The Chicago Police Department is revisiting the unsolved killings of more than 50 women across the city since 2001, facing pressure from community activists who say the string of slayings suggest a serial murderer is on the loose.
The CPD investigation follows a report by the Virginia-based Murder Accountability Project, a nonprofit group that analyzes information about homicides, which argued that the 51 killings — in which most of the victims died by asphyxiation — bore the “characteristics of a serial murderer.”
“If you look at these, at the nature of the cases, it’s classic,” Thomas Hargrove, the project’s founder, and co-chair, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It couldn’t be more serial-looking. It’s got every element for a classic pattern.”
“It actually stretches credulity to imagine that these 51 women were killed by 51 separate men,” he added.
The report, released on March 6, noted that many of the victims were found in alleyways, garbage cans, empty lots or abandoned buildings on Chicago’s South or West sides. Moreover, many of the women were African-American.
Using a computer algorithm to investigate possible links between the killings, the report suggested that many of the cases involved prostitution and were sexually-motivated.
Gregg Greer of Chicago’s own Freedom First International advocacy group mentioned the Murder Accountability Project report during a Police Board meeting last Thursday, during which he voiced activists’ repeated concerns that the Windy City could have a serial killer on its hands.
“Fifty cases is too much. We need accountability posthaste,” Greer said. “It’s gotta stop.”
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson rebuffed the idea, however, saying there was zero evidence to suggest a serial killer was behind the 51 slayings.
Johnson said his detectives have launched a review of the cases, however, and will team up with the FBI for technical assistance as needed. The newly formed task force, composed of six detectives deputized by the FBI, began its investigation in March, according to Block Club Chicago.
Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that in the past police had collected 21 separate DNA profiles from unidentified people other than the female victims and found no matches that pointed to a serial killer. Multiple DNA profiles were also collected in some of the murders, Guglielmi added, likely because many of the victims were sex workers and had multiple partners.
Detectives are now combing through DNA evidence, analyzing everything from semen to blood samples and fingernails in hopes they’ll come up with new matches. Evidence from the older murders, which date back to 2001, could make the task more difficult, however.
“It could take a long time to complete the examination of the cases,” Guglielmi told the newspaper.
Hargrove, who turned over his findings to Superintendent Johnson in March, expressed relief that the Chicago PD was finally taking a closer look into the heinous murders.
“I’m glad they’re doing this and I’m very glad they’re including the FBI,” he told Block Club Chicago. “The Chicago pattern is really quite classic. A serial killer often will kill a significant number of women and leave them in abandoned buildings or alleyways or trashcans. That is exactly what’s been happening in Chicago for the last 18 years.”
As reported by the Sun-Times, two of the victims, one of whom was eight months pregnant, were found in burning trash cans within a day of each other in November 2007. At least seven other victims were also discovered in trash receptacles.
So far, the Chicago Police Department says its too early to say whether the 51 slayings are linked.