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Hiding in the Sunshine

Saturday, November 7

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

- Ecclesiastes 2:17

A brutal series of killings. A community suffering from the trauma of living in the midst of a monster. 11 young women dead at the hands of a man that openly dared the authorities to discover his inner-fiend. Bureaucratic finger-pointing and obfuscating to explain why leads and neighborhood complaints had not been followed though to their logical conclusions. A Police force that missed several, obvious clues of blatant social misconduct.

I speak, of course,of Chicago.

The 1998 serial-rapist/murderer case of Andre Crawford, who terrorized Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, went to trial on Thursday in the shadow of what is an almost identical series of crime and circumstance in the Midwest's other "City by the Lake," Cleveland, OH.

These cases both share a startling number of similarities. Consider
  1. They both preyed upon economically-unstable, drug-addicted, young African -American women, using the promise of drugs as a lure..

  2. Each involve the rape and murder of 11 women (so far).

  3. Each involve a 12th victim that barely escaped with their lives.

  4. Each involve police ignoring community complaints about the (alleged) killer for months, or years.

  5. Each involve a suspect that remained in police orbit, or custody, for regular cycles during the investigation.

  6. Each involve communities that had to literally beg (in Cleveland, to no avail) for a task force to be set up.

  7. Each involve communities that came under fire by the media, after the discovery of the victims, as not being "aware" or "involved enough" with the neighborhood, thus creating an atmosphere that "allowed" the predator to thrive.

  8. In each case the accusation would be proven to be categorically false
And in each case, the suspects misfortune, or stupidity would bring him to justice, not the "boots on the ground."

In the Chicago case, Andre Crawford freely preyed upon the women of Englewood, Chicago's poorest neighborhood, for a period of 6 years. When a task force was formed, 3.5 years after the missing persons reports started coming in, he regularly checked in with them to "see if there were any new leads in the case."

This despite the fact his whereabouts were unaccounted for, he actually sold articles of his victims clothes in the very neighborhood were they had mysteriously disappeared and he was know to be somewhat gregarious, but completely secretive about himself.

The neighborhood, during that period of 1993-1999, was in full panic mode. Understand, this is one of the most crime-ridden areas of the entire United States, but neighborhood alarm was never enough to move the authorities to act. No newspapers wrote of the disappearances, and only mild attention was given to the missing persons investigation. This was clearly not a priority, that is until the bodies started being recovered. By that time Andre Crawford had already disposed of his 9th victim.

Unlike the news reports of the time's boasting of "great police work" bringing him to justice, he was actually brought in because his twelfth victim, after spending weeks in fear, went to the police. He would be brought in and, almost as an after-thought, asked to give a DNA sample, which 5 days later came back linked to seven of the recovered corpses.

Paralleling this saga in the Cleveland serial-rapist/murder case are the exploits of Anthony Sowell. He preyed upon the same socio-economic group in that city's Mt. Pleasant neighborhood over a period of 3-4 years.

Mt. Pleasant residents also made numerous complaints about his odd behavior, unbelievably bad and unusual body odor and suspicious home (where all his victims have been discovered).

When residents of the neighborhood complained of the awful "smell of death" that emanated from the area around his house, and the postman that delivered mail to his home complained of the "horrible, putrid" odor of the dwelling, the city blamed the Sausage Producer on the corner of the block, forcing them to replace a sewer system and buy new grease traps. One store owner even spoke of how, upon entering his store, Sowell's body odor "immediately filled the entire place with such a disgusting smell," he had to open all the windows and doors to his establishment.

And yet, no suspicion from the authorities surrounded him. Even within a neighborhood with numerous missing persons reports, and living in a house that constantly gave off noxious fumes.

Because Sowell was a sex offender, police regularly were meant to check on him at his home to ensure he was in residence. Their last visit was, ominously, on September 22 of this year.

Later that very night, Sowell beat and choked a twelfth woman until she passed out, then raped her. The victim awoke and climbed out the front window of his house, naked and screaming. And, though neighbors reported the incident to the police, nothing was done.

Five weeks would pass before the victim could muster the energy and overcome the fear of reporting the crime. She told authorities of the attack and her feeling that she "would probably have been killed had she not awakened" when she did,

When two officers (not the S.W.A.T. team they seem to send out for the most routine instances these days) went to his residence there was no Anthony Sowell, they did, however, find two decomposing bodies in the middle of his living room floor. Finally, the killing would come to an end.

These cases are shedding light on an alarming situation that has long been a problem, effective policing policies in underprivileged areas.

We regularly (and rightly) get an Amber Alert within 15 minutes of a child's abduction coming to light. We routinely (and rightly) hear every footnote associated with the disappearance of any white female within the the nations borders, and sometimes outside (ie, Natalie Holloway).

Were is the "equal protection under the law" for the residents of such communities as Chicago's Englewood and Cleveland's Mt. Pleasant?

Robert Ressler, one of the founders of Forensic Psychology and Psychological Profiling, once famously stated that there are two serial killers at work, at all times, on average in each state in the Union. That means 100 predators are on the loose within the borders of our country. Increasingly, these predators are being born of, moving to and operating in the poor, minority, urban areas.

With such information in mind, consider that in the last 10 years the following killers have been apprehended (who knows how many are still operating?):
  • Terry Blair - After being released from prison for the murder of his children's mother and her unborn child, he would rape and kill 8 women, while raping another 3 in the Kansas City, Missouri area, all within a three-month reign of terror. He would go undetected until a person following the case in the newspaper thought it sounded like the same m.o. from the Blair killing of 25 years prior and called a tip line.
  • Ronald Dominique - Used the lure of money for sex to get his victims to follow him home in the suburban New Orleans area. He would kill 23 people, over ten-year period, before being stopped. He also went undetected until a man came forward to police with a story of Dominique's anger at his refusal to allow himself to be tied up. A casual, investigatory trip to the Dominique residence turned up bodies and brought the saga to an end.
  • Paul Durousseau - Killed 9 (as two of his seven victims were pregnant) women throughout the Southwestern United States from 1997-2003. He used as a cover his being a taxicab driver to gain proximity with his victims. Even though the mother of his first victim gave police the name of the cab company and the driver's first initial, "D," as clues to help them when her daughter went missing, police did not follow up on the lead. Midway through his spree, he would do a month in jail for forcing himself upon one of his passengers, who barely escaped. And still no detection. He was finally picked up for a parole violation and, while incarcerated, a DNA match linked him to the other murders.
  • Vincent Johnson - Preyed upon women in the impoverished areas of Brooklyn, New York in 1999 and 2000. While there was a task force set up after the 4th of his victims would disappear, he continued to go undetected. After police interrogated one homeless suspect over an extended period, they had to release him because his DNA did not match with the samples from the crime scenes. Upon his leaving he told them of another homeless man, Johnson, that frequently discussed "rough sex." When police approached Johnson, he refused to be questioned or to submit a DNA sample, which is voluntary in the State of New York. After releasing him, one of the officer's watched him spit when he got out of the car. They collected the sample from the street and positively identified him as the culprit of the murders. He soon confessed to killing 6 women over that period of time.
  • Maury Troy Travis - Murdered 12 (he claimed 17) women between 2000 and 2002 in the St. Louis, Missouri area. It took the discovery of the 7th body (he had already killed 13, according to his count) for police to admit to a serial killer being in the area. They would turn up few clues on the killer, while Travis spent his days talking with reporters covering the case and his nights claiming more victims. His downfall came when he decided to, anonymously, send a local newspaper a map to one of the body of one of his yet undiscovered victims. The reporter (not the police), thankfully, recognized the map was from the website Expedia.com. After contacting the company, the reporter was able to trace the map search back to Travis' computer. Authorities moved in and questioned a calm Travis over a two hour period. Finally, they asked if they might be allowed to look at his computer, to which he blurted out," DAMN COMPUTER!" and admitted to being the killer.

All killers of poor, ethnic minorities, in urban, economically-unsound communities. All of which break every notion associated with patterns used by serial killers prior to the 1990's. All pretty much left unchecked while they committed their crimes over long periods of time, while their communities cried out for help.

This is a new phenomenon and therefore needs to be taken much more seriously, as the clear acceleration of the number of predators is great cause for alarm.

I don't highlight these cases for the sake of sensationalism. I am merely pointing out the clear evidence of these criminals ability to thrive when preying upon a small underprivileged class of people that had the misfortune of sharing the same zip code with a monster. Every other serial killer (that has been apprehended) has operated in a large geographic, sometimes multi-state or national, area. It is only good fortune, not the full-court press of resources, that stopped the killing in each of the cases discussed in this post.
That is not good enough!

The lives of all people are sacred. These communities should not be forced to hang their heads in shame, as if they are at fault for the actions of these sick people. They are victims as well. But more importantly, they are fellow Americans and human beings that deserve our empathy and the support and protections that their, OUR, municipal leaders can provide before, during, and after such a crisis strikes.

Why is it, I ask, such a difficult thing for the people of these communities to have their concerns addressed? Even when it's a matter of life and death.



2009 ·clean needles by TNB