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Drake slaying suspect details mutilation

Says he wanted to make death look like work of a pedophile

Friday, September 29, 2000

By Dennis B. Roddy, Michael A. Fuoco and Steve Levin, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

Joseph Cornelius told police he strangled 11-year-old Scott Drake of the North Side after the youngster tried to steal his radio, and later mutilated the boy's body to make it appear to be the work of a pedophile.

  Joseph Cornelius

Investigators said they were certain that Cornelius, 47, a homeless man, was the killer because he provided them with specific details of the crime that only he and detectives could know.

Cornelius, in his confession to police Wednesday, said he decided to cut off portions of the boy's body because it would match a similar mutilation case in Oklahoma.

He said he used a broken, 40-ounce beer bottle to cut the youngster open and to remove his genitalia. Then he then threw a knapsack containing the body parts, broken bottle and radio into the Allegheny River from the Ninth Street Bridge. Cornelius said he disposed of the radio because he believed Scott's fingerprints were on it.

More Drake coverage:

Cornelius seen as frightening and friendly

Homeless fear backlash

Web exclusive: How FBI profilers do their work


Yesterday, a day after a search of the river by divers failed to recover the evidence, investigators stood on the Ninth Street Bridge and dropped a similar bag, weighted to replicate Cornelius' knapsack, into the water. River Rescue and Coast Guard units helped track the distance the knapsack traveled in the water. A search of the banks in the vicinity by land and helicopter are planned.

The boy's nude body was discovered by detectives Monday about 9:45 p.m. in a grass- and shrub-filled lot bounded by East Ohio Street and ramps for the Veterans Bridge and Interstate 279. The site was about five blocks from the victim's Lockhart Street home in the Deutschtown section of the North Side. He had been reported missing at 11:45 p.m. Sunday.

On Tuesday, a tow truck driver, several Allegheny General Hospital nurses and an off-duty police officer individually reported to homicide detectives that they saw Scott, on his silver bicycle, and a man, later identified as Cornelius, at East Ohio and Madison Avenue about 7 p.m. The corner is about 150 feet from where Scott's body was discovered.

Prosecution sources said Cornelius, who took to the streets several years ago after the woman with whom he lived in the West End died of cancer, gave the following chronology:

He said he encountered Scott, a neighborhood fixture on the North Side, in the grassy area off East Ohio Street.

Cornelius told investigators he had been drinking 12-ounce cans of High Sierra beer from a stash he and several other homeless men kept near the river.

According to Cornelius' confession, Scott attempted to snatch a radio, the only valuable possession Cornelius owned. Cornelius said he became enraged, choked the youngster and, after realizing he was dead, hid the body in some bushes in a corner of the lot.

Cornelius then went to a bar on East Ohio Street and drank. He later returned to the scene, where he took a broken 40-ounce beer bottle and cut off Scott's genitalia and cut open the boy's torso. Police also believe Cornelius might have used an object to penetrate the child in a way to make it appear he had been sexually molested.

Cornelius said he hoped police would search for a pedophile with a history of mutilation crimes.

"He specifically used the term pedophile," said a law enforcement source. "What he did he did apparently because of some case out of Oklahoma where something similar was done by a pedophile."

Funeral today

Scott Drake’s funeral will begin at 10 this morning at Sperling Funeral Home, 408 Cedar Ave., North Side. It is private. Burial will follow in Mount Royal Cemetery, Shaler.

Contributions to the family can be made in Scott’s name to the North Side Leadership Conference, 430 East Ohio St., Suite 300, Pittsburgh 15212. As of yesterday, the fund had grown to $36,000.


The murder Cornelius may have used as his model occurred in Tulsa, Okla., in 1989. Eleven-year-old Justin Wiles disappeared on June 20, and four days later parts of his dismembered body were recovered from a lake.

According to reports at the time from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the boy's head was found attached to a rock with wire and floating in the lake. A hand was found sticking out of the ground near a lakeside picnic table. Other body parts, some wrapped in plastic and covered by rocks, were recovered by the lake. The boy's genitalia had been removed.

Wayne Henry Garrison, 40, a former Tulsa resident, was charged Oct. 22, 1999, in Wiles' death. Garrison had been in a Cabarrus County, N.C., jail for abducting and drugging an 11-year-old boy in 1996.

Garrison, 40, has maintained his innocence in the Wiles case.

As a juvenile, Garrison admitted killing two other children in Tulsa. When he was 13 and 14 years old, Garrison killed a 4-year-old cousin and a 3-year-old boy, whom he dismembered.

Garrison later married and in 1990, he and his wife and their then-6-year-old son moved to North Carolina.

Another case from Oklahoma, likewise brutal yet not fatal, occurred in 1992 in Norman. In that case, which remains unsolved, a 10-year-old boy had his eye poked out with a knife and his penis nearly cut off. The boy was wrapped in a blanket and left in a ditch. He survived.

When told yesterday of the Pittsburgh case by a reporter, Lt. Mike Freeman of the Norman, Okla., Police detective division said he planned to contact Pittsburgh homicide detectives to compare notes.

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