The phone rang incessantly until Wallace Swartz finally answered. It was 2:13am, and he knew that a call this late must be an emergency. He wiped the sleep from his eyes, removed the phone from its cradle, and placed the receiver to his ear.
The late caller was Swartz's good friend, Albert Fentress, who sounded winded and distraught, but still coherent. The man's occasional slurs told Swartz that Albert was possibly drunk, which would be unusual for him on a Sunday night.
"I've killed somebody, and now, I'm going to kill myself." Albert uttered through the phone.
Wallace Schwartz, a local Poughkeepsie real estate attorney, had known Albert Fentress for the last ten years. Not only was Albert a previous client of his—helping Fentress with purchasing his home at 216 South Grand Avenue—but Schwartz genuinely enjoyed his company, so much that he would often have him over for family dinner. He would never think of Albert as a killer—perhaps a victim—but never a killer.
Wallace Swartz would later testify. "He told me he was going to kill himself. He said he had killed somebody. There had been some drinking, and he killed somebody. I said it must have been an accident, and he'd have to call the police."
"He said no, it wasn't anything like that," the attorney said. "He said it would be difficult to square that with God. I asked again if there was a burglary or an accident. Al mentioned to me there had been a sex crime act; he mentioned to me there was a mutilated body. "He said he was a very sick person and not the person I knew."
It didn't take the arresting officers long to find the dead teenager knotted around a wooden post in Albert Fentress's basement. The eighteen-year-old Paul Masters was sexually assaulted and then brutally mutilated. Albert had evidently yanked down the boy's jeans and underwear, which were now soaking in a pool of blood.
A look at the teen’s groin area told the detective that something very grotesque and horrific had happened there. Paul’s penis was missing. In its place was a gaping wound that was oozing blood. Officers were even detailed to dismantle the plumbing in a futile attempt to locate the missing penis.—Peter Davidson, author of Death By Cannibal.
The pathologist later established that Paul Masters' penis was removed before his body had expired—meaning that the poor soul lived to experience the nightmarish castration.
Albert Fentress had not only removed the boy's penis, but he had crudely carved through—in an upward direction beginning from the lower scrotal sack—his entire genital area.
The pathologist also noted two entrance wounds coated in gun powder marks showing that Fentress had shot Masters in the head twice at close range. An autopsy on Paul Masters “found the cause of death instantaneous with two penetrating gunshot wounds of the skull and the traumatic amputation of the penis and scrotal contents.”
Albert Fentress was a middle school history teacher. He not only enjoyed his lessons, but he sought to bring his historic characters to life. Whether it was dressing in complete Napoleonic garb, show-and-tell with Civil War performances, and even wearing an actual Ku Klux Klan hood to show the terror of the times, there was nothing Fentress wouldn't do to make History exciting for his students.
"Albert Fentress was a very good teacher. Engaging. Entertaining. He brought the history class to life." recalled former student Wayne Witherwax.
Poughkeepsie Assistant Superintendent of Schools Ronald Valenti praised the teacher, telling the Poughkeepsie Journal that Fentress “had an outstanding record in the district and has received several letters of commendation on his performance and involvement.”
Most of his students at Poughkeepsie Middle School enjoyed Albert's teaching style, but not all of them.
Months before Albert finally 'snapped', he had been the target of a brutal harassment campaign and he never identified which of his students were directly involved. They vandalized his car, his tires were slashed, his home egged, his house broken into, his prized stamp collection stolen, and his front yard destroyed with weed killer—in huge letters spelling out "FAIRY".
The torment never seemed to end. Rumors were started that he was gay. They sent gay pornographic magazines to his neighbor's home under his name. They had even spread a sick rumor that he was a pedophile and liked little boys.
Albert had had enough, so he bought a gun—and was planning to use it. He was going to stop his bullies with a 32-caliber slug.
Eighteen-year-old Paul Masters was not involved in the hate campaign against the disgruntled middle school history teacher. In fact, the two had never even met, and Paul was a student of a neighboring district. The meeting of the two was a matter of sheer coincidence, and Paul Masters found himself at the wrong place at exactly the wrong time on Sunday, August 20, 1979.
Paul Masters was a star player for the Spackenkill Highschool football team, and even though he had just graduated, he still had to be there for his teammates, even when there was no football to be played. Earlier in the year, the quarterback of the Poughkeepsie High School football team had thrown an insult to a player's girlfriend on the neighboring team. Both teams were now locked in a feud and itching to settle the score. They worked out a place and time for the teams to fight it out.
Meanwhile, Albert, who lived within a few blocks, sat on his couch in his living room. He was stewing in his own emotions. His lawn still recovering from the weedkiller that declared him a "FAIRY" every time he looked outside. The glass of vodka had helped calm his nerves a bit, so he drank another, and another. Perhaps just one more glass wouldn't hurt, he thought, as he loaded and unloaded his newly purchased revolver. He had work tomorrow, but was dreading it. Albert lived to teach, and now, those bastard students had taken away the one genuine joy in his life—education. It wasn't fair, he had done nothing wrong.
Fentress would later confess that he heard noises from outside his home around midnight, which prompted him to tuck his revolver in his pants and confront whoever was there.
Unfortunately, it was Paul.
Psychiatrist would later claim that Fentress was in a "psychotic state" when he murdered Paul Masters. The primary trigger of his psychosis was a movie that he had first seen two days prior. The movie enraptured Fentress so much that he wrote his own scripts for the film—different scenes, different scenarios—he became obsessed.
In 1972 the movie Deliverance, starring Burt Reynolds and John Voight, hit theaters and became an instant success. The movie, filmed in the Georgia woods, takes a harrowing look at the economic depression that plagues many who live in the mountains there.
Many parts of the movie were disturbing to audiences, but the scene that sticks in most people's memories is Bobby—played by actor Ned Beatty—being raped by a hillbilly, making him "squeal like a pig."
With Albert Fentress, many psychiatrists argued that the distressing nature of watching Deliverance ignited the bachelor's deep-seated denial of admitting his homosexuality. He was also, "greatly bothered by acts of vandalism and harassment allegedly done by students," which propelled Fentress into a manic psychosis from which he had no control.
Once he realized Paul was not one of his students terrorizing him, he offered to drive him back home. The boy accepted and was happy to drink a glass of vodka inside the home while Fentress looked for his car keys, Fentress even checking his ID to make sure he was of drinking age (18 at the time). However, at this point, Albert had already decided that he wanted more than to share a few drinks with the studly football player.
Once they were indoors, the teacher was able to get his first good look at Paul. He liked what he saw—a muscular teen with flawless skin, high cheekbones, bright blue eyes, and thick brown hair fashionably cut in the style of the day. He was manly but still boyish, and Al Fentress was very fond of boys.—Peter Davidson, author of Death By Cannibal.
Stay For Dinner
Under the ruse of helping Fentress move some plywood in the basement, the teacher got the unsuspecting teenager into a vulnerable position—downstairs with no easy exit. Now all he had to do was use his revolver to scare Paul Masters into accepting being tied up to a wooden post.
Albert Fentress would later confess to performing sucking the penis of the tied up teenager, but unlike the "scripts" in his head—and allegedly written—Paul Masters did not become aroused, which further pushed Fentress into a dangerous mental territory.
"Masters accidentally became the character in his writing," said Dr. Arnold Bucove of Poughkeepsie, a psychiatrist who testified for the defense. "Fentress carried out the ritual of the script.. everything seemed to proceed as though it were in the writing."
Starting from beneath the scrotum and using a straight blade razor, Albert Fentress removed the boy's testicles and penis. He did this while Paul Masters was still alive and begging for his life, only to die much later from two gunshots and the blood draining from the "traumatic amputation of the penis and scrotal contents."
Once Fentress had the member and testicles completely separated, he walked back upstairs, added some vegetable oil to a kitchen pan and sauteed the organs, which he then consumed on a plate of his finest china.
Ultimately, a judge decided that Albert Fentress was "not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect." He is still detained in a psychiatric facility, although he is "cured", he cannot be released due to him being a danger to society. He will most likely never be set free, especially since in 2002, two of his former students testified he had once molested them. Fentress did not deny these allegations.