Article by David Rosen.
Unfortunately, over the last decade or so, America has witnessed a steady increase in lust murder often targeting female prostitutes. Since 2003, six Rocky Mount, NC, women were found murdered and their bodies dumped along rural roads outside the city. The victims had been strangled and left nearly naked; all were black with reported histories of drug abuse and suspected prostitution. So far two men, one white, the other black, have been arrested in relation to these killings.
During the 2006-2007 period, the bodies of four prostitutes were discovered in and around Grand Rapids, MI. On Thanksgiving 2006, Starkinya Vance’s body was found in southwest side of the city after been seen getting into a car a few hours before her body was found. In March 2007, Shakara Carter’s body was found about 400 yards away from where Vance was discovered. Both women were strangled. On September 5, 2007, the city’s fire department found the body of Linda Gardner, 45, burning in a fire in a vacant lot. Cocaine was found in her system but, because Gardner was so extensively burned, no cause of death could be determined.
In 2008, Jacob Etheridge murdered two prostitutes, Rosanna Cruz and Teresa Tingey, in Ogden, UT. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to two concurrent 20 years-to-life in prison terms for the murders.
Earlier this year, 50-year-old Walter Ellis pleaded guilty in Milwaukee, WI, to the killing of six prostitutes. Ellis, who had a long police record, was known as the “North Side Strangler” and committed the murders over a 21 year period, from 1986 to 2007; two women were killed 1986, three in 1995, one in 1997 and one in 2007. Ellis is African-American and his victims were black women ranging in age from 19 to 41 years.
In should not be forgotten that some of the celebrity serial murders have never been solved. The most famous is probably the Zodiac Killer who murdered five people in Northern California from December 1968 to October 1969.
Between 2001 and 2009, eleven reputed sex workers were murdered in Albuquerque, NM, in what is known as the “West Mesa Bone Collector” case; one of the victims was pregnant and the fetus died bringing the number of murders to twelve. The victims were young Hispanic women, ranging from 15 to 32 years, and many were mothers. The murders took place in the city’s War Zone, a neighborhood where prostitutes and drug dealers ply their trade. One victim, Cinnamon Elks, told friends shortly before her August 2004 disappearance “a dirty cop was chopping off the heads of prostitutes and burying them on the West Mesa.”
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The serial killings of female prostitutes on Long Island and in Memphis are ongoing police investigations. Sadly, these women may well join the increasing number of female sex workers found dead in Atlantic City, Albuquerque and other parts of the U.S., victims killed by perpetrators never arrested, prosecuted and punished.
There appears to be no federal or NGO data on the annual murder rate of prostitutes in the U.S., nor serial murders targeting prostitutes. A cursory review of the nation’s popular press reveals that, since 2000, there has been an apparent increase in such murders taking place throughout the country. Scanning this literature, one can only ask: Are prostitutes the proverbial canaries in the coal mine?