A young woman was in a country bar. Two men invited her to go out to their truck to smoke some weed. She left with them.
Her family was concerned because she was missing. But the police delayed investigating it because people kept reporting having seen her at the bar after she been reported missing.
The stories were all the same, she been seen at the very edge of the crowd or out of the corner of someone's eye. The people who saw her had not had an opportunity to speak with her. She was only seen briefly. These sightings went on for some time.
The problem: she was dead. Her body was in a shallow grave. She had been tortured and murdered by a serial killer.
One of the two men she had left with was a drifter who eventually drifted his way to a bar in Florida. He was drinking at the bar and he bragged to the fellow on the barstool next about how he and another fellow had kidnapped, raped and murdered a woman in Phoenix City, Alabama. The man on the next barstool went and called the police. The police spoke to the drifter and he told about how he and another man had murdered this young woman.
Based on what the drifter said the police located her body and arrested his companion. We later found out was a serial killer.
As a young lawyer, I was assisting another lawyer in the Death penalty murder trial of the serial killer. On the morning of trial. I showed up expecting to go to court.
The other lawyer told me we weren't going to court. that day. We were going into the woods to find another body.
The serial killer had been suspected of other murders, but there was no evidence to prove this.
On the morning his trial was to begin, a deal was struck. His life would be spared if he showed us where another body was buried. He would spend the rest of his life in prison for both murders. While not a perfect solution, it gave the second family closure as to what happened to their loved one.
I found myself in an investigator's Crown Victoria driving along logging roads deep into the woods. I remember asking him if it was a state car because he was banging the crap out of it. He laughed and said of course.
Our job that day was to confirm there was a body. The serial killer told us he had buried this woman and thrown a piece of roofing tin over her grave. By the time we got there, the investigators had located what they believe to be the location.
Some cop went out and got bags of Crystal hamburgers which he passed out to everyone. I remember eating this hamburger while watching them dig up the grave. I hoped I wouldn't throw up. I didn't.
When the investigators got to the roofing tin, they killed it back.
At first, I could see nothing but what looked like roots and dirt.
However, as they slowly cleared the dirt away a human rib cage gradually came into view. But, the bones looked oddly jumbled. It was difficult to figure out just what position the corpse was in. Neither I nor the other lawyer stayed for the entire exhumation as we had confirmed the recovery of a body.
We got back the lab results. The body had been cut up with a circular saw. This explained its jumbled position the grave. There was other evidence, the bones showed the poor young woman had been horribly tortured before she died. The details are too grisly for even this blog post.
Although the killer made a deal with the state of Alabama that he would not be given the death penalty if he revealed the location of this body, nobody said anything about what might happen if we could prove yet another murder committed by him.
If only I could the remains of another of his victims.
I spoke with an FBI profiler and described what we found. He said the killer was what's called "escalated".
Serial killers do increasingly horrible things to get their jollies. The profiler explained that for many serial killers, simply killing is not enough. They must escalate what they do in increasingly horrible ways. Given what this killer had done, he was quite escalated and, likely, an experienced and prolific killer. The profiler explained there was a good chance of finding other bodies close to where we had recovered this one.
In evidence was a map made by the killer. The map had strange markings on it. The speculation was they might mark graves.
I contacted a local archaeology professor. He and I and many of his students returned to the crime scene with the hope of recovering another body. If we were able to do so, I knew the state would be able to pursue new murder charges against the killer.
I remember that day well. The killer had strung up one of his victims from a branch, like a deer. I'm not sure if the woman was dead or alive at the time but the remains of the rope hung from the tree limb. I remember a young college girl who was assisting that day jokingly jumping up and hanging j from the same limb A chill went down my spine.
We searched and we searched. We found a long knife hidden in the roots of a tree, a woman's high heel shoe and some Mardi Gras beads. But we never found a body.
To this day serial killer remains in prison in Alabama. There were a fair number of women missing from around that area. While we can't prove he was connected to these disappearances I sadly suspect I know their fate.
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