Visalia Articles 1977

Casebook of the Bedroom Killer

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Police Seeking To Link Rapist, Snelling Slayer

By Miles Shuper


Visalia Times-Delta, May 18, 1977, pp. 1A and 8A.

Two Visalia police detectives are in Sacramento today probing the possibility that a man being sought as a suspect in the raping of 23 women could be the Visalia ransacker and possibly the killer of Claude Snelling.

A number of similarities in physical description and actions of the Sacramento rapist and the Visalia ransacker have swung the Visalia investigation, the most intensive in the city's history, to the state's capital city.

Although it has never been proved, investigators have been working on the premise that the ransacker is the same person who killed the College of Sequoias journalism instructor Sept. 11, 1975.

Lt. Roy Springmeyer said today, "Because of the degree of the similarity in the physical descriptions and the methods used, we just can't afford to overlook the possibility that the same person could be responsible for the rapes and the Visalia crimes."

Detectives Bill McGowen and Duane Shipley left Visalia early today to meet in Sacramento with investigators probing the rapes in which the attacker now has threatened to kill two persons.

The increasing violent behavior of the Sacramento attacker matches the psychological profile compiled during investigation of the Visalia ransacker case and the murder of Snelling, investigators said.

In the Sacramento case, psychologists believe the rapist is trying to prove himself sexually because he "has difficulty establishing a normal sexual relationship."

When psychologist compiled a profile of the man responsible for the Visalia crimes, they said he probably would become more violent and dangerous.

Officers also are convinced that the man who shot Snelling is the man who shot a detective McGowen during a Dec. 10 stakeout of a neighborhood in which a prowler, believed to be the ransacker, had been working.

McGowen was not hurt, but a bullet pierced the veteran officer's flashlight.

It was between the time of the Snelling murder and the shot fired at the officer that the string of Sacramento rapes began, generally in October, 1975.

Visalia investigators said the first Sacramento rapes during late 1975 could have been committed by the man sought in the Visalia cases.

In Sacramento the frequency of the rapes has been increasing along with the degree of violence. In recent weeks the rapists has become increasing bold and on six occasions the sexual attacks were committed after the victims' husbands were tied up by the attacker.

In most of the earlier attacks, however, the victim was alone in the home. The rapist typically wears a mask, ties up people and ransacks the house.

The Sacramento attacks have occurred in middle-income and upper-income residential areas and a local group calling itself the east Area Rapist Surveillance Patrol is offering a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the rapist.

In Visalia $4,000 is being offered for the arrest and conviction of Snelling's killer.

Visalia police Sgt. John Vaughan who has been heading the Snelling murder investigation said today he has copies of many of the Sacramento rape investigation reports and the profiles of the crime patterns.

They are being closely studied and compared to the information gathered by Visalia officers during the 20-month investigation of the Visalia slaying and the nearly four-year probe of the ransacking burglaries, Vaughan said.

There also are similarities of the composite pictures of the Snelling-ransacker suspect and the Sacramento rapist.

The Visalia subject is described as between 25 and 30 years of age, 5-foot, 10 inches in height and 180 to 200 pounds in weight. He was described as having short, straight blond hair, a pale smooth round face and stubby feet and hands. The subject is believed to be left handed, and often wore a dark ski mask.

The subject in the Sacramento cases is described as between 19 and 30 years of age with blue or hazel eyes, five-foot eight to 10 inches in height, with a "good build" and dirty blond or medium brown hair.

The Sacramento rapist also wears a ski mask.

In Sacramento during a news conference, Fred Reese, chief deputy sheriff said "This individual is probably in a homosexual panic caused by his inadequate endowment."

Reese said the rapist, who typically carries a gun or and a knife but has never disfigured or wounded any victim, probably had a "domineering" mother and an "absent" father or a weak father. Reese based his comments of reports of psychologists and psychiatrist who have studied all known facts about the rapist.





Link To Rapist Still Sought

By Miles Shuper

Visalia Times-Delta, May 19, 1977, pp. 1A and 8A.

Visalia police investigators said today they still are attempting to determine if a link exists between the Sacramento rapist and the Visalia ransacker.

Sgt. John Vaughan said "right now we are still looking at evidence to determine if, indeed, there is a link between the Sacramento cases and ours."

Two officers went to Sacramento Wednesday to try to develop evidence linking the series of rapes to the man officers have nicknamed the Visalia ransacker whom they also believe may be responsible for the Sept. 11, 1975 slaying of Claude Snelling.

A number of similarities in physical description and actions of the man being sought for raping 23 Sacramento women and the Visalia ransacker have been reported.

Sgt. Vaughan, Lt. Roy Springmeyer and investigators Bill McGowen and Duane Shipley conferred all morning about the cases. McGowen, who was shot at in December, 1975 by a man believed to be the ransacker, and Shipley returned from Sacramento last night.

Sgt. vaughan said he could not tell how long it would be before a determination can be made if the Sacramento and Visalia cases are linked.

Since October 1975, at least 23 women have been attacked by a young white male known as "the east area rapist" because he strikes repeatedly in the same middle and upper-middle-income neighborhoods east of the state Capitol.

"There are people who have reported they are sleeping in shifts and that sort of thing," says Bill Miller, press spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

"Tuesday night we had 2,500 more calls through the switchboard than we normally have. Over 2,000 were calling with information they thought would help catch the rapist. And there were more calls about prowlers and suspicious persons," Miller said.

The increasing violent behavior of the Sacramento rapist matches the psychological profile compiled during the investigation of the Visalia ransacker case and the murder of Snelling, a College of the Sequoias jounalism instructor.

While sheriff's deputies say there may have been some "copycat" rapes, they think they can tie the 23 rapes to one man between 19 and 30 with dark blond or brown hair.

The rapist hasn't killed or wounded anyone, authorities say, but he wields a knife and gun and promised his 23rd victim Tuesday he would kill two people if he saw stories about the attack.

In his earlier attacks, the rapist only broke into homes where there was no man. But he is growing bolder. Now he also strikes in homes where husbands lie asleep next to their wives and wakes up to find the rapist pointing a gun at them.

He usually wears gloves and some sort of hood or mask with small slits for his eyes and mouth. Typically, he rummages around a house and robs before he leaves his victims behind - tied up.

It is a style that strikes terror in the hearts of the residents in the area, lined with modern spacious homes.

The sheriff's department won't say how many people it has working on the case.

"We're doing the maximum," says Miller. But he admits the department is no closer to knowing who the rapist is than it was months ago.

"This area is densely populated. It's impossible to cover an area like that without putting a man on every block. We'd have to call out the National Guard," Miller said.

The department also revealed earlier this week it had consulted psychologists who say the rapist probably has small sexual genitals, a domineering mother and a weak or absent father.