The Serial Killer Compendium, p.7R. J. Parker
In 1984, the abduction of women ended, which makes one wonder again: did the serial killer simply stop, die, or move?
The Frankford Slasher
Frankford, Pennsylvania (8 or 9 Victims)
Between 1985 and 1990, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, nine females ranging from twenty-eight to seventy-four were assaulted, raped, and stabbed to death. One victim in particular was stabbed a total of seventy-four times and one was raped with a three-foot piece of wood.
On May 5th, 1990, Leonard Christopher was apprehended and convicted in the murder of one of the nine murders, but the others remain unsolved. As Christopher was awaiting trial, another murder took place and police verified that the killings were not connected to Christopher, as the MO was not the same. Christopher did not even match the description that witnesses gave.
Were there two serial killers working in the same region during this five-year span? Public opinion differs. Some think that Christopher did all the killings; more think the killer has not been caught; some believe he died; and others think he is in jail for another crime. Will the residents of Frankfort ever know? Will there ever be closure for the families of the victims?
The Servant Girl Killer
Austin, Texas (8 + Victims)
In Austin, Texas in 1884 and 1885, a serial killer preyed upon citizens, raping and killing women. On December 26th, 1885, the New York Times reported that the "murders were committed by some cunning madman, who is insane on the subject of killing women."
On December 31st, 1884, a killer entered a little cabin and killed a servant girl, Mollie Smith, twenty-five, and seriously injured a man named Walter Spencer. Each time he killed, he would use a different weapon. He used a knife to stab eleven-year-old Mary Ramey in the ears. Other times he used an iron rod, and even a brick. Many of his victims were raped before being killed, and the people of Austin were fearful of this maniac.
The people suspected the killer had an affinity for negro serving girls, but on December 24th, 1885, he struck twice, both times killing a white woman in the same brutal manner as previous. The killings, however, stopped after that night.
In total, he killed one man and seven women, and assaulted another eight victims who managed to survive. Some believe the Servant Girl Killer went on to become Jack the Ripper; we will never know. The period, however, was right, as was the atrocious nature of the killings. The Ripper, though, never raped his victims, as the Servant Girl Killer did.
The Zodiac Killer
San Francisco, California (39+ Victims)
The identity of the Zodiac killer is unknown and probably will always be, but FBI has not stopped looking, and updates are made to the file regularly. In the 1960s and 1970s, the serial killer operated in the North of California. Normally, the media or police dub a serial killer. This arrogant killer, however, made up his own, calling himself Zodiac in a series of letters he sent to the media.
The Zodiac claims, by way of letters, to have killed thirty-seven people. Authorities only know of seven confirmed victims. It all started on December 20th, 1968, when David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen were on their first date together, and planned to go to a Christmas concert, but first drove out to Lake Herman Road, which was a “lover’s lane.” About a half hour later, their bodies were discovered, and the Sheriff’s office was notified. Both had been shot dead.
Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau went for a drive on July 4th, 1969 and parked just four miles from the first murder site. Another car drove up and immediately drove away. Ten minutes later, the car returned and parked behind them. The killer shot both of them with a 9mm Luger, firing seven shots. Darlene Ferrin, although shot in the chest, neck, and face, survived, and was able to give details to the police. The Vallejo Police received a call from a man the next day reporting himself to be the killer, claiming he killed the couple back in December. The police traced the call to a phone booth, but no evidence was left, and police had no suspect.
The Vallejo Times Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner, each received a letter on August 1st, 1969, supposedly from the killer, taking credit for the murders. The catch was that each newspaper only received 1/3rd each of the 408 symbol cryptic letter that the killer claimed would identify him. He demanded the letters be printed on the front pages of their papers or he would kill a dozen people over the weekend. This turned out to be a bluff as the Chief of Police Jack Stiltz said in the Chronicle “We’re not satisfied that he letter was written by the murderer.” The Chronicle, however, did publish their part on page four, but no murder took place over the weekend. The other newspapers also published their pieces, but not on the front page, and not the next day.
The cryptic code was cracked by civilians, Bettye and Donald Harden, of Salinas, California, on August 8th, 1969. What it contained was not the identity of the killer, as the killer had claimed, but a message claiming the killer to be collecting slaves for the afterlife.
Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell were college students at Pacific Union and on September 27th, 1969, they were having a picnic at Lake Berryessa when a man approached them wearing a hoodie and sunglasses. On his chest hung a 3”x3” circular cross-like symbol. He had a gun but never used it. Instead, he tied both of them up and stabbed them. He proceeded to draw a circular cross symbol on Bryan’s car with a pen, and then wrote beneath it, "Vallejo/12-20-68/7-4-69/Sept 27-69-6:30/by knife." The killer then made a call to the Sheriff’s office from a payphone to report the crime. The police got a wet print off the phone, but it did not match any criminal in their system.
Cecelia Shepard went into a coma and passed away two days later. Bryan Hartnell, however, survived, and gave a good recount to the police and media about what happened, and what the perp looked like.
It’s interesting to make a note that Detective Ken Narlow of the Napa County Sheriff’s office was assigned to the investigation at the start, and continued working the case until his retirement in 1987, and even then, investigated on his own until he passed away at eighty years old on December 2nd, 2010. Talk about dedication.
In San Francisco on October 11th, 1969, a cab driver by the name of Paul Stine stopped for a passenger when he was instantly shot in the head with a 9mm gun, Three teenagers witnessed the killer take the cabbie’s money, tear of a piece off the driver’s shirt, and wipe down the cab. They each gave a description of the killer and more composite sketches were drawn up. Over the years following, detectives investigated over 2500 suspects under the tutelage of Detectives Dave Toschi and Bill Armstrong. The killings were all happening in Northern California; thus each county would have to investigate the murders in their own backyards.
The Zodiac killer prepared another letter and just three days later on October 14th, the Chronicle received it along with a swatch of the cab driver’s shirttail to prove he was the killer. In addition, the Zodiac Killer threatened to kill school children on a bus and wrote, “just shoot out the front tire & then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out."
On June 19th, 1970, Police Sgt. Richard Radetich was shot in the head with a .38 caliber handgun while sitting in his patrol car, writing a parking ticket. In another letter to a newspaper, the killer said, “I shot a man sitting in a parked car with a .38.” The killer continued writing to the media with letters and greeting cards taunting the police and public.
Donna Lass worked as a Nurse at the Sierra Tahoe Casino. On September 6th , 1970, she finished her shift at 2am and was never seen again. In one of his notorious letters to the media, on March 22nd, 1971, the Zodiac took credit for killing Donna Lass and hiding her body. Things were quiet for about three years, until January 29th, 1974, when the Zodiac once again sent a letter to the Chronicle praising the movie, “The Exorcist,” as the best comedy that he had ever seen.
The case of the Zodiac Killer has been investigated by numerous people officially and unofficially for over forty years. The murder cases remain open to this day with the SFPD, Napa County, Solano County, and the
A website is available and is quite interesting if you want to check it out:
The Original Night Stalker
Ventura, Dana Point and Irvine, California (50+ Victims)
It all started in Southern California in December of 1979 and continued to at least May of 1986. I will refer to the Original Night Stalker as ONS.
In a condo in Goleta California on December 30th, 1979, Debra Manning, thirty-five, and Dr. Robert Offerman, forty-four, were found shot to death in bed. Some neighbors thought they’d heard gunfire, but weren’t sure and never reported it. The killer had actually brought along his German shepherd, and after he’d shot couple he’d fed the dog leftover turkey. He then went next door, which was vacant, and stole a bike. The neighbor, who happened to be an FBI Agent, heard the noise and gave chase on foot, but the ONS abandoned the bike and ran off.
On March 13th, 1980, another couple was found murdered in their home. Lyman Smith, forty-three, and Charlene Smith, thirty-three, were beaten to death with a fireplace log, and bound with drapery cords on their ankles and wrists. Then, again in 1980, on August 19th, newlyweds, Patrice Harrington, twenty-seven, and her husband Keith, twenty-four, were beaten to death in their home in Dana Point.
The following year there was another home attack and this time only the woman was home because her husband was in hospital recuperating from an illness. On February 6th, 1981, Manuela Witthuhn, twenty-eight, was murdered in her home in Irvine. Her body showed signs of being tied before being beaten, but no ligature marks or murder weapons were found at the scene. It was believed that the ONS tried to make it look like a botched robbery, as he left her TV in the backyard, and stole a crystal curio and lamp.
Just five months later in Goleta on July 26th, 1981, the ONS went to the home of Gregory Sanchez, twenty-seven, and Cheri Domingo, thirty-five, and brought along his German Shepherd again, as shown through trace evidence. Both victims were shot to death and Gregory’s body was found in the closet. Neighbors heard no gunshots even though the houses were close together.
There was a five year break between kills, but potentially not. Ten murders were linked through the dog’s DNA, but it is suspected the ONS killed approximately fifty people.
Janelle Cruz was only eighteen years old, and home alone as her family was in Mexico on vacation. On May 4th, 1986 the ONS entered her home and beat her to death with a pipe wrench.
Some Law Enforcement authorities guesstimate that the ONS’s combined total number of victims is around fifty, including his rape victims in Sacramento County and Contra Costa County, and his murder and rape victims in Ventura, Dana Point, and Irvine, California. In the beginning, the ONS was actually called the East Area Rapist and was believed to be responsible for the raping of almost 100 women. He would target females living alone, but escalated his modus operandi and moved on to couples and killing; hence he is called the Original Night Stalker.
It is interesting to note that the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker case was the determining factor in the passage of legislation leading to the organization of California's DNA database which authorizes the collection of DNA from all accused and convicted felons in California. California's DNA data retrieval and storage program is considered by experts to be second only to Virginia's in size and effectiveness in solving cold cases. Ironically, while the California DNA database motivated by this case has solved numerous previously unsolved cold cases across the country, the original case remains unsolved.
The Twin Cities Killer
Minneapolis and St. Paul (34 Victims)
There was a growing concern among the residents of the twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis between 1986 and 1994. Over that span, thirty-four young women in their twenties and thirties were found dismembered, mutilated, and sometimes decapitated. Most of them were prostitutes who, unfortunately, have always been easy prey for serial killers.
The police came up with various scenarios to explain the mounting list of dead young women: there was one or more serial killers plundering these women; there was a serial killer; possibly several murderers who were killing under the guise of the initial serial killer; or an abundance of non-serial killers targeting prostitutes.
After researching these killings, I found very little on the murders and it bothers me that an impressive number like thirty-four horrendous murders with dismemberment could be swept away. I wonder if is it because of the girls’ occupation and how much politics played a part for this tally to go unnoticed”
There is a PDF file online called “Minnesota Homicides 1985 to 1997,” and nowhere in the twenty-two-page document does it mention the murders or the word “prostitutes.” Cover up?
The I-45 Killer
Houston, Texas (34+ Victims)
There is a 50-mile stretch between Houston and Galveston, Texas called the Interstate 45. Over three decades, starting in 1971, thirty-two or more women have been killed or dumped on the side of the road. Through evidence from various crime scenes, differences in patterns, and differences in trace data, it is believed by Special Agent in Charge Don Clark of the Houston office of the FBI, that there may actually be multiple serial killers operating in that area. If that is true, it would be more difficult in catching the UNSUBs.
The authorities believe the interstate to be a dumping site, not the crime scenes where the women were killed. It is an easy place to hide bodies due to the terrain, small country roads, bayous, oak and pine trees, and small towns. The victims usually disappear while out alone. Weeks, sometimes months later, they are found dead in an isolated location somewhere along the interstate. The killer or killers do not leave hints of motive or identification.
The latest victim was discovered in 1999 when a little boy and his dog were out for a walk in some marshy woods. The dog came up with a bone, and then the boy saw a skull. Nearby, the police later found earrings, shreds of clothing, and a belt tied around a tree. Investigators believe the killer used it to bind the young woman while he sexually assaulted her. Police have a suspect, and have been following him very closely, but they have not publicly identified him.
League City Lt. Gary Ratliff said, “We know a guy, we know him very well, a guy who has killed before and who had some kind of contact with five of the girls, but all the evidence is circumstantial.”
“The unnamed suspect suffered physical injuries in an automobile accident a few years ago and appears to have gone dormant since then,” Ratliff said. While that is good news in one sense, his lack of activity makes it less likely he might commit a mistake that would allow him to be caught.
Colonial Parkway Killer
Colonial Parkway, Virginia (8 Victims
The picture is of the eight victims
These killings happened over twenty-five years ago, though a good update follows the end of the story.
Eight murders happened between 1986 and 1989 along the Colonial Parkway in Virginia. A lesbian couple, Rebecca Dowski, twenty-one, and Cathleen Thomas, twenty-seven, liked to park on the Colonial Parkway for privacy. On October 12th, 1986, they were found dead inside Thomas’s car, which had been pushed down the embankment. There were signs of strangulation and rope burns, and both had had their throats slashed. The motive was not robbery as their money and purses were not taken, nor was there any sexual assault. The only good thing that came of the tragedy came from Cathleen Thomas managing to pull a clump of the suspect’s hair, a clump which remained in her hand.
Robin Edwards, fourteen, and David Knobling, twenty, intended to watch a drive-in movie on September 19th, 1987, but when the movie was rained out they went to an arcade. The last time they were seen was on the shore of the James River near Smithfield, Virginia. Later, they were found executed and dumped in the river.
Seven months later, on April 9th, 1988, Cassandra Hailey, eighteen, and Richard Call, on their first date, were reported missing after attending a party in Newport News. Richard’s empty
Anna Phelps, eighteen, and Daniel Lauer, twenty-one, were last seen alive on September 5th, 1989, when they left a rest stop on Interstate 64 in New Kent County. Their skeletal remains were found months later, in October, by hunters a mile from the rest stop. Both were stabbed; the car keys were in the ignition; the gas tank was almost full; Anna’s purse was in the car, and police found no sign of struggle.
Authorities seem to think that the killer is in law enforcement or is someone impersonating a police officer.
The Serial Killer Compendium by R. J. Parker / History & Fiction have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes