Obituary: 'Weepy-voiced killer' Paul Stephani, 53, dies in prison

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 12, 1998 - 11:00 PM

Paul Stephani, known as the weepy-voiced killer for his mournful anonymous phone confessions to police during the 1980s, died of complications of skin cancer Friday at the Oak Park Heights prison. He was 53.

In his calls, he claimed responsibility for attacking several Twin Cities women. For 15 years, police didn't know the caller's identity, although they suspected Stephani.

Last fall, he was serving a 40-year sentence for the 1982 murder of Barbara Simons and the attempted murder of Denise Williams when he asked to speak to St. Paul police.

Having learned that he was terminally ill, Stephani confessed to two more killings and another attack. The crimes had gone unsolved for 15 years. In December 1997, he told the Star Tribune: "Since I've been locked down the last 15 years, I've wondered how all this could happen. And all I can say is I'm sick and I'm sorry -- if sorry means anything after 15 years."

Stephani grew up in Austin, Minn., the second of 10 children. He made his way to St. Paul in the mid-1960s. He worked as a janitor and a shipping clerk, and was married for a time. He also had a daughter.

He confessed to beating Karen Potack, 20, in 1980; to fatally stabbing Kimberly Compton, 18, in 1981; to drowning Kathleen Greening, 33, in 1982; to fatally stabbing Barbara Simons, 40, in 1982, and to repeatedly stabbing Denise Williams, 21, in 1982. Potack and Williams survived.

Services are pending.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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