Baton Rouge jittery over serial killings

Women buying guns, Mace at record rate


By GLYNN WILSON / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

BATON ROUGE, La. – The main topic of conversation this time of year in this city normally centers on the pre-season ranking of the Louisiana State University Bengal Tigers.

This is no normal year. Students started arriving for the fall semester last week, moving into their dorms and apartments, but the normal routine has been disrupted by the announcement that a serial killer is on the loose here in Louisiana's capital city.

Women are buying guns and pepper spray at a record pace and checking their cars, their houses and their neighborhoods for anything suspicious.

Ed Piglia and Lynne Marino, family of slain Pam Kinamore, are offering a $75,000 reward for information on the killer.
Melissa Blackledge, 19, a native of Baton Rouge and a student at Mississippi State University, said her mother was so afraid for her safety that she decided to get her brother Ryan Blackledge to show her how to use a gun. She was testing out a .22 caliber Ruger revolver at the Precision Firearms indoor firing range.

News of a serial killer in her hometown, she said, is "kind of an incentive to go shoot. I know what to do. I got my pepper spray. But my mom's terrified. She's really scared, scared to death."

DNA evidence

Police say the killer has been linked by DNA evidence to the deaths of at least three women since last September, and they're checking dozens of other unsolved killings in the last decade to see if other cases could be related.

Investigators are not revealing much of what they know about the killer. But based on a couple of key tips, and the fact that all three victims were attacked in their homes with no sign of forced entry, police are looking for a white male driving a white pickup truck who may be wearing the uniform of a police officer or a deliveryman.

The fear is so pervasive here it even has some Southern girls questioning the value of chivalry.

"You always think about Southern courtesy," said Loren Henagen, 21, a senior at LSU from Baton Rouge. "But now you question, 'is this guy opening the door for me because he's going to grab me?' "

Authorities decline to say whether the slain women were sexually assaulted, or what the DNA evidence linking them is exactly.

The victims were:

• Pam Kinamore, 44, a decorator and suburban Denham Springs antiques store owner who was found with her throat cut on July 16 in a secluded area under the Whiskey Bay exit ramp bridge off Interstate 10 near Baton Rouge. Police said she had been abducted from her Briarwood Place home July 12.

• Charlotte Murray Pace, 22, an LSU MBA graduate who was stabbed to death in her Sharlo townhouse May 31.

• Gina Wilson Green, 41, a nurse who was strangled in her Stanford Avenue home Sept. 24.

Ms. Pace lived three doors down from Ms. Green at the time of Ms. Green's death. But Ms. Pace had moved to a new neighborhood just days before she was killed. If there are other links between the victims, the police are not saying.

Ms. Kinamore's family is offering a $75,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer. Workers raised two billboards advertising the reward last week, one near Ms. Kinamore's house and another near her antiques store. Both boards have a large picture of Ms. Kinamore and the words "Justice for Pam. Justice for All."

Finding a connection

The families of these three victims are communicating with each other, trying to assist authorities in the investigation and to make a connection between them.

"We have not been able to come up with anything that is common for all three, and, believe me, we're trying," said Ann Pace, Charlotte Murray Pace's mother.

"I think whatever connections there are to be made are floating in his sick, revolting, evil head," she said. "We're trying to apply traditional reasoning and rational techniques to an irrational person."

Mrs. Pace said that, based on what the police told her, her daughter put up a fight, so the killer may have injuries.

A task force of 40 investigators – including the FBI and local and state authorities – has been assembled to work on the case. Police have set up a hot line at 225-389-3310.

Possible leads

Baton Rouge police said last week they were looking for a white pickup truck in connection with Ms. Kinamore's murder. Several hours after Ms. Kinamore disappeared, someone reported seeing a 1996 or 1997 white Chevrolet pickup truck exit the interstate with a white man driving and a nude white woman slumped over in the passenger seat. The truck's rear bumper had a sloppy black paint job.

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Lt. Tiffany Tate said investigators from her office have been in contact with Baton Rouge authorities to discuss a man posing as a police officer who pulled a woman over and raped her on Interstate 10 near Slidell on July 14. Lt. Tate said the man was in a white truck that had flashing red and blue lights on the dashboard and a white or beige leather interior. That suspect was described as a muscular white man about 5 feet, 9 inches tall with light hair, probably in his mid- to late 20s.

Investigators also are looking at an attempted kidnapping Tuesday in nearby Geismar to see if it's connected to the serial killer. The man in that case was seen driving a black pickup truck of the same make and model as the white truck sought in the Baton Rouge case.

Ms. Kinamore's family has appealed to Gov. Mike Foster, asking for him to pressure agencies to devote more manpower and resources to the case.

'Lock your door'

On his weekly radio show last week, Mr. Foster reminded women that they can carry weapons to protect themselves.

"You have the right to get a gun permit. Learn to use it," the governor said. "I mean, if it really gets to the point where any more of this happens, get Mace, carry a baseball bat, lock your door, don't let anybody in you don't know."

Gun shops report increased sales during the last few weeks.

Precision Firearms store manager Will Saint said first-time female buyers increased from about two a week to at least 10 a week. Sales to men have quadrupled, he said. Sales of pepper spray and Mace are also up, from one or two canisters a week, he said, to "600 in the past two weeks."

State police said they've received 447 requests for concealed weapons permits in the first week of this month compared with 262 such requests for August 2001. Officials said most of the requests came from the Baton Rouge area.

Glynn Wilson is a free-lance writer based in New Orleans. The Associated Press contributed to this report.