Detroit Serial Killer? Police Say Potential Suspect Is Targeting Women in Their 50s

Detroit law enforcement has warned that a lone serial killer may be stalking the streets of the city's east side—potentially targeting sex workers in their 50s.

Police chief James Craig addressed the media yesterday following the discovery of a body which appeared to have links to two other recent deaths in the area. All three victims were found partially clothed in vacant buildings and in various stages of decomposition, Craig confirmed.

The remains of the first woman were discovered on March 19 and initially detectives believed she had died from a drug overdose. However, on May 20 the city medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be blunt force trauma. The second woman's body was found on May 24.

The second set of remains was decomposed to a different degree, but Craig noted: "There were certain aspects of this crime that were very similar to the first, so it was a pause for concern." The probe stepped up a gear yesterday as more remains were found with similarities.

"Based on that information we very quickly decided that it appears this is a suspect who is targeting sex workers," the chief said. "Right now, based on the information we have, each of the crimes have been committed in vacant dwellings, all on the east side. Not confined to one small geographic area." He appealed for information from all members of the public, including local sex workers.

An emerging trend appeared to be the age of the victims. One was 52 and another was 53. "It appears the suspect may be targeting women in their early 50s," Craig told reporters.

He said one challenging factor was the bodies were being found in abandoned buildings. It has meant timelines are distorted and it can be days before deputies are alerted to a new death. He noted that sex workers are apprehensive about contacting the police department with information but stressed that the new investigation is not intended to target the community.

"This is about apprehending a very violent, predatory, suspect," he said.

Confirming there were no similar death patterns on the city's west side, the chief stated that he believed it was a lone suspect based on his experience in working on similar cases in the past.

"There are certain things that we look for and see that are consistent, and I will just leave it at that. But we are going to find them," he said in response to one question.

"There is a reason we are linking all three [deaths] but because we are still very early on in this investigation we just want to identify the violent perpetrator and bring some sense of closure.

"We are not trying to create fear in the community but it is a pause for concern for the sex workers who are out in our community," the police chief continued. "Right now it seems the suspect is targeting sex workers who engage in illicit sexual activity in vacant dwellings."

The Detroit Free Press reported that the victims had been different races.

The chief was quick to quash any suggestion the latest investigation was linked to rumors about a Detroit serial killer which had been circulating across social media last month. At the time, it was speculated that the bodies of several female victims were found in dumpsters.

He said rumors had been linked to a May 15 homicide on Robert Bradby Drive in Detroit's east side but a suspect in that incident has since been apprehended by officers. "This is totally separate," he said. "This is an investigation based on what we believe to be a very significant pattern."

Detroit Police Chief James Craig
Detroit Police Chief James Craig talks to reporters about a shooting outside of a barber shop where nine people were shot November 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. He addressed media this week about a suspected serial killer and rapist in Detroit's east side. Getty/Joshua Lott