Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

LA Forensics: The Signature Murders

Joint Investigation

The squad room at Hollywood Homicide was small, and the six detectives who were part of the unit often sat around comparing notes about their cases. As Jaramillo discussed the progress of the Nichols case, Thacker and Small started to think it sounded like theirs, which was still unsolved. They looked at the crime scene photos, comparing them to the photos from their own case and becoming more convinced that Rose was their guy as well, especially when they saw the coiled belt next to Willie's body. The incidents were close together, in time and in location, so it appeared that the Luis Garcia case, which had gone cold, had just heated up — especially when they learned about the 1989 killing. Rose was a serial killer.

Robert Rose
Robert Rose

On August 17, Thacker petitioned for a sample of Rose's blood to be compared to the bloodstains they'd collected from the Garcia crime scene. It took over four months, but on December 31, Larry Blanton from SID informed Thacker and Small that blood on the store coupon found in Luis's bedroom included Rose as a possible donor. They would do additional DNA testing at a higher frequency to get more definitive results.

A grand jury was convened to listen to evidence from both cases, but with only one item of blood evidence, the jury decided against holding Rose for trial: the evidence was insufficient. So the detectives awaited further DNA testing and came back with more.

On February 3, 1999, Deputy DA David Brougham filed murder charges with special circumstances, which meant the possibility of the death penalty. Rose decided to skip the trial and plead guilty to both murders. He received two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Pure and simple, his motive for both appeared to be money.

Unfortunately, an explanation for the belts and the objects left next to Willie were never forthcoming. Indeed, it turned out that Rose had also left a belt at the scene of the 1989 homicide. The meaning behind this signature remains a mystery. "It was as if Rose left a little bit of himself at each scene," said Detective Small.

Deputy DA Carol Rose believed that Rose had intended to use the belts as the strangulation weapons, because he brought them to the scene; they did not belong to the victims. However, it's too great a coincidence that all were coiled near the victims, and she's forgetting the odd items placed near Willie Nichols. It's likely there's something more to the belts then a mere murder weapon, especially since none were used to kill anyone.

The presence and position of the belts at all three scenes does indicate a compulsion, which led Detective Thacker to say, "I am certain that he would have continued killing innocent victims had he not been sent to prison." Without the forensics, the cases would not have been solved.


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