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The killing game
Written by Editor   
Sunday, 06 August 2006 13:26

While uploading the list of Phoenix serial crime victims to the crime map database, I could not shake the distinct impression that the serial shootings were gang initiation rites or a war game of sorts, that there were two or more parties involved, and that they were attempting to outdo each other. In other words, they were keeping score. This is not the first time that I would be quite wrong. Nor will it likely be the last.

On Monday, July 10, 2006, the news broke that Phoenix Arizona was besieged with three serial killers--one, coined the "Baseline Rapist" and the other two, "Serial Shooters." On Wednesday, July 12, 2006, law enforcement announced that Georgia Thompsons murder was definitively connected to the baseline rapist and that James Dewayne Mullins, of Kentucky, had confessed to her murder. Mullins alleged that he was with two other men--convicted sex offender, Curtis Maxie and "an unknown Mexican man named Carlos or Santo"--when Thompson was shot and killed in the parking lot of her Tempe Arizona apartment complex.

On Friday, August 4, 2006, the Phoenix police department announced they had apprehended the serial shooter, or in this case, the serial shooters--33 year-old Dale S. Hausner and 30 year-old Samuel John Dieteman--the day before. As the details of the suspects began to emerge, a few profilers were scratching their heads. They expected the serial shooter to be a young male, not two 30-something men residing in an upper-middle-class suburbian gated community. The MSM and crime bloggers alike scrambled to dig up clues in hopes of answering the age-old question, "why?"

By Saturday, August 5, 2006, the public had their answer--"Random Recreational Violence." ABCnews reported that the suspects "took turns" riding shotgun and Chief Jack Harris noted, "We are so confident that these are the people. [...] the men had admitted some of the crimes since they were arrested on Thursday."

From this Arizona Republic article court documents note that, "Officers saw one of the suspects throw away a trash bag that included a map of attack locations and an expended .410 bore shotgun shell." CNN reports that, "Investigators later searched the Mesa, Arizona, apartment that the men shared, finding shotgun cartridges, shotguns and long rifles."

Dieteman also allegedly told police "Hausner pulled close in the Camry, pulled the shotgun over the steering wheel and fired out the drivers side window."

So... Hausner and Dieteman were allegedly driving around Phoenix in a Toyota Camry, shooting people and animals with shotguns and long rifles? And, based upon Dietemans confession, in at least one instance, Hausner, while driving, allegedly swung a .410 caliber shotgun up and over the steering wheel and pointed it out his window to shoot one of the victims? And this occurred while Dieteman was sitting in the passenger seat?

Hmmm... I do hope the Harris is right. I am admittedly not so certain. Excluding the rather obvious physical problems of juggling shotguns and long rifles in a compact car while driving, high profile crimes tend to draw false confessions. And because of this, certain details are purposefully withheld from the public--sort of a weeding out process, if you may.

Still, not only did James Mullins confess to the murder of Georgia Thompson the month before, but he was also charged--thus implying that he was her likely killer. And yet, on Thursday, August 3, 2006, the charges against Mullins were dropped and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas noted, "[Mullins] is a Kentucky career criminal who appears to have made up a story and sent us on a wild goose chase. [...] Its been very frustrating because we havent been able to corroborate that he was even in Arizona."

Political pressure can also drive false confessions. Take the case of the Promkunaram Wat murders over a decade ago. Some thought the slaughter of the Thai Buddhists was the result of a hate crime. As with Thursdays arrest, law enforcement were led to Victor Zarate along with four others based upon an anonymous tip. Zarate et al confessed. (Daily Herald, September 14, 1991)

In that particular case, officials were so certain they had the killers that even after exculpatory evidence indicated Zarate was nowhere near the temple at the time of the murders, they were unwilling to drop the charges. As it turned out hard evidence eventually led to 17 year-old Jonathan Doody and 16 year-old Alessandro Garcia. (Daily Herald, November 03, 1991) The charges against Zarate were finally dropped without prejudice. (Daily Herald, November 22, 1991).

Otherwise put, false confessions are certainly not new or particularly surprising. Especially when law enforcement is under extreme pressure from the public to solve a case. And more so in instances involving serial murder. That, and confessors get their 15 minutes of fame while law enforcement gets the medal and the public can breathe easier believing they have the right man--or in this case, the right men. Like I said, I do hope Harris is right.

NB: For a spatial views of the aforementioned, and in addition to the above links, please refer to the Phoenix serial killers crime map. Following is the pseudo-legend for the crime map icons:

Baseline Survived
Baseline Homicide
Animal Shooting
Shooting Survived
Shooting Homicide
Spree Killer


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