Only a week after Detroit police found two women dead in the trunk of a vehicle, the bodies of two more women have been found burned beyond recognition in the trunk of a flaming car.
Demesha Hunt, 24, and Renisha Landers, 23, were found last Monday, and on Christmas morning, two more women, aged 28 and 29, were found around 1 am. Police have yet to release their names.
Three of the four victims, all of whom were black, were linked to escort services on Backpage.com, a classifieds website similar to Craigslist. Although the deaths suggest a sad pattern, police are reluctant to call the murders serial killings.
“This tie for us is disconcerting,” Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said Monday. “We’re stopping short of calling it a serial pattern.”
While officers declined to disclose how they figured out the escort connection between the women or who owned the cars the bodies were discovered in, Godbee said the police had a “moral obligation” to share the information about the deaths with the public. “With the vast increase in the utilization of social media and the Internet, we must continue to be vigilant in identifying any website which may potentially pose a threat to individuals.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, Backpage.com has quickly filled the “void” left by Craiglist when the site pulled its ad section for sex-related services last September amidst pressure from the public and 17 state attorney generals. In the last 12 months, Backpage has made $24.3 million in revenue from those ads alone.
So far, police have yet to determine the cause of death for the victims and say they are treating the incidents as suspicious deaths for now.
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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