A DNA Story: Catching Up to a Midwest Serial Killer
Coyote's heart pounded in his chest. It wasn't fear. Rather, what hunters called buck fever- exhilaration a predator feels when he is about to feed.
Welcome to Crime Raven; true crimes, real-life stories from law enforcement and issues crime fighters face. This blog highlights crimes researched by retired Detective Sergeant Mark Rein, using publicly available information, court records and personal recollections. Content may be graphic, disturbing, or violent. Listener discretion is advised. Suspects are innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
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Coyote is on the move again. A frenetic drive town to town, searching for the next prize. In some ways, he's on safari trying to bag the big game, make the big score. In other ways, he thinks he's on a mission behind enemy lines. He technically had been a military man, but the term mission was a stretch for what he'd done as a Navy cook.
These were the kind of missions he could sink his teeth into. Dangerous. Rewarding. Failure could cost him his life, but the prize. Oh, so sweet.
Coyote thought back to the most recent victory. She had caught his eye in a parking lot. He pulled off. Followed her into the grocery store. The woman, maybe 50, nicely dressed. She looked a little sad as she took her time wandering the aisles. That was a tell. An older woman in no hurry, unaltered by the feverish pace of the world around her. No, this woman was taking her time. Contemplative. Not much in her cart.
He followed her back to the lot, passing real close. She didn't even sense the shark in the water. Oblivious. He noted the make color of her car. There was no one waiting for her in the car. It looked good so far.
When the new object of his affection pulled out, coyote followed. Carefully. It turned out she was only about five minutes from home. Not an upscale neighborhood, but not bad either. Medium-sized houses. Yards big enough for a dog. Some places down the street had swing sets, kids' toys scattered in the yard. Americana.
It was far better than he had known growing up. He smirked to himself. He liked his hunting ground.
Coyote cautiously circled the block, giving his new lady time. Sure enough, still unescorted, shuttling groceries inside. No one was there to help her at the door. Alone.
He was tempted just to pull in and get on with it. Discretion being the better part of valor, this wasn't how he did business. He knew from his studies that reckless disregard could get him captured. Instead, he pulled past, turned the corner, stopped at a spot where he could still see. The view was pretty good despite the summer foliage.
Coyote was comfortable watching. Kids and adults flowed to and from the surrounding working-class blocks. He attracted no attention from neighbors as their busy lives carried them past his parked car. He was gone before the porch lights came on, having waited long enough to know that no one was coming home to his new lady.
That place and other recently scouted possibilities continuously swirled in coyote's mind. They would be there until he scratched the itch. Not every place panned out. Sometimes he flat misread the signs. Instead of returning to a lonely lady, living quietly by herself, there would be a man, or worse, a family that he had missed before.
The grocery store lady was different. Coyote's return trips confirmed that his first assessment was right. There'd be no one else coming to the party.
Coyote arrived in the afternoon. He drove slowly past the house, then around to the opposite side of the block, looking for prying eyes, parking unobtrusively. This was part of his escape plan. If things went wrong, he'd flee out the back through the yards to the car.
Coyote tried to look confident, like he had reasoned to be there. He walked between the houses and into the backyard. He expected no one was home in the working-class blocks, and his luck held.
The back of his lady's house was right where he knew it would be. With a little maneuvering, he crossed the two backyards and found himself at her front door. Coyote's heart pounded in his chest. It wasn't fear. Rather, what hunters called buck fever- exhilaration a predator feels when he is about to feed.
Coyote was experienced. Careful. He always knocked on the front door first. If someone opened unexpectedly, he'd make up a name, admit a mistake, and beat feet away. No one answered the lady's front door. No sounds of a dog inside. He scanned up and down the block. Still no busybody neighbors in view.
Coyote retraced his steps to the rear of the house. He'd already picked where he was going in. A small but accessible casement window. The type that cranks out. Perfect. Easy to pop the extension bars. Hard to tell the window was ever broken. He was inside in 10 seconds.
The light was filtering dimly past opaque window shades from one side of the house. The August Missouri Air was thick, moist. Coyote was comfortable. This was now his cave.
He prowled around. He always learned a lot about the ladies by sifting through their personal things. Mail, magazines, the contents of the fridge, underwear drawers, nightstands. This particular place was hard to read. There was evidence of a man. Clothes, papers, but it was like he hadn't been there for a while. Maybe she was divorced. A widow?
Once Coyote had satisfied his curiosity, he thought about what he wanted to do. He paced the floors. His soft footfalls, the only sound in the quiet house. He reran the fantasies, superimposing them on the reality of the new scene. The anticipation was almost as good as the event. When his plan was complete, he settled into the dark, listening for his lady to come home to him.
Coyote didn't have to wait long. He lost track of time, but it was maybe an hour before he'd heard the sound of a car approaching. Slowly turning in. Engine cutting off. Then a car door closed, then surprise, a second.
Coyote jumped up from the back room, rushing but cautious. He peeked out a front window. He saw his lady, but there was a second woman. Younger, maybe twenties, also slim with dark hair. They were walking up to the front door.
Coyote returned to the back of the house. He had an instant to decide. Two, or should he go out the back window? Could he handle two?
He heard the keys rattle in the front door. The squeak of hinges. Lady's conversation spilled inside. In the bedroom, an impulse decision. Coyote hurried and tied the blue bandana around his face. Then he went to the sound of the ladies talking.
They were inside. The door was closed, and the lights were on around him. Coyote stepped out in the main room, brandishing his pistol. A scream escaped the young woman.
Raising the gun, coyote ordered them to be quiet. The two women standing in the kitchen instinctively moved closer to one another. Coyote circled to the front door and locked it.
The older woman said, "just take what you want and go." Coyote assured them that they wouldn't get hurt if they cooperated. He asked where the man was. It turned out he was in the hospital. The younger woman was there to visit her father. Perfect.
Coyote waved the pistol as he ordered the women to turn and put their hands behind them. As he bound them tightly with cord, he asked them about valuables in the house. There wasn't much, but he already knew that.
Then he moved his ladies into the bedroom, closing the door behind them. He made them sit on the bed, and he gagged them with the cloth he had set aside earlier. Tears streamed down both ladies' faces that they leaned into each other, their wide, shocked out eyes following coyote around the room.
With his ladies secure, he pulled off the bandana and smiled at them. They're gonna have some fun. All the dreams Coyote ever had came down to moments like this.
Before he started stripping off their clothes, he made a promise. If they made any noise, he would shoot the other in the head. They were almost silent. Sobbing. A whimper from time to time. Coyote made mother and daughter watch as he lived out his fantasies with their naked bodies.
When he was finished with his last desire sated, he positioned his two ladies face-down, side by side, on the bed, and he put a bullet through each of their heads.
Remembering the ecstasy of the moment. That shock of the gun blast reverberating through the small room Coyotes brought back to the present. He's driving his car, but savoring the memory of his latest kill puts urgency and his need for release. He makes a detour. Driving back to his place.
His home is a trailer tucked behind a house. An old lady, a grandmother, lives there. Coyote wants his slave. He doesn't see her outside, so he whistles. Within a minute, he hears the back door of the house open. It's not the old woman but her 11-year-old granddaughter. She's a thin, pretty girl, dark hair. Her face is a blank mask with dark circles under vacant brown eyes. She follows coyote inside. He tells the girl to get in the back and remove her clothes. She does exactly as he says because she needs to protect her family. She knows he's an animal and he'll kill grandma if she resists.
In the late seventies and eighties, there was a man who raped and murdered women as a hobby. He lived in southern Illinois, but he traveled to several bordering states to do his evil deeds. The criminal's body of work was extensive. To the police at the time, the individual crimes were just that- isolated incidents or small clusters of crimes with very little evidence and no way to connect them across towns, much less across county or state lines.
Aside from the general crime category, there wasn't much to link the events. The man was a violent sadist, but unlike others of his kind, he didn't adhere to an MO or have a narrow victim type that might give him away. The rapes and murders went unlinked and would remain that way for over two decades.
The man was careful, leaving as little trackable evidence as possible. Crime scene technicians pulled a smudged partial here and there, but mostly there were no prints. The mistake the man made was a failure of imagination. He focused on the current detection techniques but did not anticipate the changes technological advancement would bring. So, he was not careful about leaving semen behind. On the occasions where he sustained injury and bled, either breaking open a window or during the struggle with his victim, they collected some of that blood from the scene. The crimes went unsolved. Evidence from the murders buried deep in property rooms across the region.
As advances in DNA analysis progressed through the nineties and past the turn of the century, victims' relatives began asking questions. Those questions prompted a search for the long-buried evidence and an investigative renaissance- the birth of the cold case detective. The archeological digs that were happening in police property rooms matched an effort to update and breathe fresh life into aspects of cases that sometimes had been dormant for more than a quarter century.
Early DNA matching successes led to CODIS the Combined DNA Indexing System, a national database, and laws in all 50 states that require DNA collection from certain convicts.
It was in this intersection of new technology and complimentary legal requirements where the distance between some unsolved violent crimes and the unknown offender converged. As law enforcement submitted DNA samples from prison inmates across the country, a slow but steady trickle of matches were being made. Over time, the trickle became a flood.
This is how one criminal in the Midwest was exposed. It turned out that dozens of rapes and many murders were the work of one man. In 2007 and 2008, one sample hit repeatedly. The name was Timothy Krajcir. In the words of author Michelle McNamara, because of DNA technology, he was "forced to step out into the light".
Who was Krajcir? As the investigators and journalists began digging, this is what they found. Fern Yost gave birth to a son on November 28th, 1944, in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. The father abandoned the mother and son shortly after the birth. Within a few years, Fern met and married Bernie Krajcir, who adopted the child.
Growing up, he was a smart boy, showing promise academically, but he found himself in regular trouble. He liked to steal things. In addition, as he approached puberty, he developed a penchant for voyeurism, exhibitionism, and an unusual sexual attraction to his mother.
At 17, Krajcir started his adult life by joining the Navy. In 1963, he worked as a cook while stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago, Illinois. He never lost his childhood penchant for thievery, and even as a Navy man began casing and burglarizing homes in the Chicago area.
During a break-in at a Waukegan home, Krajcir encountered a young woman and her infant. He tried to rape the woman, and when she resisted, he stabbed her with a large pair of scissors. Fortunately, the victim survived the assault and could identify Krajcir when he was picked up for other similar crimes.
Convicted of one count of attempted murder and two sexual assaults, Krajcir received a sentence of 25 to 50 years in prison. While doing time in the Illinois prison system, Krajcir showed an affinity for adult learning and took courses in criminal justice and trained as an emergency medical technician earning an associate's degree from Shawnee Community College. By all indications, he was a model prisoner, and his training allowed him to serve as a prison medic.
In 1977, after serving only 14 years of his sentence, Krajcir was granted supervised release. One of his conditions of parole was that he work and take more college classes. He settled just outside the town of Carbondale and studied at Southern Illinois University, focusing on psychology and justice administration. Krajcir's choice of justice degree was unusual for a parolee because that course of study was most often pursued by people who were interested in law enforcement, a career field from which his convictions would bar him. What the coursework did for Krajcir was teach him about police investigative procedure.
Besides furthering his education, Krajcir restarted his burglary career in 1977. He broke into a Carbondale home, stealing a 38-caliber pistol. Holding the gun gave him a feeling of power.
Krajcir was a man burning off all the energy he had stored up in prison. While he learned police procedures at the university, he worked as a paramedic for an ambulance service.
During his time off, he traveled widely between towns and into adjoining states. He searched for burglary targets and vulnerable women. When one or the other attracted his attention, he would set up surveillance. Returning as many times as necessary. Sometimes, success was a simple break-in. Other times, the break-in would only be a prelude to rape or worse.
On August 20th, 1977, Krajcir broke into a house in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The town was to become his favorite hunting ground, only an hour southeast of Carbondale.
He waited inside for a woman who lived there to return. Her name was Mary Parsh, and she was 58 years old. Mary surprised Krajcir on that fateful afternoon by bringing home her 27-year-old daughter. Brenda Parsh had flown in that day to see her father, who had been in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. The next day, a family friend discovered the mother and daughter's dead bodies in the bedroom. They were naked and tied. Each shot in the back of the head with a 38-caliber pistol Krajcir took from the house in Carbondale.
Two months after the Parsh murders. Krajcir kidnapped Southeast Missouri State University student, Sheila Cole. He stalked the 21-year-old woman in the parking lot of the Walmart in Cape Girardeau. Forced her into his car and drove her back to his trailer in Carbondale. After raping her, he drove her to a highway rest stop. Someone later found her lying on the floor of the lady's room, shot twice in the head.
In the early morning hours of May 12th, 1978, Krajcir broke into the Marion Illinois home of 51-year-old Virginia Whitty. He raped her and then stabbed her repeatedly. Her husband found her the next day.
During the same period, Krajcir traveled the region raping and sometimes murdering women, he befriended his elderly neighbor woman. She had her 11-year-old granddaughter living with her. Over time, Krajcir groomed the girl, ultimately making her his sex slave. He whistled for her. The whistle meant that he wanted to rape her. He warned her that if she didn't obey, he would kill her family. The girl endured countless rapes over the next two years, which ended only when the situation was reported to the police, and they arrested Krajcir for child molestation.
Friends who worked the ambulance service with Krajcir bought his excuses and helped him make bail. While awaiting trial, Krajcir continued to rape and murder.
In March 1979, he kidnapped 29-year-old Joyce Tharp from Paducah, Kentucky, and took her back to Carbondale. After the rape, he bashed her skull and strangled her before dumping her naked body behind a church.
In April, Krajcir broke into the Redding, Pennsylvania home of 51-year-old Myrtle Rupp. He raped Myrtle before strangling her with a sash cord.
Still out on bail, Krajcir stalked a Carbondale residence, returning twice to assault the women living there. The first victim was the middle-aged mother. One month later, Krajcir returned to rape the 23-year-old daughter. During these sexual assaults, Krajcir used a pistol to gain compliance.
Upon conviction on the molestation charges, Krajcir only received a two-year sentence. Prison psychiatrists recommended his release mid-1981. Shortly after that prison stint, he graduated from SIU with a degree in administrative justice. Neither imprisonment nor accomplishment changed Krajcir criminal proclivities.
Cape Girardeau Police became aware of a rapist who wore a blue bandana across his face. During one incident, Krajcir raped a 34-year-old woman and her 10-year-old daughter in their home.
On September 7th, 1981, Krajcir broke into the Mount Vernon, Illinois apartment of 72-year-old Ida White and tried to rape her. Ida began screaming and did not stop, despite being stabbed repeatedly. Krajcir ran from the scene. Although badly injured, Ida survived.
In January 1982, Krajcir raped and strangled 57-year-old Margie Call at her home in Cape Girardeau.
On April 8th, 1982, a friend found the body of 23-year-old Debra Shepherd in her Carbondale, Illinois apartment. Deborah was a student at Southern Illinois University and just weeks away from graduation, Krajcir watched the woman through her windows and broke in when Deborah was in the shower. Then he raped and strangled her.
In June 1982, Krajcir broke into the Cape Girardeau home of 65-year-old Mildred Wallace. After sexually assaulting her, he tried to garrote her to death with a bootlace. When that didn't work, Krajcir shot Mildred.
Krajcir's rape and murder spree ended in early 1983 when he was 38. Police in Allentown, Pennsylvania, contacted him and arrested him on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm. Krajcir felt the walls of justice closing in on him when Pennsylvania authorities discovered he was on probation for sex crimes in Illinois. He was also good for several local crimes, including assault, robbery, and trespass. Krajcir tried to escape jail but broke his leg during the attempt. He served five years following his conviction for the crimes in Pennsylvania.
In 1988 Krajcir was 43 when he was transferred back to Illinois to serve out the terms for violation of conditions of release and parole violation. The system finally recognized his history of multiple rapes and child molestation as warranting particular attention. They labeled him a violent sexual offender and imprisoned him at Big Muddy Correctional Complex in Ina, Illinois. During his imprisonment there, Krajcir became uncooperative with therapists and, therefore, ineligible for release.
Krajcir was still at Big Muddy in 2007, when technology lifted the veil on the extent of his crimes. Recent Illinois law required that in-custody, violent felons submit a DNA sample.
The first hit was Krajcir semen found on the shirt of 23-year-old Deborah Shepherd, the Southern Illinois University student. That DNA hit caused a cascade of events. In looking at Krajcir, investigators immediately suspected the known crimes were only the tip of the iceberg.
His prior crimes spanned several states. The investigator who got the DNA hit in the Shepherd case in Carbondale, Illinois, contacted agencies in the surrounding states giving them that information. He encouraged them to comb through old unsolved cases, looking for similar MOs.
The second DNA match was in Mildred Wallace's case from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. When Krajcir strangled and shot the 65-year-old woman, he left semen on her, and his skin was under her fingernails. The identification was further confirmed by a matching partial palm print that was left at the scene.
Many others followed these links. Krajcir left semen on Myrtle Rupp's bedspread in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1979. He lost strands of hair when he murdered Margie Call in 1982.
As detectives completed the follow-up investigations, they went to the prison where Krajcir was being held and started to talk to him. Initially, he denied everything, but eventually agreed to give them the information if they took the death penalty off the table. By this time, Krajcir was 63 years old. Investigators and the victim's families were most interested in Krajcir's confession and the closure it would bring. A death penalty case would mean that many of the families would always suspect but never know the facts of their loved one's demise. At 63, who knew if Krajcir would even live long enough to see the end of the execution court process?
With the deal in place, Krajcir admitted his crimes and would not face the death penalty. He confessed to rapes too many to list, and he ultimately confessed and gave details of murdering nine women in several states. During the hours-long interviews with detectives from various agencies, he gave the details of how he committed his crimes.
Krajcir traveled at sometimes great distances to towns where he had no connection. He would select random victims that just caught his eye, in public places, often in parking lots. Part of the selection was whether he thought he could physically overpower the woman.
If she met his requirements, Krajcir surveilled the woman for long enough to find out about her living situation. He would return to watch the place several times until he was comfortable being there. Sometimes he would break into the house when it was unoccupied. Sometimes he would wait for his victim to arrive. In those cases, he would rape and sometimes murder.
He usually went in at night. Sometimes he brought tools like a gun and rope. Sometimes he found things at the houses. He never talked about rape or killing to anyone.
As expected, Krajcir's interviews confirmed he was cruel and remorseless. An example is the details of the mother-daughter Parsh murders. Within hours of that horrendous crime, Krajcir was a groomsman in a wedding party. In the photos, he looks happy. He smiles broadly. No one around him suspected anything.
2008 saw Krajcir on a state-to-state courthouse tour. Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Governors and district attorneys fought to be the first state to sentence Krajcir for the newly uncovered crimes.
Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney Morley Swingle was the first to file extradition papers with Illinois for five murders, saying, "I want to have him in Missouri before all the other states do," Backing him up, the governor of that state issued a statement, "it is the governor's intention to bring this murderer to justice in the state of Missouri as soon as possible."
Krajcir currently serves his 13 consecutive life sentences in Illinois at the Pontiac Correctional Center for the murders of Virginia Lee Witty, Mary Parsh, Brenda Parsh, Sheila Cole, Margie Call, Mildred Wallace, Deborah Shepherd, Joyce Thorpe and Myrtle Rupp.
Marcy: Mark is here with me. And before we discuss the case, I wanna mention that there was a wrongful conviction that was a spinoff from one of Krajcir crimes.
Mark: It was one of the first victims after they paroled him for the molestation charge. It was the 72-year-old, Ida White, in Mountain Vernon. One of Ida's neighbors, who heard her screaming, came to the area and saw Krajcir running from the scene. Police arrived and ultimately grabbed up a homeless man who was sleeping across the street. That guy's name was Grover Thompson. He was erroneously identified, as the Ida White's attacker. He was actually convicted for attempted murder and given a 40-year sentence. He died in prison. Posthumously, he was granted clemency, and he was the first such clemency that, university of Illinois' Innocence Project, it was the first time they were able to get somebody's conviction reversed.
Marcy: This case really showed some tragic deficiencies within the criminal justice system in the seventies and eighties, related particularly to sex crimes. This is not the first time we've seen cases with disturbingly low sentences or early releases.
Mark: When you say that the Myrtle Beach episode comes to mind. That offender served just a few years in California for the kidnapping sexual assault of seven or eight kids.
Let me say this, I don't think the sixties and seventies, eighties had a huge surge in rapes, murders. I think they've been a problem forever but were unrecognized, ignored and covered up. I think in the last half of the century, people began to understand what was happening and we as a society, moved past the stigma of sex crimes, to admit that they were happening, at least to the point of acknowledging that this was going on.
Marcy: I don't know about moving past the stigma of sex crimes, but I think people began to recognize the damage being done by those types of crimes.
Mark: Yeah. I'm not talking about the murders here. Those are unavoidably acknowledged, but I'm talking about molestation or rape. I think that police and prosecutors and judges started recognizing that, with many offenders, this wasn't a onetime crime.
Because the statistics on recidivism became apparent, laws changed and sentences were increased.
The same has happened with parole and probation. Some of these crazy early releases have stopped. I'm familiar with the child rapist who in Anchorage was recently sentenced to 75 years. In the past, it would've been just a fraction of that sentence. Things are changing and they have changed over the last 20 years, but it's happened slowly.
Marcy: Another systemic problem that Krajcir makes clear also a theme in other cases we've talked about was the lack of communication between police departments.
Mark: This kind of goes with what I was talking about, the lack of awareness or willful ignorance and acknowledgement that people like Krajcir were highly mobile, multiple victims. It took the system a while to recognize that and adjust.
I can tell you that communication now is better than it ever has been, and it had increased over the time that I was a police officer.
They're also federal programs like ViCAP that can help link violent crimes, even ones that happen in far away in distant states.
Marcy: Explain what VICAP is.
Mark: This is one response to the problem of police departments not communicating. VICAP stands for violent criminal apprehension program.
It's basically a database of information run by the FBI. The database can help detect similarities in crimes and help link them and maybe lead to an offender. I'm trying to think of an example of this. An example would be the torso, murders and Anchorage that I mentioned in a past episode.
If we ran the facts of those cases through ViCAP the system would list cases that could be similar. For example, if there was a pattern of dismembered torsos, like there was an anchorage, but there was a separate pattern, say on the beaches of the Florida Panhandle. Case investigators would be notified so that they could talk to each other and maybe look for connections in those crimes.
Marcy: In the end, it seems like the rapes didn't get as much attention. Can you talk about why the focus on cold case homicide solving has been just on the rape murder pieces and not also on the rapes?
Mark: First, the number of sexual assaults this guy got away with is almost unbelievable.
There are two reasons that rapes were not the focus in this final investigation. First, the statute of limitations on those crimes had run out. Second, and some were related to the first reason. The evidence collection wasn't as thorough in those cases. And I guess that what evidence had been collected at the time had already been disposed of based on the time lapse.
A lot of times property rooms will go through inventory property and just to save space they'll dispose of cases where that, that cannot possibly be charged. I'd imagine that not only in those cases where was the collection bad because it was the seventies and eighties, but also some of it had been just plain thrown away.
And back to the murders, there's no statute of limitation on the murders. The evidence in those cases, whether it was. Processed or not would still be there.
Marcy: Talk a little bit about the quality of evidence that's 25 years old and how that influences how the cases are put together after such a long time.
Mark: We've come a long way in the processing quality also. Packaging materials are different because we understand what those different types of materials, how they affect degradation of some of the samples.
I'm going to go over this briefly. Criminal investigations usually follow a set pattern.
Someone reports a crime, an officer takes the initial report. If there's enough information or the case is significant, that investigating officer or detective gathers the information, collects and documents any evidence. If that evidence is sufficient, the prosecutor takes the case to its conclusion.
Most criminal acts that are investigated and taken through prosecution follow this neat step-by-step process. The amount of effort given to each criminal investigation roughly corresponds to the seriousness of the crime.
A shoplift with good evidence and a suspect arrested at the scene is easy. That will probably be charged and have a very low penalty. That same standalone shoplift with little evidence, suspect only a description will probably not be worked and get no further attention whatsoever.
In contrast, at the other end of the criminal spectrum, a homicide with little evidence and no suspect Will be worked and kept open as long as the possibility of closure exists. In these cases, the quality of scene processing is gonna be as high as it gets for whatever the organization who is handling that case.
So what I'm saying is they're doing their best job on this because it's the most significant case. In general, the more serious the crime, the more complete the scene processing or evidence collection will be. For this reason, many seemingly hopeless homicides have the benefit of good scene processing and evidence collection. And it remains attached to that case in files in the property room.
Shoplifting, cold case detectives, if such an animal existed, would find themselves with a completely empty file. Cold case homicide is a completely different story. If a detective's lucky, those cases, even cold cases, have everything but the kitchen sink. What they're missing is just a piece of evidence that ties everything up and screams, Hey, that's him. He did it.
This is what has changed with cold cases. It's DNA that's telling us exactly who the offender could be or was.
Marcy: That made me think about the Mildred Wallace case and the partial palm print. How come they didn't match that back in the day?
Mark: I'm not an expert on AFIS, which is the automated fingerprint identification system. But I can tell you when we collect prints, the cards are limited to certain parts of the hand -fingertips up to the first knuckle and the blades or the outside edges of each hand.
Those are loaded into AFIS. In violent felony cases, we would roll full palms. But full palms were not entered until just recently into AFIS. Now, the reason we collected full palms is because once we'd had a suspect in a crime, and maybe we had partials, we could compare the full palm to the partials we took off the scene.
The short answer is maybe the partial wasn't big enough for comparison. It wasn't clear enough. Maybe it was smudged, or it wasn't part of the hand that is usually fingerprinted and loaded into AFIS.
When I started my career, all prints had to be rolled by hand, which is a real pain in the ass, particularly with a suspect who wasn't happy about being printed. But there are now scanners that make it much easier. So full palms, full, complete prints are easier to get and to submit.
Marcy: Talk about the weapons charge and the violent sexual offender label that kept him in prison on a parole violation between 1978 and 2007.
Mark: How could he be held for almost 30 years for parole violation? That speaks to the utility of that kind of charge. You can imagine that in the late 1970s in rural Pennsylvania, carrying a gun was not an earth-shattering event.
Cops stopped him. And I would say, based on what I know, they knew something that was up with this guy. So they held him on the felon in possession. And what it did was give them time to look at the background and gathered their case information. It gave them time to find the parole violation from Illinois.
It also gave them time to look at their area crimes that he had done. By the way, He was convicted of assault, but they're actually indecent assaults, and which probably meant rapes handled 1970s style. Now in Illinois, the violent offender label was a backlash from decades of not dealing with rapists and serious criminals adequately.
By the time Krajcir was handed back over to Illinois, someone looked at his file and what was known of his body of criminal work, two sexual assaults with a weapon, long-term sexual abuse of a little girl and thought, how the hell was this guy still walking around? So they kept him in prison, and more importantly, Krajcir refused to cooperate with any therapy.
So he wasn't able to romance a psychiatrist again and get out early. So 1978 turned to 2007, and his past caught up with.
Marcy: One of the controversial things was that he could take prison classes that were said to have helped him evade law enforcement. What do you think about that?
Mark: I'm in favor of adult education and prison, whether it be high school, college, vocational training, it keeps prisoners productively busy.
And convicts need a place to start over again when they get out cuz most of them are getting out. Krajcir is by no means a fair representative of your average parolee. If he hadn't been a serial killer, his work is a prison medic and becoming a paramedic in the community would've been a success story.
I've met people who've got out of a life of crime, got outta prison and cleaned up. We need to allow people that option. But I also think that some judgment should be used with what kind of education is offered.
I think that criminal justice classes for a guy like this were crazy. I think that classes like that gave him confidence and maybe misplaced confidence that he could elude capture by using police techniques. But, I think he mainly learned his burglary techniques and successes through trial and error and later manipulation.
Marcy: Kind of related to that. Do you think that he was trying to pick different victims, like young and old, black or white, simply to keep law enforcement from recognizing a trend?
Mark: Now I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that unlike other serial killers or sex offenders in general, Krajcir did not have a narrow type he was looking for.
All of these offenders are opportunistic, but they have a preferred victim in their fantasies. Think about John Wayne Gacy and young boys. Think about Ted Bundy and college girls. Most picked their victims based on vulnerability. And in most cases, it's this fortuitous intersection of youth and in experience and their vulnerability.
But youth wasn't a requirement for Krajcir. He just needed that vulnerability, and he had to be comfortable in their environment. That's it. I included the information about him being sexually attracted to his mother because it might give us an idea of why Krajcir was different.
Marcy: He must have been very manipulative to convince psychologists and psychiatrists in prison that he was just good to go.
Mark: Yeah. I've never been able to understand this. I can only think because I've seen this in my career. Also, I can only think that the psyche evaluators are focusing just on the words of the individuals and not what they did.
I think it's clear that's what happened here. Within a short time these psychiatrists are saying, or psychologists saying, yeah he's good to go. At the Maynard Correctional Center in Illinois, Krajcir only spent 15 months in prison. And this was, keep in mind, this is after his rapes in Chicago.
And knowing that he had two years of molestation of an 11-year-old. His psyche, Val stated, "he might no longer be sexually dangerous, however, this can't be proven as long as he remains incarcerated. Also, part of that is, "Mr. Krajcir is not an intimidating man. You can get close to him and he does not need to push you away as individuals who are at more chronic risk for violence.
Rationalizing the ability to talk to Krajcir meant he passed their test. Here's another quote, "sexually dangerous offenders or any offenders suitability for treatment depends on whether they have the capacity to develop anxiety or guilt over the offenses they commit."
So I'd say that He had told them what they wanted to hear, and he appeared to them to be sensitive, and they fell for it and they let him back out.
Marcy: And then he went on to totally fool the paramedic friends he worked with. One of the young women that he worked with thought that since he had never even made a pass at her, that the prior rapes and molestation charges must be bullshit. So she put up most of his bail.
And she was an attractive single young woman. And she thought for sure that there's no way this guy's doing anything. And since he had never done anything towards her and she put up his bail and he got out and continued to rapes and murders and even while the molestation trial was pending. There's a quote from an interview from that lady and she rationalizes what happened.
She quotes, "the only thing that gives me any peace is to understand that there were trained individuals like the psychiatrist he saw at Maynard, and he fooled all those people as well." She also questioned why a 30 something year old man like Krajcir would even want to have anything to do with an 11-year-old girl.
Marcy: Denial can be strong.
Mark: Earlier I mentioned ignorance and willful ignorance. For people paying attention, we've learned a lot about what is possible in human nature in the last 50 years. Priests, boy scouts, teachers. There are people that say that society's lost its innocence. I say, we've lost our willful ignorance.
Marcy: To your knowledge, did Creche ever actually express remorse?
Mark: No. Here's a quote from a one of his confessions, "I don't have big feelings of remorse or anything, because if I did, I wouldn't have done it to begin. As much as I would like to say that I have a lot of feeling there, I don't have that part in me. That's one of the things about my situation. I wished I had those kinds of feelings, but I never have, since I was little."
Marcy: Did Krajcir worry about advances in technology catching up with him while he was sitting in prison?
Mark: Yeah. The lead investigator from Carbondale, Paul Eckles, wrote that he talked to Krajcir about that and that he was aware of DNA and that it would eventually catch up to him. This makes me happy because somewhere out there, dozens, if not hundreds, of killers and rapists are looking over their shoulders, waiting for their past to crush whatever they've made with their lives.
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Echols, P. (2011). In Cold Pursuit: My Hunt for Timothy Krajcir – The Notorious Serial Killer. New Horizon Press.