The Porco Family Axe Attack

The Porco family were from Delmar, NY – Peter Porco was 52 at the time of the murder (he worked as a court clerk) and he lived with his wife Joan, who was a speech pathologist.  They had two children Christopher and Johnathan.

Christopher is the youngest child and was 21 in 2004 when this happened.

Christopher was a bit of a brat child.  During 2004, he had been having many troubles that his parents had called him out on.

While away on a trip to England in March 2004, Christopher received an email from Joan.  She was mad that he had been failing classes at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY. In the message, Joan and Peter complained to their son, “You just left and (we) can’t believe (our) eyes as I look at your interim grade report. You know what they say, ‘Three strikes and you’re out.’ Explain yourself.” The email’s subject header was “Failing Grades-You did it again!”

Christopher replied in a message to his father a few days later.. Blaming the community college’s registrar, he wrote, “[B]ut obviously they are incorrect…My lowest grade that I got on anything was a B on a physics test…Don’t jump to conclusions, I’m fine.”

Porco earned readmission to the University of Rochester with a forged transcript from Hudson Valley Community College. 

Christopher and his parents had also been disagreeing about money – he had taken out loans to pay for his tuition and a brand new Jeep Wrangler.  His parents did not agree with his method of financing.  Following the fall 2003 semester, University of Rochester officials had forced Christopher to withdraw because of poor grades. When he was readmitted the following year, he took out a loan for $31,000 to pay his expenses, forging his father’s name as a cosignatory. 

His parents did not know that Christopher was attempting to pay his fall 2004 tuition with the loan money. Earlier in the fall, he falsely told his parents that the University of Rochester was covering his tuition because a professor had misplaced his final exam from the previous fall semester.

Two weeks before his murder, Peter had confronted his son about his dishonesty in an email: “Did you forge my signature as a co-signer? … What the hell are you doing? You should have called me to discuss it … I’m calling Citibank this morning to find out what you have done and am going to tell them I’m not to be on it as a co-signer.”

The following day, Peter was notified that Christopher had also obtained a line of credit from Citibank to finance the Jeep Wrangler, again using his father’s name as a cosignatory. Peter once again wrote to his son, who had not answered his parents’ phone calls in weeks: “I want you to know that if you abuse my credit again, I will be forced to file forgery affidavits in order to disclaim liability and that applies to the Citibank college loan if you attempt to reactivate it or use my credit to obtain any other loan.” The email concluded: “We may be disappointed with you, but your mother and I still love you and care about your future.”

On November 15, 2004, someone used the Porco family’s secret code to disable the security system at their home. Hours later, a telephone line outside the Porco home was cut.

While Peter and Joan were asleep in their bed, they were both attacked with an axe. Joan lay in bed for possibly hours after the attack, severely injured.  She would survive but would lose one eye and part of her skull and suffered severe facial disfigurement.

Peter sustained 16 major axe wounds to his face and head including penetration to his brain and part of his jaw ‘ fell’ off following the attack.  Despite all this, Peter managed to get out of bed and go about his daily morning routine before dying.  He spent some time in the bathroom and at the sink, he loaded the dishwasher, packed his lunch for the day and wrote a check.  He finally collapsed and died at the front door.  I believe this is how the crime scene was discovered when a neighbor/passerby saw Peter’s body.  

In a nutshell, most of Peter’s brain was almost destroyed but the routine part was still in tact.  

When police arrived, an axe belonging to the family was found in Peter and Joan’s bedroom.  

Christopher Bowdish, a Bethlehem Police detective, stated that, as medical personnel attended to Joan at her home, he took a moment to ask her whether she could identify her attacker. Bowdish said that when he asked Joan if a family member had committed the crime, Joan used her head to indicate “yes”. Bowdish has maintained that when he asked her whether it had been her older son Johnathan, a Naval officer stationed in South Carolina, she shook her head to indicate “no”. However, when Officer Bowdish asked if her son Christopher was responsible, she was said to have nodded her head up and down, indicating “yes”.

Police quickly tried to find Christopher Porco.  He was found to be in his dormitory at the University of Rochester, 230 miles away from his family home in Delmar.

His story to police was that on the night of November 14, he went to a dormitory lounge to sleep and awoke the following morning.

The police theory was that he drove more than three hours to Albany in the early hours of November 15 to attack his parents.

A New York State Thruway toll collector outside Rochester said a yellow Jeep Wrangler with large tires passed through his station at about 10:45 p.m. on November 14, and a collector in Albany recalled the “excessive speed” of a yellow Jeep Wrangler approaching the toll plaza shortly before 2 a.m. on November 15.

Four security cameras at the University of Rochester recorded a yellow Jeep Wrangler like Porco’s leaving the campus at 10:30 p.m. on November 14 and returning at 8:30 a.m. on November 15, this being the period during which prosecutors claim the Porcos were attacked.

A neighbor of the Porco family later testified at trial that he saw Porco’s yellow Jeep in the family’s driveway on the evening of the attack.

Also, University of Rochester students testified that they did not see Porco sleeping in a dormitory lounge on the night of the attack.

Cool story, bro.

Christopher was charged with charges of second degree murder in relation to his father Peter and second degree attempted murder in the severe wounding and disfigurement of his mother, Joan.

Joan Porco

During the course of their investigation following the murders, authorities determined that Chris had a history of anti-social behavior that included burglarizing his parents’ home. 

In 2005, Bethlehem Police detectives traveled to San Diego, California, to retrieve a laptop computer that Christopher Porco had stolen from his parents in a break-in on July 21, 2003. Chris had sold the laptop on eBay. Police contended that eight months earlier, on November 28, 2002, Christopher staged a burglary at his parents’ home in which he stole a Macintosh laptop computer and a Dell laptop computer. A camera reported missing from the burglary was recovered from the couple’s front yard.

One month before the attack, both Christopher and Johnathan Porco had their eBay accounts frozen because they shared the same Delmar address. Christopher had not sent several customers the items they had paid for from his account. During their investigation, prosecutors discovered that Christopher had posed as his own brother, sending emails to the customers falsely stating that his brother had died and was unable to deliver the items.

One huge twist in this case relates to Joan Porco and her identification of Christopher as the murderer/attacker.

Following the attack, Joan was placed into a medically induced coma to give her a chance to recover.  When she woke up, she stated that she was unable to remember the attack and asserted that she believed her son Christopher to be innocent.

During videotaped testimony submitted to the grand jury in December 2004, Joan testified about her family, but did not identify her son as an attacker.
Nine months later, she wrote a letter for publication in the Albany Times Union in which she urged authorities to leave Christopher alone and “to search for Peter’s real killer or killers, so that he can rest in peace and my sons and I can live in safety.

The trial against Christopher began on June 27, 2006. 

Police have said that Christopher’s behavior was consistent with a diagnosis of psychopathy or sociopathy, two similar though not identical disorders characterized by pathological deception, scamming and defrauding others, and lack of conscience or remorse. Chris lied to obtain both a car and tuition payments. He also lied to fellow students to make it appear that he came from a wealthy family with oceanfront homes.

The jury began their deliberations on the morning on August 10.  By 5:00 EST, Christopher was found guilty of second degree murder and attempted murder.

On December 12, 2006 Judge Jeffrey Berry sentenced Christopher to 25 years to life on each count totaling a minimum of 50 years in prison. Judge Berry was quoted as saying, “I fear very much what happened in the early morning hours of November 15 is something that could happen again.”

Porco was initially sent to Downstate Correctional Facility. He was then later moved to Clinton Correctional Facility in the Dannemora (village), New York to serve his prison term.  He will be eligible for parole in December 2052.  

Christopher lived with Joan until he ended up going to jail.

Joan Porco

This case has now gone quiet due to the time elapsed.  There was one small update in 2021.  Lifetime produced a movie titled “Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story,’ in 2013.  

Chris attempted to sue Lifetime on the grounds of Section 51 of the state’s Civil Rights Law, which prohibits use of a nonconsensual living person’s name, portrait or photo for purposes of advertising or trade.

In November 2021, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case as “no substantial constitutional question is directly involved.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.