Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Roger Reece Kibbe: The I-5 Strangler

Fetish

Bruises indicated that Stephanie had been punched in the jaw and bound around her wrists. She had also been dragged after death to the dump site. The cause of death was asphyxia from ligature strangulation, and death had occurred some time the night before. There was no physical evidence of forcible rape, but swabs would later show the presence of semen.

Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown

Stephanie's car appeared to have had no mechanical problems, and, while the lights had drained the battery, she had not used the emergency flashers. She had filled up with gas about half an hour before. Also, her window was rolled all the way down, which her parents insisted she would not have done at night, and the armrest had been broken, as if it had been damaged in a struggle. When an investigator saw pictures of Stephanie, he observed they all showed long hair. He asked if she had recently cut it, and her mother said no. Now it seemed clear that her killer had cut it. A close examination revealed a fairly clean cut, such as scissors would have left, rather than a knife, so it seemed likely the killer had brought scissors with him and taken the hair as a fetish souvenir. Indeed, a pair of muddy shears was later found in the ditch, under three feet of water.

Investigators returned to the site to look for more items and fished a blue tank top, identified as Stephanie's, out of the water. They found the shoulder straps cleanly cut. Lt. Biondi said in the documentary, "Knot for Everyone," that he had never seen anything like this in hundreds of other murder investigations. The cutting pattern appeared to offer no useful function.

Although a rape kit showed evidence of semen, the samples recovered were too degraded for testing. Stephanie's friends and family were shocked that she had been killed, especially those who had last seen her. They felt responsible. But no one could connect her with a man who might wish her harm, and the probability that her death was a random crime, with her in the wrong place at the wrong time, loomed large. This made it unlikely, without a lucky break, that the murder could be solved.

 

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