Albert Fentress The Murderous Cannibal Teacher From Poughkeepsie, New York
In the dark and humid evening on August 20th of 1979, 18 year old student, Paul Masters was roaming the backyard of then Poughkeepsie middle-school teacher, Albert Fentress. Local teenagers were known to pester or mildly harass Albert Fentress. Fentress possessed rather odd behaviors and a strict disposition while teaching in his history class. Surprisingly, administrators at the Poughkeepsie middle-school permitted Fentress to fashion himself with Nazi military uniforms and wield a leather riding crop while teaching students WW II history in class. He also was permitted to dress in fashions of other time periods in his teaching lessons and act in character, role playing within those time periods he dressed and reflected upon. Some parents and students perceived this to be a unique teaching approach, as others thought it to be bizarre and quite peculiar. Apparently, he was very well versed in the subjects he lectured and taught about.
Fentress was an avid stamp collector and treasured the finer luxeries of life. Driving a Cadillac and always finely dressed, he was described as a lonely but meticulous man living in his very well kept and tidy home. In the summer months of 1979, his house was burglarized and his fine stamp collection was stolen. He was then compelled to apply for a gun permit which was granted by New York state. This burglary may have also contributed to Paul Masters and other teenagers in the neighborhood vandalizing and lurking about the property of Fentress, as gossip spread among their peers of the community and throughout the school regarding the stolen stamp collection. Fentress kept watch, secretly peering out of his home for anymore would-be burglars and harassing vandals. To the deadly misfortune of teenager Paul Masters, he roamed into the backyard of Fentress. Fentress was able to lure Paul Masters into his home by offering him a beer over friendly conversation. Suddenly, the conversation turned into a desperate attempt for Paul Masters to save his own life.
Albert Fentress attacked the young man eventually subduing him after a brief struggle. He then bound him tightly with ropes to a pole within his cellar. Fentress then proceeded to sexually assault the young man and out of frustration in his psychotic state of mind, Fentress then shot him twice in the head, then mutilating him by castration and decided to cook and eat the young man's genitals. After releasing the now dead Robert Masters from the bound ropes, Fentress dragged him upstairs into his bedroom and fell off to sleep. After awakening the following morning, he called a friend describing what he had done and was arrested that day, making a confession of his macabre cannibalizing murder of Robert Masters. Apparently two days before the murder, Fentress wrote what could only be described as a screenplay or short story detailing the torture and murder of a teenager, essentially in the same way that he acted out in real life just days later. From all accounts, he says he was so abashed at what he wrote, he then burned the manuscript. This chronicle of true crime gets even worse.
After a year of legal wrangling with psychiatrists and lawyers defending this murderous madman, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Even more shocking and disturbing is the fact that Albert Fentress may possibly be released back into society because of many attempts by psychiatrists and lawyers to declare he is now a sane man. In 1997, a psychiatrist and professor of behavioral sciences, John Oldham, was commissioned to assess the Albert Fentress case and he determined that Fentress was not mentally fit to be released back into society contradicting other professional psychiatric determinations. Quoting the psychiatrist - “If he couldn’t handle kids slashing his screens and burning his lawn, then how could he possibly handle the likely public reaction to his release, after he'd been demonized in the media as 'New York's own Hannibal Lector?'” Fentress then filed for a jury trial for his release, as it is his right under a rare implementation of New York state law considering his plea of insanity and found to be not guilty in a court of law. In the court of public opinion though, he is a ghastly murderer and should be behind bars or receive the death penalty for his crimes. Psychiatrists have diagnosed Fentress as suffering from dissociative fugues, obsessive personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
In 1999, based upon psychiatric documents, a Suffolk County jury determined that Albert Fentress was no longer a threat to society and recommended his release and freedom from the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. After the court proceeding, Fentress was returned to the Pigrim facility while Judge Harry Seidel of the State Supreme Court considered a motion by prosecutors to overturn the jury's decision to release Fentress back into society. As Judge Seidel deliberated over the motion for a jury trial, citizens, prosecutors, lawyers and other psychiatrists were outraged and confounded at the jury's decision to release Fentress and continued diligently to keep Fentress from release of the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. This reaction and travesty of justice sparked, then Governor George Pataki, to comment - ''Justice can never be achieved as long as individuals like Albert Fentress can commit vicious crimes and hide behind an insanity plea to avoid the prison time they deserve. ''The Fentress case illustrates the glaring need to reform our state's laws that allow criminals not only to escape conviction and punishment but to avoid confinement in secure facilities.''
To avoid any long and drawn out appeals process, Judge Seidel ordered a jury trial to proceed for Fentress's release. When his prosecution and eventual not guilty plea by reason of insanity withstood at that time, Fentress's lawyer, Kim Darrow didn't ask Fentress on the stand about the heinous murder of Paul Masters. So prosecutors were unable to, by law, question Fentress on the events of that fateful August evening. Therefore, jurors were unaware of his original charges and crimes. The jury trial was based upon the release of Fentress according to psychiatric reports that stated Fentress was a sane man, when in fact, he is not. Unfortunately, the jurors decision in this case was a victory for Fentress. As they deemed him still mentally ill, but not ill enough to have to remain incarcerated at the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center.
In a statement to Dutchess County's District Attorney's Office, father Burt Masters had this to say - ''I'm angry with Mr. Fentress. He always seemed he was more interested in himself. I never heard him say he was sorry for what he did to my son. I think he's always just been sorry for himself." But the case of Albert Fentress did not end here for the torture and murder of Paul Masters. Not long after the outcome of this jury's decision, the New York state appellate court upheld the presiding judge's determination to overrule the jury's verdict, which meant keeping Fentress institutionalized. In another twist of fate for the victims and murderous Albert Fentress, two other victims came forward in 2002 and testified in great detail how they were too, sexually molested by Fentress while attending the same Poughkeepsie middle-school in 1979, several months before the heinous murder of Paul Masters. In light of this new testimony by these two other victims, Supreme Court Judge James Catterson ruled Albert Fentress to still be very dangerous to society and ordered Fentress to a more secure facilty at the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center in Goshen, New York. In accordance to New York state law, if Supreme Court Judge James Catterson rules against Fentress in his upcoming appeal, this murderer will be granted another trial.
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