Detroit warns of pos­si­ble se­rial killer

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION / WORLD - By Frank Wit­sil and Ann Zaniewski

DETROIT — Af­ter three ap­par­ent slay­ings of women, the Detroit Po­lice De­part­ment said Wed­nes­day that the cases may be linked and warned that in­ves­ti­ga­tors may be deal­ing with a se­rial killer.

“We’re not try­ing to cre­ate alarm,” Detroit Po­lice Chief James Craig said. “But we want to get this in­for­ma­tion out.”

The killer — a man — ap­pears to be tar­get­ing sex work­ers in their 50s.

So­cial me­dia ru­mors had been de­vel­op­ing since mid-May that there was a se­rial killer in down­town Detroit, but, at the time, the po­lice de­part­ment re­pu­di­ated them, say­ing, “there is false in­for­ma­tion cir­cu­lat­ing” and “this is not true.”

In­stead, po­lice said a sus­pect had been iden­ti­fied with in­ci­dents in­volv­ing the death of women.

On Wed­nes­day, Craig re­it­er­ated the de­part­ment’s de­nial, say­ing that these deaths are dif­fer­ent and have “no con­nec­tion to that.”

He said it also does not ap­pear con­nected to other re­cent homi­cides po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing, but Craig did not close out the pos­si­bil­ity that there are older, un­solved rapes and slay­ings that may be con­nected to the same killer.

Craig said the de­part­ment de­cided to warn of a pos­si­ble se­rial killer on Wed­nes­day af­ter a wo­man’s body was found naked in a va­cant home on Mack Av­enue near Mount El­liott. Po­lice be­lieve the lat­est death may be con­nected to the two oth­ers.

Craig urged any­one with in­for­ma­tion to re­port it by call­ing 1-800-SPEAK-UP.

“We want to get this out,” he said. “We have an ac­tive homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tion go­ing on for all three.”

The killer, Craig said, ap­pears to be lur­ing women into va­cant build­ings, rap­ing and killing them. The chief urged women to be vig­i­lant and avoid go­ing into homes with any­one, par­tic­u­larly on the east side.

“It ap­pears that there is a trend and a pat­tern,” he said, adding that po­lice “wanted to make the sex worker com­mu­nity aware of this very danger­ous sus­pect.”

Night An­gels, a Ster­ling Heights non­profit group that seeks to end hu­man traf­fick­ing, said that the deaths ter­rify women forced to work in un­safe con­di­tions in the sex trade.

“There are a lot of homi­cides that don’t make it into the news­pa­per,” said Mel Baggett of Night An­gels, adding that vi­o­lence “hap­pens all the time.”

Baggett said that it’s tempt­ing for peo­ple to dis­miss their deaths be­cause, in­stead of vic­tims, they think of them as pros­ti­tutes — and crim­i­nals. But, he added, they de­serve the same jus­tice as any­one else.

Of the three bod­ies so far, one was found Wed­nes­day, and the oth­ers on March 19 and May 24.

The lat­est vic­tim’s body was found naked, but no iden­ti­fy­ing de­tails were re­leased. It ap­peared that she may have been dead for a cou­ple of days based on the body’s de­com­po­si­tion, po­lice said.

In the first wo­man’s death, which in­ves­ti­ga­tors ini­tially thought was a drug over­dose, the med­i­cal ex­am­iner de­ter­mined that the vic­tim died of blunt-force trauma. No de­ter­mi­na­tion on the man­ner of death has been made on the other vic­tims, the chief said.

The first body was found on the 2000 block of Coven­try.

Craig said the sec­ond wo­man’s body, which was on the 13000 block of Linnhurst, also on the east side, ap­pears to be con­nected to the oth­ers.

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