Back in 1996, Joseph Roy Metheny hit the front pages when he was charged with a string of murders, and confessed to cooking his victims’ flesh, which earned him the creepy nickname, “The Cannibal.” Standing at a towering 6’1″ and weighing a hefty 450lb, Metheny was known to be polite, intelligent, and intimidating. He’d been accused of murder previously but managed to evade jail time.
Arrested yet again in late 1996, Metheny was finally handed a life sentence plus a death sentence for his heinous acts. His story came to an end in his prison cell on August 5, 2017.
The exact number of Metheny’s victims is uncertain, partly due to his inconsistent confessions, but he’s still remembered as one of the most infamous serial killers of the 90s.
Metheny Argued He Had a Tough Childhood, a Claim His Mother Refutes
Born on March 2, 1954, in Baltimore, MD, Joe Metheny spent most of his life there. His dad passed away in a car accident when Metheny was just six. He said his mom was always working and often sent him to stay with other families. Metheny’s mom, on the other hand, rejected these claims, saying, “If he was neglected, it was his own fault.” Metheny also lied about his mom being dead.
In his early adult years, Metheny joined the military and said he served in Vietnam, which resulted in a severe drug addiction. But according to military records, his service was short-lived and limited to Germany in 1973. His mom also denied his Vietnam service but attributed many of his issues to drug abuse.
The Exact Beginnings of Metheny’s Murder Rampage Are Vague
Separating truth from fabrication in Metheny’s confessions is tricky. Some media outlets reported his first murder happened in 1994, but Metheny stated his murder spree started much earlier, in 1976. The number of victims he claimed to have killed also varied over time. His confirmed victim count is 10, but if his confessions are true, there could be more.
For example, Metheny confessed to killing five people within seven hours in 1995, but a lack of proof made it unclear whether he really committed all these murders in such a short span.
In 1994, Metheny Killed Catherine Magaziner
The first murder formally linked to Metheny was that of 39-year-old Catherine Magaziner. She was a sex worker in South Baltimore and reportedly had a drug problem. In 1996, Metheny confessed to killing Magaziner and burying her at his work site where he operated a forklift.
Around half a year later, Metheny dug up Magaziner’s body and decapitated her. He buried the torso in a different grave and dumped the head in a box in the trash.
After his arrest two years later, Metheny guided the police to Magaziner’s body. Her skull was identified with the help of dental records.
In 1995, Metheny Took Down Two Men With an Axe
Back in 1995, Metheny was living with his girlfriend and their 6-year-old son in South Baltimore. However, his job as a truck driver often took him away from home for long periods. On one of his returns, he found out his girlfriend had left him and taken their child.
While searching for his girlfriend, Metheny encountered two homeless men, Randall Brewer and Randy Piker, in a tent city. Metheny, who had once been homeless himself, had disputes with these men. His anger boiled over, and he killed and dismembered both men with an axe. Their bodies were discovered on August 2, 1995.
Metheny Spent Over a Year in Jail for the Men’s Murder Before He Killed Again
Metheny was arrested for the murder of Brewer and Piker after their bodies were found. Denied bail, he spent a year and a half in Baltimore County Jail awaiting his trial. When his case was heard in the summer of 1996, the jury found him not guilty due to lack of proof.
After his release, Metheny resumed killing, specifically targeting sex workers, and chillingly, he started selling human meat as food. He was caught again in December 1996, just five months after he’d been released.
After Murdering Kimberly Spicer, Metheny Stashed Parts of Her Body Under Some Wooden Pallets
In November 1996, Metheny took the life of 23-year-old Kimberly Spicer, a sex worker in South Baltimore. Metheny was working as a forklift operator for a company that manufactured wooden pallets and lived in a tiny trailer close to his workplace.
One night, Metheny lured Spicer to his trailer. There, he murdered her, dismembered her body, and hid parts of it under some wooden pallets at his job site.
Spicer’s mother later commented that her daughter “had her issues, but she never stopped fighting, always wrestling with her troubles and hoping for a better day.”
Metheny Admitted to Serving His Victims’ Flesh to Customers at His BBQ Stand
After his arrest, Metheny confessed to consuming his victims’ flesh and even preserving some parts in Tupperware containers in his fridge. He then made a shocking claim that he had mixed their flesh with the meat he sold at his roadside BBQ stand.
Metheny stated that human flesh didn’t taste much different from pork and that his customers couldn’t tell the difference.
This horrifying confession quickly became the most talked-about aspect of the case, earning Metheny his nickname, “the Cannibal.”
Police Nailed Metheny With Assistance From a Buddy and an Escaped Victim
Metheny’s last victim was Rita Kemper, a sex worker in South Baltimore. On December 8, 1996, he kidnapped her and took her back to his trailer. Kemper reported that Metheny intended to kill her and bury her along with his other victims. Luckily, Kemper managed to escape and ran to the police for help.
A week after Kemper’s breakout, Metheny reached out to a friend, asking for help in hiding Kimberly Spicer’s body. The friend immediately rang up the police, who apprehended Metheny on December 15, 1996.
Metheny Admitted to Killing Two Unidentified Sex Workers and a Fisherman
Metheny confessed to assaulting and killing two sex workers the same night he murdered Brewer and Piker. Additionally, he claimed to have spotted a fisherman near the bridge where he committed the four murders and killed him with a metal pipe.
Metheny said he discarded the bodies of the sex workers and the fisherman into the river, weighing them down with rocks to prevent them from resurfacing. However, no evidence of these supposed crimes was ever discovered.
Metheny Revelled in Killing and Refused to Apologize for His Actions
While confessing to the police, Metheny stated he took pleasure in killing and wouldn’t apologize to the families of his victims, claiming any apology would be insincere. He further explained that God was fully aware of his deeds, and he was content to face judgment from him, as well as from an earthly judge in a courtroom.
Metheny remarked, “What started as vengeance turned into a passion for the taste of blood and the intoxicating feeling of power from taking another’s life.”
Initially, Metheny received the death penalty, a life sentence, and 50 years for kidnapping Rita Kemper. He was also indicted for the murder of 28-year-old Toni Lynn Ingrassia, but the charge was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
On July 24, 2000, Metheny’s death sentence was overturned and replaced with a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Metheny Passed Away in Jail in 2017
On August 5, 2017, a guard at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, MD, discovered Joseph Ray Metheny unresponsive in his cell. While a routine investigation into his death was conducted, there was no suspicion or evidence of foul play.
Metheny was 62 years old at the time of his death.