Mesa police will beef up patrols now that investigators believe Sunday's shooting death of a 22-year-old woman was connected to one of two Valleywide crime sprees that have claimed the lives of 14 people. The death of Robin Blasnek marked the second Mesa shooting in nine days that police believe were carried out by the Serial Shooter.
Since May 2005, the Serial Shooter has killed six people in 36 shooting incidents in which people and animals were randomly targeted. The killer struck in Tolleson, Avondale, Glendale, Phoenix and once in Scottsdale before a July 22 nonfatal shooting of a bicyclist near Stapley Drive and Brown Road in Mesa. The trajectory raises the possibility that the killer has moved and is operating out of the East Valley, said Sgt. Andy Hill, Phoenix police spokesman.
"All you have to do is look at where they have occurred and the time frame, and certainly it indicates that," Hill said. Detective Jerry Gissel, Mesa police spokesman, said similarities in the methods and a small amount of forensic evidence lead investigators to believe Blasnek's death was part of the spree. Hill said that so far only four of the Serial Shooter's crimes are definitively linked, but the rest are connected by method and geography.
Gissel said Thursday that the Mesa Police Department will reallocate personnel and equipment and is in the process of increasing its patrol power.
Officers have volunteered to work extra hours if necessary.
However, police haven't said how many more officers will join the hunt, when they will hit the streets or where they will focus their attention.
"We don't want the individual that's out there committing these crimes to know what we're doing so he can try to avoid areas that maybe we'll be going in to," Gissel said.
The Mesa Police Department has 332 patrol officers. Gissel said the changes won't affect other aspects of the department. Some officers will be working overtime, he said.
It's not clear yet how much the extra protection will cost. Gissel said there is room in this year's budget, which went into effect July 1. The extra patrol officers will stay on the streets until the Serial Shooter is captured, Gissel said.
One Mesa police detective has joined a Phoenix task force investigating both the Serial Shooter and the Baseline Killer. There are now more than 185 members on the task force.
Police believe the Baseline Killer has shot eight people and raped and robbed several others in 23 incidents since Sept. 8. Also Thursday, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas dismissed a second-degree murder charge against a Kentucky man who recanted his confession to the Sept. 8 killing of Tempe resident Georgia Thompson, a crime police say is definitely linked to the Baseline Killer. Thomas said the confession of James Mullins was an "interesting, if not frustrating, infuriating subplot" to the serial killer investigations. "Based on the evidence we have right now, he's not (Thompson's) killer," Thomas said. A Kentucky jailhouse informant told police in December that Mullins had confessed to the crime. Mullins later confessed to Tempe detectives, who charged him with homicide and had him extradited to Arizona. Then on July 13, he recanted after Phoenix police developed evidence linking Thompson's death to the Baseline Killer. Mullins will be extradited back to Kentucky to face charges of persistent felony offender and first-degree bail jumping. He faces 10 to 20 years in prison, Thomas said.
"This may be the last 15 minutes of Mr. Mullins' fame," he said.