Henry Louis Wallace
Patterns of a Psychopath
According to Fortune magazine, Charlotte, North Carolina, possesses the best pro-business attitude in the country. Its support of the corporate community and its belief in civic-corporate melding to sustain the livelihood of the metropolis are second to none. Nearly 14,000 new jobs were created in 1994 alone and, because of that, forecasters placed Charlotte eighth in a list of American cities destined to reach zenith economic growth over the next decade. That same year, 1994, the city earned recognition as the third largest banking center in the United States and was noted as the sixth largest wholesale center with $11 billion in retail sales. Demographically, Charlotte's urban culture co-exists well with little friction. With records such as these, the council-manager form of government that rules Charlotte and the County of Mecklenburg can be proud.
But, Charlotte had its troubles, too, that year.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, like most big-city law enforcement bureaus, operates on a shoestring budget. Its efforts, despite the largesse of its civic headaches, have culminated in programs that have honed in on major problems. In short, the police force is, by record, winning its war on crime.
But, it had its hands full in the 1992-94 season when an elusive someone was preying on young women in East Charlotte raping them, strangling them and, sometimes, stabbing them to death. On top of this, the police were trying (with limited numbers) to battle a mixed criminal element. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, Charlotte-Mecklenburg stats for 1993 indicate more than 51,000 incidences of crime, 9,102 of these falling under the description of "violent". Broken down, they cite 87 murders, 350 rapes, 2,713 robberies and 5,952 assaults.
The strangulation murders, however, because of their growing intensity, took center stage. As the volume of killings grew, Charlotte's alarm rose steadily along with them. What would become a 22-month killing spree of nine murders attributed to the same suspect began slowly the first three over a year's time. The police did not anticipate a serial killer or the avalanche of public dismay that would come when his rage eventually began to escalate. The first of the nine killings would not even be labeled a murder, in fact, for many months to come. No corpse had been found and, thus, victim number one was filed as a "Missing Person".
This spree began undetected on June 19, 1992. The manager of Bojangle's Restaurant on Central Avenue contacted Kathy Love to tell her that her sister, Caroline, had not reported to work in a couple of days. He asked her to please check on her condition. Kathy, alerted, rushed to Caroline's flat. Not finding Caroline at home, or evidence of foul play, she left a note relaying her boss' and her own concern. Contacting Caroline's roommate, Sadie McKnight, to ask her where her friend might be, Sadie expressed that she too had become suspicious because it was not like Caroline to remain incommunicado for more than 48 hours, even if she was staying with friends. Together, Kathy Love and Sadie McKnight brought their suspicions to the police.
Investigator Anthony Rice questioned the Bojangles manager and learned that the last time he had seen Caroline was when she left work on the evening of the 15th. She asked if she could trade a $10 bill for a roll of quarters so she could do a load of laundry when she got home. Her cousin, Robert Ross, who drove her back to her place that night, said he saw her go into her foyer and that she had seemed neither sidetracked nor nervous.
In searching the apartment, the police became suspicious; it bore appearances of a scuffle. The furniture seemed to be slightly repositioned, as if shoved aside during a fight. Curiously, the sheets from Caroline's bed were removed and were not in the laundry hamper, which was full. Rice determined that Caroline had never done the laundry, as she had planned, and that the roll of quarters she purchased from her workplace was not in the apartment.
Charlotte police continued to search for Caroline Love, but every lead met with a dead end. She was filed missing and became one of the many case cards of runaways whose fates remained a mystery. Her body would not be discovered for nearly two years.
Eight months later, on February 19, 1993, Mrs. Sylvia Sumpter came home from work, prepared to make dinner for herself and her teenage daughter, Shawna Hawk. Sumpter wondered where her daughter was; she should have been home much, much earlier from her morning commute to Piedmont Central Community College. The mother couldn't figure out why her coat and purse lay unattended in the dining room. Shawna never went anywhere without that purse and surely wouldn't have forgotten her coat during the wintry season! Placing a call to Darryl Kirkpatrick, Shawna's boyfriend, Sumpter learned that he hadn't seen the girl all day. She then phoned the local Taco Bell, where Shawna worked part time, to see if Shawna had been called in, but the counter clerk told her she was not listed on the evening's schedule.
Mrs. Sumpter began to fret, especially when relatives called inquiring why Shawna had not picked up her godson at school as was her routine. Boyfriend Kirkpatrick, receiving another call from the distressed mother, jumped in his car and sped to her house to calm her.
Rummaging through the house, hoping to find a clue as to where Shawna might have gone, Kirkpatrick wandered into the downstairs bathroom. There, he noticed that the carpeting was soaked and that the shower curtain was not tucked in place. Through the translucency of the curtain, he thought he could see something or someone crouching below the wall of the tub. Yanking the curtain back, he screamed. Shawna lay naked in a tubful of water, her head sunken below the surface, her eyes staring lifelessly upwards.
Shawna Hawk was pronounced dead at the hospital. Her skull had suffered lacerations and bruising caused by a blow from a dull and heavy object. However, while that object may have dealt unconsciousness, it had not killed her. The examining doctor diagnosed that she had been strangled to death. Forensic pathologist James M. Sullivan, who performed an autopsy, noted hemorrhaging in the conjunctiva (lining of the eyes), the face, the lips and across the voice box all trademarks of ligature strangulation. According to Dr. Sullivan, a ligature is "a cord or a band, or something that's made into a cord or a band, then circles the neck and is used to forcibly compress the neck."
The hospital defined her death as a homicide. Police were called in. Co-workers, friends, classmates all were interviewed, but the police failed to corner a suspect or a motive.
Audrey Spain, 24 years old, was a dependable employee, so when she failed to show up two nights in a row June 23 and 24, 1993 her manager at Taco Bell knew something was amiss. He phoned her, but got only her answering machine. Trying her sister, he encountered the same results. Twice failed, he decided to cruise by Spain's apartment building to check things out himself. Her car was in the parking lot, so he entered the building and knocked on the door that, according to the designated mailbox, was hers. There was no answer despite several firm-handed raps.
In the morning, still not being able to get a hold of Spain or her sister, he placed a call to the girl's janitor to plead his intervention. This time, results. When the janitor entered Audrey Spain's flat, his eyes fell on the open bedroom doorway and what looked like a naked woman sprawled across the bed. Edging closer, he knew that that clay-colored inanimate thing was once the vibrant tenant named Audrey who smiled at him so warmly whenever they crossed paths. Her face was now distorted, her eyes bulged, and her entire form lay maligned as if frozen while in the throes of anguish. Entwining her neck were articles of clothing, what looked like a T-shirt and a bra, tied together and knotted at the Adam's apple to cut off her air.
Medical examiners concurred that she had been both strangled and raped.
Caroline Love, Shawna Hawk, Audrey Spain...one missing person, two nearly identical strangulations...months apart. Unfortunately, no witnesses had come forth to report suspicious characters hanging about at the advent of each crime; no one had seen the same green Maxima parked near the crime scenes; no one was yet able to piece the events together into one ultimately important clue: that each of the victims knew one particular man. As yet, neither the police nor the newspapers detected a serial killer. Life went on. And the investigations of the three unfortunate women faded as police were forced to take on other crimes occurring across Charlotte- Mecklenburg in the heat of another summer.