Code Amber Ticker
The Original NightStalkerSubmitted by rodman on Sat, 09/19/2009 - 16:35
Keith and Patrice Huntington were newlyweds beginning their life together in Laguna Niguel California in 1980. He was in the last year of Medical school while she was a nurse. On the night of August 19th, the couple went to bed at about 11:00 PM. Later that night a solitary figure slipped over a fence and into the Huntington's gated garden. The young couple had left a window in their bedroom ajar. The intruder found it and climbed through. Two days later, Keith's Father entered the house to find his son and Daughter in law bludgeoned to death in their bed. Patrice had also been raped. The Father picked up the phone and called his eldest son Bruce. He told Bruce that he thought Keith and Patty were dead and would he please come down and help him. By the time Bruce was on the scene, the police were already beginning to investigate. From the start, however, the double murder defied logic. The Harrington's had led a quiet life with no known enemies and no obvious reason for a brutal attack.
Within three months the investigation went cold. A year later and 17 miles north, it happened again. On the afternoon of February 6th, 1981 police Detective Ron Veach was investigating the murder of 28 year old Manuela Whichune in Irvine California. The married woman had been found alone in her bedroom raped and bludgeoned to death with multiple blows to the head. The intruder had gained access to the house by forcing open a patio door with a screwdriver. Marks on the victim showed he'd bound her hands and feet before killing her then took the bindings with him when he left. Beyond that there was little in the way of workable leads at the scene. Veach began to probe into Manuela's life looking for anyone who might have wanted her dead. He interviewed her husband who produced a solid alibi. He was in a hospital bed on the night his wife was killed. Nothing in her past brought up anything in her behaviour that might cause her death.
For six months Veach tracked leads but no viable suspects surfaced and the case went cold. Five years later another crime scene was discovered less than three miles for Manuela's home. On May 5th 1986 Detective Larry Montgomery took charge of a murder scene at a home again in Irvine California but in an affluent area. Jenelle Cruise was 18 years old and she too had been bludgeoned to death. She had been alone in the house while her family went on holiday in Mexico. Forensics told the investigators that like the other two women victims had been raped as well before being killed. There was, however, one important difference. In the case of Jenelle Cruise police had a suspect. A local teenage boy had been the last person to see Jenelle alive. The boy told the Detective that he had been there the night before and that he had been in her bedroom as late as 10:45 PM. The Detective thought the boy's lie might be a cover for murder.
However the Detective's had no evidence to back their theory up. The case, like the other, two went cold. Eventually all three case found their way into storage at the Orange County crime lab. Ten years later, on an Autumn morning in 1996, Criminalist Mary Hong walked into an evidence freezer and selected several packages sealed years earlier. She pulled out semen samples from the three murder victims. Hong wondered if DNA could help solve the killings. Over the next two months Hong worked on extracting samples from the three murder victims. She then compare the profiles against each other. Three crime scenes, four murders, and one DNA profile. Mary Hong had identified the profile of a rapist and serial killer who had killed four people in southern California. Hong shared her evidence with Larry Pool and Brian Heaney, two Orange County Detectives working with CLUE, or Countywide Law Enforcement on Unsolved Elements also known as the Cold Case Unit.
So they both knew that they had a serial offender on their hands and it was their jobs to try to solve the cases. Brian Heaney began by reviewing the case files and by talking to the Detectives who had worked on the case at the time. Heaney eventually produced a list of suspects, each of whom was asked to give a blood sample for DNA testing. One by one each of the suspects was eliminated. Six months after Mary Hong had linked the three cases the Detectives still had no leads and the Detectives wondered if this was just the tip of the iceberg. A review of the file in each case had generated hundreds of leads and dozens of suspects but no matches to the DNA profile. But then the Detectives noticed a number of old case numbers scribbled in one of the old files. The case numbers were linked to another string of unsolved murders that the original Detectives at the time thought have been connected. One of those cases was the murder of Lionel and Charlene Smith in Ventura March 19th in 1980.
The Detectives contacted the Detective on the case of the Smith double murder. In due course they found themselves listening to Russ Hayes and Dick Haas, two veteran Detectives from Ventura County who told a tale of a killing gone cold. In March 1980, in Ventura California high among the hills above Ventura Harbor Lionel and Charlene Smith lived a very good life. 43 year old Lionel was a prominent lawyer expecting to be appointed to the California Supreme Court. 33 year old Charlene was an interior decorator. On the morning of the 13th of March Lionel's 13 year old son arrived at the Smith home to mow the grass. In the main bedroom he discovered his Father and Stepmother dead. Dick Haas was the first on the scene. He says they were both bound hands and feet with drapery cord. There was a log laying at the foot of the bed. There was major trauma visible to their head and a lot of blood splatter. Lionel Smith had died from a single blow to the skull.
Before killing Charlene the attacker had raped her. As the investigation unwound the Detectives pierced the picture perfect marriage and found a relationship filled with jealousy and infidelity. In Charlene's case suspect number was her lover one she kept secret for more than seven years. Detective though it was someone who had seen something through the window. Two weeks later, Lionel's past produced another suspect. Joe Alsip was a disgruntled business partner of Lionel Smith who police thought might have wanted revenge. Evidence began to build against Alsip when fingerprints of his were found on a wineglass in Smith's home. Alsip's own Pastor told police that he had come to church and confessed to the crimes. Four months after Lionel and Charlene Smith were killed, Alsip was arrested and charged with the murders. It turns out that the pastor had misspoke and all charges against Alsip were dropped and the case went cold.
Sixteen years later the Detectives that the Smith's may not have known their killer after all and that the murder bore a striking resemblance to the other unsolved murders in Southern California. Detective Heaney sent semen evidence from the Smith crime scene to the Orange County crime lab for testing and comparison against the other samples from the other Southern California murders. When Mary Hong entered the DNA sample into her computer it came back a match to the Orange County serial killer. With the murders of Lionel and Charlene Smith the body count now stood at six. Six victims who's DNA profile was sitting in the lab at the Orange county Lab but whose identity continued to elude the police. The Smith murders, however, did provide another piece of information. The killer was mobile. Widening their scope of inquiry, Detectives began a review of all the cold cases in Southern California. That took them back to 1979 and the small town of Goleta.
At 2:00 Am on October 1st, a young couple were asleep in their home when an intruder slipped into their bedroom shone a flashlight in their faces and threatened to kill them. He hands pre-cut ligatures to the female and tells her to tie the man up hands behind his back face down on the bed. The attacker then ties the woman's hands and ankles and reties the mans bindings tighter. He dragged the woman into the living room and took off her clothes. At that point he begins pacing up and down the hallway and stating over and over again "I'll kill them, I'll kill them". The offender then walks down the hallway to the bedroom where the man is still lying. In the meantime she is able to get to her feet and with the ligatures still binding her ankles hops to the front door and gets out. She then falls down. When the masked intruder realized on of his victims had escaped he ran after her.
He presses a knife to her throat and whispers "I told you not to run" and then brings her to her feet and brings her back into the house. Meanwhile the boyfriend has made his move. Still bound hand and foot he hops out of the house and into the garden. The attacker left the girl in the living room and chased after the boyfriend. Just as the attacker gets to where the man is hiding the woman gets back to her feet and is out in the front yard screaming. The attacker now realizes that he has lost control of the scene so he jumps on a bicycle and disappears into the night. Two months later and less than a mile away, the suspect struck again. This time he entered the Goleta home of Doctor Robert Hoffman and raped the Doctor's girlfriend, Andrea Manning, before killing them both. Seven months later the killer returns to Goleta and in a carbon copy of the other murders took the lives of Sherry Domingo and Greg Sanchez.
Unlike Orange County, Santa Barbara did not maintain the biological evidence. So although the MO's were the same, DNA could not confirm that these murders were related to the others. The Detectives were convinced that all the murders were committed by one man. Within a year the Detective's had gone from investigating several unrelated cases to hunting for a serial killer whose list of victims stood at ten. How many more would there be before he was caught? "Big Deal, death goes with the territory, see you in Disneyland" That was the response of Richard Rameriz upon hearing that he received the death penalty for killing 13 women. He was dubbed the NightStalker because he hunted for his prey at night, slipping through an open door or window and surprising his victims while they slept. But before Richard Rameriz there was a serial killer in Southern California who killed in much the same way.
Unlike Rameriz, however, The Original NightStalker has never been caught. By 1998 The Original NightStalker had been linked to 10 murders in Southern California. Investigators have checked the DNA profile against hundreds of suspects but failed to make a single match. Meanwhile The Original NightStalker remained at large. Leslie D'Ambrosia is a Criminalist who works for the Florida Department Of Law Enforcement (FDLE) out of Miami. In 1998 she received a call from Larry Pool, a California Cold case Detective looking for a new angle. She says developing a profile is based on the crime scene. They look at how the offender behaves at the crime scene with his victims because they can then generalize how the offender behaves in his day to day life. D'Ambrosia dug into The Original NightStalker case files and began to build a profile. She concluded that the offender was disciplined, intelligent and organized.
A man who planned his attacks meticulously and then hunted for victims, who in his mind, were worthy victims. Women were the intended target of his rage but the presence of a man did not deter this killer. D'Ambrosia suggested that he enjoyed the challenge of beating a man, raping the woman he loved and then killing them both. D'Ambrosia thinks that the core of his behavior is his control over both men and women. She also said in her profile that once The Original NightStalker had begun killing it would be almost impossible to stop as he has an insatiable drive to commit these crimes. D'Ambrosia profile begged the question about whether there could be other victims out there that the Detectives did not know about yet. As Detectives pondered that possibility, six hours north at Contra Costa DNA lab, answers began to emerge. Paul Holes works for the Contra County Sheriff's office in California's Bay area.
One day in 1997 he came across a collection of old files labeled EAR in red letters. Upon opening the files he discovered that EAR stood for East Area Rapist. This was an unknown suspect who was responsible for more than 50 sexual assaults in the 1970s. These were crimes that two decades later remain unsolved. On June 18th 1976, in Sacramento California a man climbed through a woman's bedroom window and raped her. Two nights later and not far away he struck again and then again and again. Detective Carl Daly was tasked with the job of capturing California sudden predator. She says that the East Area Rapist's method of operation was quite unique in that when he entered the victims house he usually confronted them by shining a flashlight in there eyes and then trying them up. Investigators plotted the attacks on a map trying to anticipate when the rapist might strike again, searching for patterns in his behavior.
The only real consistency seemed to be that the women were alone in their house. Detectives released this information to the public and advised women not to be home alone. The next thing the police know is that he was confronting women when there were other people at home, first there were husbands, then there were other family members including children. It seemed that whatever was released to the media was challenge to him. So he would change and adapt and take what the police saw as bigger risks. The threat to one of his victims was that if he saw anything in the newspaper or the television about the attack he would kill two people that night. When he attacked a woman at home he would often tie up the husband before raping the woman. The East Area Rapist even added a new signature to he method of operation. Taking a cup and saucer from the victim's cupboard he would place it on the bound man's back and tell him that if he heard the dishes rattle he would kill both the husband and the wife.
By November 1977, there had been over 30 rapes in Sacramento. The East Area Rapist was becoming more aggressive and still there was no end in sight. His aggression increased such that the police feared that it was just a matter of time before he would kill one of his victims. For over a year in the city of Sacramento he had enjoyed free reign over the population striking at will, raping women while there husbands were tied up. The Sacrament police department decided to hold a public meeting. Over 600 people attended. Some of them were angry but nearly all of them were scared. One man stood up and said that he couldn't believe that the rapes were happening as the police had said, that a man couldn't break free of his bonds and do something to protect his wife. Within a month the East Area Rapist raped the man's wife who had spoken at the meeting while he was bound. So was the rapist present at the meeting and actually targeting his victims?
The rapist was changing tactics as well as expanding his area of operation. In December, 1977 Detective's heard of an identical rape in nearby Contra Costa California. They contacted Detective Larry Crompton and advised him that the East Area rapist might have moved to his neck of the woods. Within a week Detective Crompton responded to another rape. From there the number of rapes in Contra Costa continued to climb. Walnut Creek, Danville, Concord, and San Ramon all fell victim to the East Area Rapist. The police believe that it was not the rapes that interested the East Area Rapist as much as the control and fear he put in peoples minds that interested him so much. The East Area Rapist wanted the people to believe that they were going to die that night. The East Area Rapist always kept his face well covered. After over 50 assaults, police still did not have a good description of the attacker.
In time, the East Area Rapist was actually calling his victims after the rape and taunting them. One phone call was captured on an answering machine. After breathing heavily he said "Gonna kill you, gonna kill you, gonna kill you, bitch, bitch, bitch, f__king whore". In listening to the tape, Larry Crompton says it sends chills up your back and is very, very frightening. He says that neither the Son of Sam nor the Zodiac put the fear into people like the East Area Rapist did. Then in 1979 the rapes suddenly stopped. Eventually the evidence was packed up and put into storage where criminalist Paul Holes found it 20 years later. In July 1997, he had extracted semen samples from several of the East Area Rapist crime scenes. Comparing the samples of all the rapes confirmed what Detectives had already suspected. The samples all belonged to one man. Holes tracked down Larry Crompton.
Even in retirement the Detective had not forgotten about the man he couldn't catch. Compton had a theory about his old case. he believed that the East Area Rapist had not stopped raping women after all, but rather just moved away and most likely graduated to murder. He decided to check the DNA samples left by the East Area Rapist with that of The Original NightStalker it will either confirm or deny that it is one in the same person. Paul Holes took Larry's and found his way to the orange County crime lab and criminalist Mary Hong. She had identified the unknown profile of The Original NightStalker, who was linked to ten murders and eight rapes in Southern California. Holes asked Hong to bring up The Original NightStalker's DNA on her computer. Sure enough there was a match.
Taking in the East Area Rapist cases, The Original NightStalker was now responsible for over 50 murders or rapes covering nearly half the state of California which makes The Original NightStalker one of the most prolific serial offenders in the history of American crime. The magnitude of these crimes underlines two questions for the investigators: Who was The original NightStalker and where was he now? Thousands of suspects had been considered and then discarded and the hunt continued to become an exercise in frustration. Cold Case Detectives decided that the easiest place to look for suspects was inside California's prison system. Before they asked for blood samples from the inmates, however, the Detectives researched the inmates to determine if their age group fit the profile and if they were out of prison during the time of the murders. In 2001, Detective Pool came across an inmate who fit the profile of The Original NightStalker.
The Detective requested a blood sample from the inmate. But the inmate refused. When Detective Pool was told that the law doesn't allow prison officials to take blood from inmates who refuse he asked what had to be done to get the sample and was told to change the law. Larry Pool decided to do just that and he approached State Senator Jim Brulte. He was concerned because he saw an increase in the number of inmates who were refusing to give up their DNA. Brulte worked with the Orange County DA's office to come up with a bill that would allow the use of force if a convicted felon refused to give a blood sample. Senate Bill 1242 met with stiff opposition even before it was submitted. The bill was criticised by civil rights groups wary of the intrusiveness of such procedures and the potential violation of a prisoner's right to privacy.
Detective Larry pool had his own lobbying strategy which involved Bruce Harrington, brother of Keith and brother-in-law to Patty Harrington who were both murdered by The Original NightStalker in 1980. On April 9th, 2002 the members of the victims family spoke at Capital in Sacramento in favor of Senate Bill 1242. In a vote of 39 to 0 the bill passed the assembly. One month later Governor Grey Davis signed it into law. Armed with the new legislation Larry Pool hit the ranks of California's prisons. His first request was for blood from nearly every man on California's death row. That request is still being processed as DNA samples are being entered into California's DNA database as well as regional and national databases. Detective Pool is still not satisfied with the DNA hunt for The Original NightStalker. He is hoping that the publicity from the old cases might create a spark and trigger an old memory.
They are hoping against hope that someone will call them with a new lead. The Original NightStalker is a white male now between the ages of 40 and 60 but it's the suspects behavior that Detectives believe someone might recognize. They are hoping that what the suspect has done with his victims he may have done with a consensual sexual partner, who might then turn him in. According to Detectives, The Original NightStalker is responsible for over 50 rapes and 10 unsolved murders and those are only the ones they know about. They can't help but to wonder how many missing people he is responsible for as surely a cunning as this suspect is he is quite capable of anything. And there is also a chance that he is still out there wreaking havoc and committing crimes. Larry Pool believes that this case will eventually be solved and The Original NightStalker finally caught. He says he will never give up hunting his prey. Only time will tell if he is successful.
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