Tonight, my special guests are Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan who recount the shocking true story of time spent with a young man who was privately taking delight in dismembering women in the 1960's. Get her book The Babysitter on Amazon.
Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked—took her and her sister on adventures in his truck. He bought them popsicles and together, they visited his “secret garden” in the Truro woods. To Liza, he was one of the few kind, understanding, and safe adults in her life.
But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.
Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.
Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal “a suspenseful portrayal of murderous madness in tandem with a child’s growing loneliness, neglect, and despair, a narrative collision that will haunt” (Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita) you long after you finish it.
Antone Charles Costa was born on August 2, 1944, in Cambridge Massachusetts.
Costa started committing violent crimes at a relatively early age, when in November 1961, at age 17, he was arrested and charged with burglary and assault after breaking into a house and attacking a teenage girl. He was sentenced to three years of probation and a one-year suspended sentence for the crime.
In 1966, Costa picked up two women and promised to take them to Pennsylvania on his way to California. The women, Bonnie Williams and Diane Federoff, disappeared shortly after their encounter with Costa, and he told investigators that he had dropped them off in California. Costa was additionally thought to have murdered his girlfriend Barbara Spaulding in 1967 while he was living in California. However, Federoff, Williams and Spaulding were later found alive.
Costa was suspected of killing eight women: Diane Federoff, Bonnie Williams, Barbara Spaulding, Sydney Monson, Susan Perry, Christine Gallant, Patricia Walsh, and Mary Anne Wysocki but convicted of killing only two: Walsh and Wysocki. Although suspected of killing Federoff, Williams and Spaulding, those women were later found alive.
On February 8, 1969, while looking for the bodies of Patricia Walsh and Mary Anne Wysocki, police discovered Susan Perry. Perry had been missing since the previous Labor Day.
Perry's body had been cut into eight pieces. When Wysocki's body was found about a month later, her torso and head had been buried separately. Not long after, Walsh and the rest of Wysocki's body were found in a forest clearing that Costa had used for growing marijuana. This "garden" of marijuana plants and the greater case inspired the true crime book In His Garden, by Leo Damore.
The case gained international attention when district attorney Edmund Dinis, in comments to the media, claimed of Walsh and Wysocki, "The hearts of each girl had been removed from the bodies and were not in the graves…Each body was cut into as many parts as there are joints." Dinis also claimed that there were teeth marks found on the bodies. These claims, although untrue, produced a stream of national and international media outlets into local Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The media attention was so great that Kurt Vonnegut (whose daughter Edith had met Costa) compared him to Jack the Ripper in an article in the July 25, 1969 issue of Life Magazine, which was included in his collection of essays Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons. Vonnegut maintained a correspondence with Costa. The author said, "The message of his letters to me was that a person as intent on being virtuous as he could not possibly have hurt a fly. He believed it."[8
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