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Profilers suspect killer’s Malvo note a ruse

Message left at N.Y. crime site says slayings to continue unless sniper freed

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A note promising a series of murders until D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo is released from prison was found beneath the body of a slain pregnant woman in her Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment over the weekend, adding a disturbing twist to a gruesome crime. But criminal profilers say they are skeptical of the killer's professed identification with the series of shootings that terrorized the D.C. area 10 years ago.

A New York Police Department spokesman said police are taking seriously a message that read, "I will kill 1 pregnant woman a month starting now until Lee Boyd Malvo is set free!" But officials would not elaborate on the investigation into the stabbing death of 38-year-old Vindalee Smith, and the death of her 8 1/2-month-old unborn son.

Police found Miss Smith in her apartment in a pool of blood on Saturday. Her throat had been slashed.

Friends and family told police that Miss Smith had planned on getting married Sunday.

The victim was due to marry Anthony Jackman. It was unclear whether Mr. Jackman was the father of the unborn baby. He is still married to another woman, according to reports, and was questioned by police. He remains a person of interest.

Criminal profiler and 25-year FBI veteran Clinton R. Van Zandt said police should consider the possibility of serial killings to avoid overlooking any clues, but the investigation should be two-pronged.

"The note, the way it's written, how it's written, that has more of trying to make police look left and I'm going to run right. This woman, like most women in her situation, was the victim of someone they knew," Mr. Van Zandt said.

It would not be the first time a killer has attempted to mislead investigators by citing high-profile crimes.

In 2008, the body of pregnant Army Spc. Megan Lynn Touma was found in a hotel bathtub in Fayetteville, N.C. Scrawled on the bathroom mirror in lipstick was a symbol made famous during the 1960s by the California "Zodiac" serial killer, and prior to her body being found, a letter was sent to the local newspaper signed with similar "Zodiac" symbols.

Edgar Patino, then 27, the father of the unborn child who served with Touma at Fort Bragg, was arrested on charges related to her killing. Police also linked him to the letter.

Louis B. Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that a study of more than 200 domestic homicides found that about 19 percent of them are staged.

"This strikes me as an example of crime-scene staging, where an individual tries to redirect the investigation away from himself because he's a logical suspect."

During the 2006 trial of sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad, who was executed for his role in the crimes in 2009, Malvo testified that Muhammad instructed him to kill a pregnant woman. Malvo, a teenager at the time of the killing spree, told the court that he once had a pregnant woman at a fast-food restaurant in his gun sight but couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger. He is serving a life sentence at a southwest Virginia prison.

Paul LaRuffa, who owned a pizzeria in Prince George's County, was shot in 2002 by Malvo, who stole $3,500 and a laptop computer. The money was used to buy the Chevrolet Caprice from which the subsequent shootings took place.

Mr. LaRuffa said that while Miss Smith's death was terrible, as for the note, "I don't think I'm going to lose sleep over that."

"My first feeling is that it's somebody who's taking advantage of this more recent publicity," Mr. LaRuffa said. "If I had to guess, I don't think is guy or woman is associated with Malvo in any way. It's just picking something that's going to upset people and it could've been Malvo, it could have say any number of other people or other things that would be just as scary."

D.C.-based criminal profiler Pat Brown said the note and the killing don't seem to point to the work of a serial killer.

"Most likely we're talking about a bunch of bull," Ms. Brown said. The killer "just wants to throw police off track."

The fact the killer stabbed Miss Smith rather than shooting her like Malvo and Muhammad had discussed was also odd, Ms. Brown said.

"This would be a massive anomaly, somebody out there playing Hollywood games," Ms. Brown said. "I'm not buying it. That's not usually the way they [serial killers] work. But if it was something, we would probably have the most bizarre crime of the century."

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