Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder by the Book: The Amy St. Laurent Case

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Medical Examiner's Notes on the Examination of St. Laurent's Body
Medical Examiner's Notes on the Examination of St. Laurent's Body

An autopsy showed that St. Laurent had been beaten, sexually assaulted, then shot in the head. Her panties were twisted around her ankles, and toxicology tests indicated traces of GHBgamma-hydroxybutyric acid, the "date rape" rave drug. Police had collected anecdotal accounts that Russ Gorman had used GHB to bed women, but they had nothing to tie the St. Laurent autopsy result directly to Gorman. In fact, the corpse didn't add much to the case against Gorman. It revealed no semen or other bodily fluids that could be tested for DNA. (The murder weapon, believed to be a 9mm Glock, would never be located.)

The Drug GHB
The Drug GHB

Just before the body was found, Gorman decided to get out of town. Police were watching their prime suspect carefully, and investigators debated whether to let him go. But, at the time, they felt they had insufficient evidence to charge him with murder, so they did not intervene when Gorman left for Troy, Ala.

Medical Examiner's Notes on the Examination of St. Laurent's Head
Medical Examiner's Notes on the Examination of St. Laurent's Head

But back in his hometown, Gorman helped solve the problem of the dearth of evidence. At 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, Gorman called his mother, Tammy Westbrook. The two had had a difficult relationship, and Gorman apparently blamed his mother's distracted parenting for his problems with crime. But that day, he called her to make a confession. The truth was eating at him.

In a series of phone conversations over the previous six weeks, Westbrook had pressed her son to tell her the truth of his involvement in the St. Laurent case. He denied it alluntil that call, placed exactly 24 hours after the body was found. "Mom," Gorman said, "I did it. I killed that girl."

During the 22-minute conversation, he explained that he had been walking with St. Laurent in the woods near one of the lakes behind his mother's house. He claimed that St. Laurent had said something that irritated him, and he began beating her, ultimately shooting her in the head.

He then added a bizarre detail, which seemed designed to slough some of the blame off on his mother. He said that during the commission of the murder he had imagined that he had been killing his mother, not the young woman he had met in the Portland bars that night. He claimed that he had "snapped."

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