Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

George Russell


Those who had denied the presence of a serial killer in their midst changed their minds when victim number three, another pretty young woman, was found on the third of September in her apartment in nearby Kirkland. It had been a mere 24 days since the discovery of Carol Ann Beethe's mutilated corpse. Now, just when King County's citizens were beginning to wonder what was happening to their usually mild landscape and when the Seattle Times and other newspapers were demanding to know why the police couldn't nab this individual the killer struck again.

This time, the calling card he left could not be refuted. He was, no doubt, one and the same person who had killed the other two women. His "signature" was explicit.

Andrea Levine known to friends and co-workers alike as Randi was a 24-year-old redhead last seen in the lounge of the Maple Gardens Restaurant on August 30, four days before her landlord discovered her body. The lounge was located in Kirkland, Washington, four miles north of Bellevue, and was one of her hangouts. Like the two women slain previously, Levine frequented these so-called "yuppie bars" in the area and was well liked by others who often met at these places. She was known for her sarcastic wit and, as was Carol Ann Beethe, for urging on then shutting down interested males.

The night she died she had met several of her girlfriends for a social drink but, according to her company, left the bar alone. Of suspects, there was no one. None of her acquaintances could recall Levine chatting with or teasing any man that night. She hadn't been there that long and hadnt been in her usual high spirits. She departed the Maple Gardens not long after midnight, they surmised, saying she was tired after a long day. As far as anyone knew, she drove home in her favorite vehicle, a pickup truck, and went straight home to her small ground-floor apartment across town.

The following morning before sunrise, at approximately 5 a.m., August 31, her landlord spotted what appeared to be a prowler roaming along the exterior wall near Levine's rear window. The landlord, whose name was Bob Hayes, threw on his robe, leashed his dog and slipped out a back door to confront what he anticipated to be a thief. But the silhouette, definitely a male, heard the yelps of the dog and darted away before Hayes could catch up to him. Satisfied that he had scared off the encroacher, the landlord checked his property for the possibility of broken windows or jimmied locks. Everything seemed in place; evidently he had chased the burglar off before damage was done. Checking the window closest to where he had spotted the fellow, he inadvertantly realized it was his tenant Randi Levine's bedroom window. He could see her asleep on her bed. Blushing, he stepped back and returned to his own place where he rewarded his prowler-chasing dog with a snack.

Hayes was glad to have routed that fellow. Lately there had been break-ins in his building only a couple days earlier, for that matter, Levine had told him there had been a number of things missing from her flat. Since then, he had made it a habit to keep an eye out. Maybe this morning's incident scared the SOB off for good.

Unfortunately, he hadn't gotten close enough to be able to see the man's face. But, as he would later tell police, the fellow was thin, young and quite agile, judging by the way he bolted at the first bark of the mutt.

Because Hayes had made a mental note to tell Levine about the prowler he had seen near her window, he began wondering why he didn't see her coming and going back and forth across the yard. She was an active person, rarely staying indoors.

On September 3, he decided to check in on her. And that is when he found the most ungodly thing he'd ever seen in his life.

When the police arrived they understood why Hayes had been hardly able to talk. His tenant's body stretched across her mattress, covered by a bloody sheet. Everything was bloody. Levine's head, literally busted in at the back of the skull, was topped by a pillow soaking in red. An electric sex toy was shoved far down the well of her throat.

Drawing back Levine's top sheet, they found her nude, her legs spread, and a book, More Joy of Sex, wedged into her left hand. No less than 250 slash marks from a table knife etched her body, from her forehead to the soles of her feet. Since investigators could detect no defense wounds, they believed she was killed while she slept.

Again, no murder weapon was found. And again the killer had spent a lot of time with his victim. He had once more felt in control, his latest posing techniques matching the audacity he emanated.

The autopsy report dealt the police something interesting to consider. Bruise marks on one of the dead woman's fingers suggested that a ring had been pried from it. If the police could get a description of that ring from her friends, and if the killer tried to pawn or sell it, they might be able to trace it back to the possessor.

John Comfort, Carol Beethe's bar-tending boyfriend, was taken off surveillance. Not only had he a sustainable alibi for his whereabouts at the time of Levine's slaughter, but investigators doubted that he, knowing he was under watch, would have attempted another crime so close to the other and with the self-assurance so strongly indicated here.

In the meantime, Bellevue, Kirkland and King County detectives had been working overtime, tracking down all leads, interviewing friends and family members of the deceased, diving into the girls' recent histories in an attempt to unearth anything that might lead to a common denominator. The closest they could come to was that each of the females frequented the same social bars. The killer was starting to appear as a habitue of those bars it was the only linking factor the police could muster at the moment.

After the Beethe murder, ex-convicts and anyone with a record of violent crime from around King County and the Seattle area had been hustled in for questioning. None had been near Bellevue during the murders. Some remained suspects nevertheless and were closely watched. But, as was the bartender John Comfort, all were cleared after the Levine bloodletting.

The police were stumped.

The Seattle Times, which had dubbed the phantom "The Eastside Killer," referring to the geographic placement of his crimes, began wondering what exactly was going on across the river with the fine upholders of the law. One local paper asked, "Since when do lunatics have their field day?" A cartoon analogized the Bellevue freak to London's notorious Jack the Ripper. One ribald commentator remarked that Ted Bundy, though in his grave almost two years, had ressurected and gone to Bellevue.

Though confounded, the police were not giving up. They knew that sooner or later the killer would make a mistake or that the loose ends would meet and their hunch was right. Investigators, working separately to collect information on the dead girls friends and lifestyles, soon came together with what they had been looking for that common denominator.

They had all known one George Walterfield Russell.

In fact, Russell was no stranger to the police, either. He had been a sneak thief, a cat burglar and a drug peddler.

Perhaps now they might be able to add mutilator to that list.


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