UPDATES AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST
If there was ever a good reason to break my hiatus from updating this blog, this is it.
“‘I’m killer’ of Spc. Touma.
A quote from the article — bold emphasis has been added:
A person claiming to be the killer of the pregnant soldier found dead in a motel has written an anonymous letter calling the murder a “master piece” and threatening to kill again.
On Friday, sources requesting anonymity told The Fayetteville Observer that a symbol used in the letter is identical to one found written in lipstick on a mirror in the Fairfield Inn room where Spc. Megan Lynn Touma’s body was discovered June 21…
The Observer apparently received the letter Wednesday. It was dated June 17 (the symbols beside the date on the letter — @))* — seen if you click the image above to enlarge it, are the symbols over the numbers 2008 on a typewriter or computer keyboard) and postmarked June 24. You can read the full text of the letter by clicking on the screen capture, but I’ll make it easier by quoting — formatting, spelling and punctuation mistakes have been left intact:
To whom it may concern. The following is to inform that I am responsible for the dead body that was found on Saturday, June 21 @ 1130 in room 143 at Fairfield INN by Marriott off Skibo RD. It was a master piece. I confess, that I have killed many times before in several states, but now I will start using my role-model’s signature. There will be many more to come.
Fayetteville law enforcement are very incompetent. I basically, sat there and watch while investigaters were on site.
The writer signed off with the mysterious, 60s-era serial killer’s chosen symbol — a circle quartered by a cross. The Zodiac sign has been interpreted in many ways. Zodiacologists all know that one likely source was the Zodiac brand watch, which was sold in the 60s and 70s. Other possible inspirations were a scaled back representation of a typical chart showing the 12 houses of the Zodiac — Scorpio, Sagittarius, etc — or the cross-hairs seen through a rifle scope.
Lt. David Sportsman of the Fayetteville PD said that investigators think the letter is “valuable evidence.” He also said that it might be an attempt to misdirect not only the investigation into the death of Megan Touma, but the publics’ perception of the investigation.
Clearly trying to forestall any public outcry about a serial killer in their midst, Sportsman said “There is absolutely no reason to believe” that other killings related to the confessional letter have actually occurred.
Specialist Touma’s death has not been officially declared a homicide. Her cause of death won’t be clear until an autopsy is completed. According to the search warrant application
filed by investigators, Touma was in “an advanced state of decomposition” when she was found. A clear cause of death may not be easily established.
According to the Observer
, 23-year-old Megan Lynn Touma arrived in Fayetteville on June 12. She had been re-assigned to Fort Bragg, having previously been stationed at the U.S. Army Dental Clinic in Bamberg, Germany as a dental specialist. Touma didn’t show up for formation with the 19th Replacement Company on June 16. She was found on the 21st, and a “Do not disturb” sign had been on the door to the room she rented since at least June 17 — the date on the letter from the Zodiac admirer.
At first the Fayetteville paper honored a police request to not publish the letter. The authorities felt that it might cause a panic. Then the Observer
received a tip that connected the letter to a “symbol at the death scene.” Observer
Executive Editor Brian Tolley said, “We wanted to be responsible stewards of the information, to weigh our obligation to inform the public with the possibility of the damage we could do […] In the end, we just wanted to do what we believe was the right thing.”
What about the letter-writer’s claims?
I believe he is telling the truth about being an admirer of the Zodiac Killer. If you visit Tom Voigt’s comprehensive ZodiacKiller.com
, you can find good copies of every letter
the Zodiac wrote to the press in his years-long campaign of terror. Though the still-unknown San Francisco-area serial killer killed 5
and injured 2 between 1968 and ’69, he was sending letters to the press as late as 1974. The Zodiac was a publicity-seeking and savvy killer. His campaign of letter-writing and sending cryptic codes to newspapers showed a bent towards domestic terrorism, a tendency fully expressed in later years by The Unabomber
and Wichita’s BTK Strangler, Dennis Rader
The Fayetteville Zodiac admirer’s letter reveals his inspiration in some subtle ways. While Zodiac did use the word “masterpiece” in one letter without splitting it in two, that kind of mistake would have been classic Zodiac. An example of that sort of mistake from the Zodiac: he wrote the word “Christmas” as “Christmass” — possibly just an error, possibly his way of revealing that he understood the origins of the word.
Zodiac may have been a bit of an Anglophile — a lover of all things British. He quoted from the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Mikado
in his letters, and his letter-writing mirrored the first publicity-seeking thrill killer, London’s Jack the Ripper
. Zodiac misspelled numerous words in every message, but his use of grammar was as precise as an over-achieving British schoolboy’s. The Fayetteville Z-fan’s letter is too short to analyze his use of grammar with any degree of accuracy (and I’m not the world’s greatest grammarian), but the overall tone is clearly reminiscent of the killer the letter-writer claims to admire. Even the date on the letter, “17 June” is a British construction. Americans typically write “June 17” or “6/17”.
The person who wrote the letter to the Observer
knew his role-model’s style
From the Zodiac’s letter to the San Francisco Chronicle
, dated October 13, 1969: “The S. F. Police could have caught me last night if they had searched the park properly instead of holding road races with their motor cicles (sic) seeing who could make the most noise.”
: “Fayetteville law enforcement are very incompetent. I basically, sat there and watch while investigaters were on site.”
Zodiac to the San Francisco Examiner
on July 31, 1969: “I am the killer of the 2 teenagers last Christmass (sic) at Lake Herman & the girl last 4th of July. To prove this I shall state some facts which only I & the police know…”
Fayetteville, NC, 2008: “The following is to inform that I am responsible for the dead body that was found on Saturday, June 21 @ 1130 in room 143 at Fairfield INN by Marriott off Skibo RD.”
The letter smacks of someone who has read the Zodiac’s letters over and over and made it a point to digest both the attitude and the style of the California killer.
It is peculiar that the letter appears
to have been composed on a typewriter (I’m not so convinced that you can’t get a typewriter-like product from a word processor and a printer, but I’ll save that argument for later). The killer may be trying to evade forensic detection by doing so, but typewriters are pretty rare nowadays, and perhaps even easier to trace than they were 30 or 40 years ago.
Also strange, and potentially chilling — the letter-writer’s claim that he has”killed many times before in several states.” On true crime message boards, people are already posting links to stories of other unsolved murders that might fit this killer’s m. o.
I’m not ready to buy into that claim. Here, the Fayetteville police may be correct — claims of many other murders in other states may be a lie intended to obfuscate the investigation into Spc. Touma’s death. Nationwide attention to this mysterious death in Fayetteville, NC could distract the public from potential clues to solving this crime right there in Fayetteville. The letter-writer could by trying to imply that he’s already moved on, isn’t even in that city anymore.
Chris, a fellow crime blogger
and a poster on the message board
associated with ZodiacKiller.com
, made a succinct point
about this in a thread discussing the Fayetteville letter. Chris wrote: “There is always the possibility that this is just an attempt at a cover-up. The fact that this woman was pregnant when she was killed raises that likelihood. Also, she was killed in a hotel room, indicating that she very likely knew her killer. This could just be a distraction from the obvious suspect –the would-be father of the child Touma was carrying.”
Chris may be right. After all, when you hear hoofbeats, you don’t typically think a herd of zebras is on its way to trample you. You hear hoofbeats, you think horses. Killers like the Zodiac are zebras. Panicky, psychopathic baby-daddies are, sadly, a dime a dozen — horses — when it comes to dead, pregnant women.
This post may be updated and revised.
Extra link: WRAL’s copy of the inventory of items seized
in the search of Megan Touma’s motel room.
Fayetteville police say they have a suspect
. The NBC affiliate in Raleigh, NC reports that the Touma murder is being treated as a homicide, and police have begun analyzing evidence taken from an unnamed suspect’s residence.
Having someone under investigation may indicate that the letter was indeed a “red herring,” as suggested by fellow crime blogger Chris in a quote above.
You can read the article about the search of a suspect’s home on NBC 17’s website here
, but be warned: the site is so heavily loaded with ads, flash videos and pop-ups it might as well be some teenager’s overly-pimped MySpace profile. Click at your peril, if you have a slow connection.
As “PoorPaula” noted in the comments on this entry, someone using the name “Anibal” left an interesting comment
on a post
at Bonnie’s Blog of Crime
about the Touma murder. This is most of “Anibal’s” comment, dated June 28 and time-stamped 4:46 a.m.:
This is regarding the murder of SPC Megan Lynn Touma….her boyfreind name was Sgt Edgar Patino..He is station in Fort Brag. He is aslo marry to Heileen Patino. He was also station he in Bamberg, Germany. I spoke to her the day before she left and she told me that was his baby and she was seven months pregnant. He was a buddy of mind. We were both assigned to 54th Egineer Batallion…
Keep in mind that Patino has not been mentioned in any other reports about this crime. As far as anyone knows right now, neither he nor anyone associated with him is a suspect or person of interest in the murder of Megan Lynn Touma. [Edited to add: “nursebeeme,” a trusted long-time reader of this blog, has indicated that Patino’s full name is actually Edgar Patino Lopez. The same tipster confirmed that Patino was at one time stationed in Bamberg, Germany.]
I’ve gotten to where I think bloggers shouldn’t talk about what they see in their web statistics unless the blogger feels threatened and wants to make that public. But I did feel that it was worth it in this instance to note that this blog post has received several hits from servers owned by various Fayetteville-area publications since Edgar Patino Lopez’s name was added in update 2. That makes me believe that he may indeed be the person of interest in this case.
But at the moment that’s only a guess.
Nurse pointed out a new comment
on Bonnie’s Blog of Crime
— reporter Greg Barnes from the Fayetteville Observer
asking Anibal to speak with him about Sgt. Patino. I can think of a lot of reasons why Barnes would want to talk about Patino, but right now, it’s pretty obvious what the main reason might be.