Murder in Spokane
I was in New Orleans in early December of last year. I always make
a point of walking down Bourbon Street at least once each night I
am there. I was accompanied during one of these walks by a friend
of mine who has lived his entire life in the city. His observations
are always interesting; he can point things out that I might
otherwise miss. He was up to form on a night in question. "There,"
he said, nodding to a couple of young women chatting up a
middle-aged man on a sidewalk outside of what is now referred to as
a "gentleman's show bar." Behind them, a woman danced in naked
silhouette in a window covered by a sheet and illuminated by a
spotlight. "Them two don't match with that guy. They'll go across
the street" --- he nodded to a hotel, an upscale place catering to
well-padded expense accounts --- "and be out in an hour or so, be
back out here, pullin' the same ****." As my friend spoke, the trio
crossed the street, heading toward the hotel. He shook his head.
"You come back here in January, they'll be gone. Girls turn up
missin' around here all the time. No one knows where they go.
I had cause to reflect on this while reading MURDER IN SPOKANE.
Spokane, over a 10 year period, experienced a series of episodes
involving the murder and dumping of at least 18 women who were
known prostitutes. It was not until after August 1997, however,
when the bodies of two women were discovered on the same day, that
a task force was created for the purpose of identifying and
arresting the individual involved. Mark Fuhrman, the man who solved
the Simpson/Goldman and Moxley murders, provides an account of the
investigation that is shocking, but not for the reasons one might
The evidence, when laid out by Fuhrman, indicates that there were
indications long before 1997 that the Spokane area had a
significant problem with a serial murderer. It was some time,
however, before significant attention was paid, due in no small
part to the fact that the murderer's victims were prostitutes. By
the time a task force was named, there had already been several
victims. What Fuhrman demonstrates is that the Spokane police had
the opportunity to catch the murderer several times within two
months after the August 1997 discoveries and had possession of
evidence that could have led to his arrest and conviction. The
eventual arrest did not come until some three years --- and several
more murders --- later. Fuhrman's account demonstrates that the
problem was that the Spokane police relied too much on computers
and forensics and not enough on good, old-fashioned police work.
The individual eventually arrested and convicted of the crimes did
not arouse more than incidental suspicion until he declined a
voluntary blood test, yet the evidence necessary to convict him had
been in the possession of the police for years.
MURDER IN SPOKANE succeeds both as a real world mystery and as a
statement. It is a documentary as to how crimes are solved ---
whether by good police work or by winning ugly. It also is a
statement as to how the invisible among us --- those on the
sidewalk, to whom we afford a passing glance but little else ---
can be tragically separated and culled, without our even noticing.
It is unfortunate and sad and true. By the way, the women I
mentioned outside the club...They were nowhere to be seen by
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011