Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Roger Reece Kibbe: The I-5 Strangler

A Witness

A month later, Charmaine Sabrah, 26, and her mother, Carmen Anselmi, were driving home to Sacramento from dinner when Charmaine's Pontiac Grand Prix broke down on Peltier Road and I-5. It was around 3:30 a.m., and the area was too desolate for even a gas station. Charmaine turned on the emergency flashers and hoped for assistance. A man approached who seemed friendly enough and offered to help. They wanted to go find a phone, but he said he had only a two-seater so he could only take one.

Charmaine Sabrah
Charmaine Sabrah

Carmen decided to go, but when she failed to reach anyone, the man brought her back to the disabled car. Since both women were quite distraught, the man offered to take them home, one at a time. Charmaine went first, because she had a baby at home to feed.

She did not return. When Carmen finally got help from the California Highway Patrol and reached home, her daughter appeared to have vanished. She was horrified that she had allowed Charmaine to get into a stranger's car — a man who might have done something terrible, and she reported the incident. However, when officers questioned her, she was unable to provide more than a generic description because she had been drinking and had not paid much attention to the driver. All she could offer was that he had been white, in his 40s, with a large nose and pale skin.

It would be nearly three months before a hunter came across Charmaine's remains in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, fifty miles away in Amador County. The remains were skeletal, with bones removed by animals, and a purple skirt and alligator shoes found with them were similar to the clothing Charmaine had been wearing when she had been abducted. Dental x-rays confirmed that the remains were hers, and an examination indicated that, like Stephanie Brown, she had been strangled with a ligature, still around her neck. Charmaine's panties had missing sections cut out and a liner was cut from inside her blouse to use as a ligature. Both shoulder straps of her bra had been cut, and clumps of her hair had been pulled out and wrapped in part of the waistband from the panties.

That two women had been abducted from the same highway and had been bound, strangled and dumped in a remote area indicated they shared a common killer. That clothing from both had been oddly cut in a unique and inexplicable manner indicated a possible signature.

Profiles that link two or more crime scenes work best when the offender displays obvious psychopathology, such as sadistic torture or postmortem mutilation. Some killers leave a "signature"—a behavioral manifestation of an individualizing personality quirk, such as positioning the corpse for humiliating exposure, postmortem biting, or tying ligatures with a complicated knot. This helps to link the incidents and may point toward other types of behaviors which aid in capturing the offender.

Things helpful to investigators which a profile can offer include such things as the offender's probable general age range, racial identity, ideas about the modus operandi, estimates about a person's living situation and education level, his travel patterns, the possibility of a criminal or psychiatric record, and probable psychological traits. A profile may also outline a fantasy scenario that drives the person or even pinpoint an area where he or she probably resides. This is all based on deductions from what is already known about offenders and deviancy. At this point in the I-5 investigation, investigators thought they had a fetish-killer who probably got aroused from cutting his victims' clothing, and they were certain he was not going to stop. They knew he would keep killing. And he did.

 

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