Thursday, November 29, 2012

The San Diego Slayer

In August 1988, authorities from Washington and San Diego issued an announcement that at least ten unsolved murders, logged since June of 1985, were "definitely" linked with other homicides committed near Seattle and Tacoma by the elusive "Green River Killer." One detective referred to the connection as "common knowledge," and some investigators placed the body-count a good deal higher. Lt. Bill Baxter, head of the San Diego Sheriff's Homicide Department, declared that at least ten - and no more than twelve women had been murdered by one man over the past three years. Detective Tom Streed, leading the investigation, was inclined to think the killer's death toll might have reached eighteen. Whatever their opinion, all concerned agreed upon ten victims in the case. The first to die had been 22-year-old Donna Gentile, last seen alive on June 22, 1985. Her naked, strangled body was recovered three days later, in the neighborhood of Mount Laguna, rocks and gravel packed inside her mouth and throat. The second victim was a young "Jane Doe," her body badly decomposed when hikers found it near a rural creek, head lodged beneath a tree limb, on July 22, 1986. Nearby, authorities found clothing and a wedding ring believed to be the victim's, but the evidence has not provided any clue to her identity. Theresa Brewer, 26 years old, was next to face the killer's wrath. Bound in a fetal position and "probably strangled," her body was found on August 3, 1986, identified three days later from a comparison of dental records . On April 23, 1987, a group of illegal immigrants discovered the nude, decomposing remains of Rosmarie Ritter, age 29. Despite a ruling of death due to methamphetamine poisoning , she is listed as one of the murderer's "definite" victims. Two months later, on June 22, 32-year-old Anna Varela was found in Pine Valley, by joggers who nearly stumbled over her naked, strangled corpse. Sally Moorman-Field, a 19-year-old prostitute and drug abuser, joined the list on September 20, 1987, stripped and strangled prior to her discovery by bicyclists. The cause of death was undetermined five days later, when the decomposed remains of Sara Gedalecia, a 36-year-old transient, were discovered at Alpine. Likewise, on October 19, the authorities could list no cause of death for 24-year-old Diana Moffitt, but dismemberment of her skeleton placed her on the victims list. Another "Jane Doe" victim, found at Rancho Bernardo on April 13, 1988, had been dead for a week when her body was discovered, the cause of death once again undetermined. Melissa Sandoval, a 20-year-old junkie prostitute, was last seen alive on May 21, climbing into the car of an unidentified "trick." Her strangled body was recovered eight days later, within thirty yards of the previous dump site at Rancho Bernardo. At this writing, police appear no closer to solution of the homicides in Washington or San Diego County. If their statements on a link between the crimes are accurate, the nomadic "Green River" killer may hold a new record for American serial murders, with a minimum toll of 56 known victims

(article from Oct. 8, 1988)

 (AP) _ Wendy Lee Coffield's strangled body was found dumped in the Green River south of Seattle in 1982. This year, the scattered remains of Peri Suzette Farmer were found in rural San Diego County.
Some 1,700 miles and six years separates the slayings, but task forces in Washington and California are trying to determine whether an elusive murderer's path can be traced between them - a path marked by up to 56 other deaths and disappearances.
Coffield, 16, was the first victim linked to the so-called Green River serial killer, who is officially blamed for the murders of 40 women in Washington and Oregon.
On Sept. 27, a San Diego County Sheriff's Department spokesperson said the department had identified Farmer, 22, and that her death was being investigated by a 10-member task force formed to investigate the killings and any possible link to the Green River case.
Police blame the disappearances of eight others in Washington and Oregon on the same killer, who preyed mostly on prostitutes and transients until the slayings appeared to end in March 1984.
The San Diego task force is looking into the deaths of women, dating back to June 1985, whose bodies were dumped throughout the county and whose murders seem to fit the pattern of the Green River killings.
Lt. Bill Baxter, head of the San Diego Sheriff's Department homicide unit, has said up to a dozen cases may be related.
''It's a possibility,'' Baxter said this summer. ''I wouldn't say it's remote. But it hasn't risen to a conclusive statement that there's a linkage.''
''The lead detectives in this case believe the Green River killer is responsible for some of the killings in San Diego,'' a Green River Task Force detective told The San Diego Union newspaper in August.
San Diego sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Liz Foster said two men arrested in connection with attacks on prostitutes are being investigated.
No one contacted Saturday at either the sheriff's office or the police department knew about the status of the investigation.
Similarities exist among the cases:
-Most victims were strangled, had backgrounds in prostitution or drug use and were transients.
-Most of the Seattle victims were found near an area called Pacific Highway South, which is dotted with motels and bars popular with prostitutes. Most of the San Diego victims were found near or along El Cajon Boulevard, an area much like the Seattle strip.
-In Seattle, the killer dumped a number of his victims in wooded areas 30 to 40 miles from the city. In San Diego, many of the bodies were left on secondary roads within 75 miles of the city.
-The Green River series appears to have ended in 1984, after police began heavy enforcement efforts against men patronizing prostitutes. The San Diego series began in 1985.
Self-described streetwalkers on El Cajon Boulevard say they are aware of the killings.
''The police let us know how many girls are missing or if one is found,'' said one woman, who identified herself as Christy, 18, from Washington, D.C.
She said the police also have warned prostitutes to be careful of whom they solicit for business. ''The fear's there,'' she added.
In Seattle, it wasn't until two years after Coffield's body was found, and many killings later, that a task force was formed.
King County Police Capt. Bob Evans, head of the Green River Task Force, believes a more concerted effort in the beginning could have ended the Seattle spree.
''If we knew back in '82-'83 what we know now, then all of these killings wouldn't have happened,'' he said.

(article from the NY Times, Sept 22, 1990)

Five years after a serial killer, or killers, began attacking prostitutes and other young women here, the San Diego police are still searching for suspects and a special task force has begun investigating the investigation itself.
The killings began in June 1985 with the slaying of Donna Gentile, a 22-year-old prostitute whose battered body was found in a remote part of San Diego with small stones and gravel stuffed in her mouth. Since then there have been 42 other victims.
The investigation intensified this month after a grand jury report harshly criticized the police department's conduct in investigating a ring of high-priced call girls in 1987. Although the grand jury's investigation did not focus on the series of killings here, it raised several questions about police misconduct, concluding among other things that some San Diego officers had hired prostitutes.
As a result, officials have called in outside experts to help with the inquiry into the 43 deaths and into the actions of the police.
'We Want a Solution'
''Questions have been unanswered for much too long,'' Mayor Maureen O'Connor said in an interview. ''All of us, the Chief, City Manager and Council, are very frustrated. We want a solution.''
Although the grand jury could not find enough evidence to warrant criminal charges, its criticism of the police department has led to heightened scrutiny of the department and speculation that the conduct that tainted the call-girl operation may also have harmed the investigation into the killings.
''Something serious may be awry in the police department,'' The San Diego Union said in an editorial last month. ''But only a thorough investigation will confirm whether the suspicions are founded or are just sensational rumors.''
The expansion of the police task force brings in officials from the district attorney's office and the office of the State Attorney General. One unit of the enlarged force will look into the multiple deaths and the possibility that not one but several serial killers have been at work here.
Focus on First Victim
''There appears to be several groupings of cases, and that would lend itself to there being two or three or maybe four people doing a number of them,'' said Bonnie Dumanis, a deputy district attorney who is the task force spokeswoman.
A second unit will focus on the death of Miss Gentile, believed to have been a police informer who was also known to have been involved socially with police officers. Shortly before her death, she testified at Civil Service Commission hearings about her relationships with two police officers, one of whom was later dismissed and the other demoted.
Before she was killed, Miss Gentile gave her lawyer a videotape that spoke of her fears, saying, ''I feel someone in a uniform with a badge can still be a serious criminal.''
The lawyer, Doug Holbrook, told The Union, ''Two things bothered her: that a police officer might have somebody harm her,'' or that ''someone she might have turned in would get her.''
Stones Seen as a Signal
Local news reports have speculated that the stones and gravel found stuffed in her mouth could have been a signal that she was killed because she had spoken too much.
The third branch of the task force, headed by a deputy attorney general, will pursue allegations of police misconduct, including, in the words of the chief deputy district attorney, Brian Michaels, ''the possibility that one or more police officers might be involved in one or more of the murders.''
Ms. Dumanis said, ''Any policeman who had an association with a prostitute needs to be looked at.''


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