Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Arthur Shawcross, the Genessee River Strangler

Escalation

On November 15, Kimberly Logan, a black prostitute from the Lyell Avenue area, was discovered dead beneath a pile of leaves in someone's yard.  She'd been battered and kicked in the abdomen.  Oddly, the medical examiner found leaves stuffed down her throat.  While she had not been found near the Gorge or its general locales, her file was added to the growing pile of other unsolved murders of the area's women of the night.

Eight days later, on Thanksgiving, Mark Stetzel was out walking his dog to burn off the heavy meal.  He went into a marshy area near the industrial piers.  The dog ran off down a trail, so he followed and came to a clearing where he spotted a piece of stiff carpeting, iced over.  Walking closer, he saw a bare foot beneath it, so he left to call the police.

It was a raw day, hinting at snow, and most of the evidence technicians and investigation team members were home with their families, having turkey dinner.  Yet they all responded to the call and went out to see this new discovery.  So did first assistant district attorney Chuck Siragusa.  If they had a genuine serial killer in the area, he wanted to stay on top of these cases.  As Captain Lynde Johnston commented, they were falling like hail.

The woman, who had been preserved somewhat by the cold weather and the covering, lay facedown.  Spots on her skin suggested decomposition, so she had been killed earlier, by as much as two or three weeks, but that would be for Nick Forbes to tell them.  A considerable amount of blood had settled into her back, which meant that she had been lying on her back after death for a period of time, and now here she was on her face.  Someone had come and turned her over.  Her position suggested that she'd been anally penetrated after death.  She'd also been strangled, but that wasn't all.  When they turned her over, they saw that some time after she had died, she'd been cut from the top of the chest between her breasts all the way into the vaginal area, like a gutted deer.  Upon close inspection, it looked as if the vaginal lips had been removed.  This killer had returned for some perverted pleasure.  Yet the analysis at the morgue indicated that there was no semen in or on the body.  In the weeds, the techs found a knife and a bloody towel, but there would be no fingerprints.  As usual, there was very little physical evidence.

The victim was soon identified as the missing June Stott.  As far as anyone knew, she was not a prostitute and had never taken drugs.  That made investigators wonder whether this homicide was part of the series or something new.  She had also been found seven miles down river from the other dumpsites.  Did they have several killers on their hands, or was one killer just dumping bodies all over the place?  This victim had been covered, like some of the others, and asphyxiated.

Beyond frustration, Capt. Johnston decided to call the FBI.  He now had 11 unsolved cases of prostitute murders in and around Rochester in a year's time.  Since the average per year was three or four, he knew they had a real problem.  As yet, no one had found a good lead.

The Unknown Darkness, by
Gregg McCrary with Katherine
Ramsland

He was put through to Special Agent Gregg McCrary of the Behavioral Science Unit, who listened to his descriptions of the rash of murders since the spring of the previous year and agreed they might have a serial killer operating in the area.  McCrary, who documents the investigation from a behavioral perspective in The Unknown Darkness: Profiling the Predators Among Us, invited New York State Trooper Lieutenant Ed Grant, a graduate of the FBI's training program in criminal investigative analysis, to join him in Rochester.  Two heads were better than one.

Yet before they even arrived, a hunter found the body of Elizabeth Gibson, a prostitute, on November 27 in a swamp in a neighboring county.  She had been strangled.  What linked her to the others was a witness.

Jo Ann Van Nostrand had happened to see "Mitch" the day before with a prostitute whom she recognized—Elizabeth Gibson.  A news flash that day on television told her the woman had been found murdered.  She went directly to the police to tell them about Mitch.  They took her to the station, but Jo Ann did not know "Mitch's" real name or where he worked.  Still, Officer Leonard Borriello believed that she had given them a solid lead.  At the very least, they knew how the guy operated and what kind of car he drove.  What they did not know is that he would change cars and remain in the shadows.

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