December 20, 1997 in City

Police Fear Serial Killer Left Body Woman Found In Hangman Valley Unidentified

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Coroner’s officials carried another dead woman out of the Hangman Valley on Friday, leaving detectives to wonder if the scenic glen south of Spokane has become the dumping ground of a serial prostitute killer.

The body of the unidentified woman was the second discovered in the area in the past month.

Sheriff’s investigators hadn’t determined the identity of the latest victim, who was found Thursday by county employees working at a wastewater treatment station in the South 11400 block of Hangman Valley Road.

They weren’t even sure Friday how she died. An autopsy has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday.

But they were clearly worried that she could be the victim of a possible serial killer targeting Spokane women who work as prostitutes.

“My first concern was, ‘I hope it’s not another prostitute,”’ said Lt. John Simmons, who heads up the sheriff’s crimes against people unit.

Four working prostitutes have been found murdered in the Spokane area since summer. At least three others are missing. Another, Lois Jean Spicer, was located by Spokane police this week.

Last month, a man out walking his dog discovered the near-skeletal remains of Darla Sue Scott about a mile away from the wastewater treatment station.

Scott, who had a history of drug use and prostitution, had been shot in the head and buried in a shallow grave. Authorities are trying to determine if the murders are related.

Detectives and evidence experts spent most of Friday morning measuring the area where the latest body was found and looking for clues.

Investigators picked up a wide array of evidence, including tree branches and leaves that were covering the victim, and bagged it all up in brown paper grocery sacks.

“We’re going to pick up cigarette butts. We’re going to pick up beer cans,” Simmons said. “Anything that looks like it was left by a person, we’ll either pick up or photograph.”

Simmons said it is unlikely the latest victim died on Hangman Valley Road. It’s more likely she was killed elsewhere, then rolled down a steep embankment to where her body was discovered under a large cottonwood tree.

Detectives shooed reporters away when they prepared to move the body. “There’s a couple of distinctive things about the scene that likely only the killer would know,” Simmons said. “We don’t want that made public right now.”

The woman was wearing blue jeans and may have been wearing a top, he said.

The discovery of the second body has sent a wave of unease and a sense of regret through residents who live in the neighborhoods that overlook the valley.

They wonder who would be killing women and why they would be dumping them like so much trash in a roadside ditch, said Harold Halstead, who takes his morning walk along Hangman Valley Road.

“These people are human. They deserve better than this,” Halstead said. “It’s just sad.”

, DataTimes MEMO: The body found near the wastewater treatment station was identified as Shawn L. Johnson.

This sidebar appeared with the story:

AUTOPSY

Investigators aren’t sure how the woman found in Hangman Valley died. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

The body found near the wastewater treatment station was identified as Shawn L. Johnson.

This sidebar appeared with the story: AUTOPSY Investigators aren’t sure how the woman found in Hangman Valley died. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.


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