Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Profiling, Interactive

End of the Road

Mrak wired her mother to send some cash, providing a Miami address, and Mrs. Mrak informed the police. They conveyed this information to Interpol, who alerted U.S. officials. Three deputy U.S. marshals and an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms kept surveillance on a Western Union office in South Beach. Armed with a photograph of Unterweger, they watched for his approach. Since Unterweger had lied to Customs, they had cause for arrest. This episode is re-enacted on the FBI Files program devoted to this case.

Unterweger's tattoos
Unterweger's tattoos
Eventually Unterweger and Mrak approached. He looked ordinary to the agents, even scrawny, but the vivid prison tattoos on his arms gave him away. Mrak entered the building to get the money while Unterweger waited outside. When Mrak returned, they started to walk away and the marshals fell in behind them. But Unterweger, ever alert, took off running. One agent went after Mrak, while the others followed Unterweger. He ran into a restaurant and out the back. But the agents were faster. They cornered him in a parking structure. Unterweger gave up and they slipped handcuffs on his wrists, put him into a car, and took him to downtown Miami.

When he realized that the charge was merely that he entered the country illegally, he became quite jovial, joking with the officers and assuring them he would put them into his next book. He had no idea what was waiting for him. Finally one of the officers mentioned the murders in Austria, and Unterweger was stricken. He began to sob.

Mrak led the agent who caught her to where she and Unterweger were staying. A search of their rented rooms turned up Unterwegers travel journal, and later it was clear the he was pondering Mraks murder. The journal was confiscated as potential evidence, and Unterweger was detained to await extradition. However, it was not clear whether he was going to California or to Austria. He seemed to prefer the former, which might have been due to the fact that in Austria he could be tried for crimes he had done anywhere, whereas California only had the three. The detectives from the LAPD arrived to question him, but only as a ruse. It seemed to be in the best interests of law enforcement to turn him over to his native country. They decided to scare him into making that decision.

The American detectives got a search warrant for tissue samples, and then drew Unterwegers blood, also taking hair samples and swabs of saliva for DNA testing. His DNA matched that found in semen from one of their victims, but she also had semen from six other men, so that case was weak. Unfortunately, there had been no discharge in the other two prostitutes. The rest of their evidence consisted of receipts, gained from Geiger, for hotels near where the murdered women had last been seen.

Unterweger realized his relative advantage, so when the U.S. cleared him to return to Austria, he fought it. Detectives Miller and Harper told him that in California he faced the possibility of the gas chamber. He quickly agreed to be deported. He still had Austrian public opinion on his side, and the actual physical evidence the police had was flimsy. He believed he could beat the rap. In a fairly good mood, he was sent overseas on May 28, 1992.

Unterweger under arrest
Unterweger under arrest
While being detained, Unterweger gave interviews freely. He claimed that he had been fully rehabilitated and in Profil in October, he asked, "Would I be so stupid and so mad that during the luckiest phase of my life, in which I've done theater productions, played a role onstage, organized a tour, and made many wonderful female friends, I would go kill someone each week in between?" He also kept a prison journal of his thoughts and his poetry about the time he'd been free, and wrote letters to the press insisting on his innocence. He could prove it, he said, although he offered nothing.

Then a year after her disappearance, late that spring, parts of a skeleton were found that were identified as the remains of Regina Prem, the woman whose husband had received the second set of frightening phone calls. She had been left in the woods, which was consistent with the others, but no clothing or jewelry was found, and after such a long period exposed to the elements, her manner of death could not be determined.

The next step for Jack Unterweger was the trial.

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The quiz ends here. The rest of the article describes how this case was resolved in the final stage of investigation and in court.

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