The ‘Weepy-Voiced Killer’ terrorized Minnesota in the 1980s, until one woman took him down

12 July 2023

For a span of three years in the early 1980s, a serial killer taunted law enforcement with confessions related to the deaths of three young women and the brutal assault of another in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In a high-pitched and remorseful tone, Paul Michael Stephani would anonymously call to report his murders. Often from payphones, Stephani would report details about the manner in which he killed his victims, and beg law enforcement officers to stop him from killing again.

“Will you find me? I just stabbed somebody with an ice pick,” he said in one recorded 911 call. “I can’t stop myself. I keep killing somebody.”

Stephani was eventually arrested and convicted for the murder of Barbara Simons, a 40-year-old nurse from Minneapolis, and the attempted murder of 19-year-old Denise Williams, who was able to fight off Stephani’s attacks.

It was the attack on Williams that ultimately led to Stephani’s arrest. In an effort to get away, Williams fought him off. The injuries he sustained were so severe that he called 911 for an ambulance. His voice was immediately identified as belonging to the notorious Weepy-Voiced Killer.

While serving his sentence of more than 40 years for the murder of Simons and the attempted murder of Williams, Stephani was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer. It was a diagnosis that led him to confess to it all.

In addition to killing Simons, he admitted to stabbing and killing 18-year-old Kimberly Compton in 1981 and drowning Kathleen Greening in 1982. He also admitted to beating Karen Potack in 1980. Karen Potack

Stephani’s reign of terror began on Dec. 31,1980, when he phoned in to report that a woman was severely injured near a St. Paul manufacturing plant.

At around 3 a.m., 911 dispatch received their first call from Stephani, who was calling on law enforcement to send an ambulance to help a woman who had been severely beaten and left to die.

“Just please, this is an emergency,” he told dispatch. “Please send a squad to Pierce Butler Road, Malberg Manufacturing Machine Shop. Please send an ambulance too. There’s a girl hurt there.”

Potack was in critical condition when responders arrived she was taken to the hospital and made a full recovery, yet was unable to remember details regarding her attacker.

In the call made to dispatchers, Stephani took no ownership for the brutal beating of Potack. It wasn’t until later when the calls turned to confessions that law enforcement connected the dots, identifying the call made on Dec. 31, 1980, as the first of many made by who was then referred to as the “Weepy-Voiced Killer.”

Stephani confessed to that crime in 1997, following his lung cancer diagnosis.

Kimberly Compton 

Kimberly Compton was an 18-year-old high school graduate from Pepin, Wisconsin, who had traveled to St. Paul on June 3, 1981 in search of a job and a new chapter in the big city.

There, on her first day, the young woman ran into Stephani and her life took a devastating turn.

That same day, three boys found the body of a young woman near a freeway construction site in St. Paul, according to a 1983 article in the Star Tribune. She had been stabbed 61 times with an ice pick.

The discovery of the body, confirmed to belong to Compton, followed an anonymous confession by a man who told dispatch he had stabbed the young woman repeatedly with an ice pick.

“Don’t talk, just listen. I’m sorry for what I did to Compton,” the anonymous caller, now known as Stephani, told dispatchers. “I couldn’t help it. I don’t know why I had to stab her.”

After receiving the confessions, investigators looked back into the logs in an attempt to identify the voice.

They discovered a match, dating back to 1980 with the anonymous call related to the beating of Potack in St. Paul.

In a 1983 Star Tribune article, investigators publicly claimed they had one suspect for the murder of Compton and the attempted murder of Potack. Without a name, they referred to him only as the “Weepy-Voiced Killer.”

Kathleen Greening 

For years, the death of Kathleen Greening haunted those who loved her.

Greening was found dead in the bathtub of her suburban Minnesota home on July 1,1982. At the time, local law enforcement deemed her death an accidental drowning yet the investigation drew criticism.

After it was closed, the case was given another look by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and ruled a homicide. It was a small victory for those who believed the investigation was mishandled and mislabeled from the start. Yet, despite the reclassification of the case, no suspects were ever charged.

Her death remained a mystery.

Until 1997, when law enforcement and the public would learn that a notorious Minnesota serial killer had forcibly entered her home and drowned Greening.

Facing a terminal cancer diagnosis while serving time for the murder of two other women, Stephani confessed to murdering Greening and Compton in the summers of 1981 and 1982. He also admitted to killing Simons and beating Potack.

Stephani had been on the radar for the slaying of Compton, but the confession related to Greening’s death was a shock.

Stephani had never been a suspect in her death, in part because he hadn’t left his “calling card” behind in all other cases, Stephani had anonymously called law enforcement to report his crimes in a high-pitched, weepy tone.

After confessing, investigators confirmed that Stephani knew details about Greening’s apartment and the death scene that would only be known by an individual familiar with the environment.

Barbara Simons 

On Aug. 6, 1982, 40-year-old Barbara Simons walked into a Minneapolis bar, where she met a charming man.

Unbeknownst to Simons, the nurse had befriended Minnesota’s most notorious villain, also referred to as the Weepy-Voiced Killer.

After leaving the bar with Stephani, Simons was found dead the next day, with multiple stab wounds inflicted by an ice pick.

Just as he had with Compton, Stephani anonymously confessed to the slaying.

“Please don’t talk, just listen,” Stephani said in one call to 911 dispatchers. “I’m sorry I killed that girl. I stabbed her 40 times. Kimberly Compton was the first one over in St. Paul. I don’t know what is the matter with me, I’m sick.”

Denise Williams: the victim who took him down 

With three murders and one attempted murder under his belt, Stephani honed in on his next victim: 19-year-old Denise Williams.

Stephani picked up Williams, a sex worker, on Aug. 21, 1982 from Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis. After offering her $100, Stephani drove Williams to his St. Paul apartment, according to court documents.

After leaving the apartment, Williams was under the impression that Stephani would be dropping her back off on Hennepin Avenue. Yet as he continued to drive, it became clear to Williams that Stephani had other plans.

After stopping the car on a dead-end road in Minneapolis, Stephani reached over and stabbed Williams multiple times in the stomach with a Phillips screwdriver.

Williams fought back in the midst of the struggle, Stephani and Williams fell out of the passenger’s side door, onto the street. A passerby saw the incident and attempted to save Williams.

Eventually, Stephani took off. He later called dispatch to request an ambulance take him to the hospital for his injuries.

His voice sounded familiar to dispatchers.

Through his voice match and testimony from Williams and the passerby, Stephani was arrested and charged with attempted murder. He was also identified as Simons’ killer by those who witnessed him leaving the bar with her earlier that month.

He was convicted for murder and attempted murder, and sentenced to more than 40 years in prison.

While Stephani did attempt to appeal his conviction, he ultimately went on to confess to the crimes, along with the additional murders of Compton and Greening.

Stephani died in prison in 1998 from complications related to lung cancer.


Need help?

If you need support, please send an email to [email protected]

Thank you.