October 18, 2000

Cornell Alumnus Arraigned for 1982 Murder of Girl

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Michael Ross ’81, who is currently awaiting execution for the murders of four teenage girls in Connecticut in the early 1980s, was arraigned Friday on charges that he also murdered a young New York girl in 1982.

Paula Perrara disappeared in Wallkill, New York on March 1, 1982 after hitchhiking home from high school early because she felt ill. Her body was found 17 days later.

“Michael Ross picked her up, drove her to a secluded area, dragged her from his car, raped her and murdered her,” said Frank Phillips, the district attorney for Orange County, where the crime was committed.

While studying Agricultural Economics at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ross was a member of several organizations, including the Future Farmers of America and the Alpha Zeta fraternity.

Alpha Zeta President Jonathan Kui ’00 said Ross’ membership in the organization was revoked in the early 1980s when he was first connected with the four Connecticut murders. Kui felt it was unfortunate that Ross has become what he called an “urban legend at Cornell.”

When the investigation first began almost 20 years ago, Alpha Zeta turned over all photos and documents pertaining to the case to the authorities. Kui said the Connecticut State Attorney also tried to find more materials last spring but was unsuccessful.

“Michael Ross’ actions were certainly not in accordance with the purposes of our organization,” Kui said. “To say the least, his actions were deplored by both our local and national chapters, and that is an understatement.”

Alpha Zeta first admitted women in 1981, the year Ross graduated. Asked if he was glad that female members were not admitted until after the serial killer left Cornell, Alpha Zeta pledge Dan Aitchinson ’02 said that “it might have helped protect them. But it wouldn’t have made sense for him to kill people within the house.”

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics, Ross worked as an insurance salesman. He has admitted to preying on young women who were walking or hitchhiking down the back roads of New London County, Connecticut during this time. He also raped some of his victims before murdering them.

Defense attorneys claimed that Ross was driven to rape and kill by a disorder called sexual sadism during his trial, but the jury rejected this theory.

He was convicted of the Connecticut killings in 1987 and sentenced to death, but the state Supreme Court subsequently overturned the penalty in 1994. Ross was resentenced to death in May of this year.

New York police first suspected him of Perrara’s 18-year-old unsolved murder after he told the BBC that he had committed at least one murder in New York which had never been linked to him during a 1994 interview.

“Until [Ross] gave that one interview in 1994, we always were holding off because we didn’t want to do anything to interfere with Connecticut’s case,” Griddle said.

Following the BBC interview, New York police obtained a search warrant for Ross’ DNA and used the samples to link him to Perrara’s rape and murder.

Ross was finally indicted on a fifth murder charge as well as rape charges on Sept. 21.

Archived article by Katherine Davis