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All the little pieces, p.14
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       All the Little Pieces, p.14

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  Now there was Angelina Santri. Her partially nude, decomposing body had been found in the cane fields southeast of Pahokee in the village of Pelican Lake. She’d been strangled with her own bra, her T-shirt pulled up and over her face, concealing, at first, the mess that was once her face. She’d been brutally beaten with what the ME speculated was a garden tool, likely a cultivator. Her driver’s license was on the ground underneath her body, which was how she was identified. She’d been tortured for a period before she was murdered – there were healing burn marks, likely from cigarettes, on her buttocks and shards of glass in the bottom of her feet, in various stages of healing. She’d likely been killed elsewhere and the body dumped where it was found – decomposition was progressed, but was not as advanced as the ME would have expected, considering the body’s exposure in the cane fields. She had a dislocated shoulder and a hairline fracture in her left femur. The Achilles tendon on her left foot had been severed. She, too, had been sexually assaulted.

  Four dead women – each murdered a different way with a different weapon, found in different locations, miles, and even counties, apart from one another. That was one way to spin it, which was why Bryan didn’t have either a task force or a corkboard yet. Or four dead girls, all prostitutes or exotic dancers, all sexually assaulted, at least two of whom were tortured, their bodies discarded in remote cane fields that were either burned or set to be burned. That was how Bryan was spinning it.

  Unfortunately, no connection had been discovered yet between any of the girls. Foss and Kruger didn’t work the same corners, or even the same towns. Bryan didn’t know who Jane Doe was, much less where she came from or if she was a prostitute, and Angelina Santri had no priors for prostitution, although it was known that, for a hundred bucks, the girls who danced at the Animal would perform more than a lap dance. The girls all lived in different cities, there was no evidence they knew each other. But the real, unspoken reason for why there was no PBSO/FDLE posse of detectives and special agents hunting the vicious murderer he’d nicknamed The Cane Killer, was because his victims were all prostitutes and strippers. If there were four dismembered coeds from the University of Florida, or four dead tourists or four dead housewives from Boca Raton, a task force would already be up and running. Prostitutes, however, made for perfect victims, which was why they were a favorite of serials. Gary Ridgway had killed twenty of them and dumped their bodies in and around the Green River in Washington before a task force was formed. Like disposable razors, prostitutes came cheap and by the dozen. They had an inherently dangerous job they engaged in with sometimes inherently dangerous people. Many were drug addicts. No one noticed if one went missing from the pack because no one cared.

  While arguably all three murders might be unique in style, method and execution – most notably in the different weapons used and the cause of death, which was atypical for a serial – there was one constant: the lack of physical evidence. No prints, DNA, hair, fiber, fluids, semen left behind. And no witnesses.

  Until now.

  The recent break with the Saunders mom and her kid was unbelievably fortuitous. Now he had a description and a sketch of the person last seen with Santri when she was alive. True, the mom was holding back on something and the kid was only four. Neither was perfect, but Bryan had never met a witness who was. Point being, if he could turn that sketch into a living, breathing suspect, well that would be … a very good start.

  He brushed the cruller crumbs off his tie, took the paper-thin file of the next lucky shmoe off Maldonado’s pile and flipped it open.

  Then he sat back in the squeaky desk chair and thoughtfully stroked his generous chin.

  The photo on Derrick Alan Poole’s Florida driver’s license looked an awful lot like Cuddy’s sketch.

  30

  Bryan skimmed through Maldonado’s notes:

  Co-worker tip. Thinks Poole looks like sketch in the paper. Works as an accountant??? at Debt Destroyers in Lake Worth – a ‘loan consolidation’ company. Tipster’s name is Gemma Jones, age 25 D/O/B: 6/4/88 – wants to remain ANONYMOUS. POOLE, DERRICK: white male, age 29, Height? ‘Tall, maybe 6 ft. Probably more.’ Dark hair. Had ‘goatee-thing going on’ but recently shaved – another reason she thinks something’s up. She seems OK – a little too into being a witness; excited over the whole homicide thing – but I took the tip over the phone, so who knows?

  Maldonado had already had the analyst run a DAVID (Driver And Vehicle Information Database), along with a printout of Derrick Poole’s DL, which were both in the file. There was also a detailed CLEAR National Comprehensive Report, which listed any real property and vehicles owned by Poole, utility services in his name, phone numbers associated with him, creditors associated with those phone numbers, aliases, past and present addresses, deed transfers, warrants and traffic citations, possible arrests, and possible court dockets. Thankfully, Derrick Poole was not as common a name as, say, Bob Smith, or else there might have been a dozen reports in the file. But there was only one: he was twenty-nine and currently resided in West Boca Raton.

  Bryan put the DL photo, in which Poole wore black, hipster, horn-rimmed eyeglasses and was clean-shaven, next to the sketch. If you could see past that, there was a strong resemblance. At 6ʹ0ʺ, the height was on the mark and the hair color was right. He had bony, pronounced facial features – ‘chiseled’ would probably be a good word, like Faith Saunders had said and Cuddy had drawn. As for hair length, it was slicked back in the photo, so it was hard to tell, but hair grew and got cut all the time, so that didn’t mean much. He was a good-looking guy, which threw Bryan off. Not that he hadn’t arrested good-looking guys before or that comely people couldn’t be murderers, but Poole looked neatly handsome and clean-cut – almost boring. No gang affiliations, or militia connections. A registered Republican. He looked at Maldonado’s notes again. The guy was … an accountant?

  He carefully read through the CLEAR report. Poole had lived all over the state. First Florida DL issued out of Deltona, Florida in 2001 when he was sixteen. Changed addresses to Haines City, Florida three months later. Tallahassee in 2003, presumably for college at Florida State. Then a stint in Atlanta, Georgia from 2008 through 2010. In November of 2010 he’d returned to Florida, living in Wellington, and in January of 2012 to the address he currently resided at in West Boca. He didn’t own any property. No lawsuits. Had a couple of traffic tickets, one of which was a speeding ticket in Martin County which he hadn’t paid and his license had been automatically suspended as a result. Nothing remarkable at all, except an alias of ‘Derrick Freeley’ and a star marked on the DAVID next to ‘criminal record.’ Bryan looked at the FCIC/NCIC criminal history.

  Poole had a sealed juvenile record out of Haines City, Florida.

  Fortunately, from a law enforcement perspective, sealed did not mean expunged. Expunged meant really hard to get, sealed meant not so hard to get. Haines City was a small town with a cooperative police department. Bryan called up the Criminal Investigations Division, spoke with the lieutenant, and in less than an hour, the duty officer was faxing him a copy of Poole’s arrest report.

  Bryan read it as it came over the fax. Then he called Maldonado. She picked up on the second ring.

  ‘What’s up?’

  ‘I need you back here. Something interesting came up.’

  ‘I’m eating lunch.’

  ‘Lunch? What time is it?’ Bryan squinted to look at his watch. He was turning fifty in a couple of months and that just sucked. Next thing to go would be the hearing. Hopefully not the hair – his dad still had a full head. It was white as snow, but it was all there. ‘What are you, like in middle school? Who eats lunch at ten thirty in the morning?’

  ‘Me. I’m hungry. Don’t judge.’

  ‘What are you, pregnant?’ he joked.

  ‘You’re not allowed to ask me questions like that,’ she fired back with a distinct Spanish accent he had not heard before.

  ‘Whoa now. I was only kidding. Where’d the Sofía Vergara come fr
om, Maldonado? You OD on Modern Family last night?’

  ‘She’s Colombian. I sound nothing like her. I’m Cuban. My father floated here on a raft and a prayer, you know. You’re mixing up your Spaniards.’

  Bryan took the phone away from his ear a little and made a face at it. ‘OK, then. I see why you need to eat something, Maldonado, because you’re cranky and I don’t want to get sued because I pissed you off with a joke. Just get back here when you’re done so I can go over this guy you left on my desk.’

  ‘I told you, you can call me Totts, or even Tatiana.’ She still sounded irritated. He could hear her crunching on something in the background.

  ‘OK,’ he answered.

  ‘We’re not TV cops,’ she added sullenly.

  He rolled his eyes. ‘You are in a mood.’

  ‘It’s been a bad day.’

  ‘Wanna talk about it?’ he asked clumsily. He’d known the woman for two weeks. He didn’t want to know her life, necessarily, but he sensed she wanted to tell him.

  ‘No,’ she replied testily. Now she sounded surprised and irritated.

  The Woman Whisperer he obviously wasn’t. ‘OK, then, well, what I just found out might make your day better. Or at least take your mind off your troubles,’ he tried. ‘Where are you, anyway?’

  ‘Picchu Palace.’

  ‘Oh …’

  ‘What?’ she asked defensively, as she crunched.

  ‘I got food poisoning there once,’ he replied with an evil smile. ‘Enjoy your lunch, Maldonado.’

  Then he popped the last of his cruller into his mouth and hung up the phone.

  31

  ‘Poole,’ Tatiana said, waving a fry about as she stood at his desk. ‘I knew that’s who you were talking about. He’s intense looking.’

  ‘You’re only saying that ’cause I showed you the arrest report. I thought he looked boring,’ replied Bryan.

  ‘Just this morning I would’ve said that vacant stare of his makes him look kinda dull, but now that I know he pushed his own grandma down the stairs, it’s looking a little twisted. A little Charlie Manson in the early days, actually.’

  ‘After he tried to rape her.’

  Tatiana made a face as she read the charges off the arrest form: ‘Attempted murder, agg batt, attempted sex batt, animal cruelty. How old was he?’

  ‘Sixteen. The story I’m getting outta that report is that he was living in Deltona with his mom. Dad had abandoned the family when Poole was four. That’s what the shrinks are probably gonna say fucked him up, Maldonado, if it turns out that this is our guy. Mark my words: “Daddy left and everything went to shit in my world. I had no father figure.” Then in January of eleventh grade he gets sent to live with Grandma in Haines City. What does that tell you? Tells me Mom couldn’t handle him.’

  ‘Or something happened to her,’ Tatiana speculated. ‘Maybe Mom went nuts, had a drug problem, ran off, had a health problem, died, got remarried.’

  ‘Nah. Keep reading. It doesn’t say nothing about her being in jail or rehab or a nuthouse. It says, “He went to live with his grandmother at his mother’s request.” That means he was a problem she couldn’t handle. You worked Crimes Against Children; you know kids get pawned off on grandparents all the time because the parents can’t control them. He’s there for three months, going to high school, probably creeping the cheerleaders out with those Charlie Manson peepers. He can’t get any from any of them, he gets frustrated, so he goes for Grandma.’

  Tatiana looked up from the report and cocked an eyebrow. ‘That’s definitely not in there,’ she said. ‘That is pure speculation.’

  ‘Then he drowned her poodle in the pool while she watched. Name was Princess. There’s your animal cruelty. That’s in there.’

  ‘Rape is a crime of rage, not passion.’

  ‘True. But I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m willing to bet some dinero that our boy didn’t fit in at his new high school, grew more and more frustrated and angry with everyone, especially the girls, and got bad grades. He made no friends, and took his pent-up anger out on Grandma, who probably looks a lot like his mother, who he privately detests. Couldn’t get to Mom, so the intent transferred to Grandma in the heat of the moment.’

  Tatiana put the report down. ‘That’s an awful lot to reach at from an A-form and a couple of reports; not sure if I’m with you. So what happened? He’s obviously out and about in society now. And he’s a CPA, so he somehow managed to get his grades up that you just speculated he was failing.’

  Bryan shrugged. ‘According to the close-out memo, the attempted sex batt charges were dropped. Grandma wouldn’t testify about the rape attempt; she wanted him to get help for what she thought was a drug problem. So they pled him to the agg bat, which was a felony, because they didn’t need her cooperation to go forward on that. They dropped the animal cruelty. He was sentenced as a Youthful Offender to the Orange Youth Academy in Orlando – a high-risk juvenile facility. He spent two years there. Came out a new man with a GED and a new name: Derrick Alan Poole. That year the case was sealed so he could start fresh.’

  ‘The arrest is under the name Derrick Alan Freeley. Where’d he get Poole?’

  ‘Look at the victim list.’

  She took the arrest form back, and flipped it over to see the victim/witness list. ‘No way! “Linda Sue Poole” – the bastard took his grandma’s last name. Talk about passive-aggressive when plain fucking aggressive doesn’t do the trick.’

  Bryan shrugged. ‘Can’t do anything to stop a name change.’

  ‘I bet he’s not invited for Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s.’

  ‘I don’t think she’s hosting any more holiday dinners; she’s in an institution with early-onset Alzheimer’s. To his credit, Linda Sue was a relatively young grandma when he tried to get funky with her.’

  Tatiana made a face and reached for another greasy fry. ‘Sorry – not much of a comfort. How’d you find that out?’

  ‘I ran a CLEAR, found the address, called the home. She’s been there four years.’

  ‘So much for proving your “transferred intent” theory; Grandma’s not gonna remember sonny’s name now, much less if he groped her on her way down the stairs twelve years ago.’

  ‘There’s always Mom, Maldonado. Maybe she’ll talk to us. I ran her, too; she lives in Phoenix. Moved west in 2003 – a month before Derrick got out of lock-up. Interesting, eh?’

  Tatiana nodded thoughtfully and looked down at the arrest form. ‘Grandma? Yuck. I haven’t heard that one before, and I’ve heard a lot of shit.’

  ‘I’m liking this guy, the more I read, Maldonado.’

  ‘Totts,’ she said.

  He nodded.

  ‘A lot of what you’re thinking, you didn’t read – you made up,’ she said.

  ‘It’s called profiling. What matters right now is this guy looks like our sketch and he used to live in Wellington, which kisses up on the cane fields of Belle Glade and is close to a couple of our dump sites. He’s got a violent sexual criminal history with women, and he kills animals, which is a classic manifestation of a psychopathic personality disorder.’

  ‘So what now?’ she asked, crumpling the French fry bag and tossing it across the desk into a waiting wastepaper basket.

  ‘We gotta keep looking at the other names on the list, to be safe and thorough. I’m gonna pull whatever I can on Poole: school records, work history, and whatever I can get from that Youth Academy. Then I’ll head back out to the Animal, see if anyone recognizes our boy in a photo lineup, sit up on him a few days and see if maybe he takes us somewhere interesting. Serials sometimes revisit their crime scenes,’ he added.

  Tatiana frowned and looked at the file box that he had written CANE KILLER on in big block letters. ‘A serial, huh? You really think that’s what you got going on?’

  ‘I do. And until Amandola assigns you your own caseload, it’s what we got going on.’ George Amandola was the lieutenant who headed up homicide.

 
‘What does he think about the idea that this guy might be a serial?’

  ‘Another body might do it for him.’ Bryan shifted in his seat and tapped his pen on the file box. ‘Are you, ah, doing better?’

  She stared at him for a good couple of seconds. He wasn’t sure if she wanted to bite him or hug him and he immediately regretted caring enough to ask the question. ‘You sounded upset, is all,’ he explained, putting his hands in the air in a show of surrender. ‘Sorry for asking.’

  ‘Yes, thanks,’ she finally replied. ‘I only had a bag of fries and about ten tortilla chips for lunch, thanks to that last comment of yours, so I’m starving.’

  ‘Trust me, in about three hours your stomach will be thanking me. Actually, since it won’t know how sick it could have been, it will take feeling well for granted. I’ll take you to lunch.’

  She raised an eyebrow.

  ‘When you’re in a better mood. In the meantime, they got spicy Fritos and Entenmann’s chocolate-chip cookies in the vending machine down the hall.’

  She passed him the arrest form. ‘You wanna do a photo lineup with the kid and mom, then? Get a positive ID on Poole?’

  ‘I’m worried about confusing the kid: she’s so young. This guy looks radically different in his DL. She’s already gonna be an easy witness for a defense attorney to discredit; let’s not give them more ammo with a faulty ID.’

 
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