Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Obscure Streetwalker Strangler

"Garbage" Murders

Lorenzo Gilyard
Lorenzo Gilyard

The Gilyard case escaped the attention of even the Sex Workers Outreach Project, an international advocacy group for prostitutes that pays special attention to murders of streetwalkers.

Veronica Monet
Veronica Monet

Veronica Monet, a former call girl and advocate for sex workers, admitted that she had never heard of Gilyard until contacted by the Crime Library.

She said that is because the case won scant notice from the national media, which treated it as just another batch of throwaway murders.

As Spread editor Kaiser put it, "The media is just a projection of what people care about. Most people really don't care about some prostitutes who go missing or die."

Gary Ridgway
Gary Ridgway

"They were just pieces of trash," Gary Ridgway, the Green River serial killer, once said of the 48 prostitutes he murdered in the northwest. "They were garbage."

Too many law enforcers pick up on that theme and treat serial killers of streetwalkers as "garbage collectors," said Monet.

"If your job as a cop involves doing sweeps to get prostitutes off the street, then you are all about trying to get these people to go away," she said. "If somebody kills a few of them, then you might be thinking, 'Gee, this is making my life easier.' I'm not saying a cop would say that out loud, but it might be a subconscious motivation."

And that attitude trickles down through the media and the public, she said.

When Gilyard killed his final victim, Connie Luther, in the winter of 1993, her demise rated about 100 words on page 6 of the local news section of the Kansas City Star, the city's newspaper of record:

"The nude body of a Kansas City woman was found Monday on a sidewalk on the city's West Side. The woman, Connie Luther, 29, was found about 6:30 a.m. near 25th and Allen streets, investigators said. Police think she was killed elsewhere. A man who was driving to work Monday told police he discovered Luther's nude body face down in the snow among leaves and trash. Police have no suspects or motive. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death..."

Kansas City, a two-state metropolitan area with a population of roughly 2 million, is hardly a backwater outpost.

People there are accustomed to big-city crime, having begun their orientation in the 1880s when the powerbroker Pendergast family began its artful merger of politics and vice.

Even so, in the year that Luther was killed, the city averaged fewer than two homicides a week. Yet the hooker murder rated only a brief at the back of the local newspaper.

To be fair, a reporter can't make much out of such bare details. But in retrospect, those no-detail homicides deserved a closer look. As is often the case, the most important crime stories spring not from the unusual cases, but from the routine ones. 

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