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Catching a Serial Killer

by Mark Fuhrman

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-019437-5

The grisly account of a Spokane, Washington, serial killer’s spree, and a critique of the local police department’s investigation of the crimes.

On October 19, 2000, Robert Yates pled guilty to the murder of 13 women. According to detective-turned-journalist Fuhrman (Murder in Greenwich, not reviewed), the killer could have been apprehended two years earlier. The author traces the Yates case as it unfolds through the late 1990s. He may have left police work for journalism and a ranch in Idaho, but he was anything but a disinterested citizen when dead women began appearing at various dumping sites in the Spokane area. In fact, Fuhrman and his colleague, radio co-host Mark Fitzsimmons, began to explore the murders themselves. The author presents a detailed diary of their investigations, laying out a blow-by-blow recounting of each body’s discovery, the atmosphere of the crime scenes, and the possible thoughts of the killer. At the same time, Fuhrman documents the Spokane police department’s reluctant handling of the case, its insularity, and its refusal to release substantive details to the public. Indeed, for a long while, the department refused even to acknowledge the existence of a serial killer. In his unofficial search, the author repeatedly turned up witnesses who were never questioned and leads that were never followed. He concludes with a close analysis of the arrest affidavit, substantiating his allegation that the department could have caught the culprit years earlier if they had relied less on their computer database and DNA testing, and more on investigating phoned-in leads with basic police work. Although he claims that “the last thing [he] wanted to do was second guess them,” Fuhrman has little patience with the Spokane police; his tone is that of an indignant everyman wondering what the clowns in uniform were doing.

Mostly forsaking sensationalism for plodding detail, Fuhrman disappoints: this is only for people interested in the tedious nitty-gritty of apprehending a killer.