Over the summer and fall, three black women have been found strangled in and around the streets of downtown Houston.
While some are starting to speculate that a serial killer is on the loose, at a news conference this week at HPD headquarters, Lieutenant Humberto Lopez of the HPD's Homicide division stressed that as of now, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that the three killings were at the hands of a single perpetrator. On the other hand, there isn't any evidence to refute the possibility.
The string of killings started early in the summer.
On June 18, 24-year-old Raquel Antoinette Mundy was found in a state of decomposition in a vacant lot in the 300 block of St. Charles, on downtown's tattered northeastern fringe. While it was reported that her body was nude from the waist down, police lab experts were not able to discover if she had been sexually assaulted, owing to her decomposition. Police believe she had been killed elsewhere; she was last seen alive near the Greyhound station on Main, where she had dropped off her two kids and mom at 1:30 a.m. on June 17.
Unlike the other two victims, Mundy was not homeless, and the circumstances that led to her death are even more bone-chilling, anger-inducing, and amazingly tragic than the deaths of the other two victims, but more on all that later.
On September 30, 52-year-old Reita Long's fully clothed body was found at 6:30 a.m. just outside the downtown Catholic Co-Cathedral. There were no signs of sexual assault, nor any trauma to her face and body other than from the strangulation.
On October 10, a Sunday, the body of 62-year-old Carol Flood was found near the steps to the now-closed downtown YMCA on Louisiana Street. She was naked from the waist down and had been beaten as well as strangled.
Flood had been last seen on October 9. She took in a triple feature at the Grand Plaza movie theater on Weslayan; a manager at the theater told police she was a regular there. Like Long, it is believed that Flood was killed near where she slept that night.
The police say they have DNA evidence, but it is still being processed. Lopez said that five investigators are working the three cases, and the FBI is being consulted. To help prevent more murders, and get word out to a suspicious, mistrustful homeless population, they are passing out flyers and advising homeless shelters to tell their guests to be careful.
To catch the perp or perps behind these murders, they are scouring their records for similar cases and asking the FBI for same. So far they have no leads, so they are appealing to the public for help. A total of $15,000 is being offered for any leads that bring about an arrest -- $5000 for each woman.
Some 25 years ago, Long had been a very beautiful and upwardly mobile young woman -- a graduate of Prairie View and an elementary school teacher at a public school. She began to succumb to mental illness in her mid-to-late 20s, according to a Houston Chronicle report, and there was nothing her family could do to save her, despite their best efforts.
In addition to being a dedicated moviegoer, Flood was a regular at the Houston Public Library, where she was beloved of employees and patrons alike.
And then there is Mundy's case. The 24-year-old single mother of two had just moved from California to Galveston, where she was studying to become a medical assistant.
"Tomorrow is a big day. I start school at ten am. Yes betterin my self and my girls along the way," she posted on Facebook on June 15. The next day, she had this to say: "At school waitin on the teacher to enter the room. Im so proud of my self. Made a change in my life."
And the day after that, less than 24 hours before she died, there was this: "im missin my babys. while im at school. then they leaven me today around 12. im cry. but iim be a big girl. try to be"
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She came to Houston after midnight to put her kids and mom on a Greyhound back to California, and despite multiple no-parking signs, gambled by parking her car in the McDonald's lot across the street from the depot. A waiting tow truck driver snatched her car less than ten minutes after she parked.
Mundy paid the fee but had no way of getting to her car at the lot a few miles away. After fruitlessly trying to roust some relatives for a ride, it was initially reported that she was seen getting into a blue or gray car -- possibly a Volvo, according to one report -- with a Hispanic male.
It was also reported in the days after her murder that she had sent some horrific texts to her mom, who received them on the bus, hurtling to California. At 5 a.m., the mother reportedly received one saying ""Tell my girls I love them. I love you, Mom." At 7:45 a.m. there came the last one: "Mom I think this Mex might hurt."
Six hours later a homeless man found Mundy's remains in a godforsaken vacant lot near the Harrisburg underpass and across the train tracks from the Star of Hope mission, where two future victims in this string of killings might very well have been sleeping that very morning.