Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Clairemont Killer


On September 13, Pamela Clarkson, 42, left home around 8:00 A.M. to go to the Family Fitness Center on Miramar Road. Her husband left shortly thereafter, but their daughter, eighteen-year-old Amber, was still in bed. Their home was in University City, a neighborhood of San Diego.

Around mid-morning, a neighbor heard Amber having words with someone inside the home, and then heard a male voice. Amber cried out, but there was nothing more, so there seemed little reason to be alarmed. Pamela drove in around 11:00.

But later that day she failed to show up for work. A phone call to the home was not answered, so a colleague decided to go over to find out if Pamela was all right. It was this woman who came across her body in the entryway of the home. Pamela was on her back, nude, with her arms spread out at 90-degree angles to her body. She had been repeatedly stabbed, with eleven deep wounds to the upper left chest area. From blood trails on the floor, it appeared that she had been stabbed elsewhere and dragged to this location. Near her head lay a bloody knife.

The woman called the police, and they discovered the second victim — Amber. She lay on the floor in a bedroom. While she wore clothing, her breasts had been exposed, and she, too, had exactly eleven deep wounds in a cluster to her upper chest. However, blood from her wounds had been smeared onto her torso. Apparently she was killed first and Pamela second. Another knife lay on the bathroom floor.

A search inside Pamela's purse revealed that money had been taken, although robbery hardly seemed like motive for this double homicide; it was more like an afterthought. Her wedding ring was gone as well. Looking for a point of entry, police found a screen removed from a dining room window. The sliding door also had marks on it that appeared to have been made by a tool. There were shoeprints from a male athletic shoe under the dining room window.

San Diego Police Patch
San Diego Police Patch

While not initially linked to the other murders, it would not take long before detectives were certain they had a serial killer with a stabbing fetish in the San Diego area. Reporters clamored for an arrest and residents were terrified by this latest set of intruder homicides.

Richard Ramirez
Richard Ramirez

At the height of the investigation, the task force consisted of twenty-seven detectives, five sergeants, one lieutenant, and a police captain. A city councilman whose district included Clairemont told reporters he was fielding some 300 to 400 calls a day from concerned citizens. He went to meet with some people and found that they were in a state of terror. Home entry was an unusual method for a serial killer, although Richard Ramirez had done something similar in Los Angeles and San Francisco less than a decade before. America's Most Wanted ran a show about the string of murders, asking anyone with information to come forward.

America's Most Wanted logo
America's Most Wanted logo

A truck driver was detained for a while, as was a black man who fit the description, but neither panned out. Strangely enough, the killer had given plenty of clues to people who knew him, but none of them provided information to help with an arrest. In fact, the police already knew him.


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