Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Underwater Forensics


BTK isn't the only church leader to be a killer. In Bastrop, Texas, Patrick Russo was arrested for a strangulation murder. The police searched his computer for the name of his victim Diana Holik, but failed to find it. However, when they examined his search history, prosecutors noticed a reference to a Website called "Necrobabes." The site turned out to offer "erotic horror," or extreme pornography to adults. Female victims were shown strangled, stabbed, hanged or drowned. Russo was a member of this site, and had viewed pages on strangulation by ligature. He'd even been on the site only two days before the murder, which helped to build a case against him.

Necrobabes is apparently popular with underwater porn fans as well, and there are videos on several Websites showing women being strangled while under water. Extreme pornography associates erotic allure with an act of harming other people or taking their lives. It also can include sexual activity with a corpse or an animal. In some cases, the person being strangled might even consent to an underwater choking game (also called "breath control play"), and these sites often post warnings and questionnaires to ensure safe practices. Some videos seem to involve actors who go through a pretend scenario of drowning someone or wrestling for dominance underwater, for the sexual pleasure of observers.

Problems can arise, however, when these videos are posted for anyone to see. What passes as a consensual game for the participants on film could inspire someone else to attack a nonconsenting victim. Aqua-sadists enjoy water tortures in which the other person might actually be harmed.

Such a case, some believe, may have occurred in Wisconsin, where four apparent drownings of young men between 1997 and 1998 have been examined as possible homicides attributable to a serial killer. The circumstances of the deaths were similar and the principle, publicly unidentified suspect was a visitor of, a site reportedly for gay men who like fantasies about sex under water. This person reportedly enjoyed underwater struggle. He'd made several known death threats and had even told police he was a dangerous man, and yet he has not been charged (yet) in any of these murders.

Zafares advises investigators to be aware of the aquaphilia and aqua-sadism clubs on the Web, because some incidents will involve sexual fetishes for water-based activities. Were someone involved in such a fetish to die, accidentally or not, others might sanitize the scene. Unusual items will assist in making a determination, such as harnesses, cinderblocks with straps, diver weight belts, and other unusual equipment.

Besides potential underwater homicides, dive crews must also be aware of people who go into the water for self pleasure.


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