It started for me with Laci Peterson. From the first bewildering reports that a young pregnant woman had vanished from her home on Christmas Eve 2002 in a town in California’s Central Valley, I sensed that something greater and even more disturbing was at play than an already overwhelming individual family tragedy, although at the time I could not identify exactly what that was.
After more than five years of research and reporting, interviewing dozens of experts and investigating over 100 cases, I found I had uncovered not only the hidden story of what really motivated Scott Peterson, but in the process I had discovered a startling pattern that connected a seemingly endless number of cases that have never been “connected” by investigators before. I use the name “eraser killing” to identify and describe these crimes which, until now, have never been studied as a “type” because they didn’t fit any pre-existing pattern.
In my new book, Erased: Missing Women, Murdered Wives, I put forward a theory that tries to make sense of what have been seen only as a series of individual tragedies and aberrations. I believe that there is a method to the self-serving “madness” of these men who kill their vulnerable partners–sometimes disposing of them because they are pregnant, and always using the most cold-hearted of calculation.
What I have learned is that these master manipulators are not like “ordinary” murderers who kill in a fit of passion or in period of rage or revenge partly fueled by drugs or alcohol. These are men (and the vast majority are male) who use cunning, trickery, and audacious lying to manipulate friends and family of the dead (often missing) victim, to manipulate the media and the police, and ultimately to manipulate the legal system itself by targeting the “soft spots” in the law just as they used the deadly “soft kill” methods to eliminate their own wives.
While some of the cases made major news headlines and became “famous” in their tragedy…most remain unknown or forgotten except to their own communities of friends and loved ones. How many remember Lisa Tu, Janet March, April Barber, Pamela Mead, Fran Gladden Smith, Peggy Dianovsky, Lynda Singshinshuk, Isabel Rodriguez. They are women from every part of the country, every social class, every ethnic background. I believe that the behavior, the words, the psychology of their killers all fit a pattern.
Although there have been no arrests and no formal charges, in my opinion the "disappearances" of Lisa Stebic and Stacy Peterson--both from the same area of suburban Chicago--will fit the same pattern.