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Valentine - Photo - Victim 1 crime scene photo.jpg

THE VALENTINE MURDERS

 

THE SOLUTION TO THE CASE

The Assignment Letter from the FBI states the goals for your investigation: (1) uncover the sequence of events that occurred during the killing spree, (2) identify the killer, and (3) determine the motive of the murderer. 

 

The Assignment Letter also states that you should observe the following protocols during your investigation: (1) solve the case by developing the most likely theory that is supported by the evidence, (2) accept statements made by witnesses or other sources of information as accurate unless they are contradicted by other evidence, and (3) if an inconsistency arises during your investigation, be sure to check it against the other available evidence.

 

CONSTRUCT A TIMELINE   

The spree killer murdered three women. To determine the sequence of events, creating a timeline is essential.  

 

Victim#1: Alison Hurley

The evidence establishes that Allison Hurley was killed first, roughly between 7:20 pm and 7:40 pm.  

 

Victim #2: Lisa Howard

An article in the newspaper states that medical examiner Dr. Lisa Park determined Lisa Howard was killed on Feb 14 between 8:30 pm and 8:45 pm. 

 

An Important Witness

In his interview with the FBI, witness John Avery stated that he saw a person in a hooded sweatshirt enter the lobby of the Midtown 5 building from the building’s stairwell carrying what looked like a balled-up white t-shirt. The unknown person discarded this item in a trashcan in the lobby at about 9:45 pm. An evidence report in the case file confirms Avery’s account.  A white t-shirt covered in blood was found in a trash can in the lobby. Analysis of the trace blood evidence on the t-shirt indicates that the blood was from victim Lisa Howard. Therefore, we can conclude that the killer left Lisa Howard’s apartment after murdering her, went down the stairs to the lobby, and discarded the bloody shirt in the trash can. The killer then left the building through the lobby door.

 

Victim #3: Summer Quinn

A telephone message note in the case file from Dr. Jennifer Bryce reveals that Summer Quinn was killed on Feb. 14 between 9:40 pm and 9:55 pm.  

 

A BLOODY SHIRT 

The bloody t-shirt is an important clue to help determine the killer's identity.  Because the shirt was covered in Lisa Howard’s blood (arterial blood spray patterns and cast-off blood from the murder weapon), the killer must have been wearing the shirt during the murder. The evidence report for the shirt indicates that the t-shirt is a men’s size medium.  The suspect profile for Tony Williams states that he is 6’5” tall and weighs 276 lbs. It is not possible that Tony Williams could have been wearing the shirt when Lisa Howard was killed. The killer must be one of the other five suspects.

 

TATTOOS TELL A STORY

The suspect profile for Daniel Thorne states that he has a tattoo sleeve on his left forearm. However, witness John Avery stated that the person he saw throw the bloody shirt into the trash can had their sleeves pushed up to the elbows and had no visible tattoos.  If Daniel Thorne were the killer, his forearm sleeve tattoo would have been visible to John Avery.

 

DNA ANALYSIS

DNA analysis (in the online report) of the blood from the t-shirt indicated that blood from a second person (in addition to the victim) was present. Although that DNA was too degraded by exposure to bleach to provide a DNA match to the killer, the analysis concluded that the killer's blood was from a male.  Therefore, suspect Angela Miller cannot be the killer.

 

A VALENTINE’S DAY DATE

The FBI interview with bartender Ronald Tisdale reveals that suspect Alex Dunne took Summer Quinn on a date on Valentine’s Day to the Bacchus Wine Bar.  Since Dunne was seen with victim Quinn shortly before her murder, this initially casts suspicion on Dunne. However, Tisdale’s interview actually provides Dunne with an alibi. Tisdale stated that Dunne and Quinn arrived at Bacchus shortly after the bar opened and stayed for about an hour. In the case file, a flyer for Bacchus indicates that the bar was open on Valentine’s Day from 7:00 pm until 2:00 am. If Dunne and Quinn had arrived at Bacchus shortly after 7:00 pm and stated for an hour, Dunne could not have been in Alison Hurley’s apartment when she was killed between 7:20 pm and 7:40 pm.

 

A MISTAKEN ARREST

The “Crime Reports” section of the newspaper states that police arrested a man on Valentine’s Day at 7:50 pm for DUI. After the suspect was taken to the police station, they determined that he was not actually drunk but was experiencing a diabetic emergency. He was treated and taken to Forrest City Hospital, where he was admitted for the night. The report also states that the DUI suspect was the bar manager for the Speakeasy. The suspect profile for Jason Frye indicates that he is at the bar manager at the Speakeasy and also is diabetic and requires daily insulin injections. Since Frye was at the police station and then Forrest City Hospital when victims Lisa Howard and Summer Quinn were killed, Frye cannot be the killer.

 

THE KILLER IS TIMOTHY PORTLOCK

 Why did Timothy Portlock go on a Valentine’s Day killing spree that resulted in the murders of three women?  When the FBI interviewed Jasper Viveiros, he stated that Allison Quinn had been a “serial dater” and dated men one after the other, with some overlapping. He further stated that “a few months back,” Hurley had dated Alex Dunne. She then began dating Timothy Portlock while still seeing Alex Dunne, eventually breaking up with Dunne in favor of Portlock. A week or so before she was killed, Hurley broke up with Portlock too.

 

HURLEY'S APARTMENT

The crime scene at Alison Hurley’s apartment provides clues about the sequence of events. The apartment is on the 8th floor and has only a single entrance. The homicide report for Hurley states that the door to her apartment was locked. Since there was no forced entry, this indicates that Hurley either opened the door for Portlock and let him inside, or he had a key.  Since the door was locked when police arrived, it must have been locked by Portlock after he killed Hurley and left the apartment. We can conclude that he either had a key or used Hurley’s key to lock the door when he left.

 

On a table in the apartment's living room was a vase with eight red roses and a Valentine’s Day card. The card indicated that the flowers had been delivered from Busy Bee Florist in downtown Forrest City. An article in the newspaper shows that the flowers were bought by Alex Dunne, the victim’s ex-boyfriend.

 

The newspaper also indicates that she had planned a romantic date on Valentine’s Day at her apartment with someone who was not Timothy Portlock. When Portlock arrived at Hurley’s apartment, she was wearing black lingerie, make-up and no shoes. There were roses on a table in her living room. Portlock flew into a homicidal rage. His motivation was punitive anger against Hurley for a perceived betrayal. 

 

A CONFRONTATION

The homicide report indicates that Hurley was killed in her bedroom. However, we know that a confrontation between Portlock and Hurley (and the blow that eventually caused her death) occurred in the kitchen.  A partial wine bottle and broken shards of glass were found in a pool of merlot wine on the kitchen floor. The wine bottle had never been opened. The orientation of smudged fingerprints on the bottle indicates that it was wielded like a club. Additionally, the autopsy results suggest that a depressed skull fracture in the back of the victim’s skull caused her death. Therefore, we can conclude that Portlock picked up the wine bottle and smashed it against the back of Allison Hurley’s head. 

 

He then carried Hurley into the bedroom, leaving additional blood droplets and trace evidence. Hurley died on the bedroom floor. Finally, Portlock moved her body into the bathtub in her bathroom, filled the bathtub with water, and then added bleach to obscure trace evidence he had left behind. Portlock also left a single rose petal floating in the bathtub water.

 

THE SECOND VICTIM

After leaving Hurley’s apartment, we can surmise that Portlock took the stairs down from the 8th floor to avoid being seen. He exited the stairwell on the fourth floor to avoid being seen by someone coming up the stairs.

 

An article in the newspaper stated that Rachel Luera (who lives on the 5th floor of the Midtown 5 building) returned to the building at 8:10 pm and took the stairs up to her apartment. As she passed the second floor, she heard someone above her on the stairs coming down. She pretended to answer a cell phone call as a safety measure, and the person quickly ducked out of the stairwell onto the 4th floor. We can surmise, based on the timeline, that this person was Portlock.

 

HOMICIDAL RAGE

On the 4th floor, Portlock encountered the second victim, Lisa Howard. The FBI profile of the killer states that he was driven by rage and punitive anger. FBI profiler Dr. Sarah Green also said that: “one or more of the victims could have been surrogates for another person in the killer’s life against whom he felt overwhelming anger and rage.”  When Portlock exited the stairs onto the 4th floor, he encountered Lisa Howard in a state of rage, having just killed brutally murdered his estranged girlfriend. 

A STRONG RESEMBLANCE

Howard had a strong physical resemblance to Alison Hurley. There were four bags of groceries on her counter, including perishable items like ice cream that had melted. We can conclude that Portlock interrupted Howard in the act of bringing groceries into her apartment. He attacked her before she had time to put the groceries away. A kitchen drawer containing cutlery was partially open. We can surmise that Portlock retrieved a kitchen knife from the drawer and forced Howard into her bathroom. Howard had defensive wounds to her forearms, indicating that she fought back against her attacker. Portlock stabbed Howard multiple times and killed her.

 

Portlock then arranged her body in the bathtub, filled in with water, and added bleach to destroy trace evidence. He used the murder weapon to draw a small heart in the victim’s blood on her bathroom countertop. Then he left the murder weapon next to the heart.

 

Portlock left Howard’s apartment on the 4th floor and took the stairs from the fourth floor to the lobby.  This was when witness John Avery observed Portlock toss his blood shirt into the trash can. We can surmise that he took a hooded sweatshirt from Howard’s closet to wear in its place. Portlock then left the building.

 

THE THIRD VICTIM

About two blocks from the Midtown 5 building, Portlock encountered the third victim, Summer Quinn. She also bore a strong resemblance to Alison Hurley. Still in a state of homicidal rage, Portlock lashed out at Summer Quinn. Portlock either encountered Quinn in the alley where he killed her, or on the sidewalk and then forced her into the alley. Portlock picked up a piece of rebar and repeatedly stabbed Quinn until she died. He then dropped the rebar, covered her body with plastic trash bags, and left the scene.

 

CONGRATULATIONS!

Spree killers are notoriously difficult to catch. If you were successful in identifying the murderer and uncovering the primary motive that started the killing spree, you have done well. The citizens of Forrest City will be grateful for your efforts. Excellent work!

 

DID YOU KNOW?  

Articles and advertisements in the newspaper often contain hints about future murder mysteries. It also includes references to people, places, and events important to Forrest City's continuing storylines.

 

Although each of our murder mysteries can be solved independently without any knowledge of other mysteries, there are dark secrets and hidden connections that tie all of our monthly mysteries together.

 

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