The Coastal Killings

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Chapter 29

The outpouring of fear among the general public increased exponentially with every murder. The morning TV breakfast shows were interrupted with dramatic news breaks where they crossed to reporters at the scene of the latest body on the La Jolla cliffs.

Graphic aerial footage from a hovering helicopter of the victim’s body being wheeled along the Coast Walk Trail, filled the TV screens.

The Mayor quickly responded by telephoning Lieutenant Bob Winter demanding a report on the investigation’s progress.

Lieutenant Winter could only sit and listen to the barrage of questions and comments from an irate Mayor.

'The public of San Diego need to know they are safe. Fathers need to know their young daughters are safe. What are you doing to catch this depraved individual?’ the Mayor asked.

‘We are doing everything we can, Sir. I have my best team on it.’

‘Are resources being adequately deployed? Could more resources be better utilized?’

‘We have adequate resources on this case. They are working around the clock to catch this guy,’ the Lieutenant reassured.

‘How far are you away from stopping this person?’

The Lieutenant paused before answering. They had no idea who was committing these murders. But what he told the Mayor was, 'we are well advanced in our investigation and we believe we have a possible suspect.’ Of course he lied to buy time and save face.

Upon their return to the station from the scene, Tom and Frank were immediately summoned to Lieutenant Winter’s office. Like the Mayor, he was not happy and demanded answers on the progress of the case.

Winter stood at his desk with his hands on his hips when the Detectives entered his office. The frown and furrowed brow that greeted them immediately indicated he was clearly pissed. Winter flicked his hand towards the door. ‘Shut the door,’ he ordered.

He then flicked his hand at the visitors’ chairs at his desk. ‘Sit,’ he instructed before falling back into his own high back leather chair.

Tom and Frank slid into the chairs opposite the Lieutenant and sat silently looking over at him, like two troublesome high school students summoned to the principal’s office awaiting their fate.

‘I’ve just had the Mayor squeezing my nuts over these killings. I had to tell him we have a possible suspect so he would release the grip on my balls. Tell me this…was the body this morning…vic number five?’

Tom nodded. ‘Unfortunately…yes it was.’

The Lieutenant rolled his eyes. 'OK. What do we know?'

‘Not a lot Boss,’ Tom reluctantly admitted.

‘Please tell me you have something gentlemen. You have to give me something that I can give to the Mayor,’ The Lieutenant pleaded. ‘Do we have a profile...? Anything at all?’

Tom’s eyes fell to the desk. He exhaled slow and controlled before saying, 'Our perp is committing rapes and murders, and after five killings has not left one drop of evidence. That is not normal. There are no known witnesses. We literally have nothing Boss. We don’t even have a profile to work with,’ Tom said.

The Lieutenant's shoulders slumped and he collapsed back into his chair. His firm glare flicked between Tom and Frank. ‘Is this outside your expertise gentlemen?’ he asked. ‘Is this too hard for you?’ he added with deliberate condescension.

‘Definitely not,’ Tom said, instantly taking umbrage to the Lieutenant’s tone. ‘It wouldn’t matter if Superman was investigating this case Boss, if there is no evidence…there is no evidence.’

‘Maybe you’re not looking hard enough...Maybe you’re just not looking in the right places.’

Tom collapsed back in his chair. ‘Then maybe you should tell that to the CSOs who keep coming up clean at every crime scene. You can’t tell me they are continually missing trace and transfer evidence…It’s-just-not-there.’ Tom’s reply was emphatic. ‘The perp knows crime scene forensics and he knows it well.’

The Lieutenant clearly found it hard to argue with Tom’s logic, especially when the Crime Scene Officers also failed to locate evidence. He rubbed an open hand across his mouth in contemplation. ‘It’s definitely a serial – yeah…? I mean, are we getting sufficient time between murders and are they linked?’

Tom nodded in response. ‘There is a temporal and geographical separation between each murder.’

‘Then what is the common link between victims?’

‘The first three murders suggested the perp was only hunting young women who lived alone. But the last two victims refuted that theory. Apart from the fact the victims were all Caucasian females in their early twenties…they were all members of a gym in Bay Park,’ Tom said.

‘Do you think the perp works at the gym?’

‘We have already spoken to all male gym staff and male gym members and came up with nothing,’ Tom said. ‘We can’t find a link to how the perp knows each victim.’

'It looks like all we have is that gym connection…’ The Lieutenant said. ‘Go back over what you know and if you have to…re-interview everyone again. He has to be there somewhere. It’s all we’ve got so, use it – find the nexus. It’ll be there you just need to look harder,’ The Lieutenant instructed.

The Lieutenant jabbed his finger at Tom. ‘You’re the lead in this thing…take control and get it done.’ He arrogantly flicked the back of his hand at the two Detectives. ‘That's all.’

Both Tom and Frank left the Lieutenant’s office feeling admonished. They had been up since 2am and didn’t need to hear that. They were doing all they could to catch this killer, but at the moment, the perp was outsmarting them.

‘9-1-1 what’s your emergency?’ The female dispatcher inquired.

“Um, yes, hello. My name is Robert Holding. I live at 148 Cloverdale Drive La Jolla…”

‘What is your emergency Sir…?’

“Um…it’s about all these murders…the Coastal Killings I think they’re called. I saw a Detective on the news last week saying that the killer is targeting young women who live on their own. Well…my neighbor is a young twenty-three year old woman and she lives on her own and I just saw a man leave her house and walk south along Cloverdale…I haven’t seen him before so I went next door to see if my neighbor was OK and there was no answer at the door. Look it’s probably nothing but I’m a bit worried for her safety.”

‘Do you know if your neighbor is actually at home Sir?’

“Well…her car’s in the drive and the interior lights are still on.”

‘OK. Did you get a description of the male? Height, build, clothing...’

“Yes, um, he was very tall I’d estimate about six feet nine and quite solidly built. I couldn’t tell how old he was because he was walking away from me. But um, he was wearing a dark hoodie, either black or navy blue, which was over his head and he had on black pants, possibly track pants.”

‘OK, Last direction of travel was south on Cloverdale, is that correct?’

“That’s correct, but I don’t know where he is now though.’

‘Is your neighbor at number 146 or 150...?’

“Ah, 146…146 Cloverdale Drive La Jolla.”

With no further leads or information to go on Tom and Frank decided to follow the Lieutenant’s fairly direct instructions to revisit male gym staff and male gym members, in case they had missed something.

As a result they spent all Monday afternoon and into the evening re-interviewing potential suspects, to either further exonerate them, or short list them in the suspect column.

It was 8.15pm when they finished their 7th interview, which was with a previously interviewed male gym member who resided in La Jolla. Consistent with the first interview they conducted with this person, he was able to provide water tight alibis for almost every murder. He was not their man.

Tom and Frank climbed into their unmarked vehicle when their police radio crackled into action.

“Any unit clear in the vicinity of Cloverdale Drive, La Jolla, male suspect seen leaving a premises. Last seen on foot heading south on Cloverdale. Any units nearby make your way to Cloverdale Drive and await further details.”

Tom started his vehicle and proceeded to drive towards their next interview – suspect number eight; a male gym member who also resided in La Jolla.

During the drive both Detectives listened with interest to the radio chatter at what appeared to them to be a fleeing burglar.

Several police units had responded and were heading to the location provided by dispatch. One of the police cars asked dispatch what the male was suspected of doing.

“Male is a possible suspect in the Coastal Killing murders. Repeat, he is only a possible suspect at this stage. He was seen leaving the home of a twenty-three year old woman who resides on her own. A concerned neighbor has been unable to get a response from the young woman.”

Tom and Frank exchanged a glance. Their mouths were like the ping-pong ball clowns at a side show. Frank lunged for the radio transmitter. ‘Homicide two – Dispatch, we are currently in the La Jolla area. Is there a description of the suspect?’

“Affirmative Homicide Two. Description was given as a solidly built male around six feet nine wearing a black or navy blue dark hoodie over his head and black pants, possibly track pants. Last seen on foot heading south along Cloverdale Drive La Jolla.”

‘Copy,’ Frank replied.

‘Cloverdale is only about four streets over,’ Tom said as he accelerated the vehicle. ‘What’s the first intersecting street he would come to heading south in Cloverdale?’ Tom asked.

Frank consulted his street directory. ‘Um, the first street would be…Henderson, but it’s a cross road. He could go either right or left, or straight ahead.’

Tom shook his head. ‘He won’t go stay on Cloverdale if he is fleeing. He will take the first intersecting street to get off Cloverdale. His car will probably be parked in a neighboring street somewhere. But which one…?’ he rhetorically asked himself.

Frank’s torch illuminated the street directory on his lap as he quickly tried to work out a direction of travel. ‘Take a right here,’ Frank pointed. Tom turned right as instructed. ‘The next left is Stanley and Stanley should run into Henderson.’

‘OK gotcha,’ Tom said. After slowing the vehicle, Tom slowly rolled through the neighborhood with his eyes peeled, searching for any movement.

As the Detectives approached Henderson Street, intending to turn left and head towards Cloverdale, Frank pointed straight ahead. ‘There…on the left. Is that a male in a dark hoodie walking away from us?’

Tom flicked on the vehicle’s high beam as both men strained their eyes. Their vehicle crossed over Henderson and continued crawling along Stanley Street towards the male. As they approached the male from behind, the suspect male turned and looked at their approaching vehicle then suddenly sprinted away down Stanley.

‘He’s off,’ Frank shouted.

Tom floored the accelerator. The vehicle surged towards the fleeing male.

‘Shit he’s fast,’ Frank said as he lifted the radio transmitter. ‘Homicide Two, we are in pursuit of a male matching your description, he is currently on foot running south along Stanley Street.’

‘Roger Homicide Two – Dispatch to any unit able to assist Homicide Two in pursuit of a suspect fleeing on foot…?’

The fleeing male cut across the front of their approaching vehicle to the left side of the street and disappeared into the front yard of a house up on the left. Tom accelerated their vehicle before skidding to a stop outside the house.

‘Number 1288,’ Tom identified. ‘Quick, take the portable radio and go…he’s probably going over the back fence,’ Tom instructed.

Frank quickly retrieved the radio from the back seat before alighting from their vehicle. He commenced pursuing the male on foot, following him into the property.

Tom grabbed the radio transmitter. ‘Homicide Two. One member now on foot in pursuit of male suspect who was last seen entering a property at 1288 Stanley.’

“Copy that Homicide Two.”

‘Member is not in uniform, Copy…’ Tom said.

“Copy that Homicide Two. Dispatch to all units in La Jolla… be aware one member is on foot in pursuit…member is not in uniform… exercise caution.”

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