenna Farrell:             So just to give a bit of background, Mr. Armani told me that when he was a kid, he got picked on for a couple different reasons, and he said he was always the guy that wouldn't walk away.

frank armani:                I was a fighter, I liked fights. Physical fights. I liked standing up for the little guy.

Brenna Farrell:             And that's partly why he became an attorney.

frank armani:                When you're fighting a case for a defendant, you're fighting the state, and tyranny.

Brenna Farrell:             And he was doing really well. He was well-respected, had a good reputation. But then he met Robert Garrow.

frank armani:                Yeah. Black hair, strong man. To take him out, you'd need a .45. And I just had that feeling that this guy is dangerous, and a lot of things are going to happen.

Brenna Farrell:             This is a year before the manhunt, 1972, Frank remembers he represented him at first on two pretty small things. One-

frank armani:                One, a school teacher had assaulted his child, he wanted to sue the school, and I talked him out of it. And then he had an automobile accident, I represented him on that.

Brenna Farrell:             But then pretty quickly it gets dark.

frank armani:                Yeah.

Brenna Farrell:             Garrow was charged with trying to kidnap two college kids. That case got dismissed, but then ...

frank armani:                He got picked up for molesting some young girls, kids.

Brenna Farrell:             Two very young girls, age 10 and 11. Garrow was released on bail. He skipped his court date and just disappeared. And then we pick up where we left off. The murder, the manhunt, and on August 9th, the night Garrow got captured, Frank gets a call from Garrow's wife.

frank armani:                Telling me that he wanted to talk to me.

Brenna Farrell:             He wanted Armani to represent him.

Lisa Lerman:                 My impression is that Armani didn't want to do it.

frank armani:                In my mind I'm saying "What the hell do I want to get involved with this, you know, for?"

Lisa Lerman:                 He had never handled a murder charge.

frank armani:                Full trial murder case, no.

Lisa Lerman:                 He didn't know how.

Brenna Farrell:             The problem was-

Lisa Lerman:                 Garrow wouldn't talk to any lawyer except for Armani.

frank armani:                He looked at me as his attorney.

Brenna Farrell:             So Armani eventually decides to go and talk to the judge who'd been assigned to the case, and the judge is basically like, "We have an obligation to provide the counsel that this guy wants, so I mean unless you have a good reason why you can't do it, I want to appoint you his public defender." And Armani agrees, and so at that point he has to defend Garrow.

frank armani:                Yeah.

Jim Tracy:                     So.

Brenna Farrell:             This is reporter Jim Tracy again.

Jim Tracy:                     Armani decides to elicit a man named Francis Belge.

frank armani:                We ski together.

Jim Tracy:                     His friend.

frank armani:                Our families picnic together.

Jim Tracy:                     To help him with this case, as co-counsel.

frank armani:                Because I felt I needed support.

Jim Tracy:                     Belge was the top criminal defense lawyer in central New York.

frank armani:                I needed someone with brains and guts.

Brenna Farrell:             So Armani goes to talk to Belge.

Jim Tracy:                     He kind of resembled Mickey Mantle. Blond hair, blue eyes, good looking.

frank armani:                I told him, I says, "I just need backup. That's it." He's like, "No."

Jim Tracy:                     It was a lose-lose case.

frank armani:                There's no money in it.

Jim Tracy:                     You know, the prosecution had three eyeball witnesses, they had his car at the scene of the crime, and they had his two-week flight. He was guilty.

frank armani:                And I said, come on.

Brenna Farrell:             I'm not going to try to prove he didn't do it.

frank armani:                I wanted to go on an insanity defense.

Brenna Farrell:             Maybe Garrow murdered this kid.

Jim Tracy:                     But maybe it was because he had temporarily gone insane.

Brenna Farrell:             Maybe he's crazy.

Jim Tracy:                     He really believes this.

frank armani:                I'm telling you about my theory.

Brenna Farrell:             And on top of that, Armani tells him ...

frank armani:                I says, "This is going to be a big case."

Brenna Farrell:             If we pull this off.

frank armani:                We're made.

Brenna Farrell:             It would take Belge a while, but eventually ...

frank armani:                He says, "I'm in, Frank."

Jim Tracy:                     Now we're into late August, 1973.

frank armani:                So we went up to the hospital.

Brenna Farrell:             When they got there, they went up to Garrow's room, up on the fifth floor of the hospital. Police are standing guard. They walked into the room.

frank armani:                And I hadn't seen him in a while. We greeted each other and we talked.

Brenna Farrell:             And just to picture this, Jim told me that the room they put Garrow in was what he described as a training observation room, which meant that it had this big window that ran alongside Garrow's bed.

Jim Tracy:                     So they could keep an eye on him.

Brenna Farrell:             And the cops are stationed right outside, just watching. And according to Jim, and I should say I've heard differing accounts about this, but apparently the cops had brought in a lip reader to try to see what Garrow was saying.

Jad Abumrad:               Wow.

Robert Krulwich:          Wait a second, I don't think you can do that, right? I mean, that's not legal.

Brenna Farrell:             Yeah, I think that's probably not okay. But from the cops' perspective, they think that he's involved in a recent murder and a missing girl, and they think that girl could still be alive. So they want to know absolutely anything they can that's going to get them closer to solving that murder and finding that girl.

Brenna Farrell:             But at the same time, the defendant has to be able to share absolutely everything with the lawyers and know that they're in that safe space of that relationship.

Lisa Lerman:                 Because we have Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate oneself.

frank armani:                If he can't freely speak to his attorney, then you have no real justice system.

Brenna Farrell:             And Armani and Belge, they need as much information about what Garrow has done as they possibly can get so they can start to build their defense.

frank armani:                I don't like surprises. I'm the kind that wants to know everything.

Jad Abumrad:               Wow, so as a lawyer, you're in a strange spot here.

Brenna Farrell:             Mm-hmm (affirmative). He needed to get from Garrow his story and it needed to be just them, he didn't want the cops in on it yet.

frank armani:                And you don't know if there are taps in the room or what.

Jim Tracy:                     So they turn up the TV, turn up the fans.

frank armani:                But he was playing games, you know.

Jim Tracy:                     He'd talk basically about anything but the cases. Kept saying he couldn't remember, he couldn't remember.

Brenna Farrell:             And they're trying to convince him, you've got to talk to us if you're going to have any shot.

frank armani:                It's like a lynch mob out there.

Brenna Farrell:             The police pretty much have you cold, there's witnesses. And Garrow knew he could be going to prison, he could be going to prison for a long time.

Lisa Lerman:                 Maybe 25 to life.

Brenna Farrell:             And a pedophile in prison?

frank armani:                You have to be careful.

Brenna Farrell:             Things can get rough. But they tell him, if you talk to us, maybe we can get you ...

Lisa Lerman:                 Not guilty by reason of insanity.

frank armani:                That was our only defense.

Lisa Lerman:                 To help get Garrow into a mental hospital instead of a prison, that was the goal.

Brenna Farrell:             So if you have anything to say ...

frank armani:                Say it now.

Brenna Farrell:             It took several conversations to get Garrow to this point, but finally ...

Jim Tracy:                     Garrow poured his soul out.

Brenna Farrell:             At this point, it was just Belge in the room, and he told him, yes he had killed Domblewski, and he had also killed other people too.

Lisa Lerman:                 And the episodes when Garrow killed people seemed to have followed like a pattern. He would get these intense headaches, and become psychotic and do horrible things.

Brenna Farrell:             When it came to the details ...

Lisa Lerman:                 He tended to not remember.

Brenna Farrell:             But then, Garrow mentions two particular girls.

Lisa Lerman:                 Who were then missing, and whose parents had no idea where they were.

Jim Tracy:                     21-year-old Susan Petz, and another girl, 16-year-old Alicia Hauck.

Brenna Farrell:             Susan Petz was from Chicago, she's the girl I mentioned earlier. The cops were already looking for her, hoping that Garrow might have some information. Earlier that summer, her boyfriend had been found murdered, the two of them had been camping, and Susan had been gone ever since. Alicia Hauck, she was a high school girl from Syracuse. She had gone missing just a couple of days before Susan. Everybody thought she might have just run away. But ...

Lisa Lerman:                 Garrow told the lawyers that he had killed them and where he had left their bodies. One odd thing about Garrow's description of the incidents, he doesn't say, "I killed her." He says, "She got stabbed with my knife."

Robert Krulwich:          "She got stabbed with my knife."

Brenna Farrell:             Like it wasn't even him doing the stabbing.

Lisa Lerman:                 Right.

Robert Krulwich:          Huh. Like this is ... What do you do?

Brenna Farrell:             Well first and foremost you have to ask yourself, is this true?

Lisa Lerman:                 You know, your client is obviously severely mentally ill. This could be a dream he had, it could be a delusion.

Brenna Farrell:             If you're going to go and craft an argument and present a strategy, you need to know what actually happened. Belge walks out the door, he grabs Frank, and he says ...

frank armani:                He says, "Let's go."

Brenna Farrell:             So they slip outside, they get in the car, and ...

frank armani:                We take off.

Lisa Lerman:                 To go look for the bodies. Garrow told the lawyers that Susan Petz was in an air vent of a closed-up mine shaft.

frank armani:                The mine is up in Mineville.

Brenna Farrell:             About an hour south of the hospital.

frank armani:                Up in the Adirondacks there.

Simon Adler:                And in that moment, were you scared? Were you excited?

frank armani:                Both. You're up high, it's a high, but you're scared. You're concerned, you have fear. You're a fool if you don't.

Brenna Farrell:             In fact at one point, looking in the rear view mirror, they got a little spooked.

frank armani:                We thought we were being followed by the state police.

Brenna Farrell:             So eventually, they pull over, get out of the car.

frank armani:                And went into one bar.

Lisa Lerman:                 Where one of Francis Belge's lady friends was hanging out.

Brenna Farrell:             For about 30 minutes, Belge talked to her. Then he asked if he could borrow her car.

frank armani:                And then we went out the back door and took off.

Lisa Lerman:                 Driving the lady friend's car.

frank armani:                To try to lose any tails.

Brenna Farrell:             And so they got back on the highway and they drove through the Adirondacks, until finally they get here.

Speaker 23:                  This may be as far as we're going to go.

Brenna Farrell:             That's okay, we can walk.

Speaker 23:                  Yeah.

Brenna Farrell:             Up to this old abandoned mine.

Speaker 23:                  I'm going to have to back out.

Brenna Farrell:             Yeah.

Brenna Farrell:             We went out there last February with reporter Lohr McKinstry and the town supervisor of Mariah, Tom Scozzafava.

Brenna Farrell:             So is this a road that goes to the mine? What is ...

Speaker 23:                  Yeah, to the mines.

Brenna Farrell:             It was this sort of hilly area off the side of the road.

Brenna Farrell:             Is this a trail that we're on, or are you just ...

Brenna Farrell:             It was very icy that day.

Speaker 24:                  This here? This used to be an old roadway.

Brenna Farrell:             We're walking up a very wooded hill. It was fairly steep, there were no leaves, and all the trees were black and very skeletal.

Speaker 24:                  We're walking right in the same area that Armani and ... This is the only way they could have came in here.

Brenna Farrell:             It's right up this hill?

frank armani:                So.

Speaker 24:                  Yeah.

frank armani:                Here we are in our Sunday suits, and here we go trudging through the forest, looking for the cave. We spent a lot of hours looking around.

frank armani:                And then ... We found this air vent.

Brenna Farrell:             Wow.

Speaker 24:                  You see the air shaft there?

Brenna Farrell:             They find this air shaft, which is just a hole in the ground a couple feet across that shoots up from down in the depths of the mine.

Brenna Farrell:             Oh, be careful. This is giving me such ...

Speaker 24:                  Yeah, you don't want to slide down in there.

Lisa Lerman:                 And so they couldn't see anything down the hole, so Frank Armani lay down on the ground at the edge of the mine shaft.

Brenna Farrell:             He's got a flashlight that he takes out.

frank armani:                And then Belge held my feet and let me down in there.

Lisa Lerman:                 And as Frank got lowered down into the hole ...

frank armani:                I could see her sneak. A blue shoe.

Brenna Farrell:             A blue sneaker?

frank armani:                Yeah.

Brenna Farrell:             And a leg.

frank armani:                I said to myself, "The son of a bitch did it."

Brenna Farrell:             And he yells back up to Belge ...

frank armani:                "Get me out of here. Pull me back up."

Brenna Farrell:             Eventually Belge found the other body, Alicia Hauck's body. She was in a cemetery where Garrow had said he'd left her. But Armani wasn't there when Belge found her.

Lisa Lerman:                 So what ensued was a very long struggle where the lawyers tried to figure out what to do with the information about the bodies of these girls.

Brenna Farrell:             Yeah, let's play that out. What are your options?

Lisa Lerman:                 Sure. So option one, we've got to call the police. We've got to tell the prosecutor. These are missing kids, we're the only ones who know, shouldn't we just call the police?

Brenna Farrell:             Right.

frank armani:                No, you can't. You just can't. We took an oath to keep the confidences of our client.

Lisa Lerman:                 Under the current rules, which have developed quite a bit since the time this happened, anything that is related to the representation of a client is under the confidentiality umbrella. So you're not supposed to tell anybody except to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm.

Robert Krulwich:          That will be, that can be or will be.

Lisa Lerman:                 Yeah, right. So in this situation, the two girls are dead. Then there's no future crime, it's over. It's done.

Robert Krulwich:          And even if the parents of the missing girls in question are frightened and waking up, when even if they have hired detectives, and even if the local police are combing the woods and the taxpayers are paying for that, but there's no ... If the people are already dead, then the law is, shh.

Lisa Lerman:                 That's right.

Brenna Farrell:             It's a really tough job to be a defense lawyer. You have a very particular part to play, you have a role, and that role isn't what you think as a person is good and right and what you would do for your friend or your family member in that situation. What your role is, is to play this part of a system in which you're the one who stands up for the guy that everybody else hates.

Brenna Farrell:             Even if everybody hates you, even if maybe you hate yourself a little bit, you have to do your job, and that job is to be in the role of the person that fights as hard as they can for their client.

Lisa Lerman:                 The lawyer is the agent of his client.

Robert Krulwich:          Only? Only the agent, or also a citizen and a part of the justice system, and there's a double murder here, and families seeking to find out what happened. He now knows what happens.

Lisa Lerman:                 Right.

Robert Krulwich:          Isn't there a weight here building on the side of tell? Just tell. Tell.

frank armani:                Of course, yes, and 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. You'd have to be an animal not to feel the anguish of the parents, of the family. And yet you have your duty as a lawyer.

frank armani:                You're caught between your two moralities.

Robert Krulwich:          So now what does he do?

Jad Abumrad:               Coming up, that hard spot gets even harder.

Robert Krulwich:          We'll be right back.

Lizzie:                           Hi, this is Lizzie, from Arlington, Texas. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay, hey, I'm Jad Abumrad.

Robert Krulwich:          I'm Robert Krulwich.

Jad Abumrad:               This is Radiolab, and now we should get back to our story from producer Brenna Farrell. And when we left it they were where, they were stuck, right? They knew this thing.

Robert Krulwich:          They knew the client was very guilty of something.

Jad Abumrad:               They had found the bodies of these two girls and ...

Robert Krulwich:          Now kind of ... what's their next move?

Brenna Farrell:             Well, so they decided to-

frank armani:                Plea bargain.

Brenna Farrell:             Plea bargain.

Lisa Lerman:                 To take this information to the prosecutor and say-

Brenna Farrell:             I have information that will help you solve some cases.

Robert Krulwich:          "Some cases."

Brenna Farrell:             Yes.

Lisa Lerman:                 And in exchange-

Brenna Farrell:             I want you to give me a better deal for my client.

Lisa Lerman:                 To get Garrow into a mental hospital instead of a prison.

Robert Krulwich:          Oh, so right away they're going to use this as leverage.

Lisa Lerman:                 That was the idea.

frank armani:                Yeah. You're going to give a little and you're going to take a little.

Robert Krulwich:          Well, that's kind of gross, no?

Brenna Farrell:             Yeah, he's trying to get a better deal for this murderer. But I mean, if you think about it from Frank's perspective, he's got this information. As a person he doesn't want to have to keep that secret, so if he plea bargains, then that's a way for him to get some closure for the family, because he can give the information to the prosecution, but he's also not selling out his client.

Jim Tracy:                     So.

Brenna Farrell:             Reporter Jim Tracy again.

Jim Tracy:                     They called a meeting with Henry McCabe.

Brenna Farrell:             Investigator from the state police.

Jim Tracy:                     Detective McCabe and the district attorney at Armani's office. And when they met, Armani and Belge search the briefcase of the D.A. and the investigator to make sure they weren't wearing a bug.

Brenna Farrell:             Because they're paranoid there's going to be a wiretap or some sort of bug. And then Belge presents the deal. He says listen, I've got information on two bodies. I want you to agree to put my client in a mental institution instead of sending him off to prison.

Brenna Farrell:             And the prosecutor apparently very quickly puts two and two together and immediately thought, "Holy shit are you talking about Susan and Alicia, like these are the two girls that we are most concerned about, we think they're alive." And Belge said, "I'm not telling you anything unless we have a deal."

Jim Tracy:                     Both the D.A. and the investigator thought that the lawyers were absolutely ludicrous. They thought they had lost their mind.

Brenna Farrell:             Like are you kidding me? Are you trying to get a better sentence for a murderer by offering his murder victims?

Jad Abumrad:               Are you seriously bargaining with people's lives.

Brenna Farrell:             Yeah.

Lisa Lerman:                 But also, I'm sure that the prosecutor knew that this was doubtless the highest-profile case that would ever come to him.

Brenna Farrell:             And so as the prosecutor, you're not going to look so good if you give a deal to this reprehensible man.

Lisa Lerman:                 No.

frank armani:                Well, what the hell's the difference? He's going to get life no matter what. How many times you want to give him life?

Jim Tracy:                     But the meeting only lasted like five minutes.

frank armani:                It went nowhere.

Brenna Farrell:             The deal collapses completely.

Jim Tracy:                     And to back up a little ways-

Brenna Farrell:             When that deal fell apart that was actually, that was particularly devastating for Armani because just the day before ...

Jim Tracy:                     Susan Petz's father-

Brenna Farrell:             Had flown in from Chicago.

Jim Tracy:                     To Syracuse.

frank armani:                I remember Mr. Petz coming to my office.

Jim Tracy:                     And he said, "Could I meet with you and talk to you?" And Armani agreed to it.

Brenna Farrell:             So he comes in, he takes a seat.

Jim Tracy:                     And he asked him, father to father ...

Brenna Farrell:             "Is there anything you can tell me about my daughter? The papers think that Garrow probably had something to do with her disappearance, is there anything at all that he's told you that can help me?"

frank armani:                But I couldn't tell him anything.

Brenna Farrell:             And Armani just ... He says-

frank armani:                No.

Brenna Farrell:             "I can't tell you, there's nothing I can tell you."

frank armani:                I remember trying to assure him that look, I've got a meeting set up.

Brenna Farrell:             All he can say is it's with state investigators and the prosecutor on the case.

frank armani:                They could have some information for you. Trying to give him hope that we would bring it to a conclusion. I thought we would, but we didn't.

Brenna Farrell:             So then when Mr. Petz leaves Mr. Armani, he loses it. He threw a bunch of books.

frank armani:                I think I threw my phone.

Brenna Farrell:             Basically just, you know, destroyed his office.

frank armani:                Just trying to relieve my ... That I couldn't help the man.

Brenna Farrell:             Because he's looking right at this man, knowing exactly ... Well, imagining what he's going through. Armani had lost a brother.

frank armani:                Yes. He was much younger, he was four years younger than me.

Brenna Farrell:             He was an Air Force pilot.

frank armani:                He had three kids.

Brenna Farrell:             And in 1962 his plane went down and he was lost at sea. So after that, Armani said his mother, she'd be up at night crying, she would go to bed at night-

frank armani:                And my mother would wake up screaming, "The fish are eating him." You know, she couldn't ever recover from it.

Brenna Farrell:             Because you can't, you don't really know but you know.

frank armani:                It's ... I can understand it.

Brenna Farrell:             And that's partly why this was so hard for Armani, because when that plea deal fell apart, that was his chance to try to get this information to the families. When the plea fell through, he didn't have any other options for sharing that information. He was stuck.

Jad Abumrad:               What ... So what happens next?

Brenna Farrell:             So they have to go to trial, and that means that Armani and Belge have to knuckle down to try to present an insanity defense. Meanwhile, Armani, he said he couldn't sleep, he was having nightmares.

frank armani:                Wake up 2:30 in the morning with the sweat running down your back.

Brenna Farrell:             Go sit at the kitchen table drinking coffee and just waiting for the morning paper to come, because he was just alone with it. He was alone with this secret, and he knew at that moment, the police are trying to find these girls. He knows that the parents are holding out hope that they might still be alive.

frank armani:                You're questioning yourself, very ... You're hurting people, so you begin to wonder, "Am I in the right profession?" You're looking for a way to get the information out. You know, we'll make an anonymous call.

Brenna Farrell:             Did you ever think of that?

frank armani:                Sure.

Brenna Farrell:             And why didn't you?

frank armani:                Well, if I'm going to do it I'm going to do it openly, you know? I don't know.

Robert Krulwich:          Did he ever break?

Brenna Farrell:             No. According to him, no.

frank armani:                You know, in my mind, I was doing what I thought was the proper, ethical, legal, moral, moral thing to do.

Brenna Farrell:             And then in December of 1973, five months after the girls disappear, their bodies happen to be discovered within two weeks of each other. Susan's body is discovered by two kids who were playing up in the mines. Alicia I guess I think a student from Syracuse University, which is right next door to the cemetery, is walking through and stumbles upon her, and so she's discovered then too.

Jim Tracy:                     And then-

Brenna Farrell:             Six months later.

Jim Tracy:                     In the summer of 1974.

Sharon Smith:               Opening day of the trial might be one of the most significant, even though ...

Brenna Farrell:             Robert Garrow's trial.

Jim Tracy:                     For the murder of Phil Domblewski.

Brenna Farrell:             Begins.

Sharon Smith:               Robert Garrow's primary line of defense will apparently be not guilty by reason of insanity.

Brenna Farrell:             So in order to make that case, what they decide to do is to put Garrow on the stand.

frank armani:                And just get the facts.

Jim Tracy:                     And Garrow would tell his whole life story.

frank armani:                To shock the jury's mind.

Jim Tracy:                     Including all these murders and all these rapes.

frank armani:                To see that at the time he was nuts.

Sharon Smith:               Sharon Smith, Channel 6 News, in Lake Pleasant.

Brenna Farrell:             So the trial opens, the courtroom is jam-packed. Prosecution starts, they have a really good case, they've got a good lawyer from Syracuse that joined to help the guy from Hamilton County, and then it's the time for the defense to start their case.

Brenna Farrell:             So Belge stands up and he calls his first witness, Robert Garrow, to the stand. Garrow gets on the stand and he starts telling his life story, and it's horrible. Severe beatings and abused by his parents. Very little education, he basically gets sent off to a farm to work like as an indentured servant when he's seven, slaughtering bulls when he's eight years old, weird stuff like that. He starts drinking blood, having sex with the animals, and then he starts admitting to a series of rapes throughout his adult life.

Brenna Farrell:             And he admits to killing Alicia and Susan. And what happens next, nobody's quite sure if it was a slip-up or if maybe it was on purpose, but when Garrow's talking about Susan Petz, Belge says, "Is that the one I found?"

Jad Abumrad:               "Is that the one I found?"

Brenna Farrell:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Tracy:                     So the cat was out of the bag then.

Brenna Farrell:             The next day, Belge and Armani hold a press conference to try to explain why they hadn't told anyone.

Speaker 27:                  Today in a surprise announcement, Robert Garrow's defense attorney-

Brenna Farrell:             Because they had this duty to protect their client's secrets.

Speaker 27:                  ... Said they knew the body was here, and they had seen it.

Jim Tracy:                     But.

Brenna Farrell:             Everyone is disgusted.

Jim Tracy:                     There was columns written, editorials written, letters to the editor.

Speaker 28:                  There is just no way in the world you're going to convince your average non-lawyer-

Jim Tracy:                     Everybody turned against them.

Speaker 28:                  ... That this is anything short of shabby subversion of the law and of justice.

Brenna Farrell:             Pretty soon, one of the prosecutors let out that Armani and Belge had actually tried to use these dead girls as leverage for Garrow.

Jim Tracy:                     The headlines in the Syracuse papers would say, "Bodies used as pawns in a game of law."

frank armani:                It was bedlam.

Brenna Farrell:             Armani was getting death threats in the mail.

frank armani:                Then I'd get these crazy phone calls.

Brenna Farrell:             People calling, saying stuff like, "How can you live with yourself, I'm going to kill you."

frank armani:                "We're going to get you."

Brenna Farrell:             At one point he finds a dead fish in his car. His wife finds an unlit Molotov cocktail in the backyard, he started to carry a-

frank armani:                Pistol on my back.

Brenna Farrell:             He kept a shotgun in the car, he kept one in the house.

frank armani:                So we could sleep. That was the worst moment of my life. I had some horrible thoughts. I had some horrible thoughts.

Brenna Farrell:             June 27th, Robert Garrow is convicted for the murder of Philip Domblewski. He's given the maximum sentence, he's given 25 years to life in a maximum-security prison.

Brenna Farrell:             How did that feel? Were you-

frank armani:                Relief, you know. It's over with.

Brenna Farrell:             But then-

Speaker 29:                  It is up to the grand jury itself in their investigation to determine which charges they should bring against the two attorneys.

Brenna Farrell:             Pretty soon after the verdict, Armani and Belge learn that they could be facing criminal charges. No one's really sure exactly what those might be, but it could be something like tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, or-

Speaker 29:                  The state's public health law and provision that says that a body must be given a quick and decent burial.

Brenna Farrell:             And on top of that ...

Speaker 30:                  One of the cutting questions and the one that has raised the greatest amount of controversy is the one over the attorney-client privilege.

Brenna Farrell:             There was an ethical complaint filed against Armani and Belge. So basically they were then facing disbarment. And the investigation into the ethical complaint, that would drag on several years.

Jim Tracy:                     Belge started drinking heavily, abandoned his law practice and moved to Florida. Armani toughed it out, but he suffered.

Brenna Farrell:             No one wanted him as a lawyer anymore.

frank armani:                I was thinking about, "What else can I do to make a living?"

Brenna Farrell:             He was just barely getting by for a little while, I think.

frank armani:                All the distress and pressure, you know, takes its toll.

Brenna Farrell:             In fact, he has a heart attack while this is all going on.

Brenna Farrell:             But eventually, the criminal charges are dropped and the ethical complaint is dismissed, and the reason, in the opinion of the court and the state bar, is that what Belge and Armani did was right. What they did was good.

Lisa Lerman:                 Exactly.

Brenna Farrell:             According to the law.

Lisa Lerman:                 And my view is Frank Armani is a real-life hero. I always say, you know, people so admire Atticus Finch and the difference between Atticus Finch and Frank Armani is that Armani is a real person.

Brenna Farrell:             And Lisa told me about this panel she organized back in 2007. It was for the American Bar Association, a big conference on professional responsibility.

Lisa Lerman:                 And there were about 400 people in the room.

Brenna Farrell:             Most of them lawyers, and they were there to watch, onstage, the featured speaker Frank Armani.

Lisa Lerman:                 And it was a love feast.

Brenna Farrell:             What does that feel like, and did you ever think you'd get to that point when you were in the midst of the hardest parts?

frank armani:                No. Never dreamed that ... I don't think I was a hero, I just was a lawyer that did his job. I mean, I was a good lawyer, at least I thought so.

Speaker 31:                  All right, everybody, this is Brenna Farrell.

Brenna Farrell:             And now, over 40 years later, this case-

Speaker 31:                  Let's talk about-

Brenna Farrell:             ... and what Armani and Belge did ...

Speaker 31:                  The Dead Bodies Case.

Brenna Farrell:             It's taught in law schools across the country.

Lisa Lerman:                 Everybody teaches the case. It's like a touchstone.

Speaker 31:                  What do people think, what do people think?

Brenna Farrell:             So I went to a couple of classes. I went to one legal ethics class, and I also went to a criminal defense class here in New York that was being taught at Fordham.

Speaker 31:                  Want to just stand up.

Speaker 32:                  I agree. His duty is to his client, he represents his client's best interests-

Brenna Farrell:             And in sitting in on these classes and then talking to law professors, I think one of the reasons that this case is taught so widely is because professors can point it, they can point to a real human being at the center of a really tough legal situation and they can say, "In this situation, this is what a lawyer should do. This is what a lawyer should be."

Brenna Farrell:             So from the moment I started thinking about this story, I always wanted to talk to the families involved, which proved really difficult. I wrote letters to both families, and I made a bunch of phone calls, and understandably no one wanted to talk to me. But eventually I did start corresponding with a family member of one of the victims. And she initially didn't want to go on the record, but we emailed, and after a few phone calls she ended up changing her mind, and decided that she did want to go on the record.

Roberta Petz:               Okay, all right.

Brenna Farrell:             Yeah, so.

Brenna Farrell:             With me on a phone call.

Brenna Farrell:             Would you mind just telling us who you are, your name and introduction?

Roberta Petz:               Okay. Okay, I'm Roberta Petz, and I'm Susan's mother.

Brenna Farrell:             Susan was the girl from Chicago, she was a college student who'd gone missing while she was camping with her boyfriend, and she's who Armani and Belge found in the mine.

Brenna Farrell:             You know, as I've explained before, my interest really in this story has to do with the fact that it seems that it's become sort of a key part of how a lot of legal ethics classes talk about the concept of confidentiality, and so I sort of wanted to just start with that idea, to ask if that's something that you knew that law schools were teaching and if you had any feelings or thoughts about that.

Roberta Petz:               I had no idea that this was being taught in law schools, and I'm pretty horrified to think that this is what is considered to be correct. 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.

Brenna Farrell:             And was the first that you'd heard that it was being taught when I reached out to you?

Roberta Petz:               Yes.

Brenna Farrell:             It was.

Roberta Petz:               Yes, you were the only, in talking to you did I know that, yes. Maybe they ought to think not only about the criminal who they're trying to defend, but what about the victims? And I think that that should at least be an equal thought in their mind, if not a greater consideration.

Brenna Farrell:             Did you have a feeling that you really weren't taken into consideration as all of this was happening?

Roberta Petz:               Yes, and only my husband and I, when we first heard that she was missing, we flew immediately in and went to the police station. And when we were there, sitting with the policemen, they received ... The policemen at the time, that we were with, received a phone call that Danny's ... my daughter's boyfriend, his body was found. And that's all we knew, and we never really had any updates, and nobody told us what was going on, and obviously there was no closure and it was just getting worse and worse.

Roberta Petz:               And then the only other time we were contacted by the police was, or some authority, I can't even remember who, was when my daughter's body was found like five months later. And in the meantime of course we were all going crazy. My father, as a matter of fact, even went so far as to contact a psychic. That's how important it was and how it was our entire lives during that period, and as far as visiting the lawyer, which my husband did, it was a totally lie. The lawyer, maybe he considered it to be ethical, but what he was doing was lying to my husband and causing us more months of horror.

Roberta Petz:               And this is what is being taught in law schools. So anyway.

Brenna Farrell:             Just to try to be fair to everyone involved, as far as I've encountered, anyone, law professors, law students, when they approach this it's with a lot of sensitivity and they are struggling with the pain. I think the instinct is to side with the families and to imagine what they went through, but my feeling is that how could any of us possibly imagine that if we hadn't gone through it? And so I guess that's why I was hoping to talk to you, to kind of let you have a chance to communicate some of that experience.

Roberta Petz:               Yeah, well, it's impossible to really communicate in words. I mean, 40 years later, I'm still ... It's still a struggle to discuss this, because it'll never go away as long as I live, so.

Brenna Farrell:             I don't know, I guess ... I'm wondering, we've been talking a lot of sad stuff. I'm wondering if there's anything you would like to say about Susan that doesn't have to do with any of this, that you would want people to know? That you'd want to share, I don't ... You don't have to, but ...

Roberta Petz:               Well, what can I say. She did receive her degree posthumously. We didn't go and pick it up at Boston University, it was too difficult for us. And Danny, who was her boyfriend, had been just that summer and he had a full scholarship to Harvard and he had graduated just the year before. So two lives, and I'm sure the other two children had great futures ahead of them too, and it's just a horrible tragedy.

frank armani:                It's ... It's horrible, you know? To be in their position. To have to live through that, I mean how do you relate losing your daughter, you know? What excuse is there for it, to protecting the person that killed her? There's no justification, you couldn't justify it in my mind. I don't expect them to accept it.

frank armani:                But that's the way it is.

Brenna Farrell:             I'm gonna get just a minute of silence up here, if that's okay. Yeah.

Brenna Farrell:             Okay. I can hear the echoes of dogs down the mountain, things tend to travel up the hill and kind of bounce around. That water, I think it's from deeper down in there dripping, I can't tell where it's dripping, everything up here is frozen solid so I'm not sure what that is. But I think I'm going to turn back around now. I sort of wish I'd brought some flowers or something.

Brenna Farrell:             All right.

Robert Krulwich:          Thanks to our producers Brenna Farrell and Matt Kielty, and to Jim Tracy, who's currently writing a book about all this. The working title is Twisted Soul.

Robert Krulwich:          Thanks also to Tom Alibrandi, author of Privileged Information, with Frank Armani. Also to Laurence Gooley, the author of Terror in the Adirondacks. Charl Bader and the students at Fordham University, Leslie Levin and the students at the University of Connecticut School of Law. Clark D. Cunningham at Georgia State University's College of Law, Debra Armani, Brian Farrell, Jennifer Brumback, Nick Capodice, and archive researcher Stephanie Jenkins.

Speaker 34:                  Start of message.

Robert Krulwich:          This is Beatrice Bastedo from Toronto, Canada, calling to read the credits. Radiolab is produced by Jad Abumrad. Dylan Keefe is our director of sound design. Soren Wheeler is senior editor. Jamie York is our senior producer. Our staff includes Simon Adler, Brenna Farrell, David Gebel, Matt Kielty, Rob Krulwich, Annie McEwen, Andy Mills, Latif Nasser, Malissa O'Donnell, Kelsey Padgett, Arianne Wack, and Molly Webster.

Robert Krulwich:          With help from Alexander [Lee Young 00:47:38], Stephanie Tam, and [Mikhail Lowinger 00:47:40]. Our fact checkers are [Eva Dasher 00:47:42] and Michelle Harris. Thanks.

Speaker 34:                  End of message.