Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harvey Murray Glatman: First of the Signature Killers

Finding Bodies

As Harvey pioneered the field of serial killing, Sergeant Pierce Brooks of the LAPD pioneered the field in a scholastic way, laying the foundation of what would become the study of serial killers. Renowned subject scholar, Dr. Robert D. Keppel, who in his book [Signature Killers] refers to the sergeant as his "mentor," praises the groundwork done by the LAPD cop who, intrigued with what he saw in Glatman, was "one of the first people to talk about catching repetitive killers by examining their behavior at crime scenes".

Better said, Brooks was the first law enforcement officer to recognize how some killers left a reiterating "signature" or "calling card" at the scenes of their crimes. His documentation led to what in time became the FBI's VICAP program, which tracks subtle nuances left behind by such murderers.

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On that hot October night, though, Harvey Glatman was the only killer on Brooks' and his fellow officers' minds, for he provided enough of the macabre to keep the cops busy for quite some time.

The night of his arrest, and after he confessed to murdering Dull, Bridgeford and Mercado, Harvey was cuffed and hurried under armed patrol to the San Diego County Courthouse. But, he was not immediately jailed. There was something the detectives wanted him to do first: lead them to where the bodies were abandoned. The DA saw the Glatman case as open and shut but not a sure thing until the killer produced cadavers. Without his victim's remains any reliable defense counsel could paint Harvey as just any other whacko trying to make headlines.

Finding what was left of the three women was a necessity, as gruesome and hard as it sounded and there was no time like now for finding them. In the dark of the night, Harvey was packed away between a couple of detectives in one car and followed by a several police in another, and called upon to serve as navigator. He led the caravan down what had been the last leg of his familiar route from L.A. the San Diego Freeway to Escondido, then east on 78 to the desert and San Vallecito's foothills. Even though the shroud of night, Harvey knew the way like an old tar on habitual waters.

First, he showed them where he had raped and killed Shirley Bridgeford; a tan coat and scattered bones bathed by moonlight proved to the police he wasn't lying. Most of the skeleton had been chewed on or carried away by animals, but certainly there would be enough there for the forensic team to identify Miss Bridgeford.

Detectives prepare the remains of Mercado - Harvey at center
Detectives prepare the remains of Mercado - Harvey at center

Leaving a patrolman at the crime scene, the parade moved further down Vallecito Road until Harvey directed them to stop. Scouring the area to which Harvey pointed; the searchers finally came upon a skeleton, almost intact, with tufts of hair still clinging to the skull. "Angela Rojas," Harvey intoned the name he had known her by. But, the detectives knew she was really Ruth Mercado.

 

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