Murder in Spokane: Catching a Serial Killer

Overview

A gripping investigation of a serial killer's spree by the author of the New York Times bestsellers Murder in Brentwood and Murder in Greenwich.

On August 26, 1997, the bodies of Jennifer Joseph and Heather Hernandez were found dumped in separate places in Spokane, Washington. In the following months, another eight bodies were discovered, all of them those of drug addicts and prostitutes who had worked Spokane's red-light district.

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Overview

A gripping investigation of a serial killer's spree by the author of the New York Times bestsellers Murder in Brentwood and Murder in Greenwich.

On August 26, 1997, the bodies of Jennifer Joseph and Heather Hernandez were found dumped in separate places in Spokane, Washington. In the following months, another eight bodies were discovered, all of them those of drug addicts and prostitutes who had worked Spokane's red-light district.

The police wouldn't even use the term "serial killer." The local media and town leaders also stayed quiet. As long as the victims came from the wrong side of town, "respectable" Spokane didn't seem too worried that a brutal psychopath was in their midst and that as many as eighteen women were dead by his hand.

Enter Mark Fuhrman.

A brilliant investigator, Fuhrman helped authorities bring charges against a well-connected suspect when his bestselling book Murder in Greenwich spawned a Connecticut grand jury investigation of the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley. After moving to Idaho, he began appearing as a guest host on a Spokane radio talk show and quickly found himself at the center of another high-profile murder case.

Written in the same fast-paced style as Murder in Brentwood and Murder in Greenwich, this is a shocking account of Fuhrman's investigation of the prostitutes' deaths as he worked alongside the Spokane Task Force.

The serial killer preyed on prostitutes with drug problems. He intentionally selected street people, who would not be missed right away, often women who were new to town. The police seemingly put these murders on the back burner because the victims did not stir up public sentiment. Only after the serial killer began to play with the police — planting bodies for attention and escalating the murders — did intense effort go into the case.

Though the understaffed police force did catch the killer, Fuhrman shows that their reliance on computers and on DNA test results from everyone they interviewed was slower than doing old-fashioned gumshoe detective work. With the clues they had, Fuhrman writes, the police could have made the arrest two years earlier — saving the lives of at least nine women.

With the expertise of a seasoned investigator and an exceptional writer, Fuhrman takes you inside the mind of a detective pursuing the most dangerous criminal on the streetsa serial killer.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Household name and former detective author Mark Fuhrman has written two bestsellers about famous cases: Murder in Brentwood, about the O. J. Simpson saga that made him famous, and Murder in Greenwich, about the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley. Here he writes about Robert L. Yaes Jr., a Spokane serial slayer, who murdered at least 23 women.
Andrew Stuttaford
Not quite a literary classic, Murder in Greenwich is still a compelling read, a real-life Agatha Christie novel. -- National Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While true-crime writer and ex-cop Fuhrman (Murder in Greenwich, Murder in Brentwood) may not rank high on America's Favorite Cop lists, he has scored well on the bestseller lists with his expos s of murder investigations gone awry. His latest offers the highest body count yet. In 1997, Fuhrman, who now lives in idyllic Idaho, discovered a serial sex killer lurking in his backyard in Spokane, Wash. With local radio jock and fellow murder groupie Mike Fitzsimmons, Fuhrman insinuated himself in the investigation of one of the longest-running killing sprees in recent memory. A man was luring drug-addicted prostitutes into his vehicle for the purposes of rape, sexual torture, and, after murdering them, necrophilia. As horrific as the crimes were, the disastrously sloppy investigation by the Spokane PD Task Force, Fuhrman concludes, dawdled inexcusably for two years, during which nine more women were murdered. Fuhrman plays himself up as an all-American, animal-tendin', Grape Nuts-eatin' ex-cop with no interest in psychology, only in getting his man. "A working detective has no hope of understanding what even experts who devote their lives to the study of criminal psychology can't figure out," he notes. Richard Yates was eventually apprehended by the police and is serving a 408-year sentence. Fuhrman's account is unabashedly uninterested in exploring the darker recesses of the human psyche. It is about why a mass murderer of undesirables went unapprehended for years. As such, it is an extraordinary story, even if the author's storytelling abilities are anything but. (June) Forecast: With the help of Fuhrman's 25-city radio campaign and 15-city TV satellite tour, as well as personal appearances in New York, Portland, Seattle and Spokane, this should live up saleswise to Fuhrman's previous titles. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Ex-Los Angeles detective Fuhrman (Murder in Brentwood), who achieved notoriety for his role in the investigation of the Nicole Simpson murder, takes on both a serial killer and an inept police force in his latest book. Fuhrman was participating in a crime-themed radio talk show in Spokane, WA, in 1997, when the bodies of several prostitutes appeared around town (23 in all emerged from 1990 to 1999). Appalled at the sloppy work of the local police, Fuhrman and his friend, reporter and radio host Mike Fitzsimmons, began to investigate on their own using public-record information. As Fuhrman follows the case, he gives the reader a close look at how homicide investigations should and shouldn't be conducted. When the suspect is actually in custody, he shows how the police might have used a single clue to stop him two years earlier and save the lives of nine women. The book compares favorably to anything by Ann Rule or John Douglas and is essential for all true-crime collections. Deirdre Root, Middletown P.L., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The grisly account of a Spokane, Washington, serial killer's spree, and a critique of the local police department's investigation of the crimes. On October 19, 2000, Robert Yates pled guilty to the murder of 13 women. According to detective-turned-journalist Fuhrman (Murder in Greenwich, not reviewed), the killer could have been apprehended two years earlier. The author traces the Yates case as it unfolds through the late 1990s. He may have left police work for journalism and a ranch in Idaho, but he was anything but a disinterested citizen when dead women began appearing at various dumping sites in the Spokane area. In fact, Fuhrman and his colleague, radio co-host Mark Fitzsimmons, began to explore the murders themselves. The author presents a detailed diary of their investigations, laying out a blow-by-blow recounting of each body's discovery, the atmosphere of the crime scenes, and the possible thoughts of the killer. At the same time, Fuhrman documents the Spokane police department's reluctant handling of the case, its insularity, and its refusal to release substantive details to the public. Indeed, for a long while, the department refused even to acknowledge the existence of a serial killer. In his unofficial search, the author repeatedly turned up witnesses who were never questioned and leads that were never followed. He concludes with a close analysis of the arrest affidavit, substantiating his allegation that the department could have caught the culprit years earlier if they had relied less on their computer database and DNA testing, and more on investigating phoned-in leads with basic police work. Although he claims that "the last thing [he] wanted to do was second guessthem," Fuhrman has little patience with the Spokane police; his tone is that of an indignant everyman wondering what the clowns in uniform were doing. Mostly forsaking sensationalism for plodding detail, Fuhrman disappoints: this is only for people interested in the tedious nitty-gritty of apprehending a killer.
From Barnes & Noble
The former LAPD detective and star witness in the O.J. Simpson case tackles another unsolved case of money, power, and fame: the 1975 bludgeoning and stabbing death of Martha Moxley -- with no less than Kennedy relatives as the prime suspects. Fuhrman analyzes the case from beginning to end -- revealing among other things how local police bungled the initial investigation, how crucial evidence was found and "lost,'' and how certain authorities tried to hinder the investigation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060194376
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Retired LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman is the New York Times bestselling author of Murder in Brentwood, Murder in Greenwich, Murder in Spokane, and Death and Justice. He lives in Idaho.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Killer In My
Backyard

You never forget what a dead body smells like. The stink of decomposing flesh. That retching, putrid stench that seems to penetrate right through your skin. That sticks to your clothing and clings to the hairs in your nose. That stays with you long after the body is bagged up and taken to the coroner's. Even after you've gone home and changed your clothes and taken a shower and sprinkled yourself with cologne, the stench still lingers.

That afternoon, I smelled it again. At first, I thought it was just my imagination, but the smell wouldn't go away.

I was stuck in traffic an my way to do a radio show in Spokane, Washington. Mike Fitzsimmons had asked me to be guest host on his program at KXLY 920 AM. He wanted to talk about a serial killer preying on prostitutes in Spokane.

On August 26,1997, two prostitutes had been found shot to death in separate locations. Both the bodies were severely decomposed, One of them, Jennifer Joseph, was found in a hayfield. I remembered the heat that accompanied hay season, and imagined what that crime scene must have smelled like. I could see and hear the swarming flies. The farmers who found her were probably not unaccustomed to violent death, but they were no doubt sickened by seeing it take human form.

What were the chances that two different women would be shot and dumped and found on the same day? In a city like Los Angeles, where there are three homicides a day, it might just be a coincidence. Spokane was too small for coincidences like that one. No, Spokane had a serial killer, and he was probably just getting started. Then I caughtmyself thinking that it wasn't just their problem, it was mine. The serial killer was practically in my backyard.

There's something about the Pacific Northwest that seems to breed serial killers. John Douglas, the famous FBI profiler, once called the region "America's killing fields." Cities like Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver offer a serial killer a victim pool to select from and give him a crowd to hide in. People are more friendly and trusting here. The surrounding wilderness makes it easy to hide bodies and almost impossible to find them. The weather -- weeks on end of dreary rain punctuated by rare, brilliant days -- probably has something to do with it. Or the fact that this is where the frontier ends, and America literally runs out of room.

Spokane is a little different. It's three hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean. Local boosters call it the Capital of the Inland Empire. The terrain is a mix of high plains and mountains. The weather is drier, hotter in the summer and colder in the winter, without the long, depressing rains. The city itself is much smaller than Seattle or even Portland. And there is something about Spokane -- it isn't innocence, more like spoiled provinciality. A lot of the problems of big-city life hadn't reached the citizens of Spokane yet, or so they thought.

Well, now they had a serial killer.

I wondered how long the Spokane serial killer had been working. I wondered what he did to his victims, whether he was slick and sophisticated, or crude and frenzied. I wondered how many victims he had already killed. How many had not even been found. Women killed and dumped and rotting somewhere deep in the wilderness.

It's just a ninety-mile drive to Spokane from my home in Sandpoint, Idaho. In this part of the country, that's an easy commute. Sometimes it can take several hours, depending on the weather and the road conditions. This was September, one of the hottest days of the year. The sky was clear and the roads were dry, but the traffic was backed up for at least a mile.

The line of cars extended as far as I could see. After twenty years in Los Angeles, I retire, move up to northern Idaho, and find myself in another traffic jam. Go figure. At least the landscape was more scenic than, say, Sepulveda Boulevard. I looked out at Cocallala Lake and watched a fisherman trolling slowly by.

In the distance I heard a siren. Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw countless hours of television coverage and commentary, the acres and acres of newsprint spent on the Simpson case, I wish that people had been able to see what I saw.

About 4:30 in the morning of June 12, 1994, the sun began to rise on the Bundy crime scene. I could see Ron Goldman's blood spattered all over the foliage. The earth was soaked dark with his blood, as if somebody had dumped a gallon of syrup on the ground. The walkway was a thick stream of blood, smeared with footprints and paw prints. I had to be careful stepping over Nicole's body. She was crumpled and bloodless, stiffening with rigor mortis. She was wearing a short, black cocktail dress; her bare feet were clean. Her fists were clenched, her fingers bloody with defensive wounds. She had known death was coming, and she fought it, and she suffered.

Death is unforgiving. It shows no consideration for the young or the beautiful. Bodies cast aside in city alleys or dumped on country roads take the same course. The indignity of murder does not end in death itself. The victim suffers further degradation by the weather, insects, and animal predators.

You never see that on television. You never see how a murder victim's bladder and sphincter open uncontrollably. You never see, or smell, the other puddles of body fluids that spill and splatter when the corpse is moved. You never smell the sweet scent of coagulated blood, You never hear die irritating buzz of hovering flies. You never feel the tear of rotting flesh falling away from bone as police...

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2001

    READING WITH TEARS

    I FOUND IT INTERESTING..ALTHOUGH I DID NOT ENJOY READING THINGS ABOUT SUNNY THAT I DID NOT KNOW NOR DID THE REST OF MY FAMILY..IM INTERESTED IN KNOWING HOW MR.FURMAN GOT HIS INFORMATION??I WANT TO KNOW HOW FURMAN GOT ACCESS TO SUCH PERSONNEL INFORMATION..HOW MUCH OF WHAT HE IS SAYING IS TRUE..TO THINK THAT SUNNY WOULD BE ALIVE IF CERTAIN THINGS WERE DONE DIFFERENT IS HARD TO TAKE..I KNOW THAT 25 YEARS AGO WHEN THAT COUPLE WAS MURDERED ROBERT YATES NAME CAME UP AS A PERSON WHO HAD BOUGHT THE TYPE OF GUN THAT THE COUPLE WAS SHOT WITH...WHY DID THEY NOT INVESTIGATE THAT??? I LIVE NEAR TACOMA WASHINGTON AND WILL BE AT ROBERT YATES MURDER TRIAL..MY SISTER WAS SHOT WITH THE SAME GUN AS ONE OF THE VICTIMS IN TACOMA..I WANT HIM TO DIE AND AM LOOKING FORWARD TO THE JURIES DECISION..DEATH PENALTY!!!!SUNNY DIED BEFORE HER TIME HE TOOK HER LIFE..HE NEEDS TO DIE BEFORE HIS TIME.I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THAT MR. FURMAN STATED IN HIS BOOK THAT MY SISTER GAVE UP HER BOYS THAT IS NOT TRUE..SHE LOVED HER BOYS VERY MUCH AND THEY LOVE HER.I HELPED RAISE THE YOUNGEST ONE DERRICK BECAUSE SHE KNEW I COULD GIVE HIM A BETTER LIFE SHE LOVED HIM ENOUGH TO LET ME..HER OLDEST BOY BRANDON HAS BEEN ON HIS OWN FOR A WHILE....I DONT WANT ANYONE TO GET THE WRONG IDEA ABOUT MY SISTER . HE DID NOT KNOW HER..THANK YOU FOR THE CHANCE TO EXPRESS MY FEELINGS AUDREY OSTER

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2001

    I knew it

    I was stationed at the Air Force Base when Yates was on his killing spree. I was not surprised to read the the Task Force had messed up. At the time of the killings it was hard to believe they had so many detectives on the Task Force but they couldn't catch the killer for anything. I feel for all of the families including Yates family. I hope that Yates gets a fair trial but that he will be punished swiftly for his uncaring behavior towards not only women but humans in general. I think Mark Furhman did a great job on this book. He may not have known all of the facts but he definitly has the Spokane cops number. Most people who lives in the Spokane area would probably agree. Hopefully the Police will learn from their mistakes and realize that the public is not stupid. Keep the books coming Mark!

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