Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Clairemont Killer

New Territory

In the early afternoon of May 2, a woman named Leslie H. was out on the beach near a home she was visiting. She walked back to the house and saw an African-American man standing at the door. She asked what he wanted and he told her he'd once lived in the house. Then he walked away. She went inside and to her surprise, that same man pushed his way in after her. He placed a hand over her mouth as they struggled, but she managed to get away from him. She ran from the house, screaming, and he followed her. When he saw he couldn't catch her, he ran another way.

Less than three weeks later, this same man took greater care to make sure he completed his attack. This time he entered the home of Elissa Keller, 38, who lived with her eighteen-year-old daughter at the Top of the Hill apartment complex. The daughter was away, but she spoke with her mother on the evening of May 20. However, Elissa did not go to work the next morning, or answer the phone, so her daughter went to see if she was all right. She discovered her mother on the bedroom floor, under a blanket. The daughter called the police.

The coroner found that Elissa had been dead between six and twelve hours. She had been stabbed, and there was a cluster of wounds on her chest, nine in all. She had also been beaten in the face, as well as choked, and there was evidence on her hands of defensive wounds. Her blood-stained underwear lay next to her body, turned inside out.

Investigators believed that the intruder had entered through a window left partially open, leaving scuff marks there and a shoe print on the floor nearby. Bloody marks on the bathroom counter bore a peculiar pattern as well, which might serve to help make a match if a suspect were developed. It was the same honeycomb pattern that they had encountered at several earlier murder scenes. The daughter let them know that her mother had worn a ring adorned with a gold nugget that was now missing from her hand. Police put out the word to pawn shops, hoping it would turn up.

 Later that summer, at the same apartment complex, an apartment was burglarized, and money was taken, both in the form of American and Italian currency. However, before that occurred, there was another murder, this time in a private home.


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