She pointed to the first picture, which featured an attractive blonde with a lean face who wore heavy eye makeup and large gold hoop earrings. “Victim one was Delores Canon, a forty-one-year-old waitress who was shot on a deserted stretch of road fifty miles south of Duluth, Minnesota. She was last seen at a Quick Mart gas station, where she filled her tank and bought a bag of potato chips and a soda. That was May 1, 2015. A video of the shooting was texted to a phone left on the victim’s lap. When local authorities inspected her car, they discovered a rag shoved in the exhaust. Initially, suspicion turned to her estranged boyfriend, but he was cleared after he proved he was in California during the shooting. The gas receipt put her at the service station an hour before her death; however, surveillance cameras at that station weren’t operational. There were no witnesses to the shooting. The case soon went cold.”
She pointed to the next image. “Nearly the exact same scenario played out in the next four cases. All these women were Caucasian with dark hair. They all worked in the service industry, from waitress to manicurist to dental technician. In each case, video footage of the murders was texted to a disposable phone.” She selected a computer image that displayed a compilation of the victims’ cars. “They all are white or silver.”
Palmer folded her arms. “Could it be as simple as the color of their car?”
“Maybe,” Kate said. She detailed the evidence she had on Richardson.
“Why would he send a text from his secretary’s phone?” the chief asked. “Sloppy, given how careful he was before.”
“I think he had become overconfident,” Kate said.
“Did you find any video footage of the victims’ shootings on any of his cell phones or computers?”
“No,” Kate said.
“And no confession yet,” Mazur said.
“Richardson still denies any wrongdoing,” Kate said.
“He sure as hell didn’t shoot Gloria Sanchez,” Palmer said. “Maybe Richardson was set up by someone else.”
When word of the shooting reached Richardson’s lawyer, a frame-up would be his primary argument. “I can definitely link him to two of the shootings.”
“We know Richardson isn’t the San Antonio shooter, so let’s keep the focus on our guy,” Palmer said. “Like the Samaritan or Samaritans, our guy gets his rocks off helping women and then shooting them. Gloria Sanchez was no damsel in distress and could take care of herself. How did a stranger on a deserted highway win her over?”
“In the video, there’s a glimpse of a blue van parked behind Sanchez’s car,” Mazur said. “I’ve put a call into robbery about missing or stolen blue vans. A minivan screams family guy a woman can trust.”
“The van at your crime scene fits the Samaritan’s profile,” Kate said. “Richardson used not only a van with an infant car seat, but also a station wagon. These two vehicles were both stolen.”
There was a rumble around the room.
“Was there ever a case of a Samaritan who fit the killer’s MO helping a woman and not shooting them?” Mazur asked. “Sometimes guys like to have practice runs before they get their nerve up for the kill.”
“We had several women who insisted the Samaritan had stopped and helped them on I-35. Each swore he fixed the problem and wished her a good night. They all met with police sketch artists. According to local law enforcement none resembled Richardson—however, one may be your shooter, so I’ll have them sent here.”
Several officers in the room murmured and shifted their stances, but none made a statement.
“What was different about the women who weren’t shot?” asked Detective Palmer.
“Nothing. They all fit the profile.”
“Gloria Sanchez doesn’t fit the victim profile,” Palmer said.
“No, she does not,” Kate said. “She’s affluent and well connected, though I understand she was driving an older car that may have caught the killer’s attention.”
“The Samaritan progressively moved south and never killed twice in one jurisdiction,” Mazur said. “Safe to assume this killer will maintain the pattern?”
“Yes. If your killer sticks to script and continues to kill, he’ll strike again farther south,” she said.
“He only has a few hundred more miles before he’s worked the length of I-35,” Mazur said. “What happens when he runs out of road?”
“I don’t know,” Kate said.