Monday night’s Nancy Grace

So Monday morning, I get invited on the Nancy Grace show Monday evening to discuss developments in the case of the multiple bodies found in recent weeks on that remote Long Island beach.  Well, “discuss” isn’t exactly the word.  I accepted the invitation, after declining the past couple of times, only to be reminded of what’s so frustrating about doing that show.  You’re given 10 seconds to explain something that takes at least a minute or two to explain, and the interruption begins about five seconds into your answer, so even if you’ve got the most expertise of anyone on the show that night, including the host, no one benefits from it — not the host, not the audience, and certainly not you.

If I seemed irritated, I was, and you probably won’t see me accepting an invitation from them again for a while.  I like Nancy, and I really appreciate all the times she’s invited me on that show (she was one of the first hosts to put me on the air), but 10 partially-intelligible seconds out of an entire hour just aren’t worth the thought time, the drive time, the shave time (ok, I didn’t shave, thankfully, or I’d really be irritated), the waiting-around time etc.  For those of you who watched and sent emails or Facebook messages about how rudely you thought I was treated when I didn’t parrot the party line tonight, I appreciate it, but I’m a big boy — I can handle it.

Tonight, Nancy apparently had decided before even going on the air that all of the bodies discovered on that beach (10 at last count) were put there by a single serial killer and that it was a regular “modern-day Jack-the-Ripper story,” as I semi-seriously summarized it.  Ooooh, it’s dramatic; it’s scary; but when you start looking at some details, it doesn’t hang together quite so neatly.  So, for those of you who were interested in hearing it and disappointed when you didn’t, here now is the rest of the story:

First of all, as I said (OK, yelled) on tonight’s show, it is possible that a single killer killed all 10 victims.  Until we’re certain of that, though, how about we at least consider the possibility that if/when the cops catch one victim’s killer, they still might not have caught each and every victim’s killer, i.e. there just might still be another killer, or two, yet to be caught?

It’s important to consider that four of the victims, all apparently prostitutes who advertised their “services” on Craigslist, reportedly were found within feet of one another, all completely naked, each apparently strangled, and each wrapped in a burlap bag.  It’s important to consider that other victims’ bodies were strewn relatively haphazardly, considerable distances apart, up and down a heavily overgrown area between a beach-access road and the beach, and we don’t know the manner of death for all of them yet.  Serial killers usually do things the same way, and the disposal of these 10 bodies does not appear to have been done in the same way.

Is it possible that the same guy started killing more spontaneously and being sloppier about dumping bodies over time?  Sure, but let’s at least consider the possibility that it’s not just one guy.  We don’t even know the estimated dates of death on all of these bodies yet.  There could’ve been a sloppy serial killer back in the 80’s, followed by a more meticulous one in the 2000’s, who each dumped bodies along that stretch of beach completely independently of one another.  Is it more than a little coincidental that two or more killers would choose the same beach on which to dump bodies?  Sure, but it’s not that far-fetched when you consider that millions of people live a short drive from that beach, meaning it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that two individuals over a period of years figured out that this same remote, overgrown area on Long Island would be a good place to hide bodies.

Or, maybe they were working together.  That’s not unheard of.  Remember the “Beltway Snipers,” the serial-killer duo that terrorized the Washington, D.C. region several years back?  And get this — one of the prostitute victims was last seen running from a house where she apparently had gone on “business” screaming “they” wanted to kill her.  “They” usually means two or more.

It’s also important to consider that one of the 10 bodies appears to be that of an infant.  Just like serial killers tend to do things the same way, they also tend to pick consistent victim types.  It would be quite unusual for a serial killer to switch from killing prostitutes to killing infants.  Is it possible that a lone killer happened upon an adult female victim who happened to have an infant with her and ended up killing both?  Sure.  But it’s also possible that a single mother, someone reminiscent of Casey Anthony, lived in that area, shook her baby to death in a rage because the baby was crying, and then dumped the body out there in the woods, almost just like Casey Anthony is accused of doing.

And while we’re playing the speculation game, which is all Monday night’s show was, maybe a pregnant woman, close to full-term, was among the victims, and maybe the skeletal remains of the infant were separated from the skeletal remains of the mother after the mother’s death, almost just like what happened to Lacey Peterson in California several years back.  She was killed, not by a serial killer, but by a husband who wanted to be free of his “responsibilities” so he could pursue another woman.  Oh, and by the way, Lacey Peterson’s body was dumped into the ocean first, and ended up on a beach when the tide washed it there.  See?  There are multiple ways in which bodies can end up on beaches.

And then there’s the phone call.  A man reportedly phoned the teenage sister of one of the first four victims that I mentioned, one of the prostitutes whose bodies were found in the burlap bags, using the victim’s cell phone, asked the sister whether she knew what the victim was doing (suggesting that the victim may have still been alive and doing things at the time), and told the sister that the victim was a “whore.”  The sister, understandably, but also everyone on Monday night’s show, except me, just accepted it as fact that the caller (who has yet to be caught) is the killer.  Remember, serial killers tend to do things the same way.  Hanging on to the cell phone of just one of 10 victims, figuring out which number in the “contacts” was the victim’s family’s number, then calling and taunting the family, would be a clear departure from an otherwise relatively impersonal m.o.  To me, calling and taunting a victim’s family by phone, personalizing a murder in that way, would be more suggestive of someone who knew and hated the victim than of a serial killer who met the victim hours or minutes before the murder.  We’ve seen serial killers taunt police repeatedly, but victims’ families, not so much.  But I could be wrong, of course.

As I said on the air earlier, it’s entirely possible that all 10 murders, and maybe more, are the work of  a single serial killer.  But, Nancy was absolutely wrong when she declared it a certainty, dismissing any possibility of two or more killers using the same stretch of beach to hide bodies with a trite, “It doesn’t happen that way!”  Oh well, what do I know?

UPDATE 4/12/11:   http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/wpix-bodies-search-multiple-serial-killers,0,79808.story Hmmmmmmm.

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