Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


Night Crawler

By the summer of 1997, Jamelske had developed a modus operandi for his abductions. He usually prowled through the streets of Syracuse at night in his dilapidated Mercury sedan looking for the kind of person he felt no one would miss. He targeted troubled girls who either had a drug history or a life style in which long periods away from home might not be unusual. However, Jamelske's next victim was older than the previous two, though the manner in which she was abducted was the same. But, he later said, "we are absolutely 100 percent apart on how this happened" (July 16, 2003, Post-Standard).

On August 30, 1997, Jamelske drove along John Street, a section of the city known for its Asian community. He saw a Vietnamese woman, who was 52-years-old, walking alone. When they spoke, Jamelske told her that he was lonely and he needed friends. She told him her name was Tina (not her real name). He convinced her to get into his car. "We just drove and we drove and drove all over for hours," he later said (Post-Standard). When he reached his home, Jamelske forced Tina into his dungeon and slammed the steel doors shut. On September 3, the victim's worried boyfriend reported her missing to the Syracuse Police Department. But again, there were no leads.

Replica head on pole outside dungeon
Replica head on pole outside dungeon

Over the next few months, Jamelske repeatedly raped his captive in the underground bunker. "She would sing to me in Vietnamese," he later claimed. "She had the most beautiful a cappella voice with no accompaniment whatever. It was absolutely beautiful!" (Post-Standard). He hooked up a television for his captive and let her watch nighttime shows. "I cried and prayed every day of my captivity," Tina later said. "I never cried in front of him again after he slapped me so hard and injured my ear... I did everything he asked, hoping he would release me. I did not want to die down there in those rooms because no one would ever find my body and my soul would remain in a cold place!" (April 29, 2003, New York Post). For several weeks, Jamelske placed a plastic life-size human skeleton next to the mat where Tina slept. "I was so scared," she later told police. "It was white. It had black eyes!" (Fish). On the night of May 23, 1998, Jamelske removed the terrified victim from the bunker and without explanation, released her at a bus station. But because Tina was blindfolded, she did not know where she was. However, this victim went directly to the police to report what had happened to her.

Onondaga County Sheriff's Department
Onondaga County Sheriff's Department

"She told the police that she was held in a shed in Rochester," said Detective Jack Schmidt of the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department (O.C.S.D.). "She described the suspect as a white male, 45-years-old, 5'8", heavy build with a circular birthmark on his forehead." Schmidt, a 27 year veteran of the O.C.S.D., was assigned to the Abused Persons Unit which investigates sexual offenses and child abuse reports. In the following months, Detective Schmidt and his colleagues would play a pivotal role in the investigation of John Jamelske.

Though three women had been abducted, only one had reported the crime. From the beginning, police had their doubts about Tina's story. "They (the Syracuse cops) screamed at me and said they didn't believe me!" she later told the press. "They pounded the table with their fists and said... I was making up a story!" Tina said that one detective told her, "usually, if someone gets kidnapped, they don't come home alive" (April 30, 2003, New York Post). With no real clues to where the alleged crime took place and no real suspects, the investigation went nowhere.

But Jamelske had a vastly different take on Tina's version of events. "Probably we, you know, if we had met on the outside, she would have dumped whoever she was with immediately," he later said. "I think she would look at it as a positive thing... I do" (July 16, 2003, Post-Standard).

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