Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Fetish Killer

Grim Discovery

It was three weeks after Linda Salee had disappeared. A man who'd gone fishing that May in the Long Tom River, south of Corvallis, Oregon, found decomposing human remains bobbing in the rushing current. He called police. When they arrived, they discovered that the deceased female had been bound to a car transmission box to weigh down the body, which made it difficult to pull it out. But it provided clear proof of murder and possible evidence to tie back to a suspect, should they find one. In fact, this victim had been tied to the auto part with a nylon rope and a rather specific type of knot. They cut the cord carefully so they could preserve the knot, just in case they had reason to use it as probable cause for a warrant or later in court. Copper wire, too, had been twisted in a specific manner that indicated someone with background as an electrician.

The medical examiner knew it would be difficult to determine the exact cause of death with so little to go on, but from the condition of the neck area, it appeared that she had been strangled. There was also a pair of odd postmortem punctures, each circled by a burn, at opposite sides of the rib cage that appeared to have been caused by a needle. No one knew what to make of them, but thanks to dental records it was determined that the remains were those of Linda Salee. 

Investigators searched further along the river and a few days later they came across yet another set of decomposing remains, also bound to something that turned out to be an engine head. The same type of bindings and knots were found with this victim, which was a clear enough indication that the same offender was responsible for both. This victim had been strangled, apparently with a strap used as a garrote. The clothing still on her body matched what Karen Sprinker's mother had described her wearing.

However, when the authorities lifted her, they found that she was also clothed in a long-line black brassiere that appeared much too large to be hers (confirmed by her mother), and it had been padded with brown paper towels. In fact, this victim's breasts had been removed and the padding appeared to have been placed there to absorb the blood and fluid. (Vronsky says it was to create the illusion of a larger bosom, but it turned out to be a less mundane reason.)

Further searches along the river yielded nothing more, although investigators had been hoping that this effort might close the case on the other two missing women. They did know that they were looking for either a rather strong male or two men working in tandem, because the bodies, coupled with the weights, would have been quite heavy to carry.

Because of Sprinker's background, the police decided to question students on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis. This proved to be a wise move.

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