Local News : Tuesday, November 03, 1998

Homicide experts explore Spokane-Tacoma link of killer

by The Associated Press

SPOKANE - The person who has killed at least eight women here and in Tacoma in the past year has a reason for bouncing back and forth between the two cities, two prominent homicide investigators say.

Finding that reason could help Spokane detectives solve the cross-state slayings, the experts told The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Vernon Geberth, a retired New York City police homicide commander, suspects the killer is a street person able to gain his victims' confidence quickly.

Former Baltimore homicide detective and FBI profiler Patricia Kirby thinks he is a seemingly harmless "average Joe" playing out calculated and ritualistic homicidal fantasies.

Geberth and Kirby, who made their reputations cracking big murder cases, commented in telephone interviews after being briefed on the case by authorities or the Spokesman-Review.

Both agree he likely travels to Tacoma, but may live in the Spokane area. "He's got a connection in Tacoma that has nothing to do with the murders - family, children, maybe work. The urge to kill and the situation that is the catalyst for that is not something he can control," Kirby said. "When something triggers it, he can't wait until he gets back to Spokane to kill again."

Detectives have connected the deaths of seven women in Spokane and one in Tacoma to the same killer or killers. A second woman whose body was found recently near Tacoma may be added.

Each of the women was killed by a single gunshot to the head. The victims' bodies were found in remote locations. All had lived on the streets and were involved in prostitution, drug abuse, or both. Most had been missing for months before their bodies were found.

The task force of city and county detectives investigating the Spokane slayings isn't using a criminal profile because "we don't want to rule anything out," Spokane police Capt. Steve Braun, the group's co-commander, said yesterday.

Geberth, who has investigated thousands of homicides, believes the killer knows the women and runs in the same circles, allowing him to move unnoticed between the two cities.

"These are a particular type of victim," Kirby said. "It's easy to find those women in any town."