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Algorithm Finds 51 Eerily Similar Chicago Murders

'It just screams serial killer'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 30, 2019 11:58 AM CDT
This undated family photo provided by Riccardo Holyfield shows his cousin, Reo Renee Holyfield. Her body was in a dumpster, and nobody found her for two weeks last fall.   (Courtesy of Riccardo Holyfield via AP)

(Newser) – The bodies turned up in some of Chicago's most derelict places: alleys, abandoned buildings, weed-choked lots, and garbage containers, per the AP. The victims were mostly black women who had been strangled or suffocated. Authorities believed many were prostitutes or drug addicts or both. There was evidence of sexual attacks, and some of the dead were naked or wearing torn clothes. The slayings that began in 2001 continued for years and remain unsolved. Now a national nonprofit group and a computer algorithm are helping detectives review the cases and revealing potential connections. The Murder Accountability Project, which analyzes homicides across the US, fed information about thousands of Chicago homicide victims and the way they died into a computer, which ultimately spit out 51 strikingly similar cases involving women whose bodies were found in some of the poorest pockets of the city.

"It just screams serial killer," said project founder Thomas Hargrove, who presented his findings to police in 2017. Hargrove's group has made similar efforts elsewhere. In 2010, it analyzed a pattern of 15 unsolved strangulations of women in Indiana. Four years later, a man in Gary confessed to killing seven of them. Detectives in Chicago started the investigation under pressure from activists. They are now reassessing each of the deaths, looking for links that went unnoticed as well as any new clues. So far, police have not reported any breakthroughs or any firm connections between the slayings, which were paused between February 2014 and June 2017. In 21 killings where DNA evidence was recovered, the genetic evidence belonged to 21 different people. Still, Deputy Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan suspects there are "one or two bad guys traveling the city," preying on women of "a high-risk lifestyle."

(Read more murder stories.)

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