The whiteboard in Tom and Frank’s office had grown to four photos. That’s four everyday reminders that this thing was slowly getting away from them. That’s four families who would have one less person at their Thanksgiving dinner table this year, and what’s worse, they were no closer to finding out who was responsible, or what the killer’s motivation was.
Tom rubbed a thoughtful hand across the back of his neck as he sat at his desk reviewing the information on all four victims. Something wasn’t adding up. Every crime scene was too clean; not one piece of trace or transfer, no epithelial evidence, hair, blood, semen — nothing at all.
There were no witnesses, no defensive wounds and no forced entry into the homes. Can a psychopathic, misogynistic murderer targeting young single women be so lucky after four murders, or was he that well organized with a current knowledge of crime scene examination?
The Forensic Entomologist established the latest victim--Heidi Schwarz, had been dead for twenty-five days before she was found. This put her time of death around the time her family flew out to Australia.
’The timeline suggested that Heidi Schwarz was in fact the 3rd victim and was killed nine days before Felicity Chapman,’ Tom said.
Frank nodded. ‘The time between killings is erratic. There is no system of time between murders,’ he said.
Tom studied the whiteboard. ‘This would ordinarily suggest random and desperation, rather than well planned. But the execution is too meticulous, almost precision like, with not a drop of evidence,’ Tom said. ‘Random killings could not continually deliver up that sort of consistency. No,’ Tom shook his head, ‘these had to be well planned killings. But how does he select the victims?’
As expected, the Coroner’s report verified the latest victim, Heidi Schwarz had been raped and strangled. The absence of defensive wounds was consistent with the three other victims. Crime Scene investigators once again declared a clean crime scene.
The only common link between each victim was their gym membership at Club Fitness in Bay Park. While this was a strong lead, all the male employees and male gym members who attended the gym at similar times to the victims were all interviewed and, much to Tom and Frank’s increasing frustration, all were cleared of any suspicion.
‘What’s up partner?’ Frank asked noticing the concerned expression on Tom’s face.
Tom met Frank’s gaze. He sighed and slumped back in his chair. ‘I don’t know…’ He shook his head. ‘I just don’t like it. Something doesn’t add up.’
‘Apart from the obvious…’ Frank began. ‘What is it specifically that you don’t like?’
‘Everything…The crimes scenes are consistently too clean. The killer strikes the day after Heidi’s family left for overseas. Wouldn’t that suggest he had to know Heidi’s family was leaving for vacation…He struck later that night…or early the next day.’
‘Not necessarily…’ Frank said.
‘How do you figure?’ Tom asked.
‘Well…if the killer knew the family was leaving for a four week vacation, why did he have to strike the very next night…? He had the best part of four weeks to plan and kill her.’
‘Probably the same thing that’s been driving him from the start – uncontrollable urges to rape and kill young women who are on their own,’ Tom suggested.
‘What about a neighbor…? Excited neighbors tell one another when they are taking vacations…especially to Australia,’ Frank suggested.
‘Yeah, but…’ Tom’s face distorted. He shook his head. ‘Too close to home… It won’t be a neighbor,’ Tom predicted. Frank nodded in agreement.
Tom checked the date on his desk calendar. It had been two weeks since Heidi was found. If there was going to be another victim, the trend line to date suggested it could be any time soon. And they had nothing.
‘I wanna try something out…’ Tom began. ‘Let’s test out your seven mile radius theory.’
’Do you think you can get me a list of the names of all law enforcement personnel who reside in the seven mile radius from the Club Fitness gym? Include everyone; Crime Scene, Forensics, photographers, DEA, FBI, ATF, anyone who draws a law enforcement check.’
‘So…you’re still thinking it could be a cop…?’ Frank asked.
‘I haven’t stopped thinking that,’ Tom advised. ‘But hopefully I’m wrong and we can move on.’
‘OK. I’ll see what I can do,’ Frank said.
In a twisted and somewhat perverted way, Matt was quietly enjoying the timely and increasing publicity the killing spree was gaining. The media was calling the murders The Coastal Killings.
While they were busy propagating the persona and causing panic among the young females of the area, Matt’s newspaper collection continued to grow.
The more media coverage there was of the murders, the more pressure this put on the investigating police. The more pressure that was applied, the more desperate they became for anything that would remotely resemble evidence.
Slip in a timely fingerprint at a crime scene and leave a collection of newspaper clippings in the house of the person to whom the fingerprint belonged, and the SDPD would snatch at it like a rope thrown to a drowning man.
He scoffed at the feeble attempts by the lead Detective, Tom Carter from SDPD Homicide to reassure the public, via scheduled TV news interviews, that the SDPD were doing everything they could to catch this person. All young females were urged to lock their homes, doors and windows and to travel in groups for their own safety. “Look after your friends”, was the message he conveyed.
Unfortunately for Tom, the media weren’t buying it. Four murders in three months was too many — too soon. The media sensationalism stirred up a panicked frenzy, not to improve the safety of women in San Diego, but to sell papers and improve TV news ratings.
Matt never liked Carter and he enjoyed watching him squirm in front of the bright lights of the TV cameras. He loved how Carter appeared out of his depth in this one.
Based on Carter’s reactions in the media, it won’t be long and they will be screaming out for help.
He smirked at the vision of Carter on his TV screen trying to reassure the public. You have no idea who is responsible. In a twisted, even sinister way, that pleased him.