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ViCAP Case Scenario

ViCAP
Case Scenario

08/26/10

Parking lot

Because of privacy laws, we can’t describe a real-life case in ViCAP. But here’s a hypothetical scenario that shows how the process works:

A young woman in Portland, Maine who frequented a neighborhood gym, was sexually assaulted and murdered after being abducted one evening from the gym’s parking lot as she was leaving. Her body was found several days later in an abandoned lot within a mile of the gym. There were no witnesses. Police found traces of chloroform on the ground just outside the woman’s car. After investigating and clearing all of the woman’s known associates, Portland police entered the case into ViCAP Web.

A ViCAP search for similar cases produced a murder case that had occurred three months earlier in Seattle, Washington. In that case, a young woman was abducted after leaving her gym. Her body was later recovered in an empty field about a mile-and-a-half from the gym. No one saw anything, but police found traces of chloroform on the ground outside her car. Thinking it might be the same suspect, the Portland investigator contacted the Seattle investigator to compare notes.

While all this was going on, a ViCAP analyst in Virginia reviewed a newly submitted case from Great Falls, Minnesota in which a young woman was chloroformed and abducted after exiting her local gym. She was taken to a nearby park, raped, beaten, and left for dead. However, she survived and was able to describe her attacker and a unique tattoo on his forearm. The analyst searched ViCAP Web for similar cases and came up with the Portland and Seattle homicide cases. She quickly notified the Great Falls police about the other two cases.

Buoyed by the investigative leads generated by ViCAP, the agencies joined forces and ultimately tracked down a suspect—a traveling salesman whose trips coincided with the dates of the abductions. His physical appearance, including the tattoo, met the suspect description as provided by the victim in the third attack. A search of his home uncovered traces of chloroform in his kitchen sink, and DNA analysis linked him to all three attacks. Case closed.