Paul Michael Stephani, The ‘Weepy-Voiced Killer’ Who Confessed His Murders In A Series Of Chilling Phone Calls

Published September 27, 2023
Updated September 28, 2023

Between 1980 and 1982, Paul Michael Stephani murdered three women and brutally attacked two others — and then anonymously called the police to tearfully apologize for his crimes.

Weepy Voiced Killer

YouTubePaul Stephani, the Weepy-Voiced Killer.

In the early 1980s, Minnesota police were confronted with a bizarre case. Between 1980 and 1982, several women had been murdered or beaten to the brink of death in the Twin Cities area by a serial assailant. After each attack, an anonymous caller, soon dubbed “The Weepy-Voiced Killer,” would call the police to tearfully confess to the crimes.

In each call, the speaker would express remorse for the attacks, claiming the voices in his head had made him do it and fretting that he’d “never make it to heaven.” But each time, the caller would decline to reveal his identity.

Then, in 1982, one of his victims escaped, leaving her attacker injured. When the man called the authorities to get medical help, police quickly recognized the voice of the Weepy-Voiced Killer: Paul Stephani.

This is the story behind these disturbing phone calls — and how police finally tracked the killer down.

Who Was Paul Stephani, The Weepy-Voiced Killer?

Paul Michael Stephani was born on September 8, 1944. The second of 10 siblings, he grew up in a large family in Austin, Minnesota. Allegedly, Stephani’s stepfather was physically abusive and would often hit the children, sometimes knocking them down the stairs.

According to the Star Tribune, Stephani moved to St. Paul in the mid-1960s and began work as a shipping clerk and janitor. He was briefly married and even had a daughter, but eventually divorced his wife and left his child behind.

It was around then that his violent impulses really began to materialize.

Stephani was, by appearances, a devout Catholic, but under the surface, dark and disturbing thoughts plagued him. Later, he would claim that before every assault he committed, he would hear voices urging him to attack.

And while it was purportedly the voices in his head that drove him to kill, his religious guilt may have driven him to call the police to report his attacks amid tears.

“There was somebody telling me, ‘Paul, it’s time to kill,'” he would say. At one point, he cried over the phone, “I’ll never make it to heaven.”

The Brutal Attacks Of Karen Potack And Kimberly Compton

Minneapolis Skyline

City of Minneapolis Archives / Wikimedia CommonsMinneapolis in the 1980s.

On June 3, 1981, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate named Kimberly Compton moved to the Twin Cities from Wisconsin to look for a job. That same day, she was brutally murdered.

A group of teenagers came across her bloodied body while hanging out in a field in St. Paul. Compton had been viciously stabbed with an ice pick 61 times, according to a report in the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture.

Within 48 hours, police received a haunting call.

In a high-pitched, remorseful voice, the anonymous caller confessed to having committed the crime. At first, police thought it might be a prank call — until he identified the murder weapon, which police hadn’t yet revealed to the media.

“Please find me,” he told 9-1-1 operators, according to KTTC. “I just stabbed somebody with an ice pick. I can’t stop myself.”

According to The Wrap, the caller said, “I keep killing everybody… I don’t know why I had to stab her. I’m so upset about it.”

Police looked through their records and, by comparing the call recording to the voices of other callers, connected it to another anonymous tip from months earlier when someone had reported attacking a young woman named Karen Potack and leaving her on the side of a road.

That day, New Year’s Day 1981, someone with a weepy voice had called the police at 3 a.m., begging them to come help a girl who’d been hurt. Police rushed to the scene the caller described and found 20-year-old ​​college student Karen Potack lying naked in the snow, so horribly beaten that her brain was exposed. She had been bludgeoned with a tire iron.

Miraculously, Potack survived, but her brain damage was so severe that she could not remember her attack. The police had reached a dead end.

Then, nearly a year later, the Weepy-Voiced Killer called again.

A New Lead In The Case

Paul Stephani

Minneapolis PDA mugshot of Paul Stephani.

On August 6, 1982, a paperboy stumbled upon a grisly scene while out on his paper route: a body sprawled out on the banks of the Mississippi River. The victim was soon identified as 40-year-old nurse Barbara Simons. She had been stabbed more than 100 times.

Two days later, the Weepy-Voiced killer called the police to take ownership of the murder, as well as that of Kimberly Compton.

“Please don’t talk. Listen,” he said. “I’m sorry I killed that girl. I stabbed her 40 times. Kimberly Compton was the first one over in St. Paul.”

As police investigated the attack, they learned that the night before Simons’ body was found, she had left the Hexagon Bar in Minneapolis with a stranger, telling a friend, “I hope this guy’s OK because I just need a ride home.”

Based on the friend’s description, police were able to identify Stephani as a suspect. They began tailing him, installing a surveillance team outside his apartment to keep an eye on him.

On August 21, 1982, police briefly lost track of Stephani. During those few hours, a witness called to say they’d seen a man stabbing a woman with a screwdriver.

The woman was 21-year-old Denise Williams, who told police her attacker had started stabbing her after offering her a ride. Williams had fought back, smashing a bottle against her attacker’s head before escaping, leaving Stephani injured.

Soon after, Stephani called for medical help — and when police interviewed him, they quickly recognized the high-pitched voice of Weepy-Voiced Killer. They charged Stephani with the assault of Denise Williams and murder of Barbara Simons — and he pleaded not guilty.

“He always denied,” reporter Caroline Lowe said, according to KTTC. “Even though he called and confessed and told people where to find these victims. He always denied he had committed the crimes.”

Paul Michael Stephani’s ex-wife, his sister, and a woman who lived with Stephani at the time all testified at his trial in 1983, saying they believed he was the caller. He was sentenced to 18 years for attacking Williams and another 40 for the murder of Simons.

The Weepy-Voiced Killer Finally Confesses

Paul Michael Stephani Confesses

St Paul PoliceA news release announcing Paul Michael Stephani’s confession in 1997.

More than a decade after Paul Stephani’s trial, he was diagnosed with melanoma and told he had only months to live. Faced with this news, he finally stopped denying. On Dec. 19, 1997, he confessed to the attacks he’d been charged with.

He also confessed to two more unsolved murders, including that of Kimberly Compton, and attacking Karen Potack, telling the Star Tribune, “Since I’ve been locked down the last 15 years, I’ve wondered how all this could happen. And all I can say is I’m sick and I’m sorry — if sorry means anything after 15 years.”

One of the murders he’d confessed to was one that police hadn’t connected with the Weepy-Voiced killer because, in that case, he hadn’t called the police after committing the crime. Stephani told police that he’d found that victim in the bathtub.

After scouring their archives, police determined that it was Kathleen Greening, who’d died in a bathtub on July 21, 1982.

Paul Stephani died June 12, 1998, in Oak Park Heights Prison, Minnesota. He was 53.

After learning about the chilling case of Paul Michael Stephani, the Weepy-Voiced Killer, read about Henry Lee Lucas, the serial killer who confessed to murdering hundreds of people. Then, learn about the unsolved Delphi Murders and the chilling video evidence one of the victims left behind.

Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
Matt Crabtree
Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.
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Donahue, Maggie. "Paul Michael Stephani, The ‘Weepy-Voiced Killer’ Who Confessed His Murders In A Series Of Chilling Phone Calls.", September 27, 2023, Accessed May 27, 2024.