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$500,000 Spent So Far in Search for Serial Killer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The San Diego Police Department estimates it has spent more than $500,000 since January investigating the Clairemont-University City serial slayings, making it one of the city’s most expensive investigations.

The cost of seeking the person who fatally stabbed five women inside their homes has been paid out mainly in regular salaries and overtime, Lt. Gary Learn said Thursday at the department’s weekly press briefing on the case.

Now a contingent of 20 detectives, the investigative team began with five people assigned to investigate the death of Tiffany Paige Schultz on Jan. 12. It later grew to a high of 27 detectives following the latest killings--the deaths of Pamela Gail Clark and her daughter, Amber, on Sept. 13.

Leading the team are Learn, four sergeants, Capt. Dick Toneck and Deputy Chief Cal Krosch.

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Also being investigated are the slayings of Janene Marie Weinhold on Feb. 16 and Holly Suzanne Tarr on April 3.

The department describes much of the expense as “soft” costs because the money would have been paid out in salaries anyway, Learn said. The team members are budgeted police employees who would be investigating other cases.

“We haven’t gone out and recruited another group,” Learn said.

Although he drew no comparisons to previous cases, Learn acknowledged that “it’s a pretty good guess that it’s one of the most expensive investigations in the department’s history,” depending on how long the case goes.

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Despite the expense, “the city government and the chief (Bob Burgreen) have been 100% supportive,” he said.

Learn said he does not know how much of the total went toward overtime pay, but $45,000 was paid out in overtime during a two-week period alone following Tarr’s death.

Immediately after Tarr was stabbed at her brother’s Buena Vista Gardens apartment in Clairemont, a maintenance man and painter reported seeing a man resembling the police description of the suspect.

The maintenance man said the suspect ran toward him with a knife held over his head.

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Based on witness descriptions, the suspect is said to be a dark-skinned man, from 5 feet, 7 inches to 5 feet, 10 inches tall, with a medium build and short hair that is dark and curly.

After Tarr’s death, detectives were working seven-day weeks and 10- to 14-hour days, Learn said.

Detectives still work overtime on occasion and on weekends but the number of case leads assigned to each detective has decreased from 40 to about 15 to 20.

As the number of tips decreases, detectives have been assigned to other cases. Also, one of the detectives has been called to active military duty, and a few others have been promoted.

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About five tips a day continue to come in from the public, and the department is encouraging people not to talk themselves out of reporting what may be an important clue.

“We’ve gotten as close as we are (to solving the case) thanks to the public’s help,” he said.

The homicide group has looked at various suspects, and, “on occasion, we’ve been close” to making an arrest, Learn said, but “we’re lacking the information we need.”

Except for 42-year-old Pamela Clark, the victims were all young women from 18 to 21 with brown hair. Police believe the killer may not have been expecting Amber’s mother, Pamela, to be home at the time of the attack.

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