As part of its "Highway Serial Killings Initiative," the FBI now counts over 500 murder victims whose murder and/or body disposal has been related to the U.S. Interstate Highway System (IHS). The IHS began in 1956 and today includes across almost 47,000 miles of roadway. It is along these same roads that the FBI believes a distinct group of serial killers have murdered at will, taking their victims across hundreds of miles of highway, snatching them in one state and disposing of their bodies sometimes dozens of states away. The over 500 known or suspected victims not only stretch along our nation's highways in almost every state, but also date back at least 30 years, representing a significant number of cold homicide cases still awaiting solution.
The FBI has always believed that serial killers operated along the Interstate highway system, knowing that if the killer was not apprehended at the scene of the crime, he could be hundreds, thousands of miles away in a day or two. The Bureau also believed that a significant number of the suspected serial killers (someone who kills over three victims with an emotional cooling off period between crimes) were either over-the-road truckers or others whose occupation caused them to drive the Interstates on a daily basis.
Many of the 500 known or suspected victims were so-called "high risk victims, engaged in high risk activities, in high risk areas," a bad combination that many times spells "murder." In the case of the highway victims, many were prostitutes or perhaps low level drug dealers. For a trucker they were easy victims. Most truck stops are segregated; not by race, but by type of vehicle. Passenger cars park in one area, 18-wheelers and other big rigs park in another area. It is in these second areas, where the dozens of trucks are parked, that prostitutes and drug dealers wander from rig to rig, selling their wares, so to speak. For a prostitute, she (or he) simply knocks on the door of the rig, they get invited up, a price is set for a service, and the prostitute then moves on to another truck stop "client." For some, though, the driver may want to move to another location or he may force the victim to accompany him where, many times, the victim is sexually assaulted and murdered.
The killer now has a dead body on his hands. Knowing that the victim likely lives in the area of the truck stop, all he needs to do is what comes naturally, that is drive, drive for hundreds of miles before he disposes of the victim's body, likely a few states away from where he picked the victim up, someplace where she wouldn't be known to the local police. Some killers will dismember the victim's body, perhaps leaving her body in one place, her head in another, this to frustrate authorities in their attempts to identify the victim and determine where she was initially taken from.
The FBI, working with local authorities, is attempting to place all available information on the 500 "old" victims, as well as new victims, into its national VICAP computer system containing information about over 80,000 other unsolved crimes, matching and cross referencing information about the victim, where she or he was taken from, where the victim's body was recovered, method of death, available linking physical evidence (DNA, hairs, fibers, etc.), body disposal site, method of disposal, anything that could help investigators link victims, and their killers, together.
Other Interstate killers are not content to have their victims come to them, they go out prowling the area for their next victim. In the case of truckers, who make up a large percentage of the known or suspected Interstate killers, some have parked their rigs and then moved silently through the local community, slipping silently into yards and homes to find their next unsuspecting victim. After such an attack they are back in their rig and on the road again, long gone by the time the crime scene tape is strung around their latest victim's home.
The FBI now allows local agencies to search the VICAP files on their own, a first for the FBI. This also is an incentive for such agencies to input data on their crimes, allowing the FBI's data base to become more useful in the hunt for the Interstate killers. With the number of unsolved homicide victims currently in the VICAP system, and the number of high risk missing persons who are never accounted for each year, the number of murder victims related to the Interstate Serial Killers is likely far higher than 500 and will continue to grow until law enforcement is able to link such victims to their killers and once and for all get such killers off their stalking grounds, our nation's Interstate Highway System.
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