The fourth in a string of murders has claimed the life of a 60-year old man, Ronald Felton, in Seminole Heights, Tampa, FL. Felton was reportedly on his way to the food bank where he helps set up at the church once or twice a week. Witnesses heard five shots and he was dead.
Seminole Heights is a small, distinct area in Tampa that has been plagued with several killings within a “10-block, 15-block block area” the mayor, Bob Buckhorn, told CNN. These murders have yet to be solved, though information about the suspect has slowly begun to emerge. He is described as being just over 6 feet tall, a thin, black male with a little lighter complexion and was captured on security camera (watch the video below). He was seen at the scene of Fulton’s murder.
He has been dubbed a serial killer by many news organizations, but it is a bit premature as the investigation has not been concluded and the killer has not been caught. After the first slew of killings, Mayor Buckhorn said that, “We’re not using the word ‘serial killer’ yet because we just don’t have enough evidence. We’re not afraid of that word–if we think that that’s true, we’ll be happy to say it. But we’ve got to connect the dots.”
Last month’s victims were killed on October 9, 11, and 19. Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was shot in front of his house; Monica Hoffa, 32, was found dead in a parking lot just half a mile away from where Mitchell was killed; Anthony Naiboa, 20, got on the wrong bus and was killed as he was headed to another bus stop. Police suspect the perpetrator to live in the same neighborhood as all these victims.
Video of the killer, courtesy of Tampa PD:
If these killings are connected as they appear to be, and the motive falls in line with the definition of a serial killer, there may be more attempts and Tampa residents ought to remain vigilant. Like “terrorist,” branding someone a “serial killer” before all the evidence comes to light is a dangerous assumption. Police still have to rule out some unseen connection between the victims, the motive behind the killer, or other evidence that might point them in another direction. While highly unlikely and almost absurd, it’s important that they investigate every case that thoroughly.
The FBI defines it this way: “Serial murder required a temporal separation between the different murders, which was described as: separate occasions, cooling-off period, and emotional cooling-off period.” The Seminole Heights killer, if connected to all four murders as expected, has most definitely had this “cooling-off period” as the last murder was almost an entire month ago. There is an official definition of “serial killings” by Congress, but in the FBI’s opinion that definition is “limited in its application.”
According to the FBI:
The different discussion groups at the Symposium agreed on a number of similar factors to be included in a definition. These included:
• one or more offenders
• two or more murdered victims
• incidents should be occurring in separate events, at different times
• the time period between murders separates serial murder from mass murder
In combining the various ideas put forth at the Symposium, the following definition was crafted:
Serial Murder: The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.”
The FBI also dispelled some myths in regards to serial killers. The following are untrue myths:
- Serial killers are all dysfunctional loners
- Serial killers are all white males
- Serial killers are only motivated by sex
- All serial murderers travel and operate interstate
- Serial killers cannot stop killing
- All serial killers are insane or evil geniuses
- All serial killers want to get caught
You can see that some of the tropes perpetuated by Hollywood are not so true: the classic serial killer who has a sexual inclination to kill, needs the attention of the world and cannot withhold their compulsions to keep killing–that may be true sometimes, but it is certainly not the case with most killers. They all have their nuances and authorities must investigate with that in mind if they hope to catch them.
Featured image courtesy of Tampa PD video on YouTube.