Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Clairemont Killer

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Eighteen-year-old Holly Tarr lived in Michigan, but she was visiting her brother at the Buena Vista Gardens apartment complex that April with her friend, Tammy. They were seniors in high school and Holly, a talented violinist, had been accepted at the University of Michigan for college on a music scholarship. It was her spring break and she and Tammy had decided to spend it in California.

The Pool at Buena Vista Gardens
The Pool at Buena Vista Gardens

Late on the morning of April 3, they played tennis in the recreation area, and then went to lie out at the pool. Through a window, they saw an African-American man wearing a red T-shirt and lifting weights. He looked to be in his late twenties. He apparently saw them as well and kept an eye on their movements.

Around noon, Holly returned alone to the apartment to take a shower. Tammy stayed in the pool for ten more minutes and then went to the apartment. She thought she heard Holly scream inside, but when she tried to open the door, she found it locked. Inside, a telephone rang, but no one answered. Knocking hard, she called out, "Holly!" Concerned when there was no answer, she kept knocking. Finally Tammy went to a neighbor to ask for help, and that person called for a member of the maintenance staff, who arrived to open the door.

He used a master key, but found the chain on, so he exerted enough force to break it. Tammy ran in just as the man they'd seen working out emerged from a bedroom. He held a white cloth over his face and had a long knife in his hand. He stumbled and fell onto the couch, but then jumped up and fled. Tammy entered the bedroom and found Holly, still alive and gasping. She had been stabbed once through the chest, a wound so severe that she died before help arrived. Tammy noticed that an opal ring that Holly had worn that morning was gone from her finger.

Holly had been attacked and left on the floor, apparently with the intent of a sexual assault, as her legs were spread. She wore panties and a bra, and a towel she'd used after her shower lay on top of her. Her clothing was bloody, and the knife had been thrust deep into her heart. The police were called at once.

 

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