Saturday, 23 August 2014

"The Texas Killing Fields"

This is another one of those long running cases where there are many victims in an area of the USA, but virtually most of the deaths remain unsolved.  This area of Texas, covering Houston, Galveston, Dickinson, and other towns, are also close to Interstate 45, which has led to the calling of the case the I - 45 murders.  In a 35 year period, 30 young women and girls have gone missing, been abducted and murdered, and their bodies turn up in a 25 acre patch of land, close to I - 45.  So many bodies turned up that the father of one of the victims spent many nights waiting on this land, armed with a high powered gun - a .44 Magnum - to see if somebody came to dump a body and he was going to blow them away.  Nobody did show up when he was there.  But his actions are very understandable.  What do we make of what is known?  Obviously, there are multiple killers involved, but some of the disappearances have the same MO, so it seems logical that there is at least one or two serial killers involved.  One view given by criminal profiler John Kelly is that it is many offenders that were opportunists.  

    Two men have emerged during the long investigations.  Harold Bell, 72, and a convicted killer, told Police in a letter way back in 1998, that he was responsible for killing 11 young girls.  Bell was a good suspect for Police for a long time but it seems there is not enough evidence to warrant charges.  Bell must not have revealed names, dates, dumping grounds and MO, but could have just been taunting Police.  The other suspect has in fact been convicted of murder.  Kevin Edison Smith was convicted through DNA in 2012 of the rape and murder of 13 year old Krystal Jean Baker from Texas City in 1996.  She vanished after visiting a local store and her battered body was found on March 5th 1996.  Smith was arrested on a drugs charge so was routinely swabbed and the sample was put onto the national database.  His luck ended in 2009 when a detective decided to put the clothes of the victim in for testing and DNA found on the clothes was put into the database.  Later came a match to Kevin Smith, and he received a life sentence.

    The list of victims and especially their ages, is heartbreaking.
Brenda Jones, 14, body discovered July 1st 1971
Colette Wilson, 13
Gloria Gonzales, 19, body found October 28th 1971
Alison Craven, 12, vanished November 9th 1971, discovered March 1972.
Debbie Ackerman, 15, Maria Johnson, 15, Vanished together November 11th 1971, found two days later.
Kimberley Pitch ford, 16, vanished January 3rd 1973.
Suzanne Bowers, 12, vanished May 21st 1977, found March 1979.
Brooks Bracewell, 12, Georgia Greer, 14, vanished together from store, bodies discovered April 3rd 1981 
Sandra Rambler, 14, vanished October 26th 1983.
Heide Villareal-Faye, 23,vanished October 10th 1983 from store, body discovered April 1984
Laura Miller, 16, vanished from store, September 10th 1984, body discovered February 1986.
Shelley Sikes, 19, vanished from vehicle on I - 45 May 24th 1986.
Suzanne Richardson, 22, vanished October 7th 1988.
Lynette Bibbs, 14, Tamara Fisher, 15, vanished February 1st 1996.
Laura Smither, 12 vanished on a jog on 3rd April 1997, discovered on April 20th.
Jessica Cain, 17, vanished from truck on I - 45, August 17th 1997.
Tot Harriman, 57, vanished July 12th 2001.
Sarah Trusty, 23, vanished July 12th 2002, whilst riding her bike. Found a fortnight later.
Teressa Vanegas, 16, vanished October 31st 2006.
Two unidentified females were discovered on February 3rd 1986 and September 8th 1991.

    Some were double disappearances, which could indicate two men but would young girls go with grown men unless they knew them.  Some vanished from stores which could point to a predator staking out stores.  That would mean he has all the time in the world, and he must be a very convincing person to get them into his vehicle.  The one stand out victim is Tot Harriman, who was in her late 50`s, which indicates to me that this was an opportunist attack, all the others were 23 and under.  The first cluster of victims to me, looks likely to have fallen to the same man, but then we get time lapses before the next known victims.  Different offenders?  Undoubtedly.  The usual jailing, deaths or moving from the areas can account for the time lapses but over such a long period, it cannot be the same man without him giving up some clues.  

    Areas do throw up numerous bodies; Highway 16 in Canada, Long Island, Santa Rosa, Houston/Galveston, Jefferson Davis Parish - all unsolved.  Maybe one day they will be.