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DETROIT – Detroit police said Wednesday that three apparent slayings of women may be linked and they warned that investigators may be dealing with a serial killer.
“We’re not trying to create alarm,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig said. “But we want to get this information out.”
The killer – a man – appears to be targeting sex workers in their 50s.
Social media rumors had been developing since mid-May that there was a serial killer in downtown Detroit, but at the time the police department repudiated them, saying, “there is false information circulating” and “this is not true.”
Instead, police said a suspect had been identified with incidents involving the death of women.
On Wednesday, Craig reiterated the department’s denial, saying that these deaths are different and have “no connection to that.”
Craig said it also does not appear connected to other recent homicides police are investigating, but he did not close out the possibility that there are older, unsolved rapes and slayings that may be connected to the same killer.
Craig said the department decided to warn of a possible serial killer on Wednesday after a woman’s body was found naked in a vacant home near Mount Elliott. Police believe the latest death may be connected to the two others.
“We want to get this out,” he said. “We have an active homicide investigation going on for all three.”
The killer, Craig said, appears to be luring women into vacant buildings, raping and killing them. The chief urged women to be vigilant and avoid going into homes with anyone.
“It appears that there is a trend and a pattern,” he said, adding that police “wanted to make the sex worker community aware of this very dangerous suspect.”
Night Angels, a Sterling Heights nonprofit group that seeks to end human trafficking, said that the deaths terrify women forced to work in unsafe conditions in the sex trade.
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“There are a lot of homicides that don’t make it into the newspaper,” said Mel Baggett of Night Angels, adding that violence “happens all the time.”
Baggett said that it’s tempting for people to dismiss their deaths because, instead of victims, they think of them as prostitutes – and criminals. But, he added, they deserve the same justice as anyone else.
Of the three bodies so far, one was found Wednesday, and the others on March 19 and May 24.
The latest victim’s body was found naked, but no identifying details were released. It appeared that she may have been dead for a couple of days, police said.
In the first woman’s death, which investigators initially thought was a drug overdose, the medical examiner determined that the victim died of blunt-force trauma. No determination on the manner of death has been made on the other victims, the chief said.
“We do believe there may be a connection,” Craig said. “When we looked at all three incidents, there are some similarities, which I won’t go into detail.”
He did say that, typically, killers commit their crimes in the same manner, and he hopes that there are not other victims.
All three women, Craig said, appear to be involved in the sex trade – a challenge, police said, because it may discourage witnesses from coming forward.
The other two victims, Craig said, were 52 and 53. One victim was white, the other black, an indication, the chief said, that the killer does not appear to be targeting women by race.
“We want you to talk to us,” he said. “Any information – however small – may help us identify this violent predator.”
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