Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Riverside Prostitute Killer

A Killer Among Them

Riverside, California skyline
Riverside, California skyline
 

It was early morning, shortly after dawn on October. 30, 1986.   The Rubidoux industrial area was a short distance from Riverside, California, near Agua Mansa Road and Market Street.  Riverside is a burgeoning urban sprawl, which boasts a UC campus, Mt. Rubidoux and a county population growth unmatched in any nearby region.  Those who have traveled through the area often compare the trek towards the industrial area to that of the entrance to Dante's seven levels of hell.  A thick veil of smog rests over the district and the permeating smell, which emanates from many of the local factories, is something most visitors care not to describe.

A local man was winding his way through the streets scavenging aluminum cans when he noticed the body of a young woman wedged in a drainage ditch.   The woman was lying on her back, her blouse and shorts ripped to shreds.  She was covered in blood and it looked as though her genital area had been mutilated.  The man quickly dropped his bag of cans and ran into a local factory for assistance.  

The young woman was later identified as 23-year-old Michelle Yvette Gutierrez, a former resident of Corpus Christi, Texas.   An autopsy revealed she suffered severe trauma to the anal and vaginal areas and multiple stab wounds were discovered on her face, chest and buttocks.  Ligature marks on her neck suggested that she had been strangled as the gruesome mutilations took place.  In the end, investigators had a brutal murder on their hands and few clues to follow.

Charlotte Jean Palmer
Charlotte Jean Palmer
 

Less than two weeks later, on December 11, investigators were called to the scene of another apparent homicide.   The victim, later identified as 24-year-old Charlotte Jean Palmer, a transient from Anna, Illinois, was discovered near Highway 74 in Romoland.  According to The Fifteen Most Horrific Murder Cases Ever to Shock America, by Bill Kelly, the scene was approximately twenty-five miles away from the Gutierrez murder site and it was not immediately apparent whether the two deaths were related.  In addition, Palmer's body was so badly decomposed the county coroner was unable to determine the cause of death.   

Linda Ann Ortega
Linda Ann Ortega
    

In January 1987, the naked and mutilated body of 37-year-old Linda Ann Ortega was found along a dirt road in Lake Elsinore.   The victim had been dead for at least three days and high levels of alcohol and cocaine were found in her blood.  Investigators later discovered that Ortega, a part-time fast food worker, had a rap sheet for drugs and prostitution.  Investigators now had three similar homicides and some were beginning to wonder if they had a serial killer on their hands.

Martha Bess Young
Martha Bess Young
 

All doubts were put to rest on May 2, 1987, when 27-year-old Martha Bess Young was discovered in a ravine not far from the Ortega murder site.  The victim, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was discovered fully naked in a spread-eagle position.  As with Ortega, she had a rap sheet for prostitution and high levels of drugs were found in her body.  The county coroner later determined she had been dead for approximately three weeks and died from a lethal dose of amphetamines as she was being strangled.

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