SAN DIEGO — Police have received 2,200 leads in connection with the serial stabbing deaths of five women but are no closer to catching the killer, officials said Monday.
"A piece is still missing," said Police Capt. Dick Toneck. "If I had something to bring forth in the way of an arrest, I would relish that. But as it stands, we're sifting through all the clues and all the tips people have phoned in. We're just hoping one will lead to an arrest."
The case has received widespread attention in San Diego, where Police Chief Bob Burgreen labeled it the largest manhunt in the city's history and the department's first priority. Toneck said the 33 investigators working the case full time have called back virtually everyone who has phoned with information.
Since Jan. 12, four women between the ages of 18 and 21 have been killed inside their homes in the middle of the day after their assailant apparently entered through an unlocked or open door.
The fifth victim, 42-year-old Pamela Gail Clark, was the mother of one of the victims, 18-year-old Amber Clark. Both were stabbed inside their home in University City on Sept. 13. The three other women lived within two blocks of one another in a row of apartment houses in the nearby community of Clairemont.
The manhunt and subsequent publicity led to a run on locks and security devices at local stores.
On Monday, Toneck, one of seven ranking officers assigned to the case full time, acknowledged that investigators are uncertain whether the killer is still in the San Diego area or has fled.
"We don't have anything to indicate (the suspect) is still here," the captain said. "We don't have any leads to tell us where he may be."
Toneck said the leads had given police a range of possible suspects "who fit the (suspect's) description; and yet, those are not the people. Their backgrounds, their whereabouts, just don't fit."
The San Diego Police Department made a controversial arrest shortly after the third killing in early April when a Puerto Rican-born man--a decorated ex-Marine--was followed for weeks and finally detained because he closely resembled a composite drawing of the suspect.
He was cleared shortly after his arrest.
Last week, San Diego police ruled out any link between the serial slayings and a man arrested on suspicion of rape in Escondido.
The Clairemont-University City suspect is said to be a light-skinned black male, 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-10, with medium build and short, dark, curly hair. He was briefly seen by a painter as he ran from the Clairemont apartment where 18-year-old Holly Suzanne Tarr was killed on April 3.
It is that one sighting upon which the widely distributed composite of the suspect is based.
Toneck said a psychological profile prepared for the San Diego Police Department by the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., indicates the killer is a loner and "disorganized" in his methods of operation.
Police believe the weapon used in each of the killings was obtained at the scene. In every case but the first, investigators later found knives believed to have been the killer's weapon.
Although he appears to be a loner, "there's no doubt that somebody--a loved one, a neighbor, a close friend--knows this guy," Toneck said. "We just don't know why this person hasn't called in and said, 'I know this guy.' We're hoping that will happen."
Toneck said the number of investigators working the case was recently scaled back, from 34 to 33, and that $145,000 has been spent investigating the slayings. He said the number of detectives working the case "may be scaled back further at the point where the leads start to diminish."
Police are concerned, Toneck said, that residents may grow complacent and stop taking precautions.
"This person is still around, still out and about, so please lock your doors in the daytime, be aware of your surroundings, get to know your neighbors and have your neighbors know you. Know the routines of one another at all times," Toneck advised.