On the trail of a killer: 'Geographic profiler' criticizes police
Advocate staff writer
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Investigators hunting Louisiana's serial killer are sticking to their methods despite the claims of an outside researcher that a computerized profiling tool could help guide their search.

"The only thing they're doing is chasing dead bodies until (the serial killer) 'aborts' and lays low," said Maurice Godwin of Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C.

Godwin has been working since August on a "geographic profile," a map that may show areas where the killer likely lives or works.

Godwin estimates there is about a 50 percent probability that the serial killer lives or works in an area centered on South Acadian Thruway and Interstate 10.

Criminal profiler Brent Turvey, who teaches criminal forensics at Knowledge Solutions, a consulting firm in Oregon, said geographic profiling just isn't applicable to Lousiana's serial killer -- especially not when it's performed by someone outside the task force.

Publicizing results obtained without complete information isn't useful, Turvey said, and can actually harm an investigation by affecting the suspect's behavior.

"If you're not working with them, you don't know what the hell you're doing," Turvey said.

All the profile information released so far by the Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force, assembled by workers at the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, has described the killer's likely personal characteristics and habits. Hints about his location have been limited to his supposed "Baton Rouge connection."

After gleaning locations related to the crimes from media reports, Godwin input them into software which he says can determine the killer's "comfort zone" -- basically the area in which he operates. That zone is determined by software parameters such as average distance among crime scenes, or from the places where victims' bodies are found.

The first victim tied to the serial killer was 41-year-old nurse Gina Wilson Green, found strangled Sept. 24, 2001, in her home. Charlotte Murray Pace, 22, was stabbed to death in her Tigerland town house May 31. Pam Kinamore, 44, was found dead near Interstate 10's Whiskey Bay exit several days after she disappeared from her home July 12.

The FBI profile was last updated Dec. 30, after detectives confirmed the killer's fourth victim, 23-year-old Trineisha Dené Colomb of Lafayette.

FBI profilers say the serial killer is likely between 25 and 35, physically strong and wears a size 10 or 11 shoe. They say his finances are tight and his job probably does not involve dealing significantly with the public.

Godwin blasted the FBI's behavioral profile of the serial killer as "flip-flop" and the product of "brainstorming and hunches" -- "they're dancing around so that when the case is solved they can fit him to the profile," he said.

But U.S. Attorney David Dugas defended the FBI's work.

"What the (FBI) behavioral scientists do is so specific, we rely on them to make judgments" about what methods to use, Dugas said. "If there's any investigative tool, including profiling, that is valid and for which we have enough evidence, we'll use it."

Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Craig Stansbury said the updated FBI profile helped flesh out a few details about the killer, including his presumed familiarity with the Lafayette area. Scott and Grand Coteau, the towns where Colomb's car and her body were found, are fairly rural areas where the killer likely felt comfortable, according to the profile.

Though Godwin's results have been repeated by some local news outlets, task force spokeswoman Cpl. Mary Ann Godawa has said Godwin only has access to the information released to the public, nothing more.

Task force investigators have acknowledged for several months the possibility of employing geographic profiling, but spokespeople have consistently said no decision's been made to use the technique.

"It's a tool that we've discussed using," Godawa said.

Godwin said he called the task force last week and investigators expressed no interest.

Godwin's full critique of the FBI profile and his map of the killer's "comfort zone" are available at Godwin's Web site, www.drmauricegodwin.com.