Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Christopher Hightower


The day after the murders, Hightower was again out shopping. This time, he purchased a scrub brush and hose along with a bottle of muriatic acid and a 50-pound bag of lime. They were to be used to wash away the evidence of the killings.

Inside the Brendels' garage, Hightower scrubbed the floor with muriatic acid cleaning the blood that had splattered over the walls and floor. He doused the inside of the bloody Toyota with baking powder to mask the stench of death and washed Brendel's blood from the car windows.

Without access to his in-laws' car, Hightower needed the vehicle to carry out the rest of his plan.

The next day, he drove the bloodstained Toyota to Scriabine's home where he blurted out his story.

Scriabine remembers how utterly insane it all sounded as he talked about mob hitmen and money deals gone bad.

If his family was in such danger, she remembers asking him, why not go to the police? "It was too dangerous" right now, she recalls Hightower telling her. It all just didn't make sense, she remembers thinking.

Suspicious of his tale, she had her husband photograph Hightower and accepted his American Express card, which he offered willingly as "proof" of his good intentions.

But when she saw the blood inside her brother's car, Scriabine knew things weren't as he claimed. In the early hours of Monday morning, after Hightower left, Scriabine called the FBI.

Sensing that Scriabine would go to the authorities, Hightower called the woman back hours later to tell her there was no need to raise any money for the ransom. He would do it himself. At his trial, Hightower testified that he made the call because he felt Scriabine already was dealing with too much anguish. But by the time he made that phone call, it was too late. A manhunt was already underway.

It didn't take local authorities long to find the commodities broker.

They had already received a complaint from his estranged wife that he had violated the restraining order by showing up at his son's soccer game Saturday morning and later, at the church where she worked as a secretary. This time, however, the feds wanted to question him about the attempted extortion of Christine Scriabine.

While he was driving the Brendels' car through the center of Barrington, RI, police pulled him over. Inside the trunk they found the crossbow, a kitchen knife and an empty 50-pound bag of lime. They also found blood lots of it.

Ironically, Hightower's September 23 arrest came the same day a letter was mailed to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission withdrawing Brendel's complaint. Authorities would later find Hightower's fingerprint on the print key of the Brendel's computer. The letter, investigators determined, had been forged by Brendel's killer.

At the police station, Hightower was charged with extortion and held for questioning in the Brendels' disappearance. Police had enough to make them suspicious that foul play occurred but without any bodies, it would be difficult to charge Hightower with murder.

Their suspect wasn't about to admit to the killings. Instead, he told FBI investigators an interesting, if implausible, tale. He had received threats from an associate of the powerful New England crime boss, Raymond Patriarcha, he explained to detectives. They had tapped his phone and threatened to kill his family because he was unable to pay back Mafia money he had invested and deliberately lost. It was a story that paralleled what he had told Scriabine and a tale that would become crucial in his defense.

Police would learn little more of Hightower's purported mob ties. Soon he would stop talking to them entirely.



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