Timothy Spencer, a Black, Male was linked by DNA to five sex-related serial murders in Virginia in 1987. Timothy Wilson Spencer was a “Cat” Burglar and rapist, who would select and stalk his victims waiting until they were alone. He entered their homes while they were asleep and then sexually attacked and killed them to prevent identification. He killed in three different jurisdictions to avoid detection. (Geberth, 2006) (4) (Mones, 1995) (5) (Case File)(6)
The first victim was Carolyn Jean Hamm, 32-years-old, who lived by herself in a house in Arlington, Virginia. However, Spencer was not linked to this case until after his arrest as a serial killer in 1987 when his DNA matched the evidence from Carolyn Hamm.
On January 25, 1984, the body of Carolyn Jean Hamm was discovered in the basement of her home when co-workers became concerned about her absence. She had been raped, sodomized and strangled to death with a piece of Venetian blind cord. The F.B.I.’s Behavioral Science Unit surmised that the killer was a White male in his late twenties to early thirties who resided in the area.
The senior profilers pointed out that on one hand the killer’s actions were immature.But on the other hand they stated that the bindings and control elements were a sign of maturity. According to the profilers this indicated two different personalities or two people involved in murder. On February 6, 1984 police announced the arrest of David Vasquez, who matched the F.B.I. profile of the killer. Pubic hair found at the scene matched Vasquez but the blood type did not suggesting two persons.
David Vasquez’s attorney realizing that his client who was identified in the FBI Profile, would face the Death Penalty decided to plea him out. David Vasquez was sent to State Prison as a convicted murderer.
On September 19, 1987 at 9:45 A.M., thirty-five year-old Debbie Dudley Davis was found dead in the bedroom of her first floor apartment in The Westover Hills District of Richmond, Virginia by her husband, who had returned from a business trip. The woman had been strangled to death with a sock, which had been tightened around her neck with a pipe from a vacuum cleaner and there was evidence of sexual activity at the scene. Biological fluid was recovered from the body and bedding in the crime scene and submitted to Lifecodes Corporation for DNA analysis. Richmond detectives determined that the victim’s apartment had been entered through an open rear window, where a screen had been cut to allow the window to be raised to allow the offender access to the apartment.
On October 3, 1987, two weeks later, a thirty-two year Susan Elizabeth Hellams, a medical doctor in Residence at Medical College of Virginia was found dead in her apartment in the Westover Hills District of Richmond, Virginia by her husband. Her husband, who was also a doctor in Residence, discovered his wife’s naked body in a bedroom closet in their second floor apartment at approximately 2:00 A.M. when he returned from work. She also had raped, sodomized and strangled to death with a belt, which had been tightened around her neck. Biological fluid was recovered from the body and the woman’s slip as well as the crime scene and submitted to Lifecodes Corporation for DNA analysis. Richmond detectives determined that the victim’s apartment had been entered through a second story window where a screen had been cut out.
Richmond authorities immediately linked these two cases based on the similar “Modus Operandi” as well as the “Signature” components. The Modus Operandi suggested a stalker who knew that both victims were alone in their homes at the time of their assault. The fact that both victims lived with a male, who was absent at the time of the assault further supported the stalker theory. Both crimes occurred with a one mile radius and both victims were strangled with ligature. The “Signature” component was in the presentation of the victims in the scene. Both victims were nude and bound with their hands behind their backs in similar fashion and the killer left the ligatures intact.
This linkage was solidified through the DNA analysis from Lifecodes Corporation, which revealed that the rape-murders of Debbie Dudley Davis and Susan Elizabeth Hellums were a positive match. A serial killer was now biologically and molecularly identified and linked to these two murders cases.
The F.B.I.’s Behavioral Science Unit was requested to analyze the two Richmond cases for authorities. Their opinion of the case was that the murders were committed by a White, male twenties to thirties, who resided in the area. This was further affirmed by their forensic psychiatrist, who acted as a consultant to the F.B.I. He was quoted in the Richmond News Leader as stating that the offender wouldn’t be Black. These profiles were based on the logical probabilities that most serial killers statistically were White and that their crimes were intra-racially oriented.
The Richmond police concentrated their investigation on White suspects resulting in Linkage Blindness.