Fear Factor

Two serial murderers loom among us. Inside the case of the Baseline Killer's first Phoenix victim

The Phoenix homicide detective reaches the crime scene just after 8 p.m. on December 12.

A woman has been shot to death behind a warehouse at 40th Street and Southern Avenue, about five minutes by foot from the busy intersection.

Her body is splayed on the concrete driveway between the building and a retaining wall. A pool of the victim's blood already is coagulating.

The scene of Tina Washington's murder
Paul Rubin
The scene of Tina Washington's murder
Composite drawing of the Baseline Killer
Composite drawing of the Baseline Killer

It is quiet back here, and the amber-colored lighting from the building's security lamps is dim.

Alex Femenia, who has been assigned this case as lead investigator, finishes a Marlboro in his blue Ford pickup, and then walks to a police car, around which a street sergeant will conduct an incident briefing.

Among those on hand on this chilly evening is Benny Pina, the savvy lieutenant who heads the department's homicide unit, and deputy county attorney Bill Clayton, a well-regarded prosecutor.

Veteran homicide detective Steve Orona will assist Femenia.

Certainly, no one here yet knows what will take authorities weeks to figure out — that the dead woman is the first known Phoenix murder victim of the serial criminal then dubbed the Baseline Rapist.


The fear that grips a population when not one but two serial killers are said by police to be separately roaming Phoenix (and elsewhere in the Valley) is hard to quantify.

Phoenix police suspect that the serials have been responsible for attacks on 41 Phoenix-area residents since the middle of last year. Of that number, 11 have been murdered, six by the man renamed the Baseline Killer, and five by the so-called Serial Shooter.

Residents in and around the Washington, D.C., area experienced something in October 2002 akin to what Phoenicians are going through now, when the Beltway snipers murdered 10 people and injured three during a monstrous three-week stretch.

Even then, according to accounts of the Beltway case, many in the D.C. area held on to an it-can't-happen-to-me mentality during the siege, even though John Muhammad and Lee Malvo were randomly targeting their victims in all manner of locales.

But here in Phoenix, feelings of invincibility (or at least the belief that the odds of something bad happening are long) seems to have vanished, especially in the sections of town where the killers have struck most often.

It is surely no consolation to anyone that, statistically speaking, the crimes attributed to the serials are but a drop in the bucket in this increasingly violent Valley. The murder at 40th Street and Southern last December 12 was the 219th of 2005 within the Phoenix city limits. The vast majority were related to domestic discord, drug trafficking or gang-related issues.

In other words, most murderers and their victims knew each other somehow.

As of yet, according to Phoenix police, no evidence suggests that the Phoenix serial killers have known any of their victims.

It is the randomness, the unpredictability of the sudden and vicious strikes, that has so many people — especially women accustomed to being out alone at night — on a razor's edge.

The cases of the two serial killers have gone national. In the past few weeks, media from all over have swooped in looking for scoops, though developments have been so fleeting that a street interview with a concerned citizen seems to qualify as a scoop at this point.

Neighborhood gatherings to discuss the serials have been filled to overflowing.

What seems to have citizens in such a tizzy is that Phoenix police do not appear close to finding either guy, the Baseline Killer or the Serial Shooter.

That is not for lack of diligence.

More than 120 Phoenix officers have been assigned to work the cases pretty much full-time.

Several topflight homicide detectives — including the lead investigator in the Baseline cases, Alex Femenia — also are working literally around the clock.

Nerves are fraying. Channel 12 recently reamed Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris for attending a law enforcement conference in Toronto for a couple of days in the midst of the manhunt. It was as if the chief had Femenia's job of running down leads, instead of overseeing the entire department.

Until a few months ago, the media had been calling the Baseline Killer the Baseline Rapist, so named because of sexual assaults and robberies he had allegedly committed on or near Baseline Road dating back to August 2005.

A police chart of the Baseline Killer's crime spree suggests he has committed 11 rapes, has robbed 20 people (including some of the rape victims) and has murdered six people, most recently shooting 37-year-old Carmen Miranda to death on June 29 at a car wash on East Thomas Road near 29th Street.

He committed these crimes as far north as the 4500 block of North 40th Street (a rape), as far south as the 7200 block of Central Avenue (a robbery and a rape), as far east as the 3100 block of East Indian School Road (rape), and as far west as the 3100 block of West Vineyard Road, just north of Baseline Road (rape).

If Phoenix police are correct, the Baseline Killer's first known homicide was the September 2005 gunshot murder of 19-year-old Georgia Thompson in the parking lot of her Tempe apartment complex near U.S. 60 and Mill Avenue.

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4 comments
Alisha Coleman
Alisha Coleman

hi tina was a wonderful women. my fiance kenneth washington the third misses her alot she will always be in our hearts. rest in paradise mother in law. to his uncle and his bother call me at 602 507 1756

Newdirectionsclubhouse
Newdirectionsclubhouse

this was my niece....a wonderful person who did not deserve to leave this world in the manner she did. i too share the "PAIN AND ANIMOSITY " Although it's been five years there is not a day that I don't think of her. We recently had to bury Tina's Grandmother and now the family has to grieve again.I'm not one who wishes to seek revenge on any individual,but as my nephew stated...I sincerely wish whoever is responsible for this crime gets "ALL" they deserve and more Albert Jackson The uncle of Tina Marie Washington

Ricky Cunningham
Ricky Cunningham

I was reading this article about my mom being killed on her way home and I wanted to say that things are as they said. It was one of the most painful things in life to have to lay your own mother to rest on Christmas eve let alone at all! I felt so much anger towards the person that did this to her and I still do. There were a few things in your story that were wrong however. My brother got his nickname from my aunt not his friends. Also my brothers are not named Kenny! Their name is Kenneth Washington the third and the fourth after their father. It may not mean much to you but it is important to my family. I want everyone out there to know that while my mom was a good woman she also said that when people wrong you you have to stand up for yourself. I plan on making sure the person that did this to her gets everything that is coming to them. If you know anything about this murder send me a message at biggdaddy202003@yahoo.com and I will make sure you are heard. Thank you all for your love and support and to the killer watch out because here I come!!!!!!!

Allishacoleman20
Allishacoleman20

to my fiance's brother let god deal with it. but i hear you. hope all is well.

 
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