A tragic trail of violence (continued, 1)

The rampage that ended in Joseph Palczynski's death was inevitable, say the women who survived his abuse. He died the way he lived.

First of two parts

Cover Story

July 02, 2000|By Written by Linell Smith, Reported by Smith, Patricia Meisol, Ann LoLordo and Marego Athans | Written by Linell Smith, Reported by Smith, Patricia Meisol, Ann LoLordo and Marego Athans,Sun Staff

(continued, 1)

On the beach, Joby forced the two teen-agers to hold hands and walk in front of him like prisoners, kicking and hitting them to keep them moving. They walked to the Delaware line, at least half a mile, Joby screaming and blaming Amie for making him lose his ring, for ruining his life. He interrogated Jason and Amie about where the boys and girls slept in the condominium and who Amie had spent time with that week.

Finally he forced the two to sit on their hands, cross-legged on the sand, with their backs to a chain link fence while he paced back and forth, threatening to break their legs. He ordered Jason to hit Amie; when he refused, Joby grabbed Jason's hand and hit her in the chest with it three times.

At one point, Amie urged Jason, who was small and thin and no match for Joby, to run for help. He did.

With Jason gone, Joby's rage found one focus. Choose your death, he told his girlfriend: drowning, choking or beating. Then he threatened to kill her family.

Amie pleaded with him, sobbing, as he pounded her chest, over and over, laughing. Then she spotted a group of men fishing at the water's edge and broke free. Grabbing their flashlight, she shone it on her face to show what her boyfriend had done.

It was the calm, reasonable Joby who caught up to her and reassured the fishermen: The couple would go up under the street light and talk things out. They didn't need to interfere.

In a daze, Amie went along with it. When Joby saw the extent of his handiwork, he began crying and apologizing, begging her to forgive him.

Later, X-rays and photographs taken at the medical clinic at 93rd Street showed Amie suffered contusions of the left eardrum -- she couldn't hear correctly for months -- lacerations and swelling of her cheek and nose, a contusion of the right eye that caused it to hemorrhage, and a bruised rib cage.

Although the teen-ager was reluctant to press charges, her mother insisted: Otherwise he'll keep on doing it.

Amie's mother later recalled receiving a phone call from Joby's mother, who wanted them to drop their charges. Amie's mother refused. Your son's abusive, she told Pat Long. He's going to kill somebody someday.

That fall, Amie felt alarmed to see Joby with a 16-year-old named Kimberly. Soon, she sought out Amie for advice: Joby had given her a black eye, and she wanted to know how to get away from him.

Get a restraining order, Amie told her. Press charges.

Because Kimberly -- and Joby's next victim, a 17-year-old named Sharon -- declined to be interviewed and were minors at the time of these events, their last names are being withheld. But their experiences with Joby are recounted in reports to police. Like Amie Gearhart, they came to know Joby No. 2.

From a charging document filed by Kimberly's mother:

Oct. 18, 1987: "Joseph C. Palczynski searched through Kim's bedroom without permission when she was in the shower. While searching he found birth control pills. The discovery of these pills made Joseph very angry because he did not want her taking them. As a result, he began to slap Kim several times in the face with both an open hand and a back hand, resulting in a black eye [right] and bruising of the right and left cheekbones. After a series of slaps in the face, Joseph then punched Kim in the stomach, knocking her to her knees. He continued to threaten Kim, stating that if she didn't do what he said he would do it again."

Feb. 21, 1988: "Joseph pulled Kimberly into the bathroom at his house [owned by his grandmother] stating that he wanted to have sex with her. When she refused, he became very angry and very forceful. ... Joseph punched her with a closed fist causing multiple bruises along Kim's breastbone, then exited the bathroom ... went into a closet and got a razorblade. He then proceeded to threaten Kim saying 'If you don't come here and talk to me, I'll beat you some more whether my grandmom is here or not!' "

Palczynski was convicted of beating Kim and sentenced to two years of supervised probation. In January 1989, facing Amie Gearhart's charges, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. A psychiatrist found him competent to stand trial, and he was later sentenced to four years in prison in Hagerstown. He served two, including some time for an attempted escape. He received regular counseling there and was described as having "deliberately [sought] out dangerous situations consistent with a fantasy identity as a 'Rambo' like hero."

Palczynski was 22 when he was released from jail in April 1991. He returned home to live with his mother and stepfather, worked part-time at an athletic supply store, took lifeguard courses and occasionally did construction work. According to mental health reports, life at home was strained: His parents disapproved of his dating high school girls, whom he would sometimes sneak into the house.

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