Prostitute Deaths Raise Fears of Serial Killer in Nation's Capital
Jun. 03, 1990
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The bodies of the women keep turning up. Two in one weekend. Nine over the past 14 months.
Eight were white. Seven were known prostitutes.
Three young women were suffocated within five days of each other last week, their bodies found in suburban Virginia.
Every new murder renews the question: Is there a serial killer on the loose targeting prostitutes who work several blocks from the White House?
The police aren't talking.
''We're looking at all the possibilities,'' said Mike Rocconi, an Arlington County (Va.) police spokesman, echoing statements by other police departments.
''I don't believe they are at the point where they are going to say they are all related,'' said Lucy Caldwell, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman.
But the women who walk the streets once frequented by at least seven of the victims know that someone is killing white, blond prostitutes. They say they are taking precautions, even though two local police officers who knew all the dead women say business seems to be proceeding as usual.
''I'm having the guys follow me in a taxi,'' said one blond, self-described ''whore,'' identifying herself only as Susan. ''I quit working at night.''
Marie, a 22-year-old brunette with a 3-year-old baby to support, said she no longer gets into a customer's car, but she recognizes such precautions may be useless.
''If he's a serial killer, nothing's going to help us,'' said Marie, dressed like a college coed out for a jog. ''A couple of the girls he's gotten so far were fighters. ... He must have some sort of scars on him, because at least two of them wouldn't have given up their lives without a fight.''
The nine cases have similarities and differences:
-Seven are known prostitutes who worked in the District. The identities and the occupations of the other two were not yet known.
-Eight victims were white, including the seven prostitutes. One was black.
-The three victims found last week in Virginia - two in Arlington over the weekend and one in Alexandria on Wednesday - were suffocated. Three other victims were shot in the head. Two were shot in the chest. One was killed by a blow to the head.
-Six victims were found in the Virginia suburbs, three in the District.
A criminologist said different killing methods and locations don't necessarily mean several killers are at work.
''It might mean he's trying to screw up the cops,'' said Robert O. Heck, an architect of the FBI's serial killing unit. He stressed he was discussing such killers in general, not the Washington cases.
''Different types of killing is nothing,'' said Heck, who now works for the Justice Department's juvenile justice office. ''Even geographics could change vastly with a serial killer. Twenty miles is nothing to some of them.''
The many police jurisdictions involved are sharing information, and they held a meeting Thursday that included the FBI. But no task force has been formed that would indicate the agencies believe the slayings are linked.
Prissy Williams-Godfrey, a self-described madam and spokeswoman for prostitutes, said she is outraged at what she considers police inaction.
''I never thought I would see white women in America being treated like this,'' said Williams-Godfrey, who is black. ''They're being treated that way because of their sexual preference. They (police) think these women are getting exactly what they deserve.''
Instead of sending out male decoys to catch female prostitutes, she said, police should ''put women decoys out to catch the killer.''
The fact that most of the victims have been prostitutes should not ease the fears of those who aren't streetwalkers, said Merlyn D. ''Doug'' Moore, a professor at Sam Houston Criminal Justice Center in Huntsville, Texas.
''A prostitute is a more likely candidate just because of the nature of her business,'' Moore said.
However, he said, ''The assumption is that the individual who is killing is only killing prostitutes, and we don't know that. How many other homicides might there be but we haven't found them yet?''
Prostitutes know danger comes with the territory.
''If you put yourself out here on the street, trying to make money, what can you expect?'' said Cindy, 25, rubbing a bruise inflicted by a customer.
The freckle-faced blonde from Sacramento said prostitution has paid her bills for 11 years, the last four in Washington. Some streetwalkers claim to make $1,500 to $2,000 a week here.
Although she knew seven of the murder victims, she plans to keep working.
''Washington is a good town,'' Cindy said. ''There's a whole bunch of money here for prostitutes.''
Police, meanwhile, were trying to determine the identities of two victims.
One - found suffocated Wednesday near an office complex in Alexandria - was described as white, under 20, 5-foot-3 to 5-foot-4, about 130 pounds with brown eyes and brownish-blond hair. She was wearing a black leather and suede jacket, a turquoise and black top and black Spandex pants.
A black woman who was shot five times, several times in the head, was found May 9 on a curb in Falls Church, Va.
The seven victims who worked the same Washington corridor, according to authorities or fellow prostitutes, are:
-Sandra Rene Johnson, 20, found May 27 in her apartment in the Country Club Towers in Arlington. She was suffocated.
-Sherry Kay Larman, 26, of Lanham, Md., found May 26 on the top level of parking garage on South Highland Street in Arlington. She was suffocated.
-Lisa Colleen Grossman, 29, of Fairfax County, Va., found March 18 on South Pickett Street in Alexandria, Va. She died from a blow to the head.
-Carolen Marie Wallace, 22, of Forestville, Md., found Feb. 14 in a Fairfax County storm sewer near I-495. She was shot in the head.
-Roxanne Lynn Johnson, 23, of Baltimore, found Oct. 1 outside Ballou High School in southeast Washington. She was shot in the head.
-Cori Louise Jones, 29, found Aug. 12 on a street in the Anacostia section of Washington. She was shot in the chest.
-Mary Ellen Sullenberger, 20, of Lancaster, Pa., found April 2, 1989, near 12th and L streets in northwest Washington. She was shot in the chest.