Joseph Kallinger Trial

Trial of Serial Killer Joseph Kallinger

Fasching v. Kallinger, 510 A.2d 694 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1986)

At the age of four, Joseph Kallinger was adopted by a severely abusive couple. He revisited this abuse on his first wife, who left him, as well as on his second, whom he had married in 1958. They had five children. Three of those children reported Kallinger’s violence to police. They later recanted, but, while Kallinger was in custody, psychologists measured his IQ at 82 and diagnosed him as schizophrenic. Kallinger murdered one son, Joseph Jr., after taking out a life insurance policy on the boy; the insurance company refused to pay.

In July 1974, Kallinger took another son, Michael, on a spree of burglary, rape and murder across three states. Joseph and Michael Kallinger were arrested on the strength of eyewitness testimony, and the state of New Jersey revised its extradition laws to see the younger Kallinger—who was being held in Pennsylvania—stand trial in New Jersey.

Joseph Kallinger pled insanity, and his courtroom behavior seemed to test the outer limits of what a man with a subnormal IQ could do to prove he was psychotic. “As he sat at the defense table, the Philadelphia cobbler’s head bobbed and jerked, then swung in clockwise arcs, continually in motion.” A jury in Pennsylvania deliberated less than one hour before finding Kallinger both sane and guilty of robbery. The Jersey jury took two hours to decide the same, this time of murder, robbery, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. 


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