Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Roger Reece Kibbe: The I-5 Strangler


Twenty-five-year-old Karen Finch was in a new relationship and had started a new job. On June 14, 1987, she dropped off her two-year-old daughter with her ex-husband and vanished. Her car was found abandoned near I-5, but nothing appeared to be wrong with it. Her sandals were inside, so it seemed unlikely she had just wandered away. The ex-husband assisted in the search, and there was no reason to suspect him.

Not long afterward, a family driving east of Sacramento got out for a walk near Echo Summit. They discovered Karen's nude body inside a ditch and called the police. Finch was identified quickly via communication between the neighboring jurisdictions, and investigators were soon certain she had become the latest I-5 victim since her clothing had been cut and was scattered around the scene. This time, however, there was plenty of blood, as if she had been stabbed, a new development. Since her sandals were in her car and she wore no other shoes, it appeared that she might have been forced to walk barefoot across rough terrain — perhaps another form of torture. Blood on the ground indicated where she had been fatally attacked.

As the pathologist examined her body, he found a piece of duct tape stuck in her blond hair. Detectives working on the linkage analysis pondered this and surmised that the killer had gagged the women with duct tape and then cut it off and taken it with him to avoid leaving evidence behind. Stephanie Brown's hair had probably made that difficult, so he had just cut off her ponytail. But this idea raised a possibility: The killer was savvy about law enforcement procedures and evidence collection. He knew that fingerprints could be lifted from duct tape. Again, they thought of Kibbe, whose brother might be innocently discussing these things with him. While no evidence came from the tape fragment, there was more nonfunctional cutting on Karen's clothing than there had been on the others, suggesting the killer might have been lost in prolonged private erotic fantasy.

Karen had many bruises, but the cause of death was blood loss from two slashes to her throat. She had also suffered several stab wounds to the right chest and shoulder. Dental records and fingerprints definitively identified her, but no one could make sense of why she had stopped on the interstate and left her car. Skid marks indicated she had stopped quickly, so investigators wondered if she had fallen into a trap set for someone like her. Tire marks in front of her car suggested that someone else had been there.


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