Yesterday afternoon, Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee issued a public safety announcement
. Godbee said that with the increased use of the Internet and social media, police have an obligation to identify any website that may potentially pose a threat to individuals.
On the afternoon of Dec. 19, the bodies of two women were found in the trunk of a car parked in the driveway of a vacant home. According to police there no obvious signs of trauma on the bodies.
At 1 a.m. on Christmas Day, firefighters responded to a call concerning a vehicle fire. After the fire was put out, firefighters found the bodies of two women in the trunk of the 1997 Buick LaSabre.
No official cause of death has yet been determined and until the Medical Examiner issues final reports on the deaths, they are being treated as "suspicious."
All four of the deceased were young black women who ranged in age from 23 to 29. The two women whose bodies were found eight days ago have been identified as Demisha Hunt, 24, and Renisha Landers, 23. Although police have tentatively identified the other two, their names have not yet been released.
So far investigators determined that three of the four victims had placed ads on Backpage.com. Backpage.com
provides free classified ads for a large range of goods and services, including ads for escorts and other adult services. The three women had placed escort ads on the site and it is believed that is how their killer or killers made contact with them.
We are not passing judgment on any individual who is utilizing this website, yet we felt it was imperative to alert the public that deciding to meet unknown persons via the Internet can be extremely dangerous.
According to the Detroit Free Press
, this is not the first time Backpage.com has been linked to crime in Detroit. A woman was recently arraigned on a charge she pimped out a 16-year-old girl hundreds of times by using the adult services section on Backpage.com. On Nov. 4, the FBI responded to the ad and arrested Satoria Youngblood, who is alleged to have kept 40% of the teen's earnings. Youngblood also faces a charge of child pornography.
Backpage.com has appeared to replace Craigslist as the number one website offering ads for adult services. Craigslist removed its adult classified sections after pressure from the public and threats by 17 state attorneys general.
According to the Advanced Interactive Media Group
, Backpage.com grossed $24.3 million during the last year from its adult services advertising.
About the connection between Backpage.com and the four deaths, Chief Godbee said,
The tie for us is disconcerting. We're stopping short of calling it a serial pattern.