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Seattle serial killer claims #11; alters style, city in panic as 2nd serial killer theory emerges

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BY SAMANTHA BONDS, EMILY PUCKETT, THERESA BUECHELE & MICHELLE McDANIEL, The Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — A serial killer with a fondness for female college students in their early 20’s has struck again, sending shivers through an already traumatized greater Seattle-Tacoma area. The death of the latest victim, a 33-year old Eastgate resident, has FBI and local law enforcement officials seeking understanding into what may have caused the killer to alter his preference and style.

Authorities have urged calm while they determine if this latest murder was at the hands of the same man or if a second serial killer is on the loose. Authorities have been quick to quell any potential panic as local women find themselves in fear for their lives, in the wake of now 11 murders in the past eight weeks.

“The main thing now is for everyone to stay cool and not jump to any conclusions,” said Seattle Police Chief Rod Dravecky. “There’s been no determination that a second cold-blooded killer is roaming the streets or if it’s just the one that we know of who’s prowling around ready to strike at any minute. For now, assume it’s just the one.”

The assailant, dubbed “the Puget Sound Slaying Strangler Slasher Killer” by federal agents (and “PS4K” by local media), has been up until recently selecting only college-age females as prey. Of the 11 victims, the first eight shared a common bond in that they were students, waitresses or retail clerks between the ages of 20 and 24. Some of the victims were said to have unwittingly been in contact with the alleged serial killer but were unable to discern that a murderer was living in their midst at the time. Computer and cell phone traces have thus far reportedly not alerted the FBI to any suspicious individuals.


The three most recent victims are said to fit an older, more professional profile, leaving a city already scared witless to wrap itself around the thought that a second serial killer may be lurking.

The first of this trio was Issaquah resident Samantha Bonds, 31, an Associated Press reporter covering the PS4K case for just over a month. Bonds was last seen 12 days ago leaving her home, her husband said, to meet an unknown individual who had promised her insight into the killer’s identity. Bonds, who contributed to portions of this story, was later found stabbed to death in the trunk of her car, also a departure for PS4K, who thus far has been prone to strangulation.

Psychologists say it’s uncommon for a serial killer to alter styles, especially in mid-mission. “To break from profile to an older target doesn’t automatically suggest a second serial killer, possibly it may signify that the killer has simply expanded his range to any and all women,” says Susan McDonald, Clinical Psychology online instructor at Capella University – The Harold Abel School of Psychology. McDonald stresses that a killer victimizing indiscriminately and choosing women randomly, irregardless of age, employment or physical characteristics is something that deserves awareness in the community.

“PS4K has been murdering based on a need for control,” she said. “It’s a transfer of power, youth and beauty from the victim to the individual and the killer thinks he’s doing the world a favor by eliminating these people from society. With sexual gratification seemingly not on his thrill list, it may just be general anger issues towards women. Myself, I wouldn’t be too comfortable living in Seattle right now.”

Within a week, Emily Puckett, 34, of Renton was found strangled behind a Bellevue motel. The murder was believed to be an isolated event until it was discovered that Puckett, also an AP reporter, was set to interview a person who had claimed to identify himself as the Puget Sound Slaying Strangler Slasher Killer but was said to be altering his voice during the phone conversation. Police followed the lead but could not determine if the suspect was home at the time after, a police spokesman said, “knocking repeatedly.”

Ironically, Puckett was the reporter assigned to replace Bonds after she had gone missing. Puckett, who also contributed to this story, had spoken in depth with McDonald. “I’m stunned, I was just talking to her,” the instructor said via email. “I know if it was me and I lived in that city, I’d get my butt in a car so fast out of town. You’re just asking for it being a woman staying there and this guy might continue with even older targets. Maybe that’s his game — he’s working his way up the ladder — or it’s more than one guy. Either way, Sea-Tac, one-way, see ya later. But that’s just me. Otherwise, Seattle is a very beautiful city.”

The latest victim, Theresa Buechele, was found shot to death in her apartment in a suicide attempt police determined had been staged. A correspondent with the Associated Press, Buechele had recently contributed the follow-up interview above, this prior to being dispatched to investigate the lead Puckett had developed in a courageous attempt to interview the alleged PS4K.

FBI agents on the case have been tight-lipped, deferring to local officials much of the pressure to answer to the community. One federal agent (on condition of anonymity), however, suggested “if a second serial killer is proven to be in the city, we might call them both the Bookend Killers or the Pike Place Market Murder Twins, providing they look somewhat alike.”

Dravecky has repeatedly attempted to stress whatever silver linings he can muster in order to maintain a level of peace in the city. “If it’s any consolation,” he said, “the guy or guys aren’t raping anyone. They’re just killing. I know if I was a woman, I’d sleep a bit easier knowing what might or might not be in store for me. He or they don’t seem to be into the sex thing before — or after, thank goodness — so that’s a relief. There are a lot of sick pups out there and we’ve got at least one of them running around unchecked. But we’ll find him. Or them. If it’s more than two, we’ll find them all.”

Associated Press editors will announce later today the name of correspondent it plans to send next in a race to scoop the Seattle Times, which also plans to send reporters to land the prized interview. AP is apparently leaning heavily on one reporter in particular who has thus far steadfastly refused the assignment.

© 2010 – 2013, Soapy Johnson. All rights reserved.

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