DETROIT (CBS/AP) – Detroit police fear a killer may be targeting escorts after finding three of four women discovered dead in car trunks in the last week had placed sex-related ads on the same website.
Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee talked to Talk Radio 1270’s morning show host Charlie Langton about the issue Tuesday, saying his officers are in the process of getting search warrants to look into Backpage.com.
“Obviously, the IP addresses, cell phones, things of that nature would be very critical to see if we can draw any link to escorts set up on that website,” Godbee said.
So confident is he in the tie between the deaths and the sex website that Godbee said about the search warrant, “I think we have the capacity to narrow down and hone in on what may have occurred, brought these four young ladies to the point of their death.”
Is it the work of a serial killer? Godbee played that answer close to the vest.
“Given the nature of the business they were involved in, the manner in which all four bodies were found, the location, it’s not hard to see that it starts to fall into a serial pattern,” the chief said.
The latest two victims, women aged 28 and 29, were found Christmas morning when Detroit firefighters discovered their badly burned bodies in the trunk of a car that had been set ablaze in a garage. Two other women were found Dec. 19 in a separate car trunk.
Police are still waiting for a cause of death. The first two victims are cousins, Godbee revealed, while they suspect the second set were friends.
“I want to be very careful what level of evidence we give out over the air … To get a warning out to young ladies who may be taking art in escort services, they need to be very aware of what they’re doing,” Godbee said.
“We would be morally remiss if we did not go public with what we know about this subject,” he added.
The Associated Press said at least 45 attorneys general raised concerns earlier this year about how the site Backpage.com places ads for adult services.
But Godbee told Langton, “to my knowledge this is our first major contact relative to this website.”
Backpage.com said Tuesday that it had provided police with information about ads that a suspect may have posted on numerous websites, and said that the police investigation involves at least 30 different ads on multiple websites, “separate and distinct from ours.” The company said it was cooperating with the investigation.
“Backpage.com shares the concerns of law enforcement and the community that every effort be made to stop violent criminals from using the Internet to commit their crimes,” the company said.
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