Sandman(8)By: Morgan Hannah MacDonald
Once he hit the station, he went directly to the office he shared with Malone and Campanelli, two other detectives in homicide. He was glad to find he had the office to himself and started thumbing through the active files piled high on his desk.
Finding what he had been searching for, Thomas sat back in his chair and put his feet up. File in his lap, he began reading the case he’d been working before hitting a brick wall.
Jennifer Hooper, was a twenty-two-year-old senior at Cal State-Berkeley majoring in marine biology. In life, she stood five-foot-five and weighed one hundred and fifteen pounds. She had blue eyes and long blonde hair.
Jennifer was last seen by her roommate on a Friday afternoon. She was driving home for the weekend to see her parents in San José. When she hadn’t shown up by midnight, her worried parents called all her friends. The police weren’t able to file an immediate report because she was a legal adult.
By Monday morning, she hadn’t shown up for classes, so the San José Sheriff’s Department filed the missing persons report. Jennifer’s body was found ten days later in Huntington Beach, more than three hundred miles south from where she went missing.
Her eyes and lips had been sewn shut and her breasts had been removed. She had been brutally raped and repeatedly sodomized. Because of the overlapping bruises around her neck, it was obvious the perp had tortured her over the course of several days, strangling her to the point of passing out, but not enough to end her suffering.
Her body was covered with shallow cuts. Some, probably the first wounds, had become infected and gangrene set in. In the end she bled to death from the removal of both breasts.
She was alive, although just barely, when the sick bastard performed the operation. Cheryl informed Thomas that by the time she died, her body was more than likely emitting the odor of decaying flesh. That was why the guy decided to get rid of her, Thomas concluded.
Lividity proved she’d been lying in a prone position after death. A strange waffle-like pattern appeared on her upper torso, buttocks and the backs of her legs.
Semen was found in the vagina as well as the rectum, but the perp was not a secretor, meaning that he was part of the twenty percent of the populace that did not leave DNA in their saliva or other bodily fluids. Therefore Thomas couldn’t get any hits off CODIS, the Criminal Offense DNA Indexing System.
He wondered if the perp knew this. How else could one explain why the guy didn’t care that he’d left sperm in the victim’s body when everything else he had done proved he was nothing less than a pro? The body had been thoroughly washed with bleach from head to toe. No fibers, skin cells or hair for them to find. Thomas sensed this guy was too good to be an amateur; now he was certain the perp had killed before. But where? And how many times?
It took Thomas over a week to find Jennifer’s 2001 red Toyota Corolla. After he came up empty from the APB on her car, he had to resort to calling all the towing companies between Huntington Beach and San Francisco. He finally found the vehicle in an impound lot in Fremont.
It had been abandoned on I-5 with a flat tire not fifty feet from a highway call box. A clean cut was found in between the tread. It was deliberate. Most likely the guy put it there himself, then followed the girl until the flat made her pull over. If it were night, there would be no way for her to know she was being followed on the busy interstate.
Thomas checked the records; no calls had been made from the callbox since the Tuesday before, then not again until another four days after Jennifer’s car had been discovered. The perp was probably on her before she knew what was happening, pretending to be a Good Samaritan.
No evidence was found in the car, no sign of a struggle. Her overnight bag and purse were found in the trunk. Her wallet lay in the glove box; it still held fifty dollars. So robbery was not a motive. With no fingerprints or evidence to go on, Thomas was forced to move on to other cases.
But the image of Jennifer’s mutilated body haunted him. It crept into his thoughts when he least expected it, taking a shower or simply driving his car. But nights were the worst, and sleep proved elusive. It was the most disturbing case he had worked so far. Of course he’d seen plenty of dead bodies in his career, but this particular one was especially obscene.
▶ Also By Morgan Hannah MacDonald
- · Sandman