At Least One Missing Woman Found Safe Police Step Up Patrols In Neighborhood Believed Being Stalked By Serial Killer

THURSDAY, JAN. 8, 1998

The task force tracking a serial killer in Spokane located a missing woman Wednesday and has leads on the whereabouts of another.

Detectives learned that Brandy Mitchell, 23, is alive and well. And there are reports that Jessica Fitzgerald was seen in Spokane this week, police spokesman Dick Cottam said.

Task force members are following up on those tips, Cottam said.

Detectives announced Tuesday that Mitchell, Fitzgerald and two other women were missing and possibly victims of a serial killer responsible for murdering four women since November.

Detectives still are looking for 41-year-old Sunny Oster and 34-year-old Linda Marie Maybin. Oster hasn’t been seen since October; Maybin, since late November.

Meanwhile, residents of east Spokane say police have beefed up patrols in the neighborhood where the serial killer is thought to be trolling for victims.

Officers questioned several people on the streets Wednesday night, and some residents say they were searched by officers.

Detectives also have collected license plate numbers of suspicious vehicles taken down by people who work or live in east Spokane, residents said.

The task force is investigating the unsolved homicides of 18 women since 1984, including seven since last August. Detectives have said at least four of the cases are connected.

Investigators believe Laurie Wason, Shawn McClenahan, Darla Sue Scott and Shawn Johnson were killed by the same person or people. The women were shot, then dumped in out-of-the-way locations around Spokane.

The victims were known to work as prostitutes or abuse drugs. Many frequented a crime-riddled area east of downtown Spokane, along Sprague and First avenues.

The missing women also fit that description. Fitzgerald has been arrested twice for prostitution in Spokane since 1995, according to court records. Oster has a history of prostitution arrests in the Tacoma area, state records show.

Fitzgerald’s father said Wednesday that his daughter leads an “alternative lifestyle” that takes her all over the country, but he believes she’s OK.

Brad Fitzgerald said he last saw his daughter two days before Christmas at a bus station in the Tri-Cities. The 23-year-old woman was headed south with her boyfriend and their young son, he said.

Jessica Fitzgerald called home to Valley, Wash., on Christmas Day and said she was in California, her father said. “She told her mom they were on their way to Vegas. Her boyfriend apparently had work there.”

Managers at First Step Services, a drug- and alcohol-free safe house in east Spokane, said they saw Fitzgerald walking along East First Avenue on Tuesday morning.

Detectives haven’t been able to confirm that, Cottam said.

Brad Fitzgerald said he doesn’t think his daughter is in Spokane or will be back any time soon. There is a warrant out for her arrest because she failed to check herself into jail to serve 90 days on a recent criminal conviction, he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: Anyone with information on the missing women or the homicides is asked to call Crime Check at 456-2233.

Anyone with information on the missing women or the homicides is asked to call Crime Check at 456-2233.

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