When we leave the house we never know who could be stalking our every move, waiting for us to misstep. Would you know a serial killer by sight? Probably not. Knowledge and lifestyle choices are our best defense to lessen the chances of becoming a victim.
With that in mind, let’s look at technology that finds active serial killers.
FBI Serial Killing Initiative
In 2003, too many dead bodies littered the sides of highways for the FBI not to notice. Using this narrow data pool, they developed a technology — called FBI Serial Killing Initiative — to help find the killers of highway murder victims.
“Your mind tells you it’s a deer. It’s a goat. It’s anything but a human being,” said an Oklahoma salesman, who told the Oklahoman Newspaper about a grim discovery off the Interstate 40 exit ramp, where he stopped to relieve himself. “My mind would not even allow me to entertain that as reality until, as I looked at her limbs and followed her arm out to one of her hands, I saw a ring on her finger. At that moment, in that second, it was undeniable, and my mind finally accepted that this was a human.”
The body he’d discovered belonged to Sandra Beard, a 43-year-old prostitute who frequented truck stops in search of Johns. From 2003 to January 2004, Beard was one of seven women murdered on or near highways in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. These homicides prompted the FBI to develop a way to track the spike in highway bodies. To date, the FBI Serial Killings Initiative has identified more than 750 people whose bodies were dumped near US highways. The database, which also identified 450 potential suspects, allows local, state, and federal agencies to share vital information and recognize trends that could link victims to each other, as well as to potential suspects. Not surprisingly, several of the suspects were long-haul truckers.
“It’s not unusual for a driver to pass through five or even seven states in one day,” said Palazzolo, FBI analyst. “The amount of ground they cover and the lack of any connection to where they’re passing through makes it difficult to tie cases back to them.”
Based on information obtained from trucking company logs, gas station receipts, and other records, law enforcement can determine where the suspect was when a murder or an assault took place.
The Department of Transportation expects the number of long-haul truckers to grow over the next several years, as will long-haul serial killers.
“So, if we’ve already identified a population from which we are getting a significant number of offenders, and if we are going to be seeing more and more trucks on the road, the potential for additional highway serial killings is definitely there.” ~ Palazzolo
According to the FBI, over the past 40 years, more than 500 people have been killed near or along highways. Most are women who live “high-risk, transient lifestyles,” which often involve substance abuse and prostitution. They’re frequently picked up at truck stops or service stations and are sexually assaulted, murdered, and dumped along a highway. The FBI has compiled a list of about 200 potential suspects, consisting of mainly long-haul truck drivers. Even though the bureau refuses to identify the suspects or victims, USA Today reported that at least ten suspects have been arrested in at least 30 deaths. As far as the Oklahoma cases go, none have been adjudicated.
Charges have been filed in only one of the 2003 deaths.
In 2004, John Robert Williams, 33, and his girlfriend, Rachel Cumberland, were charged with capital murder in the death of Vickie Helen Anderson, 45, a prostitute last seen in Sayre. They dumped her body in the Texas Panhandle. At trial, Williams pleaded guilty to Anderson’s abduction and murder. The judge sentenced him to life in prison. Cumberland pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a 20-year sentence. The deadly duo was also charged with the 2003 death of Jennifer Hyman, 24, an Oklahoma City prostitute, but the charges were dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Williams remains a suspect in the 2004 death of another prostitute, Casey Jo Pipestem, 19, of Oklahoma City. Her body was later discovered in Grapevine, Texas.
Serial Killer Algorithm
The Murder Accountability Project (MAP) has developed an algorithm capable of detecting serial killers who target multiple victims within a specific geographic area. Using the similar MO to help link cases, this technique can be useful to police in identifying difficult-to-see patterns over a period of several years or even decades.
The algorithm is based upon a reasonable premise — a serial killer can dramatically reduce the normal clearance rate for groups of similar victims killed through similar methods. The algorithm looks for clusters with extremely low clearance rates. It has successfully detected both well-known serial killers and killers whose homicidal patterns were not recognized by police.
“We are delighted to provide an online version of our serial-detection algorithm,” said MAP Chairman Thomas K. Hargrove. “We hope homicide detectives, police supervisors, and the public will use it to identify threats to community safety.”
Hargrove estimates that 2,000 serial killers are still at large in the United States. According to the FBI, 1,400 murders remain unsolved but are linked to other killings through DNA. That’s only a smidgen above 2% of murders investigated by the FBI.
“Those are just the cases they were able to lock down with DNA,” said Hargrove. “And killers don’t always leave DNA. It’s a gift when you get it. So, two percent is a floor, not a ceiling.”
Care to test out the algorithm?
Now, we can search for active serial killers without expensive statistical software or advanced computer knowledge. Go HERE to find victim profiles, offender profiles, crime stats, and other statistical data for your region. You can also use MAP website’s search function for unsolved murder cases in your area.
In Other News …
BLESSED MAYHEM just released in paperback!!! I haven’t asked my publisher if the $9.99 price tag will last, but you can take advantage of it with One-Click on Amazon. Also available on B&N, iTunes, Google Play, and other fine book retailers. Or order direct from Crossroad Press and snag your copy for $8.00 (limited time sale).
For autographed First Additions, fill out the contact form or email me.
If you haven’t noticed my new video logo in the header, check it out below. Thanks to my amazing Facebook friends, I won the custom logo from Dark Digital Designs. I highly recommend them for all your video needs, including book trailers. Tell them Sue sent you!
Well, did you search your area using the tool? Share your results in the comments.