Sunday, January 15, 2012
Detroit: Serial Killer is Murdering Prostitutes Who Advertised Online in Pairs, and Stuffing Them in Car Trunks
Mourners pay their respects to Demesha Antynett Hunt on Thursday before the casket is closed during a memorial for Hunt and Renisha Victoria Landers at New Providence Baptist Church in Detroit. The women were found dead in the trunk of a car. / Todd Mcinturf/Associated Press
By Nicholas Stix
Family, friends mourn deaths of Detroit cousins found in trunk
• By Josh Katzenstein
December 29, 2011 at 10:22 p.m.
• The Detroit News
• 11 Comments
Detroit— Thursday's funeral service for two west-side women who were found dead earlier this month in a car trunk turned into a call to end the violence in Detroit.
Hundreds of people attended a service for cousins Renisha Victoria Landers, 23, and Demesha Antynett Hunt, 24, at New Providence Baptist Church.
Both of the women's mothers wept for much of the service, struggling to contain their emotions just a few feet away from the two ivory-colored caskets.
"If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died," said Denise Reid, Hunt's mother, in the funeral program.
Landers' and Hunt's deaths are being investigated by Detroit police along with the deaths of two other women whose bodies were also found last week inside the trunk of a different car on Detroit's east side. Three of the women had personal profiles on www.backpage.com. Police haven't said which of the victims advertised on the website.
The latter two of the victims, whom police tentatively identified as 28- and 29-year-old women, were found by Detroit firefighters inside a burning Buick LeSabre in a garage in the 14000 block of Lannette about 1 a.m. Sunday.
A few blocks away, on Dec. 19, Landers and Hunt were found in the trunk of a Chrysler 300 in the 14400 block of Promenade.
Family and friends Thursday described Hunt as family-oriented and the life of the party. She is survived by a daughter, Armani, who was born in February.
Landers was respectful and always made people smile, family members said.
Many of the speakers told the crowd to look out for young people in the community as they try to end the violence in Detroit.
Detroit minister Malik Shabazz said people need to end the "culture of violence" in the community.
"I attend more and more funerals where young people are murdered than 80 year olds who die of natural causes," Shabazz said.
[N.S.: “Minister” Malik Shabazz, aka Malik Zulu Shabazz, is the head of the genocidal, black supremacist New Black Panther Party and Marcus Garvey Movement—the latter an alias for the same race war outfit. He was the protégé of the late Khalid Muhammad. Muhammad, who was once the protégé of Min. Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the black supremacist, mass-murder cult, the Nation of Islam, but Farrakhan threw him out, for being too radical. Shabazz’ solution to black-on-black crime is presumably for blacks to channel all of their homicidal impulses towards whites and Asians, and away from fellow blacks. Hispanics’ role in his hoped-for Armageddon is unclear.]
Both are being buried later Thursday at Detroit Memorial Park West at 25200 Plymouth Road.
Homicide detectives earlier this week sought search warrants for Internet and cellphone records in connection with the deaths of the four women.
None of the victims showed outward signs of trauma. Still, investigators are treating the deaths as homicides.
Backpage.com, a national website that offers free advertising in 11 categories ranging from automotive to adult services, was involved in a case in federal court in Detroit earlier this month in which a woman was indicted after allegedly using the website to prostitute a 16-year-old girl.
Staff writers George Hunter and Mark Hicks contributed.
Online ads investigated in wake of Detroit murders
By George Hunter
December 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm
The Detroit News
Detroit— Police are investigating at least 70 online adult ads from nearly two dozen websites in connection with the murders of four women whose bodies were found recently inside car trunks, according to an attorney for one of the sites.
The bodies of four women were found recently on Detroit's east side. Investigators said three of the four victims had offered adult escort services on www.backpage.com.
Two of the women, cousins Renisha Landers, 23, and Demesha Hunt, 24, were found dead Dec. 19 in the trunk of Landers' new Chrysler 300. Two other women, whom police say are tentatively aged 28 and 29 but have not been identified, were found in a burning car on Christmas Day, their bodies burned beyond recognition.
Police said none of the victims showed outward signs of trauma. Wayne County Medical Examiners are awaiting toxicology reports in hopes of determining a cause of death.
An attorney for www.backpage.com on Thursday released a statement saying the website has provided police with computer, forensic and other evidence about at least 70 different ads or other postings on at least 22 websites involved in the investigation.
"We are not aware of any evidence that would indicate which of these 22 websites may have been used by the suspect to establish contact with his victims," attorney Steve Suskin wrote in the statement.
Suskin said his company released the information in response to public requests after checking to see if it would interfere with the investigation. Detroit Police officials are not commenting on the open probe.
The websites being investigated include:
In a statement released Thursday night, Police Chief Ralph L. Godbee Jr. said, "As with any investigation of this magnitude, as a matter of protocol, we will not discuss the quantity nor the quality of evidence we have obtained. We welcome obviously the information provided to us by Backpage.com. However, the value of the information obtained will be weighed in relation to this case as is any tip provided to our Homicide Investigators."
The funeral for Landers and Hunt was held Thursday morning at New Providence Baptist Church in Detroit.
Victims' identities now known in Detroit deaths
Third woman positively ID'd, fourth thought to be her friend
By Elisha Anderson, Tresa Baldas and Gina Damron
8:56 PM, December 31, 2011
The Detroit Free Press
DETROIT - Two young mothers headed out for a night on the town Dec. 23.
Natasha Curtis, who was turning 29 the next day, left with her friend Vernithea McCrary, 28, about 8 p.m., Curtis' longtime boyfriend, Cortez Wingfield, told the Free Press.
Curtis had been looking forward to her birthday.
"I'm (trying to) figure out what I'm going to do. I have so many options!! I'm so blessed to be loved!!!" Curtis posted on her Facebook page days earlier.
Her birthday came and went with no word from Curtis. Wingfield, 25, said he knew something was wrong when he didn't hear from his girlfriend of nine years.
Last Sunday, the bodies of two women were found in the trunk of a car on Detroit's east side, burned beyond recognition.
McCrary was identified by the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office through dental records. Police have tentatively identified the other victim as Curtis but were still waiting on official confirmation from the medical examiner's office Friday evening.
Six days earlier, the bodies of two other women were found in the trunk of a car in the 14900 block of Promenade - just a few blocks from where the second pair was found in the 14900 block of Lannette.
Police have not determined a cause of death for any of the women. Police said they believe the cases may be connected because three of the women had ties to backpage.com, a website that advertises escort services among its classified listings.
Funeral services have been held for the earlier victims - Renisha Landers, 23, an assembly line worker at a Chrysler plant in Sterling Heights, and Demesha Hunt, 24, who left behind a 10-month-old daughter. According to police, there were no signs of trauma to their bodies, and toxicology results are pending.
As investigators comb the Internet for clues, friends and relatives are struggling to cope with their loss.
Steve Shelton, 29, of Detroit said his daughter often played with one of McCrary's three children. He described her as a good mother who liked to play cards.
"It seemed like even when she was upset, she smiled," he said. "She had this big old smile from ear to ear."
Steve Shelton's mother, Valerie Shelton, 51, used to live near McCrary and recalled the mother waving as she took one of her children to school each morning.
Curtis had two children, ages 10 and 11, and was a few weeks pregnant with her third child, Wingfield said.
Curtis wrote on her Facebook page that she loved to help friends. "It makes me feel good to see them happy," she said.