SIREN Web Exclusive: The Local Satanic Serial Killer You Don’t Know…Yet
By Luke Aloi
Rose Butera knew something was wrong when she saw that the back door was open at her friend Kathy Kadunce’s house in New Castle, as Kathy had a habit of keeping all of the doors shut. Inside the house, Butera found the mutilated bodies of 23-year-old Kathy and her four-year-old daughter Dawn face down in pools of blood; each had been stabbed 17 times.
It was July 11, 1978. And for almost a year and a half, police were unable to determine any suspects.
Eventually, an anonymous phone call led police to convicted rapist Michael Atkinson. Atkinson told police that his friend Frank Costal was responsible for the murders.
Frank Costal was a lonely man known by New Castle locals for his shoulder-length, “hippie” hair and his constant prowls for male lovers. New Castle librarians stated that Costal enjoyed reading books of peculiar subject matter: the occult. Despite this, his Highland Avenue apartment seemed normal – from the outside.
When the police went inside his apartment to search for evidence, what they found was shocking.
Inside, a makeshift altar stood adorned with black candles and inverted crucifixes, while black curtains covered the walls. Ceremonial robes, as well as books on witchcraft, Satanism, and black magic, were found throughout the apartment.
At his trial, Costal denied the murders of Kathy and Dawn Kadunce, saying that his companions Michael Atkinson and Lou Kadunce were the ones responsible. Because of Costal’s statement. Lou Kadunce was arrested as a possible suspect. Kathy’s former husband, Lawrence (a.k.a. Lou) Kadunce told police that he had left for his warehouse factory before the murders had occurred. Kadunce, under oath, denied knowing Costal.
All three men, Costal, Atkinson, and Lou Kadunce, denied involvement with the murders and implicated each other.
However, during the trial, Elaine Callahan took the stand. Callahan, who allegedly visited Costal’s apartment four times a week to “party”, said that Costal was serious about his devil-worshipping activities. Costal was a “high priest” of Satan and supposedly led a cult of young people, tempting them to join with parties, beer, and drugs. She knew of black masses, animal sacrifices, and “weddings” that Costal and his cult performed in his apartment.
Other witnesses for the trial were difficult to find. Costal told his followers that he had the power to “take them out their bodies”, so many of his disciples were fearful to tell the police anything about Costal and the murders.
Nevertheless, another testifier was soon found. Jane Garcia, a social worker, said that she saw Atkinson, Costal, and Lou Kadunce all in Costal’s apartment. Kadunce apparently shared Costal’s interest in the occult, as police found books on witchcraft initialed “L.K.” (Lawrence Kadunce) in both Kadunce’s apartment and Costal’s apartment. Garcia stated that Lou Kadunce and Frank Costal were allegedly in a homosexual relationship, and that Lou’s wife Kathy was “interfering” in their relationship.
Costal also denied that the occult had anything to do with the murders.
However, an expert on Satanism later testified at the trial. The expert stated that the number of times Kathy and Dawn Kadunce were stabbed (17) was the number of stab wounds required for satanic human sacrifices. The expert also stated that Erica Callahan’s testimony of Costal’s attendance at satanic rituals further linked Costal with the ritualistic murders of Kathy and Dawn Kadunce.
Other witnesses took the stand, saying that Atkinson helped Costal plan the murders.
All the while, the murders had become a media sensation. The satanic background of Costal and Atkinson were highlighted on television networks throughout the Pittsburgh area. As a result, it was difficult to find a jury that could objectively hear evidence without having already seen inflammatory images and reports of the murders.
After the trial had gone on for several years, Atkinson ended up being convicted of first-degree murder of Kathy Kadunce and third-degree murder of Dawn Kadunce and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Costal was convicted of two-count first degree murder, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Lou Kadunce was found not guilty by the jury, believing his testimony that he was at work when the murders occurred. Members of Kathy Kadunce’s family were not convinced of Lou Kadunce’s murders.
The activities of Costal’s satanic cult are unknown.
After his acquittal, Lou Kadunce moved away from the New Castle area. His whereabouts are unknown.