Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Do You Know This Woman?


I am not a true crime buff. There are crimes that intrigue me--who really killed Jon-Benet Ramsey for instance--but I am not one to purchase thick books by reporters with theories. (For the record, I think Patsy Ramsey took the secret of her daughter's murder to the grave with her.)

I was mugged once, in the city of Brotherly Love. My assailant was a very tall man with a very large knife. His attack took place in full view of an escalator full of people, many of whom watched with avid interest, none of whom notified security.

The guy wanted me to open my purse and hand over just my wallet. I had on bulky gloves--it was January in Philadelphia, it was cold. My fingers kept slipping off the catch on my purse and I remember, distinctly, thinking, "I am going to die because I can't get my purse open." I didn't die, of course, and was fortunate enough to walk away from the encounter with just a bruised knee from where he pushed me to the train station floor.

But I had two friends who were not so lucky. One worked at a nearby mall the summer between high school and college. One night, a man followed her home and stabbed her 27 times. He was later picked up and hanged himself in his cell.

Ten years later, I was living in Richmond, Virginia taking care of my mother when a serial killer who'd done some carpentry at a magazine I worked for tracked down the receptionist and murdered her. It was a notorious crime at the time (It formed the basis for Patricia Cornwell's first Kay Scarpetta novel), and the killer was only caught by accident. The case was the first in Virginia to use DNA evidence.

All to say, I am not fascinated by murder, I don't batten on true stories of pain and death and grief. Which is why I really can't explain the impulse that led me to look through the 180 photos LAPD has released from a stash they found in the possession of the alleged serial killer they have dubbed "the Grim Sleeper."

The owner of these photographs stands accused of the murders of 10 women but the police suspect he is "responsible for" other deaths. They've released the pictures (and they all appear to be live women, although there are two photographs that are a little iffy) in hopes that someone out there knows one of these women.

I do not. But I could. The women range in age from gray-haired to very young. Almost all are African-American. Some are beautiful,some not, but all are vital. Most of the pictures seem to have been taken with the consent of the woman, even the ones where their expressions are wary or hostile or skeptical. In most of the pictures the women are smiling.

It's not completely clear that the accused took the photographs but they were found in his home. How did these women cross paths with this man? Why are so many smiling? How many were lucky enough to walk away with their lives, as I did?

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about your friend, and the mugging.

    With The Sleeper, I get the impression that swiping their pictures were as close as got to some of those women. It's frightening though to be that close to death, and certainly to be reminded of it every time you turn on the TV.

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