Murder claim doubted

April 12, 1995|By Jim Haner | Jim Haner,Sun Staff Writer

A Florida newspaper report linking a man known as the "vampire rapist" to a string of 32 unsolved murders nationwide -- including nine in Maryland -- met with skepticism yesterday from police, who say they have no evidence to support the claim.

But the disturbing habits of John B. Crutchley make it risky to ignore the allegations completely, say those who have followed his case over the years.

"Anybody who would do the kind of things this guy has done in his life is capable of pretty much anything," said James Wilt, a private detective in northern Virginia who tracked Crutchley for more than six years in an effort to link him to the 1978 murder of a Fairfax County woman that is still unsolved. "The guy is a monster."

Mr. Wilt gave up his hunt when Florida police arrested Crutchley in 1985 for kidnapping another young woman, handcuffing her and holding her captive in his home for 22 hours. The 19-year-old victim in that case told police she escaped through a bathroom window after Crutchley raped her, drained her blood through a system of tubes and syringes, and drank it from a Mason jar. Dubbed the "vampire rapist," Crutchley pleaded guilty a year later to rape and was sentenced to 25 years in prison -- but not before suggesting that he would be willing to lead police to the bodies of six missing Florida women in exchange for a lenient plea agreement for murder.

Negotiations broke down when police were unable to come up with any evidence linking Crutchley to the six killings, said Brevard County State's Attorney Norm Wolfinger, adding that "we did our best to bluff our way through, but we eventually got to the point that he realized we couldn't prove anything."

"There's no crimes they can link me to," said a defiant Crutchley, then 39, in a 1986 news conference. He went on to charge that homicide detectives were mixing him up with another John Crutchley and blamed pornography for giving him the twisted sexual impulses that led to his rape conviction.

With Crutchley fast approaching eligibility for parole and concern growing over his possible release, the Florida Today newspaper of Melbourne reported yesterday that it obtained a confidential law enforcement document linking Crutchley to 32 killings in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Florida and Ohio.

But Brevard County Sheriff Jake Miller, whose agency investigated the rape case, said in a prepared statement that he had no such information.

"This is a 10-year-old case that's coming up soon for a parole hearing, so it's getting a lot of media attention," said sheriff's spokeswoman Stacey Hall. "But there are absolutely no new leads or developments in the case that we are aware of. And we have no idea where these reports of 32 murders are coming from."

The newspaper reported that Crutchley worked as an engineer for several firms in the Washington, D.C., area from 1977 to 1983, including TRW, ICA and Logicon Inc.

It was while he was working for Logicon of Reston, Va., that he became a suspect in the murder of 25-year-old Debbie Fitzjohn, whom he had been dating at the time.

A hunter found her body in the woods near Fairfax in October 1978. It was so decomposed that it had to be identified by forensics experts from the Smithsonian Institution. Fairfax County police say that Crutchley remains a prime suspect in the case, but that they have never been able to link him definitively to the crime.

Crutchley also worked briefly for defense contractor TRW at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va., in the early 1980s when two women were murdered there -- prompting the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to begin a review of those

cases in recent weeks looking for links.

"It's very, very preliminary," said Wayne Bailey, special agent in charge.

That wait-and-see attitude was typical of investigators from Fairfax County to Baltimore yesterday in the wake of the newspaper reports out of Florida.

"If somebody wants to give us evidence of a bunch of vampire murders in Maryland, that's definitely something we'd be interested in," said Sgt. George Swope of the Prince George's County Police homicide unit. "But so far we haven't heard anything."

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