- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Scribner; 1st Edition edition (March 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684807084
- ISBN-13: 978-0684807089
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 149 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,499,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Trace Evidence: The Hunt for an Elusive Serial Killer Hardcover – March 1, 1998
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Some books about serial killers are dramatic and emotional. Trace Evidence, by contrast, has a steady relentlessness that allows the reader to become fascinated by the characters of the investigators and the facts of how the evidence was assembled. This killer specialized in picking up his victims along Interstate 5, near Sacramento, California, and he had an odd penchant for snipping at their clothes with scissors. As deaths of young women in several different jurisdictions began to form a pattern, a few detectives with contrasting approaches (excitable and given to hunches vs. cool and logical) formed a team. Author Bruce Henderson relates how they followed through on a bewildering number of leads, how they ranked their potential suspects on a point system that proved remarkably effective, and how, finally, a trace evidence expert spent many long hours looking through a microscope to cinch the case with analysis of fibers. Trace Evidence is skillfully structured, emphasizing the investigation rather than the trial, and includes crisp photographs of the key evidence. It would have been a better book if the author had included a timeline of the crimes and a map of the area, but that is a small nitpick about an excellent work of journalism. --Fiona Webster
From Library Journal
Because of a composite drawing and his assault of a prostitute, Roger Kibbe was the prime suspect in a series of abductions and sex stranglings over several years in the vicinity of Sacramento, California. Without hard evidence, though, the investigation of the "I-5 Killer" dragged on and the murders continued until trace-evidence specialist Faye Springer entered the case. The outwardly mild-mannered Kibbe, brother of a homicide detective, was convicted in 1991 on the basis of microscopic fibers and paint chips linking him to multiple victims. Henderson, coauthor of And the Sea Will Tell (LJ 12/90), has written a solid, compelling account of the capture of that most vicious of criminals, the random serial killer. Recommended for true-crime collections.?Gregor A. Preston, formerly with Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Throughout the book he discusses real-world issues that confront detectives, not in a "whiny" sort of way but rather in an informative kind of way. And this is a nice change of pace, because even if you enjoy reading true crime as I do, you learn to filter through all of the junk food that most writers include in their sugar-coated books. After all, many true-crime writers were in law enforcement at one point, and most of them want to spin information after-the-fact as much as possible to make themselves look good. Not so here.
You'll hear about politics of homicide -- homicide is "sexy" and so therefore it's put out front and center by departments, even though it's really only a small portion or real law enforcement. You'll learn how quickly the "uppers" in law enforcement seem to forget what it's really like to be out in the field -- they require their "underlings" to make "SWAGS," as the author describes them, as to how much time it will take to solve some serial murder case while that case is still being worked. "Who knows?" is the correct answer, and of course, "I'll tell you when we catch the UNSUB," should be added with a smirk by the detective. After all, while most detectives are smart, they aren't usually psychic, are they?
I first heard about this case while watching the show "Forensic Files" on the Investigation Discovery (ID) network. That series itself is pretty interesting, and that particular episode was really interesting. I will admit, however, that when I first saw this book and decided to purchase it, I thought that it was background information about the crimes of Randall Woodfield, who was nicknamed the "I-5 Killer." I had read Ann Rule's book with the same name quite a while ago, which was actually a really good book for her. (I've been very hit-and-miss on her writing. I personally feel that she gets too emotionally involved in the cases with respect to the victims, and I like the works of Jack Olsen much better in general. As he said himself, "Just the facts, ma'am!" and he stuck to that policy in his way-better-than-average books.)
But no matter. This work and this case is at least as interesting as the Woodfield case. Roger Kibbe is introduced here, but really only in passing. This book is more about trace evidence and its use by law enforcement, as you would expect by the title, and in some ways this is more interesting than the murders themselves as you learn what really goes on behind the scenes.
I've read other books about serial cases from the 80s, and it is pretty interesting that they all faced many of the same issues; no DNA technology was probably one of the worst. It is interesting to think about crime and crime fighting in the future; what will eventually happen? Well, if you've been paying attention, many people are now required to just get fingerprinted to get a driver's license; I believe they are here in California at least. And if the government can tell you what kind of health care you must buy, they can probably take your DNA as well. "Hey!" you may argue, "That's a slippery-slope argument!" and you may have a point. But even if my logic is slightly flawed, it doesn't mean that conclusion is wrong.
If and when that day comes, it would be really good to be a homicide detective. But it won't be so great to be a killer though. The tracest-of-trace evidence would then be enough to put anyone away. And it would all happen in a lab.
The book starts out with the killer's childhood, and it's a brief but incredibly informative look at what the killer did as a teen. Chilling insight.
Roger Kibbe is one of the most disgusting people I have read about, and I have read about other serial killers. His crimes were so awful, and he was so evil and patient and cruel; I just could not imagine what went through this monster's mind. To top it off, the murderer's BROTHER was a Homicide Detective! I disliked the brother as well; he HAD to know. He was giving his brother advice as to how to deal with the police, so the killer had an edge!
The tenacity of all the detectives and crime scene analysts, trace evidence experts, etc,, well, I cannot say enough good things about them. Without these caring people, the crimes would never have been solved.
It is disturbing to know how political it is with law enforcement, and don't even get me STARTED with the FBI. They were worse than useless in this case, as they have been known to be in many cases. Example: the FBI KNEW who the Unibomber was. Had the Unibomber not sent his "manifesto" for his BROTHER to read, who knows how long he would have gone on?
Back to the murders in the Sacramento area, the killer did his henious deeds in one county, dumped the body in an other county, sometimes driving 100 miles to dump the bodies. He knew that the police departments can get "territorial" and not share information. I am a Homicide Detective's daughter, and when I think what my Dad saw and had to deal with, and then, have someone tell him it was "not his case anymore"; it's infuriating. It would have helped so much if all the departments had worked together and created a TRUE task force, instead of the one the Detective's had to try and work with. "Jane Does" were lying in places, even buried, when the person had been reported missing ages ago! Who knows how many people Roger Kibbe murdered? Many more than he was charged with, that is a fact. The killer was married, to an annoying and bossy, yet pathetic woman. Her self esteem had to be so low, or she is such a delusional person, that she did not see the thing she had married. Harriet (his wife) is NOT a sympathetic person. I believe SHE should have been arrested as an accessory to murder after what she did. (I'd write what she did, but I don't want to spoil the book for you). Kibbe was a quiet, non confrontational man, who stuttered when he lied. He looked like ANYBODY, and he was very intelligent. One of his victims got away, and she described what he was STARTING to do; her story sent chills down my spine. His voice "switched" so quickly she wondered if she was with the same person! My God, she was lucky.
Although I am happy that this monster is never going to see the light of day outside of prison, and that he is in Level 4, and "misses his arts and crafts" (oh boo hoo), the last sentence of the book was...............well, it was one of those "oh my God" moments.
Wonderfully researched and written, (I plan to read more books by this author), I could not recommend this book more highly.
Most recent customer reviews
It was sad to see how destructive and unhelpful Kibbe's wife was. Another view of the government of dysfunction.