Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Is There a Serial Killer Out There in Ohio?

Recently, six women around Chillicothe, Ohio have either gone missing or been found dead: most were drug addicts and involved in prostitution. The families believe because so many women have had something disturbing happen to them (besides drugs and prostitution), there is a serial killer taking them down and the police are ignoring this possibility because the women's lifestyles are not so palatable to many. In other words, if these six women were college students, the police would be out in force trying to catch a serial killer.

Not at all true. Here is what really happens when a possible serial predator is on the loose: police either don't recognize the crimes as serial crimes or they don't want to excite the media, and, therefore, the public which, in turn, puts a huge amount of pressure on them to solve a very difficult to solve crime.

The truth is, most serial homicides go unrecognized as part of a series, regardless of whether the women are drug users, prostitutes, or churchwomen. Most of the time, serial killers take a long sabbatical between crimes and so the crimes are considered one-off crimes and not part of a series. I have fought for a long time to encourage law enforcement to not wait for a DNA connection between murders or for the bodies to pile up in the same place before they consider the possibility that a serial killer is on the loose.

Here is a simple example: A woman is found strangled in her apartment. She is white and around age fifty. Her fiancé immediately becomes a suspect and because the police ignore strong evidence of a stranger homicide, the crime is never considered a possible serial homicide. Turns out, a guy who visited her condo doing work at the complex had contact with her an was later convicted of another similar crime of rape and strangulation of a black teen. However, to this day, the man is not considered a serial killer because the two crimes have never officially been linked together.

Another example: a woman goes jogging and is found raped and strangled and thrown into a river. However, the public is never told there is a serial killer at large because, since this homicide has not yet been connected to any other, it is not considered a serial killer. I object to this analysis because IF this murder was not committed by a man the woman knew who then staged it as a serial murder, then it was INDEED a serial murder even if you haven't found the other murders the serial killer has committed or is going to commit in the future. Since this woman was new in the town and had no boyfriend or husband, the crime should have been labeled a serial homicide and investigated as such.

So, what we have here are two white women, one a librarian and one an intern at a governmental facility - neither on drugs or involved in prostitution - both receiving little media attention and both not being considered victims of a serial killer.

Now, we go to Ohio where six women have had a bad year. Four women are dead and two are missing. They live in relatively close proximity and some even know each other. The police are denying there is proof a serial killer has offed these women and their families and the public are not up in arms claiming that there is CLEARLY a serial killer and the police don't care because the women are prostitutes and drug addicts.

Not so. It is actually true that police are often MORE willing to admit a serial killer when prostitutes and drug users are involved BECAUSE of their lifestyles; in other words, the "regular citizens" aren't all that worried for their safety and won't cause so much of a stink. Also, it is a bit easier for them to surmise that a john might possibly be killing these women because he has contact with them. It is easier to put together a list of suspects when known johns might be involved than when joggers get killed in the middle of the woods and the police have no clue who could have done it.

But, the police in Ohio have not yet stated that there IS a serial killer in the community. Why? Is it because, as it often is, they don't want the pressure to solve this difficult crime or because they don't care about the women? I can honestly say I think they are having problems connecting the crimes, even proving that they ARE crimes. Unlike the Long Island Serial Killer victims, these women haven't been proven to be raped or physically assaulted nor have their bodies all ended up wrapped in burlap on the side of the same road. Two are missing and no one knows if they are dead or have just relocated (as sometimes happens with drug users and prostitutes in spite of the families who claim they would never have left they children). The others are victims of varying circumstances which could be anything from suicide to overdose to overdose with someone moving their bodies so that they aren't connected with the drugs that did the woman in to possibly a drug deal gone bad to a bad boyfriend or bad pimp or a serial killer. It is possible there IS a serial killer but he is only responsible for one or two of the deaths of these women and not the others.

Until the police can even figure out what happened to these women in each circumstance, they have a difficult investigation to deal with. Hopefully, they WILL treat these deaths as POSSIBLE serial homicides and, therefore, do all the best investigating and interviewing they can to be sure they cover this ground and not find out, too late, that there indeed was a serial killer involved in  some of these deaths.

However, I concur with the police at this point as I cannot say, for sure, that a serial killer is operating in Ohio, at least not in this set of crimes. In reality, as I write these words, there are serial killers are operating in ALL major cities in the US and the public is not aware of this. Serial homicides are the least solved of all murder cases of all because most are stranger homicides, the cases are rarely linked due to the time in between killings or the distance between locations (sometimes, they may be in different jurisdictions; killers know law enforcement in different districts rarely cooperate with each other), that the victims are dissimilar in looks, and simply because they are not labeled serial homicides. So, if you look back through the news in your area, you will see there are a number of women raped and murdered right down the road whose cases have never been solved and, this means, there is a serial killer living in your area right now, not just possibly in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Now that the media has opened the door to the possibility that there is a serial killer active in this one area of the country, everyone is jumping on board to "find similarities" that, quite frankly, may not be  indicative of a serial killer. Suddenly, we will see people saying the women looked alike, or there is a triangle connecting the murder locations, or there is a symbol at more than one location that is similar, etc., etc. What happens once the idea is introduced that there is a serial killer is that people forget to focus on the evidence and start coming up with numerous theories that have nothing to do with the actual facts of the cases.

What we need is levelheaded thinking - in the law enforcement agency, in the community, and in the media. Look at the facts and don't veer from them. And, hopefully, then, the proper investigative avenues can be pursued without wasting a whole lot of time and resources going the wrong direction.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

July 7, 2015


Anonymous said...

And then I suppose when they are officially linked when they're not actually linked, someone might not be arrested and charged because although there may be evidence that he is involved in the first case, he may a have a good alibi for the second, or may not match the dna of the third.

Pat Brown said...

Anon 3:53

Not sure what you are trying to say, but, there can be a real problem in cold cases where a suspect is finally arrested, like in the Green RIver Killer case, and whole bunches of murders closed administratively without proof because he or the police claim that he committed them. Obviously, this is not done if there is DNA that doesn't match him, but, quite often, these cases may not have DNA so it is easy to simply say, yeah, he did those, too. He won't care to have his number of kills increased, the family and community are happy these cases are "solved" and the police department gets to increase their closure rate; everybody is happy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you've
Said here ma'am. The sad reality
Is that regardless of any one
Persons investigative prowess,
Catching serial offenders is
Always a crapshoot, and most of
Them seem to be caught by their
Own eventual errors.

That isn't to say I don't
Respect the field and see the value
If B.E.A as an additional
Investigative support system...
Bit I think that the media and
Entertainment industry grossly
Overexaggerate it's efficacy
In serial crimes.

I've read all of Wayne pethericks
Works and am drawn to his
Methodologies..but I'd never
Consider any one person to
Be the end all be all of truth
Or sound procedure when it
Concerns such a thing as
Human behavior.

You as well are among one
Of my favorites ma'am..And
I thank you for your service
To justice and the enlightenment
You provide. (Often in a
Humorous light which takes
The edge off of the all too
Often rigid monotony of
Purely scientific discourse.)