Tools

Potato Hill Killer's granddaughter knows demons of being murderer's relative

By By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - For decades, folklore centering around "Potato Hill Killer" Bernard Hatch has brought teenagers to Potato Hill in Boonville, in search of the ghost of his victim.

Hatch is in prison for the 1973 murder of Mary Rose Turner, whose body a witness saw dragging behind Hatch's vehicle. For Hatch's granddaughter, the demons that arose from being the granddaughter of one of the area's most well-known murderers are very real.

"Bewilderment; I just couldn't fathom the creature, the monster that my grandfather actually was and the torture he put not only his victims through but my mother and my grandmother as well," says Vanessa, who asked that her last name not be revealed.

Vanessa's grandmother, Hatch's wife, Andrea, committed suicide in 1974. Vanessa's mother and Hatch's daughter, Cassandra Hatch, died five years ago. She left behind a black briefcase. Until recently, Vanessa couldn't summon the strength to open it. When she finally did, she learned her apprehension wasn't unfounded.

"I just needed closure, I thought it was time and I was not prepared for what I came across when I opened it."

The briefcase included a knife, several photographs of her mother and grandfather and letters written by both. Vanessa says her mother lead a tortured life at the hands of her sadistic grandfather. She says her mother used alcohol to dull the pain, and that one night, the things her mother said while intoxicated lead her to believe that murder victim Mary Rose Turner was not alone.

"She got really really intoxicated and broke down and finally told me that he is guilty and he's guilty of a lot more than what he's been charged with.....Zinicola, Lorraine Zinicola, Linda and Lisa Ann Cady, those are really the three off the top of my head that I remember because as a child, my mother would have nightmares and she's talk in her sleep and she'd actually say these names," says Vanessa.

The Cadys' and Zinicola's disappearances remain unsolved.

Vanessa's mother was interviewed for a book that a former Utica College professor wrote about Bernard Hatch. In that book, the author explores whether or not Hatch could be responsible for the unsolved 1972 murder of Joanne Pecheone, of Utica. Vanessa has no doubt that he was.

"It was timing and opportunity more with Bernard; whatever was there. He could have seen her walking down the street." Pecheone was found murdered in an east Utica field near South Park Drive in January, 1972. Hatch killed Mary Rose Turner in April, 1973.

Vanessa has fought her demons for years, but says they pale in comparison to her mother's pain.

"I mean she drove around with my grandfather looking for grave sites for Linda and Lisa Ann Cady so I mean just to live with that."

Vanessa was only 13 years old when her mother told her the truth about her murderous grandfather. She wishes she was older; old enough to help her mother carry what she says must have been an unbearable burden. She said, "I wish I could have took some of that pain away from her or my grandmother. I wish I had the chance to get to know my grandmother."

What's On