As close as Derek could surmise, the perpetrator had begun his reign of terror in Seattle. Or at least, that’s what the clues pointed towards. If he was right the first murder took place in Oct/96. The victim was a young Mom, 32 years of age, out jogging when she was attacked. Even that was strange. Another jogger found the young lady propped up along the trail, seemingly just relaxing. He stopped to chat for a moment and that’s when he realized something was wrong. He knelt down and that’s when her body fell over, scaring the hell out of him. He quickly called 911 and waited for the police to arrive. The autopsy determined that her neck had been snapped. There were no other marks, but, a small cross had been intertwined around her hands, which led officers to believe this might have been personal. But nothing ever came of it. In fact, there were no suspects at all. Ok, other points: she was a US citizen but formerly an immigrant from Honduras. She had two young children. Nothing extraordinary about her life as far as we could tell. No trouble with the law. No nothing. A great marriage, kids, friends, family. She appeared to have it all. And yet here she was. Dead.
Derek continued “It appears our perpetrator got busy once again, this time in Portland in Feb/98, nearly two years after the first one. Again, it was a young lady, 25 years of age, single and sharing an apartment with a friend (girl). Again, no signs of anything amiss. Not overly active on the dating scene. Finishing up her masters at the Univ., and heading towards a solid career in finance with the Washington Federal Savings and Loan Association (where she already worked on a part time basis). She was well liked by everyone who knew her. Again, nothing unusual. By the way, she was a US citizen as well, born and raised here to Columbian parents. They had come here to escape the violence in their country. Ironic, isn’t it? Once again, she had been discovered by a passerbyer on his way to work via Jackson Park. He noticed her slouched over on a park bench and thought something was wrong with her, especially when she didn’t acknowledge him. So he tapped her on the shoulder, and that’s when she slid to the ground. Horrified, he called 911 and then checked for vital signs. But, it became readily apparent that she was already dead. The coroners office once again ruled it a homicide, and as before, cause of death was a broken neck. And once again, there was no struggle. Just a clean kill. And once again, investigators found the young lady’s hands clutching a tiny cross.”
Derek stopped for a moment to compose himself, studying Claire as he did so. She sat as if enraptured at what she was hearing.
“Oh my God! Was it the same kind of cross as the other woman?”
“Yes. But at the time it didn’t really mean anything. So once again, the case eventually became cold and ended up in File 13. You know what I mean.” And she did. How sad for those left behind. But she knew Derek wasn’t done yet and she wasn’t about to stop him now. He was on a roll and she was hungry for more.
“I wish I could say that that was the end of it but I think it was closer to the beginning of his reign than the end of it. The next time he struck, as far as I can tell, was in May/2001, again in San Francisco. That’s 3 years later which seems really odd. It’s like he was locked away or out of the country. I wouldn’t be surprised at either scenario. If he was out of the country there’s a great likelihood that there are other victims as well. But, that’s all I have dating back that far. By the way this one was Latino as well, from El Salvador. Same MO. Broken neck, a cross woven between her fingers like the others, and once again, propped up to look like she was just resting. Again, someone stopped to see if she was alright and when they touched her she fell over.
“Wow! Three victims at least! But that was a long time ago. Why are you so intrigued by this case?” Claire was confused.
“I’m not finished. There’s more. Believe it or not, six years later our same guy showed up again.”
“Yep. Mar/2007. Same M.O. as before. Young Latino lady, in Grand View Park, San Francisco found strangled to death, and a small cross woven between her fingers just like the others. But now investigators were beginning to draw some parallels. But even then, there was nothing, not even a suspect. This guy was either a professional, which made absolutely no sense, or he must have worked in the medical field in some capacity to leave absolutely no physical evidence.” He paused and Claire jumped in.
“Maybe he’s just a drifter. But that doesn’t make any sense either, does it? There has to be some common denominator besides the cross that ties him to all of these women. Let’s see: all women, all of Latino origin, all attractive, all upstanding citizens with no criminal or unsavoury links anywhere, all with crosses woven around their hands. And the crosses were all the same, right?
" Not sure. We’ll check that out but there’s more.”
“You mean there are still more victims?”
“Two more for sure. Probably more, but I can’t find any evidence of that. Not yet anyway. The second last one seems to have occurred in Jan/2011. At least, that’s when a young lady by the name of Angela ended up exactly as all the others had. Same M.O. exactly. Oh, and it was also in San Francisco. By the way, she was Caucasian.”
“That’s weird. Are you sure it’s the same guy? Was there a cross? Why would he change his MO?” And before he could answer “that makes three in San Francisco. He’s got to be from there.”
“I don’t think so. But the reason I’m telling you all this is because of the last one. Get ready for it. It happened right here!”
“Here? In Seattle? Oh my God!”
He loved it when Claire got excited. Her expressions . . . ok, moving on.
“About three months ago. Same M.O. as the last one. It’s like he’s come home. Interested?”
“Yes! Oh my God, yes!” And that’s when Claire really went to work. The last murder occurred the night of Dec 14/2015. The old cases were butting up to the new and she had full intention of being a witness when this guy was taken down once and for all!
How could someone destroy so many lives! My God, was he just evil or what the hell was going on in his mind? This was something she could sink her teeth into, and like Derek often kidded her, she would never let go!
Of course she mustn’t forget that she had a “real job” that needed attending to. She was well aware of the responsibility that had been placed on her and she wasn’t about to let anyone down. She had fought long and hard to achieve the success she already had in the crazy world of journalism and she wasn’t about to let it go anytime soon!
This cold case wasn’t going anywhere, but now that she had permission to fly, she’d be on it like a dog with a bone! And besides, wouldn’t her boss be happy that he’d once again made the right decision by letting her relocate to Seattle!
The torrid pace that Claire called normal, finally caught up to her, and suddenly she found herself stuck at home in bed for a week. “Young lady, either you get your butt home and stay there for a week, or I’m going to admit you! Your choice!” “Yes Doctor!” What a grouch! Of course she said that under her breath. No way did she want to be stuck in a hospital! My God! Being stuck at home was bad enough!
But with every downside, there is an upside, and it wouldn’t take her long to find it. Ha! I can spend some time on this cold case as well as do some research on my own families case. The one she’d been putting off forever. No more excuses, Claire! The good Doctor and her boss had obviously colluded and she was “relieved” of all duties for at least a week. “Call me when the Doctor says you’re cleared and I’ll put you back to work.” Fine!
So with lots of pouting and some tea and consommé tossed in as side dishes, she set about getting well as quickly as possible. But it would take time and she sure wasn’t going to waste it all watching TV!
The further she delved into the file that Derek had so graciously copied for her, the further she became convinced that the cross was the key. Others had reached that same conclusion but hadn’t followed any further than noting it in the files. She became convinced that all the crosses on the victims were identical. Sure, each victim bore a cross. Everyone knew that, but no one had seriously looked into tracing the actual cross to see if it could be sourced. After all, there are millions of crosses. This could be mission impossible.
But she was convinced otherwise. These were no five and dime costume jewellery crosses. The design was intricate, exquisite in fact. And that alone convinced her to carry on.
Since she was stuck at home, Google would have to start searching for her. And search it did. Thank God she had learned long ago the power of keywords! It took awhile but finally she found it. Well, not really, but enough info to suggest that this type of cross held special significance for a certain culture. Bingo! Somewhere to start!