The case of

Katherine M. “Katy” Hawelka

Victim

Katherine M. “Katy” Hawelka

Victim Race

Caucasian

Victim Date of Birth

1967-06-18

Victim Age

18

Date Reported

1986-08-29

Date of Death

1986-09-01

Case Status

Closed

Incident Location

Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, USA

Body Location

Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, USA

Date of Conviction

1987-08-13

Body Discovered Date

1986-08-29

Murderer

Brian Milton McCarthy

Who Was Katy Hawelka?

Katherine Hawelka was born on June 18, 1967, to her parents, Joseph Hawelka Sr. and Theresa Ryan who is also known as Terry Taber. Katy was one of four children. She had two sisters called Casey, Elizabeth, or “Betsy,” and a brother named Joseph Hawelka Jr. The family lived in Sylvan Beach, Oneida County. They were a very happy family.

Growing up, Katy was extremely close with her family and after graduating high school, Katy decided that she wanted to attend Clarkson University. This was an unusual choice, but Katy said that she wanted to encourage other women to attend this university as, up until the late ’60s, they only accepted male students. She wanted to pave the way for future generations of women.

The day before the attack, Katy had been driven back to Clarkson University to begin her second year. Her mom and sister dropped her off at her apartment before they said their goodbyes and left. This was the last time either one of them would see Katy Hawelka alive.

That night, Katy Hawelka and a few of her friends decided to go out drinking to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. After closing time at 2.30am, Katy Hawelka and a friend walked back to campus before parting ways near the Walker Arena. It was here that Katy was brutally attacked and raped.

Katy Hawelka is found unconscious

A guard from campus security was doing his rounds on campus when he stumbled across what he thought was a couple having consensual sex near the Walker Center, the campus’ ice hockey arena. This security guard left and went to get another security guard, hoping that by the time they returned, the couple would have left.

But when they returned to the scene, only one person was there. It was a woman lying on the ground. The security guards called the village police, and when officers began looking around the area, they found a man lying down under a nearby flight of stairs.

The Crime Description

Katy Hawelka and her friends went out drinking in nearby village bars and clubs on the evening of August 28 through to the early hours of August 29. The last bar they were in closed at 2.30 am and Katy and her friend, Todd, walked back to campus. It wasn’t a long walk but the pair had to stop a few times. Katy had fractured her foot that summer, and it was still painful so she had to rest it now and then. Todd also needed to urinate, so they stopped for that as well.

At around 3.30 am, Katy Hawelka and Todd parted ways. His apartment was in one direction, and Katy’s was in another. She told him that it would take him too long to walk her home and that she would be fine walking the rest of the way alone. After Todd had left, Katy Hawelka crouched down by a nearby wall and urinated.

As she was making her way to a wall, she passed by a stranger. They said hello to each other, and Katy continued making her way to the wall. However, this stranger decided that he wanted to take advantage of her, and he ran at her, putting his full weight behind his hands as he pushed Katy Hawelka’s head into the wall.

Katy had one boot off, and her right leg was out of her underwear and pants. The stranger, who we now know was 24-year-old Brian McCarthy, brutally kicked and punched Katy Hawelka until she stopped struggling and became unconscious. She did try to fight back, the autopsy showed that she had self-defense marks, but Brian ultimately overpowered her.

When Katy was unconscious, Brian removed her other boot and her left leg from her clothes and raped her. He also pulled up her top, exposing her breasts, before strangling her. Brian assumed that she was dead but before he could flee the scene, the security guards had returned and this time, they had law enforcement with them. So Brian hid under a flight of nearby stairs.

Suspect or Convicted Killer Details

Brian McCarthy grew up in the rural community of Parishville, a small town outside of Potsdam, New York. His family attended the local Catholic church, and they were known to be a wonderful family within the community.

Brian did have a history of crime but nothing as severe as this. His previous offenses were misdemeanor convictions, mainly for breaking, robbery, and drug-related. It doesn’t appear that he participated in violent or sexual crimes before he attacked and raped Katy Hawelka.

On the night of Katy Hawelka’s attack, Brian had been drinking, snorting coke, and smoking weed all day. He was in a bar fight with a man who accused him of stealing his $3 from the bar. The pair started fighting, and Brian left shortly after, hitching a ride to Potsdam with a man named Robert. Brian told Robert about the bar fight, but he said he’d shot the other man in the leg.

Brian also claimed that he was “packing heat,” implying that he had weapons. Robert dropped Brian off near the college campus and drove to the nearby police station to report Brian. While he didn’t have any proof of Brian attacking anyone, his behavior had freaked him out so much that he felt the need to report it.

Investigation Details

When police arrived at Katy’s body, she was unresponsive, apart from gurgling blood. They knew from her clothes that it was likely that she’d been raped, but the injuries she had sustained told them she’d been subjected to a very violent attack. They started investigating the crime scene when they found Brian hiding under a flight of stairs.

They pulled him out and tried to arrest him but Brian started complaining of a back injury. He claimed that he’d witnessed the attack on Katy and it was a man wearing a black jacket with white cuffs had assaulted her. When this man had seen Brian, he’d hit him from behind and this was the last thing Brian remembered before police had found him.

Katy was taken to Canton-Potsdam Hospital and on the way, she stopped breathing. Paramedics began doing CPR and carried this on until they reached the hospital. ER staff took over and they managed to restart Katy’s heart. She was put on life support and her family were contacted. The doctors who were looking after Katy had to give her family the worst news possible. They suspected that Katy was brain dead and wouldn’t regain consciousness but if she did, she would have life changing injuries.

After Katy arrived at the hospital, Brian had his back injury looked at. Once he’d been given the all-clear, police asked him to give a police statement about the attack on Katy. The Potsdam Police Inspector, John Peretta, knew of Brian from his previous offenses so he knew that he was likely the man who had attacked Katy.

Brian changed his story several times. First, he said that he had nothing to do with the attack. He’d seen a man attack Katy, and when this man spotted Brian, he’d attacked him too, and that was it. Later on, Brian claimed that he’d seen the man attack Katy, and after this man had fled the scene, Brian tried to “take advantage” of Katy, but he couldn’t get an erection due to the drugs and alcohol he’d consumed. In another version, Brian said that he’d only slammed Katy’s head into the wall once, then it was twice, then he claimed he’d dropped her before raping her.

Brian McCarthy has never admitted the full truth of what happened to Katy, but with the confessions he did make, as well as her injuries, Brian McCarthy was arrested and charged.

On September 1, 1986, doctors told Katy’s family that she’d been declared brain dead and the best thing to do would be to turn off her life support. The family waited in the hospital chapel, and at 2.16 pm, Katy died.

After this, Brian McCarthy was charged with second-degree murder.

Trial

Brian McCarthy entered a guilty plea to the second-degree murder charge to Judge Eugene Nicandri to avoid the death penalty, so there wasn’t a trial.

Verdict

in the Potsdam Village Court, Judge Eugene L. Nicandri sentenced Brian to 23 years in prison for the murder of Katy Hawelka.

Brian became eligible for parole in 2009, but he was denied. Since then, he has been denied parole seven times, with his 7th parole hearing taking place in 2021, and the Hawelka family make it their mission to make him live the rest of his life in prison. Every two years, they provide victim impact statements to the parole board and hope that Brian is refused parole again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Could the campus security guards have prevented Katy Hawelka’s tragic death?

The Hawelka family actually sued the security guards and the university because of their negligent actions. The security guards claim that they didn’t realize anything bad was happening, but if they’d intervened, they could have stopped it.

Where is Brian McCarthy now?

Brian M. McCarthy is still imprisoned at the medium-security Cayuga Correctional Facility, Moravia, Cayuga County.

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