As an FBI friend recently told me…when you identify serial rapists you identify serial killers. And according to FBI BAU agent Roy Hazelwood, “Serial rapists kill far more people than serial killers”. This was a primary talking point at the FBI BAU conference in 2018. Since that time a nationwide effort has been made to identify serial rapists by DNA testing backlogged rape kits.
Cyrus R. Vance Jr. agreed. The Manhattan District Attorney committed $38 million in forfeiture money to assist other jurisdictions with the testing of backlogged rape kits. This initiative led to the testing of 55,000 rape kits in 32 law enforcement jurisdictions across 20 states. Around half of these DNA samples were viable enough to be added into CODIS. 9,200 matched an offender already in the system. There have been 165 prosecutions and 64 convictions to date.
Among these kits was that of a 14 yr old female who had been raped in Memphis TN in 1997. A man had knocked on the door of a residence, pulled a gun on the occupants and forced his way inside. He tied up two women and raped the teen. While the rape kit testing did not reveal a suspect name, the DNA did match an unknown serial killer. Genevieve Zitricki had been raped and murdered in South Carolina in 1990. In 1998, Sheri Scherer was murdered and her 12 yr old daughter Megan was raped and murdered in Portageville MO. Parabon NanoLabs later aided in the identification of serial rapist/killer Robert Brashers in these three incidents as well as shooting in Dyersburg TN.
According to End the Backlog, New York City was one of the first jurisdictions to eliminate the backlog of its rape kits. They now test every rape kit regardless of the case status. Other jurisdictions such as Memphis, Cleveland and Detroit have also began testing backlogged kits and those of current cases. It’s estimated that each kit costs around $1000-1500 to test which is a strain for many municipalities.
Could the testing of backlogged rape kits lead Delphi IN investigators to the suspect in the unsolved double homicide case of Abigail Williams and Liberty German? On February 13th, 2017, the two teens were brutally murdered along a trail at the Monon High Bridge. It’s rumored that at least one of the girls was found partially unclothed. It’s unknown if a sexual assault was a motive. Liberty videotaped the man believed to be her killer just moments before her death.
While investigators have not released an official motive it’s reasonable to believe that a double homicide involving a single man on a desolate trail who abducts and murders two teen girls had a sexual component. Audio from the videotape revealed a man who was calm and controlled. The homicides were horrific. This was likely not a first-time offense for this killer.
DNA evidence has not led to an arrest or a named suspect. The FBI profile has never been released to the public, however, FBI profiling statistics are readily available.
The following **statistics were taken from a research project by the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) which is a component of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), located at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. FBI researchers spent five years studying the case files of solved serial killings. A database was created from this study to allow investigators to identify a number of situational factors based upon the particular body disposal pathway. Some of these factors include the approach an offender used to gain access to a victim, the motivation involved in the crime and the nature of the relationship between the offender and the victim.
The FBI has two typologies for serial rapes that end in murders. Power rapists and anger rapists. These two typologies were then broken down further.
“A power-assertive rape/murder was planned as a rape but then escalated to murder because the offender either wanted to increase his control of the victim, and/or the victim was killed to eliminate resistance by the victim, and/or to increase the offender’s feeling of power. The power-reassurance rapist/murderer planned only the rape, but committed the murder when his “seduction” of the victim failed. The anger-retaliatory rape murderer planned both the rape and the murder. The murder allowed the offender to vent his anger by killing the victim, and providing him with revenge on a symbolic target. The anger-excitation rapist/murderer raped and killed the victim sadistically to gratify himself . In this category the rape and torture of the live victim were what satisfied the offender.”
The FBI further classifies motives: Anger, mental illness, profit and other.
The means to gain access or approach a victim was broken into: Ruse – a trick or a con. Blitz – an immediate physical attack without verbal exchange. Surprise – the attacker capitalized on circumstances, location or timing.
There are various relationships a rapist/killer has with the victim: Stranger, targeted stranger, acquaintance, relative/familial, customer/client.
There are two means of body disposal. Dumped – the body is left in a public area with no concern of discovery. Concealed – left in a body of water, left on the ground, buried in a clandestine location. The goal is to delay the discovery of the body.
Further, a body is then determined to have been left ‘as is’ or ‘displayed’.
Bodies are then determined to be fully dressed, nude, partially nude or redressed.
75% of victims are female. 50% are between the ages of 14-29 yrs of age. 60% of the victims are white.
52% of the killers are white. 70% of these killers have no education beyond high school. 30% of offenders are married. 35% of offenders have served in the U.S. military. 88% have prior misdemeanors. 73% of offenders were under stress at the time of the murder. 32% have a psychiatric disorder, the majority being a personality disorder. 31% murdered strangers. 41% murdered customers/clients.
65% of offenders used a ruse/con to approach their victims. 60% of these murderers had 2-4 victims. 34% of the bodies are found within one day of the murder. 86% of serial killers commit their murders within a 9 yr time span.
Despite popular myths, FBI studies have shown that the majority of serial killers did not escalate violence from their first victim to the last and the number of sex acts per victim were consistent.
81% of serial killings are sexually motivated. 5% for profit. 3% for anger.
Only 49% of sexually motivated homicide victims displayed evidence of sexual contact.
72% of serial killings are intrastate – committed within the serial killer’s comfort zone of their own state. 26% are interstate – committed by long haul truck drivers, drifters who roam from state to state, those who otherwise travel for work and/or move from state to state.
Causes of death: 42% strangulation. 16% blunt force trauma. 12% stab wounds. 12% gunshot wounds. The rest are other/undetermined. (The COD in serial sexual murders differs in this area with gunshot wounds to be the #2 COD)
37% of serial killers brought their own weapon. 63% of offenders drove to the murder site.
DNA is recovered in only 23% of cases (11% in serial sexual murders). 65% of victims are found nude or partially nude. Bindings were used in 29% of cases. 15 cases involved sexual mutilation. 9 had bite marks. 3 cases of writing/carving on the victim. Only 7 cases involved victims that were displayed.
24% of victims came into contact with their killers in a public outdoor area. The majority of serial assaults/killings overall took place in an outdoor public area and the bodies were disposed of in an outdoor public area.
Evidence was destroyed, tampered with or removed from the crime scene in 36% of cases.
58% of offenders took no measures to conceal their identity or avoid leaving evidence at the scene. 8% of offenders wore gloves. 3% wore condoms.
54% of offenders took items from the victim/scene. The majority being clothing, shoes and jewelry.
Case linkage is based upon the following factors: Consistent method of operation, similar choices of victims, common approaches to victims, similar physical and/or sexual interactions, use of similar weapons, similar causes of death, forensic results, geographic locations of murders, temporal aspects including time of day, day of week, and time of year.
Body disposal methods can often determine the characteristics of a serial killer. In this study, 42 serial killers that had a combined 166 victims consistently used the same pathway of disposal for all of their victims. 48 serial killers with a combined 293 victims changed disposal methods between victims. Lastly, 2 serial killers had a combined 22 victims but 2 of these victim’s bodies (one per offender) were never recovered.
44% of victim bodies were left ‘as is’ (65% for serial sexual killers). Their bodies were found in the same place in which they were killed and were not concealed. 25% of offenders transported and dumped their victims. 19% of victim bodies were transported and concealed. 6.5% were left at the site and concealed. 6% were never recovered.
It’s interesting to note that only offenders who changed victim disposal methods between killings had victims that were left at the scene and concealed.
The common characteristics for serial killers who changed body disposal methods between killings: 54% were white. 58% were under the age of 37. 54% had at least a high school education. 65% were not married. 54% were employed at least part-time. 89% had been arrested prior to murder. 67% did not have a military background. 52% did not have a psychiatric diagnosis before their first murder. 42% killed 3-4 victims.
It’s unknown how many serial killers/serial sexual killers murder multiple victims in one single event. While there are many prior and current cases of double homicides of young women there is no readily available public data to effectively pinpoint characteristics you may expect to find in the Delphi suspect.
We can each do our part to assist the victims and families of sexual assault and murder.
Sign the petition here for the Cold Case Accountability Act of 2020. The proposed Cold Case Accountability Act of 2020 aims to support law enforcement so they have the fiscal and human resources to address the American Cold Case Epidemic, victims, and families to include a number of laws that keep law enforcement accountable to families of victims.
Join End the Backlog here:
END THE BACKLOG an initiative of the Joyful Heart Foundation to shine a light on the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the United States. Our goal is to end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it, expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials, and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state, and federal levels. We urge you to learn more about the backlog, where it exists, and why it matters. We invite you to take action and support efforts to test rape kits. Help us send the message that we must take rape seriously.
**For the purposes of this blog post, statistics for serial killers with various motivations are the primary source of data. Independent statistics for serial sexual killers were also included in the study but only listed here in parenthesis if there was a considerable difference. Percentages were rounded up or down when possible. Full details of the study can be found here.