At the same time as five prostitutes were murdered in Ipswich, the bodies of four sex workers were found in a ditch near Atlantic City. That is as far as any similarities go.
While Suffolk police worked closely with the local community in tracking down the killer and have charged a man, the detection techniques used across the pond could not be more different, their killer is still on the loose. The dead women were Molly Jean Dilts, 20; Kim Raffo, 35; Tracy Ann Roberts, 23; and Barbara V. Breidor, 42.
This thought provoking article in The New York Times, and forwarded to me by psychoanalyst Nancy Kobrin, describes how the Suffolk killings attracted nationwide sympathy, how police worked with the local community.
But in Atlantic City, it seems the equally shocking deaths have all but been brushed under the carpet. They remain unsolved, there are no public appeals for help, no warnings for women to be on their guard.
Writer Serge Kovaleski notes that they were similar crimes committed around the same time, and questions the different responses from both police forces:
“Part of the answer may have to do with the nature of the communities where the killings occurred, and part with public attitudes towards what are gently referred to as sex workers”.
One suggestion for keeping the deaths low-key was not to “spook” any of the 34 million tourists who visit Atlantic City and its grand casinos each year. Yet one of these women had been strangled, another asphyxiated and the other two were too badly decomposed for a cause of death. A killer is clearly on the loose. It is also feared their killer has struck six times, and a seventh survived after her throat was slashed. Yet the official approach has been low-key.
One public official has admitted that had the victims been housewives, schoolgirls, or even clients of prostitutes, there would be more demands for answers. I cannot believe how the official, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, can admit to saying that, but he did, as well as this:
“I do believe the lack of outrage is because of the women’s unfortunate lifestyles.”
Yet one of the victims had been “mom of the year” before her marriage broke down and she and took to drugs. Just like our murdered prostitutes, she was also a human being, a mother, a sister, wife, daughter and friend.
Kovaleski noted that while Suffolk police posted about 30 press releases and took 11,000 calls from the public, as well as publishing a timeline of the case and appeals for discarded clothing, the website for the Atlantic County prosecutor carries no information on their local murders. The mayor and police chief have also been reticent, none of them attended a vigil for the victims. The County prosecutor merely commented that he was satisfied with the information he had received, but has refused to say how many tips his task force had received, he is very tight-lipped about the whole business.
Reading the NYT’s article made me feel proud of our police and civilised society, the public support this case generated, how the media was curious to know the reasons why these young women’s lives turned out the way it did. They were not condemned for being prostitutes. Atlantic City needs a strong local press to stand up to police and officials and demand that they be kept fully informed and given assurances about their search for a possible serial killer who could strike again. But perhaps they are also concerned about the impact of this on local tourism and their advertising revenue.
It is tragic to know that these shocking murders is being largely ignored because the victims were prostitutes. At least one killer is still on the loose there, how can their community feel safe? How many deaths will their officials turn a blind eye to? Should tourism and casino revenue be considered more important than justice?