Clue-filled letter from Washington-area sniper posted in PDF
Content, style of written communication provided details that helped lead to arrests

26 October 2002

By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

SEE ALSO: "Washington Post's scanned-to-PDF Sniper Letter More Revealing Than Intended"

After weeks of random, senseless killings in and around the greater Washington, DC. metropolitan area, a sense of calm has returned after two highly probable suspects are in custody -- in good part due to clues they willingly provided in written and telephone communication they initiated with law enforcement officials tracking them.

DC Sniper Letter

The Washington Post has posted a scanned, digital version (PDF) of the most recent and most revealing written evidence -- a letter apparently written by one of the two suspects, addressed to police, left conspicuously tacked to a tree near the spot where one of their innocent victims was gunned down on October 19. Its use by investigator's is a classic example of "reading between the lines," deciphering information beyond what the sender intentionally meant to convey.

Much broadcast and print media speculation throughout the investigation, which eventually included the FBI and other federal government support -- had concluded that based on the their repeat ability to evade massive police manhunts, the shooter(s) likely possessed considerable intelligence. Then they found the letter that contained not only threats and demands for a $10 million ransom, but also revealed a variety of details and insights that eventually helped the law enforcement team solve the puzzle.

DC Sniper letter

According to the Post's article, "Experts said the letter ... indicates that the suspected snipers may not have been as clever as originally thought." The letter's cover page is addressed "For you Mr. Police," and is signed "Call me God," a reference to an earlier written clue left at the scene of a previous random hit-and-run shooting. It also helped to more firmly establish a motive, although the proposed plan for the electronic payoff as described in the letter was implausible.

After analyzing the letter, one linguist expert concluded: "These are not illiterate ramblings," noting the author's "use of Roman numerals, gerunds, complex sentences, hyphenations at syllable breaks and the use of parentheses and quotation marks."

Just as they gradually left a trail of clues that led to their arrests, the two suspects are likely to leave a trail of PDF files as they make their way through the legal system. A number of other documents related to the case have already been posted, including the search warrant application and the eventual arrest warrant, and most recently the murder charges against each of the suspects filed by the state of Maryland, all available in PDF from Findlaw.com (www.findlaw.com).


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