Thursday, November 30, 2017

Offender Profile of Seminole Heights Serial Murderer

The following offender profile was shared with Tampa Police Chief Dugan on October 20, 2017 and summarized in Zack Sampson's story:

This offender may be intentionally targeting the Seminole Heights area, particularly the class of individual that frequents the area. Due to the diversity of the neighborhood, the disparity between the offender’s perceived lower status may be driving his motivations to victimize those from other statuses. An effective strategy when addressing this offender publicly during press conferences would be to appeal to this perceived deficit without an air of condescension such as terminology characterizing him in a derogative manner. The victimization of others while they are completing everyday tasks, while not the offender’s primary motivation, rounds out a profile of an individual with a disdain for constructs such as wealth and stature oftentimes flouted by today’s society. Future news briefings should highlight that law enforcement does not support such biases.

From an analytical perspective, it is likely that the offender maintains a deep and personal relationship with the area, working or residing within a few blocks of the crime scenes and arriving to each location on foot or via bicycle. The silence afforded by such stealth-like techniques contributes to this offender’s ability to ambush his victims. Based on the likely method of transportation, the age of the perpetrator is between a range of 21 and 35. Use of a firearm places these homicides squarely within the capabilities of a serial homicide offender. The truncated timeframe and tight geographic location of the murders are typical of recent serial offenders such as Kenneth Gleason, Ryan Sharpe and Fredrick Demond Scott. Forensic evidence linking these homicides should be plentiful as youthful offenders rarely take countermeasures to ensure that the crime scenes are sanitized of their presence. Serial offenders do not always complete their intended crimes and as such all shootings within at least the past six months should be analyzed for potential linkages.

With the knowledge that police have increased patrols and that there is potential to be observed on surveillance video, the offender may alter his patterns or even be displaced to another area entirely. Encouraging vigilance among the public may instigate the offender to expand the target zone outward by a few blocks. With that in mind, it is recommended that law enforcement preemptively sweep these areas in continual shifts, particularly during the hours of 5 PM to 2 AM given the timing of previous attacks. Such timing could indicate that the offender is employed during the daylight hours in some menial capacity based on his potential age range. This offender is not mentally ill or unstable and is reacting to a set of internal processes that he may have verbalized to acquaintances or relatives. As is standard procedure in serial homicide investigations, no tip should be ignored and all should be treated as time sensitive. The offender may telephone law enforcement to confess if the pressure to capture him does not dissipate. Throughout the course of this investigation, an individual fitting some of the background outlined in this report may be arrested on unrelated offences and should be given equal consideration as other persons of interest and suspects generated from working other more viable leads. 

While collecting information from the public is a necessary component of this investigation, it is unwise to pit the community directly against this offender or attempt to have members of the public go about their business as this action may represent a further challenge to him and an opportunity to terrorize the community while also outsmarting law enforcement officers. These processes may be immensely gratifying to him. While an increase in attacks is possible when antagonizing a serial murderer, it is unlikely in this scenario given the temporal breaks between previous attacks. This offender may not be physically capable of venturing out onto the streets every day and could be restrained by responsibilities typical to all youthful offenders. Predicting the racial demographic of the offender is a foolhardy exercise but, due to the diversity of the neighborhood being targeted, it is likely that the offender is from a minority group. Indiscriminate killings of young people could be indicative of gangland activity and initiation rituals. It is recommended that known associates of area gangs are questioned. Offering reward money for information suggests that law enforcement may believe the offender to have ties to the neighborhood and connections to those that reside there.

Law enforcement officers should remain confident that they will apprehend this offender by relying on tactics already being implemented and deployed.

UPDATE: Howell Donaldson has since been arrested and charged for the four homicides related to this series in the Seminole Heights area. Donaldson is an African American male, 24 years old, working a menial job within the area of the homicides, linked by forensic evidence.

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