New book tells story of Syracuse native’s 1986 murder at Clarkson University

Syracuse, N.Y. — Syracuse native Katy Hawelka was brutally raped and murdered on the Clarkson University campus in 1986 in a crime that shook the North Country and Central New York alike and raised questions about safety on college campuses and the parole hearing process.

In “A Stranger Killed Katy,” author William LaRue tells the story of Hawelka’s death as a college sophomore on the Potsdam, New York campus and how her death has turned into a decades-long campaign by her family to keep her killer behind bars.

Hawelka was attacked in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 1986, the day after arriving at Clarkson to begin her sophomore year. She died from her injuries three days later. The attack happened outside the university’s ice hockey arena and was witnessed by two security guards, who failed to intervene.

LaRue interviewed more than two dozen people, including Hawelka’s mother and siblings, Potsdam police, high school and college friends and many others as he traced Hawelka from early childhood to Henninger High School graduate, Clarkson student and the lasting legacy she left behind.

“A Stranger Killed Katy” also asks questions of the parole process in New York. Brian M. McCarthy, Hawelka’s killer, is up for parole for the seventh time this April. McCarthy goes before a parole board for a hearing every two years, forcing Hawelka’s family to repeatedly relive the trauma of her death—a trauma, LaRue writes, that is exacerbated by McCarthy’s erroneous claims that he was also a victim and that she died because she fell and pinched her neck after he struck her once.

LaRue, a Potsdam native, is a retired reporter and online producer for The Post-Standard and Advance Local. His previous books include “CANDY: True Tales of a 1st Cavalry Soldier in the Korean War and Occupied Japan,” co-written with his father, Kenneth J. LaRue; and “Captain Puckett: Sea Stories of a Former Panama Canal Pilot,” co-written with Kenneth P. Puckett.

“A Stranger Killed Katy” is published through Chestnut Heights Publishing. It arrives online and in bookstores on Jan. 18 as both hardback ($21.95) and eBook ($9.95) editions.

Contact Jacob Pucci at or find him on Twitter at @JacobPucci.

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