Ginger Brooks isn't easily spooked. But a recent wave of unsolved shootings has this Phoenix woman so unnerved that she's carrying a handgun at night and refusing to walk outdoors after sundown. These days, when she visits her sickly neighbor five doors down, she drives there. Such is the reign of terror caused by two serial killers who've shot 27 people since last year, killing 11 of them. "We're really being more careful," Brooks says.
Police seem equally perturbed. What they've discovered so far is that one of the criminals, dubbed the "Baseline Killer" (after the road where the first crimes took place) is a black or Hispanic man who has committed a series of robberies, sexual assaults, kidnappings and six murders since last August. The other, known simply as Serial Shooter, has killed five people and wounded 16, shooting from inside what Phoenix police can only identify as a nondescript four-door sedan.
The latest victim to die was a 37-year-old woman named Carmen Miranda, murdered, police believe, by the Baseline Killer after she was abducted at a car wash on June 29. Police have not disclosed how Miranda was killed, but a NEWSWEEK review of autopsy reports of the prior victims show that each died from a single gunshot to the head or neck, sometimes at close range. Investigators recently added a September murder to the list of the Baseline Killer's suspected victims: Georgia Thompson, 19, a Tempe stripper whose stage name was "Felony." For months, a Kentucky man jailed on other charges claimed he'd shot Thompson. But he recanted recently. While officials sort out why the jailed man confessed, they are acutely aware that two killers remain free. As Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon says: "These monsters are still out there."