TOPIC: Imette St. Guillen's brutal murder has captured America's attention...
I realize that many people are murdered every day. Thousands more die horrible deaths, but not at the hands of another. Why then, has the rape and murder of 24 year old Imette St. Guillen so strongly grabbed my attention (and that of many others across the country)?
I'm not sure exactly why... but I have found myself reading every news story I could find -- looking for clues that might help piece together the puzzle of who killed this bright, energetic young graduate student.
Actually, a post on the Secrets From Within blog got me started on my quest of digging for clues. The post was compelling and made me wish I could do something, anything, to help the authorities find the sick, pervert who brutalized St. Guillen -- both before and after she died.
Some say it’s holding on that makes you strong.
Sometimes, it’s letting go. - Imette St. Guillen
Sometimes, it’s letting go. - Imette St. Guillen
Here's what I've found so far...
Imette St. Guillen had just returned home from a family vacation in Florida before her death. She flew back to New York Friday morning. She arrived at her uptown apartment shortly before noon and immediately got together with Claire, according to a police source. Around 10:00pm Friday night, Imette St. Guillen and her roommate Claire Higgins went to The Bowery district of New York City for drinks. They partied in the Pioneer Bar at 218 Bowery until around 3:15am. Apparently most of their friends had left earlier in the night, but Ms. Higgins and Ms. St. Guillen remained. Around 3:20am, Higgins decided to call it a night. However, Imette St. Guillen wanted to stay. The two argued a couple of minutes outside the Pioneer Bar, then Claire Higgins caught a cab back to their basement apartment on West End Avenue. Apparently, Imette went back inside, paid for her drinks and left the Pioneer. She travelled five blocks over to The Falls, another area bar. Ironically, The Falls is owned by the Dorrian family, the same group that owns the upper East Side spot (Dorrian's Red Hand) where "Preppie Killer" Robert Chambers met Jennifer Levin before killing her in 1986.
Imette arrived at The Falls around 3:40am. She had a rum & coke while hanging out by herself, according to a bartender who identified himself only as "Danny". At 3:50am, Claire called Imette to make sure her roommate was okay. "When are you going home?" Claire asked."Later. I'll be home later," her pal said.
Around 3:50am, Imette St. Guillen paid her tab with her credit card. St. Guillen pulled a piece of paper out of her purse, looked at it and left The Falls by herself. It's not clear what was on the paper, and St. Guillen had no other phone calls, the sources said.3 The darkened street was almost empty, and although several witnesses remember seeing the attractive, dark-haired graduate student near Spring Street, no one recalls which way she turned to walk, police sources said.2 Police believe Imette encountered her killer after she left. It's possible she may have got into what she believed was a taxi or was forced in, sources said.
A bogus cabby who sexually assaulted a woman near the site where grad-school beauty Imette St. Guillen's body was dumped *might* be the same psycho who raped and murdered the student, police sources said. Cops are poring over the details of the cab assault, in which the driver sexually assaulted a woman at knifepoint on Lefferts Boulevard in the middle of last month's snowstorm about a mile from where St. Guillen's mutilated body was found.3 Her cell phone, clothes and wallet have not been found.
The proximity between where her body was dumped and the site of the sexual assault raised more than a few eyebrows among investigators. Described as a Middle Eastern man in his 30s and about 5-foot-6 — jumped into the back seat, pulled a knife and demanded oral sex. After the woman complied, he tossed her out into the snow and drove off. Although no evidence links the two incidents, police said it wouldn't be surprising if the phony hack had begun stalking women in bars.3
Police are eyeing residents of two homeless shelters, the Bowery Mission and the Salvation Army, directly across the street from the Pioneer Bar.4The NYC police are also interviewing managers of motels, including the Crossbay Motor Inn near where Saint Guillen's body was dumped, in the hopes of finding someone who recognizes the distinctive blanket wrapped around her body.5
I also learned that police are even looking into moving companies -- as the tape used to mummify St. Guillen was the same type as "packing tape" used by movers. In addition, there were no usable fingerprints on the tape -- leading police to speculate that a tape dispenser was used to wrap St. Guillen's head.
Adam Lisberg's NY Daily News article offers many more details...
"There were things done to her while she was alive and when she was dead that were unnecessary to simply commit a murder," said former New York chief medical examiner Michael Baden. "The police have a lot of stuff to work with."
1) THE TAPE: St. Guillen's entire face was covered with thick, horizontal strips of tan plastic packing tape. It was an almost ritual form of wrapping that surely plays a role in her killer's sexual fantasies, said Vernon Geberth, an expert homicide investigator and former NYPD commander. "He's not going to see her face, but he's going to see her labored breathing," he said. "He's rendering the victim completely vulnerable and helpless, then enjoying the victim's suffering."
2) THE SOCK: A man's white tube sock was found jammed into St. Guillen's throat. Her broken fingernails - some of which may be mixed with bits of her attacker's skin - are a hint that she tried to fight back, and the sock may simply have been a tool to keep her quiet. "That was not necessary to do what he did to her body," Geberth said. "That's a utility to prevent screaming."
3) THE BLANKET: St. Guillen's corpse was wrapped in a bright, floral-patterned blanket, similar to a motel-style bedspread. The killer surely left hairs or fibers on the decade-old blanket, experts said, and its origin can help pinpoint who would have obtained it. "The key to this investigation is finding out which no-tell motel that blanket came from," Geberth said. "There's trace evidence that he could not possibly have avoided leaving on there."
4) THE HAIRCUT: St. Guillen's long, brown hair had been cut short on one side by the time she was found, but whether her killer wanted her hair as a souvenir was unknown. Her body also bore other injuries that may have been inflicted intentionally, not just in the process of her abduction and murder. "When people not only kill somebody but mark up the body, either before or after death, they are expressing more than the urge to kill somebody," said forensic psychologist Marta Weber. "They are expressing rage and an urge to defile."
5) THE PHONE CALL: Cops learned about St. Guillen's murder from an anonymous 911 call from a Linden Blvd. diner (the Lindenwood Diner) pay phone several blocks away, telling cops where to find her body. Experts say the male caller could have been a witness who was doing his own nefarious business and didn't want to be identified, an accomplice who got cold feet - or a killer who wanted the world to see his deviant handiwork. "If it's the perpetrator, there's a possibility that he's taunting the police," Baden said. "He knew the area. This isn't anybody from Boston who came down to kill her. This is homegrown."
On a very eerie note...
A Brooklyn, NY trial eerily echoed Imette St. Guillen's brutal murder yesterday as detectives unveiled gruesome photos of another tortured, raped young woman - Hunter College student Ramona Moore. Like St. Guillen, whose battered body was found Saturday in East New York, Moore was raped, lacerated, killed and dumped in East Flatbush - her corpse found wrapped in a blanket tied together with shoelaces on May 10, 2003.6
Another similar case is that of the May, 2004 slaying of 20 year old Sarah Fox. Ms. Fox, who was jogging in Inwood Hill Park, was killed by what the police called a "sexual psychopath serial killer". He strangled her and posed her body and put flower petals around it in a ritualistic killing. That case is closed and the killer was never found -- although a man by the name of Dimitri Sheinman is/was the prime suspect.
Police still want to talk to the anonymous man who dialed 911 from the Lindenwood Diner, a popular stop for mayors and mafiosi alike, and told cops where to find St. Guillen's corpse.5 The area has been a popular place for dumping bodies for decades. At one end is a former landfill that holds countless Gambino mob victims. At the other is a state mental hospital with three registered sex offenders inside. A muddy creek runs alongside the tall weeds, littered with garbage, rusting car parts and broken glass - and now yellow crime-scene tape. "It's pretty desolate, especially at night," said Richard Rios, 42, who works at the closed landfill and placed a handmade cross at the scene yesterday. "That poor girl didn't deserve this." Police from the 75th Precinct have found at least four human bodies in the area over the past six years.
"Some say it’s holding on that makes you strong. Sometimes, it’s letting go", the bay-haired beauty with dancing eyes wrote in the 1999 Boston Latin School yearbook, where there was scarcely room to condense her stunning resume of accomplishments -- including National Honor Society, Talented and Gifted Hispanic Program, prom committee, swim team, indoor track, ski club, gospel choir... as well as others.7
A reward of more than $42,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Imette St. Guillen's rapist/killer(s). Ryan Kocher, Imette's ex-boyfriend, is not a suspect. If YOU have any information, please contact CrimeStoppers at 800-577-TIPS.
Imette, we won't let go until your killer is caught, tried and convicted!
St. Guillen's NYC roommate, Claire Higgins, 24, of West Roxbury said, “I am heartbroken and miss her deeply. I am extremely blessed to have experienced a friendship like the one we shared. It’s my hope that during this time we can honor Imette’s radiant spirit and focus on the joy she brought to so many lives.”8
Amelia Aubourg, alumni captain of the Boston Latin School Class of 1999, said, “I remember her laugh. She had a very infectious laugh. She was a lovely person. The important thing is to remember who Imette was and how she will live on in our memories. That’s the hopeful part.” Another former classmate added that Ms. St. Gullien was, “a very sweet, thoughtful and intelligent person.”9