Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Black Dahlia Profiled

Grim Mystery: The Behavior

The offender murdered her in a place that was under his control, one where he was not worried about being interrupted during those hours in which he tortured, assaulted, murdered and mutilated the victim. This suggests that he lived alone, or at the very least, was alone at the time of the homicide, and knew that he could take his time. The fact that the victim's body appeared to have been refrigerated — kept on ice — suggests that he had access to ice or an "ice box" in which he kept it for a short period of time before he disposed of her. He may have done this to confuse the time of death estimate, or to keep the odor down while he formed a plan. It was probably instrumental to something else and not part of a ritual.

The rope marks on her body, as described, are more consistent with instrumental restraints, as opposed to sexual bondage. However, if there were indications that she was tied elsewhere on her body (thighs, upper arms, etc.) or that there was neatness or symmetry to tying, that would be suggestive of sexual bondage. In this case, it was probably to keep her under control.

The assault and murder are best considered to be a single event, beginning with restraining the victim, torturing her, murdering her and then engaging in some postmortem mutilation. There are strong indications this offender was sexually sadistic. For example, it appears likely that the multiple tiny abrasions and lacerations were ante-mortem. If her pubic hair was pulled before death rather than cut afterward, this would be sadistic as well. But cutting it to stuff into a body cavity indicated a need to degrade and humiliate; that she had feces in her stomach tends to affirm that.

Because the cause of death was exsanguination, it is likely that she was alive not only when he inflicted the multiple nonfatal injuries, but also when he cut her in half. All of these acts are sadistic and would have undoubtedly resulted in a conscious victim showing extreme fear, pain and suffering. The fact that the offender assaulted the sexually significant areas on the victim's body is also consistent with a sexually sadistic offender.

The lacerations to the internal organs likely occurred after death and reflect the offender's continued need to defile and destroy the victim in order to dissipate his rage. The amount of time the offender spent with the victim, as evidenced by the ante-mortem and post-mortem assaults followed by the washing of the body, is consistent with an offender who not only lives alone, but is comfortable around bodies and has probably murdered before. Whether the cleansing of the body was ritualistic or simply instrumental (not wanting to get blood on him or perhaps in his car as he transported the body), is unclear. It could obviously serve both needs.

The manner in which the offender disposed of the body strongly suggests that he wanted (needed) not only to display the body publicly, but do so in a manner that was sexually degrading and contemptuous of the victim. He wanted to further degrade the victim by revealing her to be a whore as well as shock and offend whoever found her remains. In so doing, he is expressing not only his hatred for this specific victim, but, in all likelihood, his loathing for women in general. The risk incurred by the offender in disposing of the body in such a public and brazen manner underscores just how important it was for him to make that statement.

If it's true that he selected the specific area because on a map it resembled the female genital area, then he may have thought about such a crime before and considered what he would do with the body.

The reports of a black sedan, possibly a Ford, with mud on its bumper, crawling around the area may or may not be of significance. It could be a "red herring," much like the "white van" in the D.C. sniper case, or the beige Camaro in the Paul Bernardo case in Toronto.



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