On August 5, 2000, a 31-year-old homeless crack addict admitted to strangling five Brooklyn women, adding that images of his mother clouded his mind as he committed his final murder. "The thoughts of my childhood and foster care and mom came into my mind" just before he crushed the life out of Patricia Sullivan last month, Brooklyn Strangler Vincent Johnson told investigators. "I didn't see strangling her as doing something wrong at the time."
Johnson admitted to killing Sullivan, Rhonda Tucker, Joanne Feliciano, Vivian Caraballo and Laura Nusser. Johnson still hasn't admitting killing Katrina Niles, the sixth woman whom cops believe was part of Johnson's alleged year-long strangulation spree. To date he has been charged with five murders and could face the death penalty.
All six victims had arrest records for prostitution or drug-related offenses and all were found nude or partly clothed. In all of the cases, the women were strangled, apparently with whatever the killer found at hand: two with their own sneaker laces, one with the drawstring from a pair of sweatpants, two with electrical chord and one with a piece of cloth. The first three victims may have had sex with the same man shortly before their deaths. Two where found on rooftops. Three of the victims -- Caballero, Feliciano and Sullivan -- were killed on a Thursday, and a fourth -- Rhonda Tucker -- was found in dead her apartment on a Saturday, but was last seen on a Thursday.
The 5-foot, 3-inch, 130-pound suspect told investigators that Nusser was his first victim, killing her after they had sex in Williamsburg last August. He then wrote out a short apology to Nusser's husband and daughter and pleaded for help. "I'm sorry I did it," he wrote. "I hope this brings closure. I need help."
Cops had initially thought Caraballo, killed August 26, 1999, was the strangler's first victim. DNA from her corpse, as well as DNA from Tucker and Feliciano, matched a DNA sample obtained from Johnson's spit. Police obtained a DNA sample from Johnson after he left the police station and was seen from a window by an interrogating officer spitting in a cup. The officer ran out of the police station and recovered the cup for genetic testing.
Johnson was originally fingered by another homeless man who was suspected of being the killer. The man was cleared because his DNA did not match, but he identified Johnson as a possible suspect and called officers when he saw him crossing the Williamsburg bridge.