The sequence of bizarre slayings in north-central Florida led to an extraordinary meeting in November. And as law enforcement officials from nine Florida agencies conferred in Ocala, a chilling pattern emerged: a serial killer, or killers, had murdered at least eight people. All of the victims were middle-aged men who had been driving alone along the main interstate highway, the 1-75—a route often used by vacationing Canadians—and other major arteries in the state. All had been shot with a .22calibre weapon, and their bodies dumped in out-of-the-way places. Two more men have disappeared, and police say that they suspect that those men have been victims of the same killers. What distinguishes the case from other serial murders is that, according to police, the killers may be two women in their 20s or 30s who meet men at roadside convenience stores or ask for help along the highway before luring the victims to their deaths.
The dead men, all white, ranged in age from 40 to 65. The first known victim was Richard Mallory, a 52-year-old video-store owner from Clearwater, Fla., whose bullet-riddled body was found near the 1-75 in Daytona Beach on Dec. 13, 1989. The most recent victim of the suspected killers was Walter Antonia, 60, an unemployed truck driver from Cocoa, Fla., whose body was found on a little-used road in north Florida on Nov. 19.
Families and friends of the dead men described them as people who would help others in need of assistance. According to Sgt. Robert
Douglas of the sheriff’s office in central Florida’s Marion County, that instinct could have been one of the reasons the men died. The killers, said Douglas, “could have been posing as damsels in distress, saying their car was broken down.”
A promising lead in the case was uncovered by the Marion County sheriff’s office in July. After an accident involving a single car at the north-central Florida town of Orange Springs, police found the vehicle abandoned nearby and identified it as having belonged to 65-year-old Peter Siems, a suspected victim in the serial killings. Later, a paramedic and a fireman at the accident scene said that they had spoken to two women who they believed had been occupants of Siems’s car. The women refused offers of help and disappeared. From witnesses’ descriptions, police put together profiles of a woman with shoulder-length blond hair who may have a heart-shaped tattoo on her arm. Her companion was described as stocky and dark-haired.
James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, said that fewer than five per cent of serial killers are women. He added: “It is even rarer for women to work in a team, and it’s uncommon for women to kill people they don’t know.” Meanwhile, Douglas said that the latest murders have made many men more cautious than usual about picking up hitchhikers or helping motorists along Florida’s highways.
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