Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harvey Robinson: Adolescent Serial Killer

Easy Prey

The intruder had spotted another overweight white woman, and he followed her until he saw where she lived.  Jessica Jean Fortney was 47, and she lived with her grown daughter, son-in-law, and their seven-year-old child.  On July 14, these three were asleep on the second floor, with loud fans cooling the place, when the man came in and attacked Fortney in the living room, breaking her nose with a weapon.  Then he raped and strangled her, leaving her blood-covered body on the sofa beneath a blanket.  He knew the area well because he had lived in this neighborhood as a boy, so he was able to escape. 

But there was a witness.  Fortney's grandchild had seen the assault from her bedroom.  Her description matched what Denise Sam-Cali had said about her own attacker.  While detectives still had few clues to assist their investigation, they believed that the same person who had attacked the other women in the area had killed Fortney.  They looked for associations among the victims, such as belonging to the same club, but came up empty, so it appeared that the killer was choosing women at random — the toughest kind of crime to solve. 

D.A. Steinberg realized they had a dangerous serial rapist-killer at large in Allentown who was striking quickly and often.  Without clues, they had to look at the crimes, and there were important similarities among at least four of them.  They had all been committed in the same general area, three of the victims were large, buxom women, and except for the newspaper girl, they were all attacked inside their homes, after the offender had entered through a window.

No doubt the next attack would come within the month, if not the week.  The police could only hope the killer would make a mistake and try yet again to kill the one woman who had survived.  Their greater fear was that he would begin to roam a larger area, as his latest crime suggested.  Allentown was close to the urban communities of Bethlehem and Easton, as well as having proximity to a cluster of smaller towns within a fifteen-minute drive.  If the killer had a car, as he seemed to, and was feeling the heat, he might just go farther out, making their job tougher still.

But then they got a break: He wasn't as smart as he clearly believed, and on July 31, he made a major miscalculation.


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