||ATLANTIC CITY Serial Killer
||Atlantic City NJ
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20070403: Ex-motel worker’s home searched in connection with prostitute serial killer probe
||NJ Atlantic City
|Authorities searched the home of a man who used to work at a motel near where the bodies of four prostitutes were found in a drainage ditch last fall, according to a law enforcement official.
The search began Monday, and continued into Tuesday morning at a house in Alloway Township, Salem County.
The owner of the house is a former employee of the Golden Key Motel, one of a string of seedy motels on the Black Horse Pike just outside of Atlantic City where the bodies of the women were found on Nov. 20.
Authorities are trying to determine if a serial killer is responsible for their deaths.
The owner of the home was questioned repeatedly by police, but is not in custody and has not been charged with a crime, according to the law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Officers from several law enforcement agencies spent about six hours at the house on Monday and searched the interior. They returned Tuesday morning to continue searching the house, as well as several smaller buildings outside it, the law enforcement official said.
Two of the four women found were murdered; autopsies could not determine the cause of death for the other two because they had been in the ditch for so long. No arrests have been made.
The victims were Kim Raffo, 35, a Brooklyn native who lived in Florida before coming to Atlantic City; Tracy Ann Roberts, 23, of Philadelphia, a former exotic dancer forced to the streets after drugs wrecked her looks; Barbara V. Breidor, 42, of Ventnor, who helped run her parents' business before developing a drug problem, and Molly Jean Dilts, a chubby-cheeked 20-year-old from Blairsville, Pa., who had been working the streets for a short time before she disappeared.
20061219: Thirty days but no answer on killer
||NJ Atlantic City
|When four prostitutes' bodies were found in a drainage ditch behind a string of seedy motels in West Atlantic City on Nov. 20, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz said it was too soon to call it the work of a serial killer.
A month later, it's still not officially classified as a serial case.
Resident Tahara Hardy wants to know why.
"Just admit it. It's not going to hurt you to say it's a serial killer,"
she said. "If they were more open, I'd know what I was dealing with."
Instead, residents are left wondering whether another body will turn up or if the killer has left the area.
For complete details, read Wednesday's edition of The Press.
An encounter with a killer?
Pamela Covelli is certain she met the man who killed her friends.
The 33-year-old Covelli, who is in protective custody at Atlantic County Jail, had been with three of the four victims found dead in a ditch along the Black Horse Pike about two weeks before they were discovered.
"The only difference between me and those girls is that I went by my gut feeling," says Covelli, who joined the victims with a man she claims had a lot of money, a lot of drugs and a bad attitude. "I knew something wasn't right and I got out of there."
Covelli never saw her friends again.
20061214: Flier providing ‘serial killer' profile circulating in Atlantic City
||NJ Atlantic City
|A hotel manager said Wednesday city police gave the hotel a private company's profile of an “Atlantic City Serial Killer,” although the Atlantic County prosecutor denies the flier came from anybody working on the quadruple-homicide investigation.
The Best Western Hotel at Pacific and New York avenues has a flier from a private criminal-profiling company called STALK Inc. The profile describes “The Eastbound Strangler,” a local man it says is responsible for the deaths of four women — all prostitutes — whose bodies were found last month in a watery ditch near the Black Horse Pike just outside the city line in Egg Harbor Township.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz acknowledged seeing the profile, but denied investigators have been distributing it. He calmly dismissed the STALK profile and those of other veteran profilers who have commented to news outlets about the known details of the case.
“They don't know any of the evidence,” Blitz said. “They don't know any of the forensics and they are rendering opinions based on limited information that we have put out and they don't know anything about the case.”
Denise Hill, a resort prostitute who knew some of the victims, said she spent a night at the Best Western with a man whom police were showing pictures of to people in that neighborhood. Investigators have visited the hotel two or three times in the three weeks since the bodies were found, two hotel workers said.
Best Western property manager Diana Samuel said police dropped off a printout of the profile, which can also be found at
Atlantic City police declined to comment.
“He has an extreme foot fetish and has a collection of women's shoes and the shoes of his victims,” the profile of the killer says. All of the victims' bodies were left fully clothed, but with bare feet, according to the county prosecutor. “(The killer) has not killed every prostitute he has come in contact with. There are prostitutes who know him for the sexual gratification he gets from their feet.”
Hill said she did not remember the man showing any particular interest in her feet during their encounter at the hotel.
STALK describes itself on its Web site as “a profiling team of professionals whose mission is to aid law enforcement in the apprehension of serial killers through a comprehensive profiling process.” The company president has previously commented on the case to several news agencies. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
“Whether he is posing his victims to the east for some perverted religious reason or posing them to defame Atlantic City is, of yet, an unanswered question,” the profile says in its Dec. 11 update. “Another possibility is that this pathological narcissist wants his victims pointed in his direction (toward where he lives)? Perhaps so he can look across the bay, at a defined landmark, where these women were posed into subservient positions.”
The profile ends by directing anyone with information to call Atlantic City police at (609) 926-4051. The information is inaccurate, as that phone number is actually for Egg Harbor Township police.
Blitz has yet to say anything about any potential suspects. He has not even acknowledged that all of the victims were killed by one person.
The Best Western is one of two businesses where employees said investigators have asked about security camera footage. The hotel and Maloney's Uptown Sports Bar & Grille, both in the beach-block neighborhood that three of the victims frequented, have outdoor cameras.
The Best Western saves about three months of digital video footage, Samuel said, but she was unsure if investigators ever specifically asked to see the footage because her shift ended while they were there. At Maloney's, renovations kept cameras turned off during the weeks that the girls began disappearing, bartender Larry Adams said.
Investigators did not ask to see camera footage at the Tennessee Avenue Super 8, according to workers at the hotel that sits near a restaurant that was one of the last places victim Kim Raffo was seen alive. The cameras there all point onto the hotel property, not the street.
However, investigators did stop to ask questions at the Super 8, a hotel clerk said.
Investigators visited the Best Western as recently as Friday, Samuel said. The week before, they asked if a man named Eldridge had ever registered there, she said.
Hill said the man she slept with there was named Eldridge.
Blitz has refused to comment about anyone investigators have spoken to during the investigation. He continued that firm stance Wednesday, even when asked about contact with British authorities about an ongoing murder investigation there.
Detectives have found five bodies in 11 days in and around the East England borough of Ipswich. The first three victims were found in wet or wooded areas.
The four Atlantic City victims were all found in a drainage ditch that runs through a marshy area behind a strip of motels in Egg Harbor Township's West Atlantic City section.
“It may be something that we look into in the future. Any help that is offered is welcomed,” said Louise Rosher, press officer for the Suffolk Police Department, which is leading the Ipswich investigation. “But that is a long way away and we have not, as of yet, made any contact with your investigators or found any connection with the two incidents.”
20061213: In N.J., murderers, not serial killers
||NJ Atlantic City
New Jersey has had its share of notorious homicides - from domestic killings by hired hit men to mass murders by deranged shooters.
But rarely has it been home to the type of Jack-the-Ripper killings that seem to be playing out in Atlantic City, where the bodies of four women were found last month in a watery ditch.
Experts say they don't know why the nation's most densely populated state, cut in half by one of the busiest highways, hasn't been the scene more often of sensational serial killings.
Still, the state has a rich murder history.
Perhaps New Jersey's most famous crime is the kidnap-slaying of the baby son of aviator Charles Lindbergh near Hopewell in 1932, dubbed the "crime of the century."
In 1949, in one of the first modern mass murders, disgruntled World War II veteran Howard Unruh went on a shooting rampage in East Camden, leaving 13 people dead in 12 minutes.
Other notorious Jersey murders include the case of Robert Marshall, a wealthy Toms River insurance broker who hired a hit man in 1984 to kill his wife, Maria, so he could continue an affair with a school vice principal.
The sensational story was told in a best-selling book by Joe McGinniss, Blind Faith, which later became a television mini-series.
Ten years later, and closer to home, Cherry Hill Rabbi Fred J. Neulander hired a friend to kill his wife so he could carry on an affair with a radio personality.
On May 2, 1973, Black Liberation Army member Joanne Chesimard, now known as Assata Shakur, was stopped with two companions on the New Jersey Turnpike by Troopers James Harper and Werner Foerster for driving with a broken taillight. A gunfight ensued, during which one of Chesimard's companions and Foerster were killed.
In 1979, Chesimard broke out of the Clinton Correctional Institution after members of the Black Liberation Army led an armed assault. She later fled to Cuba, where she remains despite a $1 million New Jersey State Police reward for her capture.
By definition, serial murderers have a cooling off period between killings and follow a pattern. Two of the state's serial murder cases involved medical personnel.
In 1966, authorities in Bergen County began investigating nine suspicious deaths at Riverdell Hospital in Oradell. In each case, patients were admitted to the hospital for surgery and died of unrelated causes.
Investigators found empty vials of curare - a poison originating from South America - in a locker assigned to Dr. Mario Jascalevich, an Argentine immigrant.
It took 10 years before Jascalevich was charged and tried for five of the murders. He eventually was convicted of only three of the murders.
More recently, Charles Cullen, a former nurse, admitted killing 29 patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey hospitals and nursing homes, where he worked from 1986 until his arrest in 2003.
In 2001, an auto mechanic from Montgomery County was named a suspect in as many as 10 slayings in three states when he was charged with the 1997 murder of a Camden prostitute.
Two years later, James D. Gunning, 29, pleaded guilty in the Camden case and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. He wasn't charged in the other murders.
In 1996, Anthony Balaam of Trenton confessed to sexually assaulting and strangling four prostitutes during sex-for-drugs exchanges.
Baalam, nicknamed the "Trenton Strangler," was convicted of the four murders.
20061206: Angels Join Hunt For Serial Killer
||NJ Atlantic City
As an area family mourned the death of Canarsie native Kim Raffo last week, another Canarsie native is joining the search to find the serial killer who reveled in taking her life.
Radio host and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa said last week that he has organized a team to go to the underbelly of Atlantic City and try to find the person responsible for murder ing Raffo and three other women.
“We’re there around the clock, patrolling for illicit activities and any information about this case,” Sliwa told this paper last week.
Police said that Raffo, 35, who grew up in Canarsie and Starrett City before moving to Florida 17 years ago, was strangled with a rope and discarded in a muddy ditch behind a hot-sheet hotel on Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township, a known hooker stroll in the outskirts of Atlantic City.
“The people in this area are of two minds,” said Sliwa, who said that New York Guardian Angels members are joining Pennsylvania Guardian Angels members in the search. “They don’t want to snitch, but they know that this is the risk that they take.”
Hoping that those who reside on the shadowy side of civilization would be more apt to talk to Guardian Angels than the police, Sliwa’s members are leafleting the area, looking for information that they would in turn pass on to the authorities.
While investigators have identified her as a prostitute, her father and grandparents still living in Starrett City remember Raffo as a beautiful, nurturing woman that aspired to be a chef at an Atlantic City casino.
Friends at her new home in Atlantic City said that Raffo had kicked a drug habit that had led her to a life of prostitution and was trying to get her life back.
Her remains were found on November 20. She was last seen the day earlier having something to eat at a diner where prostitutes frequent.
Raffo’s estranged husband, Hugh Auslander, has spent the last week looking for any information about Kim’s killer.
He has even set up a small memorial near the site where his wife was found, according to the Daily News.
In interviews, he said that his marriage to Raffo broke up about six years ago when she reportedly left him for another man she met at a culinary school.
Raffo followed her new paramour to Atlantic City, where she reportedly fell into the world of drugs, addiction and, finally, prostitution, according to published accounts.
“I still love her very much. She's a good girl who got caught up in some bad stuff,” Auslander told reporters. “But in her heart, she's a good person.”
Family members said last week that the they plan two services for the slain woman – one in Canarsie and one in Florida, where Kim’s mother and sister live.
As of this writing, cops have identified the other three women found in the ditch with Raffo, but have yet to identify a possible suspect.
20061202: A.C. Streetwalkers Fear Serial Killer Is On Loose
||NJ Atlantic City
Strangled, smothered, slashed or set ablaze, there are plenty of ways for hookers to die here.
So far this year, six prostitutes are believed to have been murdered in or near Atlantic City, a seventh had her throat slit but survived, and countless others are believed to have been assaulted but chose not to report the crimes to police.
The fear among street walkers that a serial killer was to blame for the deaths of four women whose bodies were found face-down in a ditch last month behind a string of seedy motels just outside the city is only the latest worry for those who make their living in the sex trade. It underscores just how perilous it can be to sell sex on the streets of this gambling mecca.
"It's dangerous, but all you're focused on is that next dollar," said a prostitute known on the streets as Spazz, who is now looking for a gun or a knife to protect herself. "It kind of clouds your judgment. You're not focused on the situation you're getting into. That's the scariest part about it."
Authorities do not believe the four bodies found Nov. 20 just off the Black Horse Pike in neighboring Egg Harbor Township are related to the attacks on three prostitutes earlier this year on the same street in Atlantic City. In each of the earlier attacks, prostitutes had their throats slashed; one survived.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz noted that the Atlantic City cases were sufficiently different from the Egg Harbor cases to make authorities believe they were carried out by different attackers. He also has resisted speculation that the four motel bodies were the work of a serial killer, noting that autopsies could not determine a cause of death for two of the women.
But both sets of attacks point out how dangerous it is for prostitutes, who are statistically 18 times more likely to be murdered than other women, and 40 times more likely to die from other than natural causes, according to national studies.
A 2004 article in the American Journal of Epidemiology detailed a study of the murder rate among prostitutes nationwide from 1981 to 1990. It found that an average of 124 hookers were murdered each year in the United States.
The most notorious prostitute killings, in the Pacific Northwest, were carried out by a single attacker who became known as the Green River Killer. In pleading guilty in 2003 to the murders of 48 prostitutes, Gary Leon Ridgway told the judge he targeted street walkers "because I thought I could kill as many as I wanted to without getting caught."
"They were easy to pick up, without being noticed," he said in court. "I knew they would not be reported missing right away, and might never be reported missing."
No arrests have been made in any of the Atlantic County attacks this year. The bodies behind the motel were identified as Kim Raffo, 35, a Brooklyn native who lived in Florida before coming to Atlantic City; Tracy Ann Roberts, 23, of Philadelphia; Barbara V. Breidor, 42, of Ventnor; and Molly Jean Dilts, a chubby-cheeked 20-year-old from Blairsville, Pa., who had only been working the streets for a short time before she disappeared.
Shivering as she stood on a corner of Pacific Avenue in the heart of Atlantic City's red-light district on a 65-degree November day, Spazz said violent customers are part of the sex trade. Two years ago, she said, a "trick" started beating her in the car they were in.
"I froze," she said. "I was afraid he was going to shoot me.
So I just took it."
Like many other prostitutes in similar situations, Spazz did not call the police, for obvious reasons. Like all four hookers found dead behind the motels in Egg Harbor Township, and like 85 percent of prostitutes nationwide, Spazz has a drug problem.
Spazz, who said she is 23 but looks twice as old, said she has been turning tricks on the streets of Atlantic City for five years since arriving from New York.
"I really don't want to be doing this," she said. "I want to get my GED and become a child's counselor. But I get sick and I gotta get well," she said, referring to finding more drugs to satisfy her addiction.
On May 3, firefighters responding to a blaze on Georgia Avenue, not far from Boardwalk Hall, where the Miss America pageant used to be held, found the body of 45-year-old Veronica Fields, a local prostitute. She had been burned so badly that it wasn't until an autopsy that authorities discovered her throat had been slashed.
Two months later, another prostitute who police won't identify was attacked in a parking lot next to the building where Fields' body was found. She, too, had her throat slashed, but survived the attack.
And on Oct. 1, a third hooker, Karen Luongo, was found dead in her bathtub across the street, her throat also slashed.
The violence has prompted Atlantic City hookers to arm themselves. Christine, 37, who works out of a cheap motel on Pacific Avenue near the entrance to several casinos, bought a canister of pepper spray immediately after the bodies were found behind the motel.
She said she and other working girls she knows have stopped accompanying men on trips to motels on "The Pike," preferring to stick closer to home and meet clients in cars or motel rooms.
"It scares the hell out of me," she said. "We're all talking about it, and I'm still ready to jump in the first car that comes along."
Khadijah, another hooker who works a few blocks down from Christine, said she will only "date" regular customers, at least until things cool down. She used to carry a knife in her back pocket but stopped doing so because she feared a weapons charge would buy her more jail time than a solicitation charge. Now, she's looking for another knife and a better place to hide it.
Bunny, a prostitute in her early 20s who also works on Pacific Avenue, said she has temporarily stopped hooking and switched to peddling drugs instead.
"This is no kind of life," she said. "None of us graduates from high school thinking we're going to end up doing this."
20061128: N.J. Police Suspect Serial Killer in Four Slayings
||NJ Atlantic City
|The third of four women found face down in a drainage ditch outside of Atlantic City, N.J., has been identified by New Jersey authorities as a prostitute, leading police to fear that a serial killer is on a murderous rampage targeting hookers at the low end of the city's thriving underground service industry.
Last week, the bodies of four women were found in a watery ditch along "Black Horse Pike," a seedy, destitute strip of cheap motels along Route 40 in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., located a few miles from Atlantic City.
The bodies were found within a few hundred feet of each other, all face down in several inches of water, heads turned east, wearing clothes but no shoes or socks.
At least one of the victims died of strangulation; another, officials said, died by asphyxia "by unspecified means."
Based on the decomposition of their bodies, authorities believe the women died on different days, from two days to up to a month before their bodies were discovered.
The three identified victims had worked as prostitutes. Atlantic County prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz said dental records had identified the third victim as Barbara V. Breidor, 42.
She had been in the drainage ditch approximately two weeks before she was found, Blitz said.
Hallmarks of a Ritual Slaying
The killings have many of the hallmarks of a ritualized, serial killing, experts say.
Most serial killers develop a signature style, which in this case could be the creation of a "burial ground," meticulous positioning of the bodies, and removal of only the victims' shoes and socks, according to Eric Hickey, director of forensic studies at Alliant International University in California.
This crime, Hickey says, also suggests paraphilia -- a sexual fantasy or sexual deviance acted out with horrific consequences.
The killer probably receives sexual gratification from grotesque imagery and tortuous acts, and may be reliving and sexualizing traumatic events from his own life, Hickey says.
According to forensic psychologist Stephen Raffle, the seemingly ritualized nature of the murders may also indicate that the killer has a disdain for prostitution that stems from an exaggerated good mother-bad mother mental split.
He aggrandizes wholesome women while denigrating and abusing "depraved" women, blaming his own depravity and sexual problems on the women he victimizes.
Likely to Strike Again
If the perpetrator follows the pattern of most serial killers, he will strike again, Hickey said, but probably in a different location after some time has passed.
While serial killers typically know they could be caught, they hope it happens long after the crime, he added.
These killers, Hickey said, often enjoy the media attention, giving prosecutors and police another reason to withhold information about the crimes.
Serial killers tend to target prostitutes because they are easy prey, Hickey said. Prostitutes, particularly at the low end of the industry, have obvious vulnerabilities: They are alone with strangers, live and work in dangerous neighborhoods, and can sometimes go missing for days without being missed.
For research psychologist Melissa Farley, the problem runs much deeper.
She says that prostitutes are "considered worthless human beings" and that our society denies the social realities of prostitution in order to allow it to continue.
Farley conducted a study that showed that 82 percent of a sampling of prostitutes had been physically assaulted. Murder accounts for approximately half the deaths of prostitute women, according to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology.
The so-called "oldest profession in the world" is also one of the most dangerous.
The four victims in the Atlantic City slayings were discovered just miles beyond the bright lights of the casinos, hotels and tourist attractions in a dark underbelly of drugs, crime, poverty and prostitution.
"It's a little city with big-city problems," Maj. Kathleen Calvo of the local Salvation Army told ABC News.
On the edge of affluent Egg Harbor Township and bordering Atlantic City, Black Horse Pike shares these big-city problems.
A largely forsaken strip, it is home to derelicts, out-of-luck gamblers, drug dealers, prostitutes, the working poor, and in some cases, according to Bill Southery, president of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, those with social and mental problems who were relocated there and have no other place to go.