The Potato Hill Killer: One of CNY’s Most Brutal Murder Cases
On April 26, 1973, Mary Rose Turner would take her last walk. And her last breaths.
The 56-year-old Turner was suffering from a bout of insomnia when she decided to take a late-night stroll. Her route took her from her apartment in the small town of Steuben past a nearby Shell gas station where Bernard Hatch, 33, was working the graveyard shift. Hatch must have seen something he liked.
Later that morning, a local man named James Weakly witnessed a green car dragging “a white object” behind it along Potato Hill Road. The elderly Weakly thought it odd but didn’t pay it much mind. Later that afternoon, upon his return home from the grocery store, he noticed some “strange substances” in the road. He followed the substances to a trail where he discovered remnants of clothing and what appeared to be internal organs. Weakly deduced that the object he saw being dragged by the car was a body, and he quickly phoned the police.
Police joked that Weakly had read too many detective books, but after forensic tests concluded the organs were human, things took a turn. Search dogs helped reveal a shallow grave where the severely mutilated body of Mary Rose Turner had been dumped. Her hands and feet had been cut off. The dragging had completely erased her face. Only an ear and some hair above the neck remained.
Several eyewitnesses had reported seeing Bernard Hatch and his green car that morning. Due to his prior records and the proximity of his residence to Turner’s, he quickly became the lead suspect. Investigators spent the next few months assembling their case. A search warrant found grisly tools of the trade and newspaper clippings about Turner's murder.
Bernard Hatch was formally indicted on murder charges on October 17, 1973. He did not receive his sentence, however, until April 1976. It remains the longest trial in Oneida County history.
Hatch received a sentence of 25-years-to-life and was denied parole several times. He died in November 2021 at Fishkill Correctional Facility, having always maintained his innocence.