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TEAM EFFORT: These task force members had their picture taken in front of the big bulletin board filled with information and photos from the case. Left to right are Cindy Cummings, Robert Engelke, Linda Mattson, Larry Heim, J.J. Geoghegan, Don Crotty, Marilyn Johnson, Mark Franzman, Ron Noodwang, Katy Connor-Dubina, Mark Deasaro and Glen Moore.


To keep the investigation alive, Moore would have to use every tool at his disposal. It wasn't enough to be a good detective or a strong supervisor. He had to transform himself into a master salesman, too. That's why he kept the chain of command well-supplied with updates and progress reports, keeping them happy and off his back. It's also why he became so adept at manipulating the media.

In the past year, since the FBI had recommended using the media to generate leads, Moore had seen for himself just how useful a bit of coverage could be. He had held several press conferences, given interviews, cooperated with TV producers. With each new round of publicity, tips poured in.

By now, Moore had learned a great deal about how reporters and editors think, how to get their attention, how to make them do what he needed. He had discovered, for instance, that the media prefer to be fed their news in bite-sized chunks, easy to digest and easy to pass along to the public.

Thinking back to his first press conference, he realized he had overloaded the reporters with too much information. He had given them six or seven items -- the FBI profile, the innocence of Hal Rogers, the likelihood that the killer lived in Tampa Bay, to name a few -- when any one of those items, by itself, would have been strong enough to make a compelling news story. It would have been better if he had parceled out the items slowly, one or two at a time, over several months. Each piece of information would have gotten better play, and there would have been that many more rounds of stories, generating that many more new tips.

Now he knew better. He understood that reporters were constantly hungry for something fresh.

"Every time you talk to them," he would say, "you've got to have a new hook, a new bait."

So he gave it to them, calling press conferences and issuing press releases to detail important developments, different strategies, emerging theories.

Moore didn't particularly enjoy talking to reporters. In fact, it made him uncomfortable. But the more coverage he drummed up, the better the chance that the right tip would finally come the team's way.

The publicity served a second purpose. As long as the Rogers story was in the newspapers and on the evening news, Moore figured, the higher-ups in the police department would be reluctant to pull the plug on the investigation.

***

The highest of the higher-ups, it turned out, didn't need to be pressured into supporting the investigation.

Since the Rogers women were killed, there had been a couple of police chiefs in St. Petersburg. Early in 1992, the chief was Ernest "Curt" Curtsinger, and some of the pointed questions about the investigation were reaching his office. So Moore and Lt. Hitchcox sat down with the chief one day and gave him an extensive review of the case, telling him everything they were doing and everything they were still struggling to get done.

Curtsinger listened closely. When they were finished, he turned to Moore.

"How many people do you need?" he asked.

"Four."

"How about six?"

Moore was amazed. At that point, there were eight people on his team, including him and Cindy Cummings and J.J. Geoghegan. Now, here was the chief himself approving six more detectives -- he also okayed an extra investigator, an agent from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement -- and promised them at least six more months to work on the case.

The euphoria was short-lived. Curtsinger had been under attack for some time, accused of insensitivity to minorities. A month after he approved the new detectives for Moore's team, Curtsinger was fired.

Moore was left to wonder where the investigation stood. Who would be the next police chief, and how supportive would he be? How much time did the team truly have left before someone pulled the plug?

All Moore and his investigators could do was keep going until someone told them to stop. By now, more than 1,500 tips had been logged in the case, and the number jumped again late that March, when the investigation was featured a second time on Unsolved Mysteries.

Hundreds of people called, saying they knew someone with a blue and white boat or someone else suspicious that the police should check out. Many of the calls were frustrating. One St. Petersburg woman, for instance, phoned to say she had a sister in Tampa who had wondered for some time if a man who used to live down the street from her had something to do with the murders. The caller suggested that the police phone her sister. A detective did in fact call the sister's house, but she was not home. The detective left a message, but the sister with the information did not call back.

That was how it went, over and over. At any one time, the investigators were checking out an endless parade of names and numbers and facts, hoping they would finally stumble across the one detail that would blow the case wide open. They had no doubt that the detail was out there.

"This can be solved like any other crime," Geoghegan would say to Cummings. "All we have to do is work it."

After many long months spent trying to understand exactly how Jo and the girls had died, the detectives were now leaning heavily toward the theory that the attack had been carried out by only one person. Cummings, an experienced rock climber who knew something about ropes and knots, had studied the ropes used on the three women. In each case, she observed, the hands had been tied in the same manner. Furthermore, it appeared to her that whoever tied the hands had done the job in a hurry; that was why, she believed, Michelle had managed to work one of her hands loose before she died.

To Cummings and the other investigators, this evidence pointed toward a single assailant, moving quickly to place Jo and the girls in his control. He had probably held a gun on them, threatened to kill one of them if they moved, promised that everything would be okay if they just did as he told them. Under this theory, the killer had then taped their mouths, removed the clothes from the lower part of their bodies, then tied their feet. After examining the ropes, Cummings had noted that the women's feet had been bound much more carefully; if their hands were already tied and their mouths taped, he would have had the luxury of taking his time to tie their feet.

None of this, however, brought them any closer to identifying the killer. To do that, the investigators were focusing increasingly on the handwritten directions found on the Clearwater Beach brochure in the Rogers car. The directions, which told Jo and the girls how to find their motel, were written on the back of the brochure, on the same page as a map of Tampa Bay. Below the map, the writing said:

    Courtney Cambell Causeway
    RT 60 Days Inn

Originally the detectives had thought that the person who shared the directions had merely been someone helpful who gave the Rogers women assistance and then went on his way. Now the investigators saw it differently. After analyzing the timetable of the women's last day alive, as well as the psychological profile provided by the FBI, they thought it appeared extremely likely that whoever had given the Rogers women the directions was the same person who had arranged to meet them later at the boat ramp. The man who wrote the directions, then, was almost certainly the killer.

The writing was distinctive, even to a layperson. The man they were looking for printed his letters, with understated R's and an exaggerated curving hook extending to the left from the bottom of his Y's.

That May, Moore held another press conference, where he announced the new theory about the killer. He encouraged the media to publish samples of the handwriting, and asked anyone who recognized the writing to please call.

Moore repeated the investigators' belief that the killer probably would turn out to be someone charming and likable, someone with a job and a home, someone who appeared respectable and harmless.

"Don't rule out anyone," he said. "Think about your husband, your boyfriend, your fellow employee."

The Tin Man continued

 

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