Investigators in Florida Narrow Suspect List in Campus Knife Murders to Four : Crime: Police say the serial killer left ‘messages.’ An Ohio fugitive is no longer under suspicion.
Investigators narrowed their list of prime suspects to four Sunday in the grisly knife slayings of five students and hinted that the serial killer left “messages of some importance.”
Police would not say whether 18-year-old Edward Lewis Humphrey, a part-time freshman at the University of Florida charged with assaulting his grandmother, was among the four.
However, two police officers Sunday used a metal detector to search a creek next to the apartment complex where Humphrey lives.
They did not appear to find anything, said police Cpl. Robert McDowell. Police have already picked over garbage in the complex’s trash containers but have not said whether they recovered a murder weapon.
An Ohio fugitive, 58-year-old Warren Virgil Tinch, was dropped from the list, said Alachua County sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Spencer Mann. Tinch is sought in Ohio in the stabbing death of a 52-year-old woman and is suspected of stealing cars in Ocala, Fla., and Gainesville a week before the killings.
A week after the first two mutilated bodies were found, police disclosed Sunday that the killer left messages or clues at the victims’ apartments that could tie him to all five murders. But they refused to characterize these messages except to say they were not in the form of notes or other writings.
“The messages were given to us from the crime scenes,” said Lt. Sadie Darnell, spokeswoman for the Gainesville Police Department. “The messages are indirect (ones) that we’re interpreting to be messages of some importance.”
Mann added that no “calling cards” were found on any of the bodies.
“It’s not a signature-type homicide,” Mann said.
Police Capt. R. D. Ward revealed that the killer spent “considerable time” at the crime scenes and “his primary purpose was not the death.”
Police have said at least three of the victims were mutilated. Partial autopsy results made public say that all five died of multiple stab wounds.
Ward described an “extremely calculated” killer who police fear has “concealed himself very well.”
He also said the killer was enjoying the control he exercised by terrorizing this community and relished the confrontation with police.
All five of the murder victims lived at off-campus apartments on Gainesville’s southwest side, and all were students at either the University of Florida or Santa Fe Community College.
Up to 18 investigators flew Saturday and Sunday to at least nine other states to follow up on tips and leads related to the slayings, Darnell said. The states were California, New York, Oregon, Montana, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Nevada, although Darnell would not name specific towns.
Humphrey, an Indialantic, Fla., youth authorities have described as emotionally troubled, remained in the Brevard County Jail on Sunday pending a $1-million bond on charges of assaulting his 79-year-old grandmother. Police kept up surveillance at his Gainesville apartment and on his car in Indialantic but still have not sought search warrants to check them out.
To do so, a judge would have to rule that there is enough evidence to show probable cause of Humphrey’s involvement in the crimes.
“We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize this case,” Mann said. “We’re going to do it right. We’re going to do it by the book.”
R.J. Russo, the Brevard County public defender, said he was puzzled as to why no search warrants had been sought and said he planned to ask Tuesday for a reduction in Humphrey’s bond.
Most of the University of Florida’s 34,000 students were gone over the weekend for the Labor Day holiday. Many who stayed attended church services Sunday to mourn for the victims.
“I pray we’re not so gripped by fear that we’re afraid to go out and meet people,” Drew Settimio told the congregation at Crossroads Church of Christ, which included many students. “I pray the fear of our community will be eased.”
University President John Lombardi said Sunday that school will continue as usual when it reopens Tuesday, except for continued escort services, increased security and extended deadlines for students to withdraw from or change classes.
So far, about 100 students have decided either to transfer or sit out a semester because of the slayings, Lombardi said.
“We believe this community to be as safe as any other university community in America,” he said. “Would I send my child back to the University of Florida? Yes, I would.”