There's Someone Burning and Killing Women in Detroit, and the Media Doesn't Care

For the last few weeks, as the Detroit beat in major media outlets has been focused on the state-appointed emergency manager throwing his weight around like a bull in a china shop, a particularly horrific story has been hovering under the radar. Detroit police believe there may be a possible serial attacker on the prowl who is beating, raping, and burning women. No suspects have been publicly announced, and the story has been getting little if any national press coverage — and that's awful.

In late July, two women between the ages of 20 and 40 were found within a day and a mile of one another. Both women were naked, badly beaten, possibly sexually assaulted, and burned all over their bodies by an unknown assailant. It was later reported that both of the surviving women are sex workers. Detroit Police believe the two survivors share a common assailant, considering the overwhelming similarities between the two attacks.

On the morning of August 3, city residents were shocked when the body of a yet-unidentified woman was found in a burned apartment near Wayne State University. The body was not discovered by the fire crew which put out the blaze, but by the maintenance worker responsible for cleanup around two hours later. Police are linking this victim with the other two.

The fact that the body wasn't found by firefighters is shocking, but this is also a city where public services are hanging by a thread. In a news report from last year which recently went viral, a Detroit TV news anchor showed (with quite a bit of dramatic flair) how it took four hours for police to respond to a resident calling in a burglary. It almost seems seems funny in that video, but in light of someone like this unknown assailant running loose, it becomes tragic.

See the video below:


It's shameful how under-reported this story is in any major national news outlets. It's quite likely that if the victims weren't Detroit sex workers, but rather middle-class caucasian women, there would have been 24-hour coverage on major networks for quite some time already. Detroit may be the city most likely to be labeled as besieged in the national press, and it may be a favorite conservative talking-point punching bag, but the city's residents deserve better than that. Detroit's residents are struggling with public resources which are falling apart all around them, and their everyday lives are often overlooked in order to turn their home into a punchline or a cautionary tale. It's not right to simply give up on them because the books aren't in order over at City Hall.

So far, there have (thankfully) been no new attacks, but the assailant is still at large.

If you have any information which may help solve this case, call Detroit police at 313-596-5240 or 313-596-1950. You can also leave a tip with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.

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Alex Cline

Alex Cline is a media educator and activist around criminal justice issues in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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