Technically, Christopher Porco didn’t quite commit parricide due to Joan Porco’s survival. Truly, in light of her injuries the woman should be dead. That makes Chris guilty only of patricide, the murder of Peter Porco, if you believe the Bethlehem Police Department. Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story, aired on IFC the weekend of August 3rd, 2013, is based on a true story that took place at 36 Brockley Drive in Delmar, Albany. However this doesn’t mean the movie is accurate. “Based on a true story” allows directors great liberty in their work: I watched a dramatized version of a different true crime where a wood chipper was used as a means of disposal of a corpse. I was aware of The Wood Chipper Murder case, however this movie wasn’t about that case. The director of this film decided his viewers would be more intrigued with the wood chipper disposal thrown in and since both incidents really happened, the story he directed was “true.” One minor example in this film occurred in the opening scene where the police discovered the grisly murder. It was actually a co-worker who discovered the attacks and contacted police. More significantly, Porco’s mother isn’t anywhere near as disfigured as the actress in the movie. An onscreen message informed viewers that some names had been changed and parts of the story were “fictionalized.” In fact, the supporting male role of Detective Christopher Bowden, was a composite character representing several police officers in the Bethlehem Police Department.
An Albany County medical examiner determined that Peter, 52, sustained massive head injuries causing his death. Joan was lying in the couple’s blood-drenched bed with severe head and facial trauma. Joan lost her left eye, a portion of her skull and was disfigured. A fireman’s ax belonging to the Porcos and used in the attack was found in the couple’s bedroom. Just as horribly, after he was attacked, Peter went about his normal morning routine, unaware that he was dying. He walked into the kitchen, packed a lunch, signed a cheque to cover Christopher’s parking tickets, attempted to unload the dishwasher, then finally collapsed on the floor. As extraordinary as it seems, this bizarre behaviour is possible and was proven through a forensic investigation (isn’t every homicide investigation forensic in nature?) that a murder victim in another case did just that.
Christopher was a student at the University of Rochester, 230 miles westward. Yet, less than two hours after authorities arrived at the scene of the attack, an all-points bulletin for Christopher was issued. His alleged motive was collecting on their $2 million life insurance policy. Rather than trying to rule out the Porco boy, the Bethlehem Police decided from the get-go that he was guilty. Furthermore, insisting that Joan Porco, who was critically injured and barely conscious, nodded “yes” to a detective’s insistence that her son committed the attacks, is seriously problematic. A thorough search of Christopher’s yellow Jeep Wrangler (purchased through the bank forgery) revealed no DNA from his parents, nor on the clothes he wore that night, not a single hair or a smudge of blood. This is highly unusual for a bloody crime, considering Christopher would have had to drive back to the university after the attacks. Further, a witness stated he was running the track at the university around 8:30 a.m. the same morning as the murders. Christopher’s defence lawyer, Terence Kindlon and co-counsel and wife Laurie Shanks, maintained that police overlooked the possibility that Peter Porco’s death was a retaliation against his uncle Frank Porco, a captain in the Bonanno crime family n New York City. Frank Porco served two years in prison for loansharking and extortion, although Shanks incorrectly told jurors he had been indicted for his involvement in a murder. Shanks noted that Frank Porco’s nickname with the mob was “The Fireman” which could have something to do with the type of murder weapon found. Frank Porco had served in the New York City Fire Department.
On the other side of the fence, the murder weapon, the axe, belonged to the Porco family. An intruder would have brought his own weapon and would not have known where the Porco’s kept their axe. Nor would he have left it at the scene. Nothing was burglarized. Would a stranger enter the Porco’s home to murder two sleeping people yet not steal anything from the house? No one other than the Porco brothers stood to gain anything from the Porco murders, being a $2 million life insurance policy pay-out. Other than Christopher needing money to pay off his debts to the university, no other motive has ever been established. Christopher isn’t a likeable person. Christopher was a player. He lied to several young women, telling them in the film, “you’re my girl.” Christopher swindled $31,000.00 from his parents by forging his father’s signature on a bank loan document. Following the Fall 2003 semester, University of Rochester officials forced Christopher Porco to withdraw from the school due to poor grades. Earlier in the fall, he told his parents he had been readmitted to the University of Rochester when the school determined a professor misplaced his final exam from the previous fall semester. Peter and Joan Porco were under the impression that their son’s tuition would be covered by the college for that reason. Upon discovering the fraud, Peter warned Christopher that “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.”
Christopher told investigators that on the night of November 14, 2004, he retired to a dormitory lounge at the university to sleep and awoke the following morning. Bethlehem Police detectives were steadfast that Christopher drove more than three hours eastward to Albany in the early morning hours of November 15 to murder his parents. Marshall Gokey, a neighbor at 53 Brockley Drive, told investigator that on November 15 before 4 a.m., he spotted a yellow Jeep Wrangler in the Porcos’ driveway. Karen Russell, who collected tolls at Exit 24 in Albany, told investigators she spotted a yellow Wrangler shortly before 2 a.m. on November 15 because of its “excessive speed” upon approaching the toll plaza. Investigators also contacted two New York State Through Way toll booth collectors, who reported that they recalled seeing Wranglers matching the description passing through their stations.
Clearly, Christopher Porco is a psychopath. He exhibited traits of egomania, pathological deception, defrauding others, and lack of conscience or remorse. He damaged his father’s financial credibility and in so doing, broke his mother’s heart. He expressed no remorse or regret. He had a history of anti-social behavior that included burglarizing his parents’ Delmar home and making it appear that a stranger had done it. One month before the attack, both Christopher and his brother, Jonathan Porco, had their eBay accounts frozen because they shared the same Delmar address. Christopher didn’t send customers their purchased items, then posed as Jonathan, sending emails explaining that his brother had died and was unable to send the items. A forensic review of the Porco case and other parricide cases that have occurred when fraud detection was a primary factor was published in the forensic literature. Additionally, professor Frank Perri argued that police interviews with Christopher Porco were seriously flawed: police questioning procedures failed to account for Christopher’s probable psychopathy. Psychopaths have unusual emotional responses and feel no remorse for their misdeeds, so standard police interview tactics are useless. In this case, police failed to obtain any valuable information during questioning since they appeal to his emotions.
“His grandmother on his father’s side said, ‘Lock him up and throw away the key,’” executive producer Ilene Kahn Power, a former HBO executive said. ” A lot of families effectively let a wolf in the door. Many wrote letters to the Albany Times Union [newspaper] and said, ‘He never could have done this,’ then completely changed their minds.”
The real-life Christopher sought and temporarily won an injunction forbidding Lifetime from showing the film. That stay was reversed and Lifetime billed “Romeo Killer” as “the movie Chris Porco didn’t want you to see.” Christopher Porco has exhausted all his appeals.