Highway Serial Killings Initiative
Highway Serial Killings
New Initiative on an Emerging Trend
In 2004, an analyst from the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation detected a crime pattern: the bodies of murdered women were being dumped along the Interstate 40 corridor in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
The analyst and a police colleague from the Grapevine, Texas Police Department referred these cases to our Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, or ViCAP, where our analysts looked at other records in our database to see if there were similar patterns of highway killings elsewhere.
Turns out there were. So we launched an extensive effort to support our state and local partners with open investigations into highway murders.
Today, we’re publicly announcing our Highway Serial Killings initiative to raise awareness among law enforcement agencies and the general public about this issue and our unique assistance on these cases.
First, some background. The victims in these cases are primarily women who are living high-risk, transient lifestyles, often involving substance abuse and prostitution. They’re frequently picked up at truck stops or service stations and sexually assaulted, murdered, and dumped along a highway.
The suspects are predominantly long-haul truck drivers. But the mobile nature of the offenders, the unsafe lifestyles of the victims, the significant distances and multiple jurisdictions involved, and the scarcity of witnesses or forensic evidence can make these cases tough to solve.
Enter ViCAP, part of our National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime and a national repository for violent crimes. The database—which contains information on homicides, sexual assaults, missing persons, and unidentified human remains—is available to law enforcement throughout the country over a secure Internet link on our Law Enforcement Online (LEO).
ViCAP analysts have created a national matrix of more than 500 murder victims from along or near highways, as well as a list of some 200 potential suspects. Names of suspects—contributed by law enforcement agencies—are examined by analysts who develop timelines using a variety of reliable sources of information.
Our assistance also includes:
- Sponsoring free regional training sessions on our Highway Serial Killings initiative for law enforcement agencies located near major interstates and highways;
- Educating victim advocacy groups, in particular groups representing women and children; and
- Using the skills of our behavioral analysis experts at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, who can provide investigative, interview, and prosecutive strategies; ways to link cases using behavioral characteristics; advice on working with the media; and unknown offender profiles.
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ViCAP, though, is only as good as the data it contains, so we ask law enforcement agencies to make sure they submit to us their cases involving murders and other violent crimes taking place on or near highways.
Bottom line: Is the Highway Serial Killings initiative solving cases? Yes, it is. So far, at least 10 suspects believed responsible for some 30 homicides have been placed in custody…including a trucker arrested in Tennessee charged with four murders and a trucker charged with one murder in Massachusetts and another in New Jersey.
But what about the case that started it all—the series of murdered women being dumped along the Interstate 40 corridor in Oklahoma and three other states? Two people who were working together have been charged with some of the murders…and the investigation to tie them to others continues.