The Joseph Palczynski Story

A two-part series from The Baltimore Sun on the lives of six serially victimized by one man’s extremes of physical and psychological abuse.
Dart Award 2001: Excellence in Coverage of Trauma

By Linell Smith, Marego Athans, Ann LoLordo, Patricia Meisol, Doug Kapustin, and Joannah Hill

Joseph Palczynski with girlfriend and later victim, Tracy Whitehead.

Long before the murderous rampage, long before the saga of fugitive love and violence, long before the hostages on Lange Street, Joe Palcyznski was known as a ladies’ man.

He had GQ looks, a buff body, an expensive car, money to burn and a questionable past that clung to him like heavy cologne. He was a “bad boy,” the type that always seems to attract women, particularly young ones.

Imagine being a high school girl of 16, maybe 17. How can you not be flattered by the attentions of this handsome guy who makes time to pick you up from school in his Nissan 300 ZX? He shows you an album filled with of more than a dozen girls he’s known — young, slim, glossy-haired, smiling. It’s clear he can have any woman he wants.
Instead, he chooses you. And it takes your breath away.

In the beginning, dating “Joby” is like starring in a romantic movie. He’s 5-foot-8, 175 pounds of martial arts muscle, with sandy-brown hair and hazel eyes. Endlessly polite. Clean-cut, almost preppie; even his jeans are pressed. He has a job as a lifeguard and friends who jump whenever he snaps his fingers. You know he’s calling when your pager flashes the number of his hero:007.

On your first date, he takes you to meet his mom, Miss Pat, who is real pretty and couldn’t be nicer. Anyone her son loves, she says, she loves, too.

Joby has seen a few things you’d rather not know about. So you don’t listen much when he talks about making hit lists, buying weapons, being locked up. You believe people can change.

You really tune it out when he blames those other girls for getting him in trouble. You know you’re nothing like them.

He phones constantly. He buys you flowers and gifts. Takes you horseback riding, arranges picnic lunches in the park. You go out on his Jet Skis, drive around like royalty.

He tells you how beautiful you are, how special. He says he’s going to be with you forever — no matter what.

It seems too good to be true.

It is.

Continue reading “The Joseph Palczynski Story” at The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.

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