Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Lee Yates Jr.

More Bodies

Shannon Zielinski, 1996
Shannon Zielinski, 1996

The horror that was taking its toll on the eastern Washington city of Spokane re-emerged ten months after the Kitsap County case.  On Friday, June 14, 1996, the decomposed body of 39-year-old Shannon R. Zielinski was found near the intersection of Mt. Spokane Park Drive and Holcomb Road in Spokane.  Unlike previous victims, who had all been found nude, Zielinksi was clad in a short gray dress.  According to Detective Hill, a towel had been draped over her torso, and a pair of pantyhose, a pair of white socks, and one high black boot was discovered nearby.  There was no purse or identification found at the scene, and Zielinski's identity was learned following fingerprint analysis.  A shell casing was discovered at the scene and, like the others, there was little blood pooling and no sign of a struggle, all of which indicated that she had been killed at a different location.  Like all the others, she had been shot to death.

As Detective Hill probed Zielinski's background, he learned that she had known links to prostitution and was known to use illicit drugs.  However, due to the decomposed condition of her body, toxicology tests were not possible.  Zielinski was last seen on May 27, 1996, at approximately 1 p.m., in the vicinity of Sprague and Helena streets in Spokane.  At that time she was seen drinking alcohol with a group of males and was contacted by a police officer, but not arrested.  According to witnesses, Zielinski left a nearby residence that same evening to work as a prostitute.  She was wearing the same gray dress and high black boots, and was not seen again until her body was discovered.

Heather Hernandez, 1997
Heather Hernandez, 1997

Tuesday, August 26, 1997, more than a year after Shannon Zielinski's body was found, was a busy day for Spokane detectives when two bodies were discovered.  The first body found that day was that of 20-year-old Heather L. Hernandez, a known prostitute.  Hernandez' decomposing remains were found in a field behind 1817 E. Springfield in Spokane, clad only in a shirt and bra.  There was no other clothing, shoes, purse or identification found with the body.  Detective Hill observed a visible trail of blood that led from the northeast portion of a parking lot to the field where her body was found, showing that her body was dragged to its final location.  She had been killed by gunshot.

Jennifer Joseph
Jennifer Joseph

In another location Detective Rick Grabenstein, also a member of the Spokane serial murder task force, investigated the discovery of the body of an Asian female near the north 9800 block of Forker Road.  The body was later identified through fingerprints as 16-year-old Jennifer Joseph.  Crime scene investigators recovered a light blue towel, a blouse that was missing a mother-of-pearl button, black full-length pants, two shoes, panties, a portion of a radio antenna, and a used condom.  Like all of the others, the investigation suggested that she had been killed at another location and transported to the area where her body was found.  The cause of death:  multiple gunshot wounds.

It was noted during the autopsy that Joseph's fingernails and toenails were painted with a polish that contained glitter, fragments of which were found on other parts of her body.  Three stud-type earrings with small pale stones were present in her left ear, but only two were found in her right ear, indicating that one was dislodged during the ordeal with her killer.  Similarly, one false eyelash was missing from her body, indicating that it likely came off during the incident with the killer.

Grabenstein determined that another prostitute who had been working with her in the East Sprague area last saw Joseph alive at 11:35 p.m. ten days earlier, on August 16.  The prostitute last saw Joseph traveling eastbound on Thor in the company of a white male, approximately 30 to 40 years old, in a car believed to have been a white Corvette.  The car, it turned out, would be the first real lead in the case that tied any of the victims to a suspect.

 

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