Like many criminals, Stanley Barton Hoss Jr. started out by stealing cars.
He grew up in West Tarentum and later lived with his family at a Cheswick cemetery called Lakewood Memorial Park, where his father, a former coal miner, was the caretaker. The job came with a house and the family desperately needed a roof over its head.
For Stanley Hoss, that cemetery was a perfect place for him to bury stolen cars and parts. After six months, he could easily resell them.
By age 26, Hoss was serving time for rape at the Allegheny County Workhouse in Blawnox. On Sept. 11, 1969, as other inmates showered, Hoss and an accomplice used a hacksaw blade to cut through bars and steel grating on a skylight window and smashed a wire-reinforced window. Using a rope made of bed sheets, they lowered themselves 50 feet to the ground and fled.
Eight days after that daring escape, Hoss began a spree of murderous violence that prompted John Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I to call out U.S. Army reservists to do helicopter searches in a 13-state manhunt. The story dominated newspaper headlines and televisions newscasts as law enforcement officers sought a man whose left arm had three tattoos — a heart with a ribbon, “PAT” and “BORN TO LOSE.” Hundreds of tips poured in from an anxious public.
First, on Sept., 19, Hoss shot Verona Police Officer Joseph Zanella in the heart. The 25-year-old father of two, who also was a volunteer firefighter, had stopped Hoss after hearing on his radio a description of a stolen yellow Chevrolet. The car Hoss drove fit that description.
Still on the run, on Sept. 22, Hoss kidnapped 21-year-old Linda Peugeot and her 2-year-old daughter, Lori Mae, both of Cumberland, Md. He later smothered the child and shot Mrs. Peugeot, who had been the valdedictorian of her class at Westernport High School in Maryland.
On Oct. 4, authorities nabbed Hoss in Waterloo, Iowa. He was driving Mrs. Peugeot’s 1969 Pontiac GTO. Her purse and her daughter’s car seat were found in the trunk. Hoss admitted to the FBI that he had murdered the mother and child and dumped them in two Midwestern states but their bodies were never found.
In March 1970, a jury found Hoss guilty of killing Officer Zanella and he was sentenced to death in the electric chair. On appeal, the state Supreme Court reversed the sentence and he wound up serving life in prison.
While housed at Western Penitentiary, Hoss and two other inmates beat Captain Walter Peterson to death on Dec. 10, 1973. That was long before the phrase “hate crime” had entered Americans’ vocabulary. Captain Peterson was 42, married, the father of a child and the first African-American to serve as a guard at the prison.
Five years later, in December 1978, Hoss hung himself in his cell at the State Correctional Institute at Graterford, near Philadelphia. His coffin arrived at Lakewood Memorial Park and by 7:30 a.m. he was buried in the ground where he had once hidden the fruits of his earliest crimes.