Fired Postal Worker Held in 4 Killings

From Associated Press

A fired postal worker armed with a machine gun, grenades and a samurai sword went on a rampage Thursday and killed four people, including a former supervisor who had accused him of harassment, police said.

Joseph M. Harris killed the woman and her boyfriend at their home in Wayne, N. J., then went to the Ridgewood post office, where he killed two mail handlers as they arrived for work, authorities said.

Harris surrendered there after a 4 1/2-hour standoff during which he set off two small explosive charges, police said. He had weapons, including a machine gun, hand grenades and the samurai sword, which may have been used to kill the supervisor, they said.

An explosive booby trap reportedly was found at his rented room in Paterson in northern New Jersey west of New York City.

"In my opinion, considering the way he was armed . . . he intended to kill more people," Ridgewood Police Chief Frank Milliken said.

Harris, 35, was arraigned on four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, two counts of attempted kidnaping and charges of possessing automatic weapons and explosives. Bail was set at $1 million.

Harris shook his head and smiled as the charges were read. He blurted out, "It's wrong" and "I didn't shoot" before being ordered to be silent.

His former supervisor, Carol Ott, 30, was found dead in her home about 10 miles from Ridgewood, along with Cornelius Kasten Jr., who lived with her. Police checked the house when Ott did not to report to work.

Ott was partly disrobed and had been stabbed three times in the back, apparently after a struggle, Passaic County prosecutor Ronald Fava said. Kasten was found in a chair in front of a television set, shot once in the head.

Joseph M. VanderPaauw, 59, of Prospect Park, and Donald McNaught, 63, of Pompton Lakes, were found dead in the basement of the post office after Harris was arrested, Bergen County prosecutor John Fahy said.

Harris apparently let himself into the post office with an old key, and when the mail handlers arrived for work around 2 a.m. he forced them into a small room and shot them, authorities said.

Harris was fired as a mail sorter in April, 1990, after he refused to cooperate with an investigation of a complaint by Ott that he had threatened her on the job, Inspector T. F. Johnson of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said.

At the urging of postal officials, Ott had reported the threat to police on Feb. 22, 1990, but later refused to press criminal charges, Chief Milliken said.

Investigators and fellow employees said they did not know what had sparked the dispute between Harris and Ott.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°