Fear Factor

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

Complicating matters in that case is that Kentucky resident James Mullins confessed to Tempe cops last January that he had killed Thompson. A grand jury subsequently indicted the 33-year-old on one count of second-degree murder, a charge he is still facing.

But that all occurred before Phoenix police uncovered what a department commander has called "irrefutable evidence" that Georgia Thompson's death was the work of the Baseline Killer. Mullins subsequently recanted, though he is still facing the murder charge as Maricopa County prosecutors try to sort it out.

All of the descriptions of the Baseline Killer have been frustratingly vague. Some victims have described a bald black male. One thought he was Hispanic. Others have recalled dreadlocks (police suspect it was a wig) topped with a kind of fisherman's cap — hence that unsatisfying composite sketch that most Valley residents have seen time and again.

Another point: Five of the Baseline Killer's six murder victims have been women.

The one male victim, George Chou, 23, was shot to death sometime after he left his job at a Yoshi's at 24th Street and Indian School Road on the evening of last March 15. Chou's body was found the next morning in an alley near 33rd Street and Indian School.

A few hours earlier, employees of a Burger King at 22nd Street and Indian School had discovered the body of Liliana Sanchez-Cabrera, 20, inside a car. She, too, had died of a gunshot wound.

Sanchez-Cabrera had just finished her first day of work at Yoshi's, and co-worker Chou apparently offered to give her a lift home.

Then there is the Valley's other ubiquitous random killer, the so-called Serial Shooter.

He (authorities assume it is a "he," though they had no eyewitnesses and no description of the shooter) is said to be responsible for five murders and the shootings of 16 other people since May 24, 2005. In addition, police suspect the Serial Shooter of killing five dogs and three horses.

The Shooter isn't suspected of committing rapes or robbing his victims as is the Baseline Killer in many instances.

He just shoots, and splits.

In stark contrast to the Baseline Killer, all but one of the Serial Shooter's murder victims have been male. The killer mostly has been targeting pedestrians and bicyclists, shooting them from behind, usually late at night.

For example, just before midnight last December 30, a U.S. Postal Service worker was walking home from a bus stop near 34th Street and Van Buren after work when, out of nowhere, someone shot him in the neck.

Miraculously, he survived without permanent injury.

The man later told detectives that he had never seen or heard anything before the bullet struck him.

Minutes after that shooting, in a residential area about a mile to the north, someone shot two family dogs (one of them died) outside one home and also fatally shot a next-door neighbor's dog.

Phoenix police say they have linked the shootings of the postal worker and the canines to the Serial Shooter.

The two most recent incidents police attribute to the Serial Shooter occurred within half an hour of each other during the wee hours of Sunday, July 9.

One victim was a 27-year-old woman and the other a 31-year-old man. Neither victim knew each other.

The first shooting, of the woman, took place near 44th Street and Indian School. The second was near 50th Street and Van Buren. Both victims were hospitalized, but also survived.

What makes investigating the Serial Shooter even thornier than investigating the Baseline Killer is the geographic breadth of his crimes.

Phoenix police say the Serial Shooter has shot people as far west and north as 101st Avenue and Camelback Road (a woman riding a bike was shot in the hip), as far east as the 6100 block of East Thomas Road in Scottsdale (the murder of 20-year-old Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz, who happened to be walking down the street about 10:30 p.m.), and as far south as the 100 block of South 10th Avenue (another homicide).


Sergeant Dennis Orender starts his December 12 briefing with a reference to the Christmas holidays, noting wryly what all seasoned cops know: the Yuletide season means a spike in violence and dysfunction.

Then it is down to business.

Orender says the victim is an unidentified black or Latina woman who looks to be in her 30s.

Paramedics pronounced her dead at 7:10 p.m.

"The only story we have is from one witness, one male," the sergeant says.

That man, who will be referred to only as Pete in this story, runs a wholesale catering business in a back corner of the warehouse. He is inside with an officer, waiting to be interviewed.

Pete claims to have heard two bangs, the sergeant says, and had opened his back door to see what was up. From a distance of about 25 feet, he saw a man standing over the victim, gun in hand.

The man pointed the weapon at Pete, who retreated inside and called 911 at 6:54 p.m.

Unfortunately, the sergeant says, Pete couldn't provide any description of the gunman's face.

Detective Femenia steps over to chat with crime-scene technician Lanie Finlay. She is taking scene measurements, photographing everything, collecting evidence.

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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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