The "Grim Sleeper" trial begins this week

One of LA's most notorious serial killers

The high-profile trial for the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer began this week in Los Angeles. Lonnie Franklin, Jr. is accused of having sexually assaulted and murdered 10 women in the Manchester Square neighborhood of Los Angeles between 1985 and 2007.

At the time, South Los Angeles was ravaged by the crack cocaine epidemic. The Grim Sleeper abducted and killed drug-addicted women who were working the streets to pay for their crack addiction. He murdered them, then dumped their bodies "like trash."

Dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" because of the 14-year period when he went dormant in that area, Franklin's arrest in 2010 stunned his family and neighbors, who described the former LAPD garage attendant and city garbage collector as being friendly and affable.

DNA evidence taken from his 28 year-old son after a felony gun charge eventually lit up as a familial match for DNA found on the bodies of the victims decades earlier. Police immediately put Franklin on 24-hour surveillance. When he left a pizzeria, an officer posing as a busboy confiscated his cups, utensils, and a partially-eaten slice of pizza. The fresh DNA was a match.

Upon searching his home, police found over 800 items of evidence, including guns which matched ballistics tests for the weapons used on his victims, and photographs of the victims hidden in a refrigerator.

Still no word on what might have caused the long lapse in Franklin's murders between 1988 and 2002. However, in addition to photos of the Grim Sleeper's 10 victims, police also found photos of over 1,000 other women in Franklin's home. Are they also Franklin's victims? Most of the women are young and black, many of them are nude, and many appear to be unconscious.

Police have released the photos in the hopes that the public may recognize some of the women.

Which movie psychopaths are the most realistic?

And which are the least?

I hope it will come as no surprise to learn that serial killers get extremely unrealistic depictions in the movies. (They also are extremely over-represented. I once did some research and was able to estimate that there are approximately 10,000 fictional serial killers for every 1 real-world serial killer.)

In 2014, a team of ten psychiatrists led by Belgian psychiatry professor Samuel Leistedt set themselves a task: watch 400 movies about serial killers, and analyze which were the most and least realistic psychopaths. The team watched movies which were released from 1915 to 2010.

In real life, not all serial killers are psychopaths, and not all psychopaths are serial killers. In fact, most psychopaths (an estimated 1 in every 100 people is clinically psychopathic) never kill anyone. They simply manipulate, lie, and steal their way through life, living a life without remorse or empathy.

The team flagged 126 characters out of those 400 movies which they deemed legitimately psychopathic. Out of these, their top three most realistic were:

1.    Anton Chigurh, "No Country For Old Men"
2.    Hans Beckert, "M"
3.    Henry Lee Lucas, "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"

Their list of least realistic serial killers included:

1.    Patrick Bateman, "American Psycho"
2.    Hannibal Lecter, "Silence of the Lambs"
3.    Norman Bates, "Psycho"

Is this serial killer Craigslist post for real?

Police are investigating
Many serial killers have hunted their prey on Craigslist. Most notably, of course, is the “Craigslist Killer” Philip Markoff, a former medical student who responded to women’s ads offering erotic massage – then murdered them. Then there is Richard Beasley, who used ads to lure unemployed men to his property with the promise of work, then murdered them. Not to mention Thomas Coffee, who lured in a victim by posting an ad for an ATV for sale.
 
 
Titled “Tulsa Murder,” the author cryptically says that “it all started here,” which is why they decided to make their first kill in Tulsa. “It was stranger on stranger so the police will have a difficult time” (although less difficult for the killer having posted about it on Craigslist). The author then goes on to list several of their next targets  (in Oklahoma City) by name. The described targets are a judge and a Department of Corrections employee.
 
Police are taking the ad seriously, and have subpoenaed records from Craigslist that may help shed light on the identity of the poster. However, the Tulsa police department has announced that they are extremely skeptical that the ad is legit, because they have no recent unsolved murders on the books.
 
Police have added that they have a “person of interest” possibly because of the connection to the people who were named.

The hunt for a serial killer's dog

Neal Falls' dog could hold secrets

Earlier this year when Neal Falls was shot and killed by a prostitute in self-defense, it uncovered the chilling tale of a serial killer whose life still remains a mystery. Police found a "kill kit" in the Oregon man's car including "a machete, shovel, axes, knives, a bulletproof vest, a Rubbermaid tub full of towels, a large container of bleach and numerous sets of handcuffs."

They also found dog hairs - lots of them - but no dog.

Police speculate that Falls may have left his dog behind when he went out hunting victims that night. But where? And what other evidence might be stashed along with his dog?

The dog may turn out to be the key that police need to unravel the mystery of Neal Falls, who has remained an enigma. Police have found basic records of Falls' life, but have failed to find any substantial evidence about his kills. They suspect that he hid those somewhere - and his mysterious dog may lead the way.

Authorities are asking people to report any dog found dead in an abandoned structure, hotel room, or campsite, in the hopes that it matches the hairs found in Falls' car.

Serial killers deliberately preying on Canada's indigenous women

Serial killer victims 7x more likely to be indigenous
Canada has a lot of problems when it comes to serial killers. Vancouver's police force is already looking pretty bad for having let William Pickton operate for years, due mainly to police indifference and negligence. And the infamous "Trail of Tears" where indigenous women have gone missing in droves is probably mostly due to various serial killers.
 
Canada is a wonderful country, but its law enforcement ignores the deaths of indigenous women across the board, to a shocking extent - and serial killers know it. An indigenous woman in Canada is seven times more likely to be killed by a serial killer than her white female counterpart.
 
In one recent case, serial killer Traigo Andretti (born Dylon Harold Grubb) deliberately preyed on First Nations women by cruising a free voicemail system looking for women who "sounded cute" and leaving them messages. The voicemail system is designed to provide a safety net for impoverished women who do not have cell phones or home phones. It allows them to apply for jobs and government assistance, they simply have to call into the line to pick up their messages.
 
Andretti learned the voicemail system's prefix, and spent hours dialing random extensions. When he found one he liked, he left them a message. 
 
The Globe and Mail recently launched an investigation into missing and murdered indigenous women, and their results are dismaying. It is likely that there are multiple active serial killers in Canada who are preying on these women, and the RCMP seems to be indifferent at best.

Columbian police scramble to identify serial killer's victims

Many of the women will probably never be identified
Last week, police on Monserrate mountain in Bogota made a gruesome find: a garbage bag full of human remains near a wooden shack. A few hours later, police tracked down and arrested the person who lived in the makeshift, a man named Fredy Valencia.
 
Valencia quickly admitted to having killed over 100 women, and having left their remains in garbage bags on the mountainside near his shack. Valencia was homeless and jobless, and cobbled together his shack from shipping palettes and scrap wood.
 
Valencia would go into Bogota to find his victims. He chose homeless, drug-addicted prostitutes from the neighborhood known locally as "The Bronx," to ensure they would not be reported missing. Valencia lured the women back to his shack with the promise of a free meal and clothing in exchange for sex. Once there, he strangled the victims and disposed of their bodies.
 
Bogota police are having a difficult time finding the identities of the women whose bodies they are recovering from the mountainside. Most of the women were between 18 and 30, and it seems most of them have families who gave up on finding them years ago. Only one victim has been identified so far: Maria del Pilar Rincon, who ran away from home at the age of 13, and who was murdered by Valencia at the age of 26.

Europe's first continent-wide serial killer caught

New DNA-sharing policies yield a big find
European police agencies recently began a massive exchange of DNA data for unsolved crimes, and the effort is clearly bearing fruit. A 29 year-old Polish man named Dariusz Pawel Kotwica is in police custody and has been dubbed "the first continent-wide serial killer ever caught."
 
Kotwica was caught in Germany, where he quickly admitted to the rape, torture, and murder of an elderly Austrian couple who were found bludgeoned and stabbed to death last May, and the similar murder of an elderly woman in Sweden a month beforehand. Kotwica is implicated in the violent rape and murder of people across Europe, in six different countries including Britain. 
 
The Treaty of Prum was enacted in 2005, and designed to help catch illegal immigration by allowing for suspect DNA and fingerprints to be shared across European borders. 
 
Kotwica claims that voices inside his head urged him to kill. He says that he feels great "joy" from torturing his victims, and also painted odd phrases on their bodies. He painted either "tantalum" (the name of the chemical element) or "tantum ergo" (meaning "only then") on the body of the 74 year-old woman in Austria after raping her. 
 
The list of crimes Kotwica will be tried for continues to grow. Austrian authorities have tied him to an attempted murder after a shoplifting, a case of "grievous bodily harm" in the Netherlands, and possible murders in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Kotwica is currently awaiting trial in Austria. 

Would you live in a serial killer's former home?

Location of former horrors now for sale
Dennis Nilsen is considered one of Britain's worst serial killers. He murdered at least a dozen victims between 1978 and 1983. Several of his victims were killed at his home in Willesden Green in North London, where he also hid the evidence by burning their bodies in the backyard.
 
 
The 900 square foot town home features two bedrooms, a glassed-in conservatory, a spacious back yard, and about a 25% discount for the home's gruesome history. 
 
Nilsen lured his young male victims to his home, strangled them, bathed the bodies, dressed them, kept them around for weeks or months while sexually abusing their corpses, then disposed of the remains piecemeal. 
 
Dubbed the "British Jeffrey Dahmer," Nilsen grew up in the Scottish countryside with a younger sister and an older brother (both of whom he molested at a young age). After graduating high school he entered the British military, where he performed quite well. He also began to develop fantasies of having sex with men of increasing degrees of passivity, an obsession which eventually became necrophilia.
 
After leaving the military, Nilsen joined London's police force, where he was posted in Willesden Green. He quit the police, and took a string of jobs as a security guard, while going through a series of failed relationships, as well as drinking heavily in the evenings. 
 
Nilsen stored his victims' corpses by wrapping them in plastic and stowing them under the floorboards of his bedroom. He would retrieve them from their hiding places, clean them up a bit, then - for lack of a better term - hang out with them all night. For example, he might sit them up in a chair in the living room so that they could watch television together.
 
Unfortunately there was little he could do about the rotting smell, the flies, or the maggot infestation, particularly in the summer months. Nilsen tried to cover these up by throwing deodorant sticks under the floorboards, but it hardly helped.
 
Eventually, Nilsen's landlord announced that he wanted to renovate the property. Nilsen had one last bonfire to get rid of the remains of five bodies (he capped the fire with an old car tire to help disguise the horrifying smell of cremation) and moved to another apartment. 
 
Leaving behind a property that can now be yours for a mere $750,000! 

Andrei Chikatilo: the Butcher of Rostov

Europe's worst serial killer?
Although we mainly hear about serial killers in the United States (thanks partly to our advanced law enforcement techniques which are better able to detect a serial killer's patterns), they certainly stalk other countries as well. Andrei Chikatilo was active in Russia from 1978 until 1990 when he was finally caught, after a terrifying career sexually assaulting, mutilating, and murdering at least 52 women and children in Rostov Oblast.
 
Chikatilo's early childhood was marked by starvation and deprivation under Stalin's rule. His mother and father were farm laborers. The small family lived together in a one-room shack, and frequently had to resort to eating grass and leaves out of desperation. Chikatilo's mother often told him that he used to have a brother, but at the age of four he was kidnapped and eaten by their starving neighbors. (This story has never been verified.)
 
Chikatilo had problems with bed-wetting, for which his mother berated him incessantly. He was hungry and physically frail, which made him the target of bullies at school. He did well in school, even though he claimed that he had headaches and a bad memory which prevented him from learning his school work. Once he reached puberty he discovered that he suffered from chronic impotence, which hampered his relationships.
 
Aside from these problems, Chikatilo's early adulthood was relatively normal. He was drafted into the Soviet army in 1957, returned home a few years later, and eventually settled down in what amounted to an arranged marriage. They had two children, and in 1970 he became a Russian language and literature teacher. At this point, things began to go downhill.
 
While at the school, Chikatilo committed several sexual assaults against the female students. After enough complaints had been filed, the school asked him to quit. He bounced from school to school until 1981, when he was finally fired for good, after numerous complaints of molestation.
 
At around this time, he committed his first murder, a 9 year-old girl whom he lured to a house he had secretly purchased in another town. Despite ample evidence and eyewitness testimony, blame was put on an itinerant laborer. 
 
Chikatilo's job had him traveling across Russia, and he used this travel to his advantage. He typically lured children (of both sexes) away to secluded areas, then savagely attacked them with a knife. (Police investigating one murder ruled that it had to be an accident, and the body must have been caught in a threshing machine.) His kills were so distinctive in style that Moscow police suspected a serial killer was at work as early as 1983. 
 
Unfortunately, the Moscow police were heavy-handed in their attempts to pin the blame for the kills, to say the least. Several developmentally disabled people admitted to the crimes under interrogation, and four "suspects" (one convicted sex offender and three men whose sole qualification was that they were gay) committed suicide as a result of police interrogation.
 
In September, 1984, an undercover detective watched Chikatilo attempting to lure young women away from a bus station. They picked him up and discovered a knife and rope. Unfortunately, his blood type evidence did not seem to match what had been found at the crime scenes, so he was released.
 
Chikatilo continued his rampage for six more years, as the Moscow police grew increasingly desperate to catch him. Investigators realized that he was primarily hunting railway stations, so they set up a massive nation-wide manhunt and sting operation and stopped every adult man at every railway station to check their papers and make a note of their presence. Despite, this, Chikatilo avoided detection for years. 
 
Chikatilo slipped away a second time in 1990, thanks to an undercover police officer who had been deployed as part of the surveillance network at Donelskhoz station. The officer noticed Chikatilo (who had just finished killing and gutting a 22 year-old woman) walk out of the woods and stop at a well to wash his hands. Many people ventured into the woods in that part of Russia at that time of year to go mushroom hunting, but Chikatilo was dressed in business casual attire. He also had mud on the elbows of his coat, and a red smear on his cheek. The officer checked Chikatilo's papers, found nothing amiss, filed a report back at the station, and apparently forgot all about it.
 
A week later when the body of Svetlana Korostik was discovered in the woods near Donleskhoz station, investigators combed through all the reports for that station. Someone finally noticed that Chikatilo's name turned up dozens of times in the reports, and that he had in fact been picked up for a similar crime in the early 80s.
 
Chikatilo's trial was a bit of a circus, but there was no denying that his incredible claims of having sadistically slaughtered at least 52 victims were true. Police were able to collect ample evidence to back up Chikatilo's astonishing claims, including having Chikatilo lead them to the scene of the crime, providing details that had not been released to the press, and sketching the location of the crime and specific position of the body.
 
In 1994, Russian president Boris Yeltsin refused Chikatilo's last-minute appeal. Chikatilo was executed by a firing squad. 
 

The serial killer who hunted on Grindr

New tech - same crimes
A 40 year-old man has been arrested in East London and charged with murdering four men he met up with on Grindr. 
 
Stephen Port murdered his victims with an overdose of GHB, a narcotic sedative which is variously used as a recreational drug, a date rape drug, and by athletes because it elevates levels of human growth hormone in the blood.
 
All four of Port's victims were found over the course of 15 months dumped within a few blocks of each other in East London. All four victims were gay men in their early 20s. 
 
Two of the men (Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth) had been friends. Port planted a note on Whitworth's corpse, trying to make it look as though Whitworth had committed suicide over the guilt he felt for killing Kovari.
 
Luckily, the London police were not fooled by this transparent attempt to deflect blame onto his victims. 
 
Little is known about Port at this point. But in a peculiar twist in this developing story, Port had a brief appearance on the television show Celebrity Masterchef last summer. In the clip, he is seen wearing a wig and serving pasta. 
 

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