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Joseph Kallinger
Birth name: Joseph Lee Brenner III
Born: December 11, 1935(1935-12-11)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: March 26, 1996 (aged 60)
Cause of death: Epileptic seizure
Number of victims: 3 (murder victims)
Span of killings: July, 1974–1975
Country: United States
State(s): New Jersey

Joseph Kallinger (December 11, 1935 – March 26, 1996) was an American criminal who murdered three people and tortured four families. He committed these crimes with his 13-year-old son Michael.


Early life

Kallinger was born Joseph Lee Brenner III at the Northern Liberties Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Joseph Lee Brenner, Jr. and his wife Judith. In December 1937, the child was placed in a foster home, after his father had abandoned his mother. On October 15, 1939, he was adopted by a married couple named Stephen and Anna Kallinger. He was abused by both his foster parents so severely that, at age six, he suffered a hernia inflicted by his foster father. The punishments Kallinger endured included kneeling on jagged rocks, being locked inside closets, consuming excrement, committing self-injury, being burned with irons, being whipped with belts, and being starved.[1] When he was nine, he was sexually assaulted by a group of neighborhood boys.[1]

As a child, Kallinger often rebelled against his teachers and his foster parents. He dreamed of becoming a playwright, and had directed his school's performance of A Christmas Carol in the ninth grade. When Kallinger was 15, he had begun a sexual relationship with a girl from his school named Hilda Bergman. His parents told him not to see her, but he married her and had two children with her. However, she eventually left him because of the domestic violence she suffered at his hands. Kallinger remarried in 1958, after he was released from a mental hospital, and had five children with his second wife. He was extremely abusive towards his wife and his children, and often inflicted the same punishments on them that he had suffered from his foster parents.[1]

Throughout the next decade, Kallinger would spend time in and out of mental institutions for attempting suicide and committing arson, after setting his house on fire three times.

Criminal career

He was arrested and imprisoned in 1972 on child abuse charges after three of his children went to the police. While in jail, he had scored 82 on an IQ test and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and state psychiatrists recommended that he be supervised with his family. The children later recanted their allegations, however.[2] Two years later, Kallinger's son Joseph, Jr. was drowned by Joseph Sr. and Michael.[3]

Beginning in July 1974, Kallinger and his 13-year-old son Michael went on a crime spree spanning Philadelphia; Baltimore, Maryland; and New Jersey. Over the next six weeks, they robbed, assaulted, and sexually abused four families and murdered three people, gaining entrance to each house by pretending to be salesmen. On January 8, 1975, they committed another robbery/assault in Leonia, New Jersey, killing 21-year-old nurse Maria Fasching who entered the house to check on a bed-ridden family member. [4]

Arrest and imprisonment

Police began investigating Kallinger after gathering physical evidence (a blood-stained t-shirt) and eyewitness testimony that he and his son had been seen in the area. They soon found out about Kallinger's history of domestic violence, Joseph Jr.'s unsolved death, and a series of arsons targeted against buildings he owned. [3] Kallinger and his son were arrested on kidnapping and rape charges, and eventually charged with three counts of murder in New Jersey state courts. Kallinger pleaded insanity, claiming God had told him to kill.[5] He was found sane, however, and sentenced to life in prison on October 14, 1976. Michael Kallinger, meanwhile, was judged to be under his father's control. He was sentenced to a reformatory. Upon his release when he was 21, he moved out of the state and changed his name.[4] While in prison, Kallinger had made several suicide attempts, including one time where he had attempted to set himself on fire. Because of his suicidal and violent behavior, Kallinger was transferred to a mental hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. He was transferred to a mental hospital in Philadelphia on May 18, 1979.

Joseph Kallinger died of an epileptic seizure on March 26, 1996. He spent the last 11 years of his life on suicide watch.


  1. ^ a b c "Joseph Kallinger: 'The Shoemaker'", Greenlief, Christopher; Amanda Hall and Jenna Hafey. Radford University
  2. ^ Joseph Kallinger, known as the Shoe Maker, was a very bizarre serial killer,
  3. ^ a b Joseph Kallinger Biography, World of Criminal Justice
  4. ^ a b Serial Killer Joseph and Michael Kallinger,
  5. ^ "Experts in Murder Trial Say Shoemaker is Schizophrenic", The New York Times, 30 January 1984.

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