killers

“god bless the ded”: Why We Interview People After Tragedy (even when we don’t want to)

Interviewing: The Oregon Method
September 18, 2014
By Alex Tizon

His daughter’s body had been found in the middle of the street. He didn’t know who killed her. He didn’t know why she was killed, and why her body—legs crossed at the ankles, arms outstretched—had been laid out in the form of a cross. The toll of not knowing showed on his face. His whole bearing implied a crumbling. When I first met him, Richard Zapata was 65, a retired media executive, a tall, dignified, silver-haired man unaccustomed, I would have guessed, to losing his composure. But as he spoke to me at length about the police investigation, his voice would crack for a moment. His face would contort. He’d collect himself before resuming.

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Into the Path of a Killer

Los Angeles Times
March 10, 2007
By Alex Tizon

SEATTLE – His wife and daughter were murdered last summer on a remote hiking trail 70 miles from home, in the middle of the day, at the height of their lives, among mountains they had always regarded as a sanctuary. David Stodden doesn’t know who did it or why. He doesn’t know whether his wife and daughter were beaten, raped or mutilated; whether they fell quickly or fought to the end. He knows the essentials, that each was shot in the head and left just off-trail where anybody could see them. He knows detectives have made no arrests, and hikers all over the region remain shaken. For many, the wilderness itself was desecrated.

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Suddenly One Night

Los Angeles Times
April 30, 2005
By Alex Tizon

RENTON, Washington – It was a slab of particleboard, about 5 feet long, 18 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches thick. No one knew how far it had traveled or how many times it had bounced off the pavement. Late on Feb. 22, 2004, it was known only that it got loose on Interstate 405, near this Seattle suburb, and for a few moments became airborne. One witness later said it was simple physics that turned the board into a missile, hurtling north.

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Land of the Lost

Los Angeles Times
February 15, 2005
By Alex Tizon

She does it without even thinking, as soon as she steps out of the truck: a sweep of her eyes across the sky for a sign of bald eagles. They’re as common here as ravens, as hawks, but they’re bigger and easier to see from a distance. Maybe a single circling eagle will spiral down to the spot where lies her son — or his body, whatever is left of it. Dolly Hills has come to think along those lines.

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Justice or Just Hysteria?

Los Angeles Times
April 16, 2004
By Alex Tizon

SPOKANE, Washington – There’s no question Ken Olsen made the stuff. He brought some castor beans to his work cubicle, put them through a coffee grinder and mixed in a common solvent. He then poured the concoction through a paper filter. Within minutes, Olsen, a respected longtime resident of this eastern Washington city, had in his possession a few drops of ricin, one of the world’s most lethal toxins.

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Cold Case Cowboys

Los Angeles Times
January 29, 2004
By Alex Tizon

ROSEBURG, Oregon – The photo shows a close-up of a decomposing skull, stained by sun and soil, the color of rust. The mouth gapes, as if locked in a permanent laugh. Just behind the top front teeth, at the roof of the mouth, the cause of death is revealed: a bullet hole neat, clean, as if made by a paper punch. The trajectory of the bullet doesn’t indicate suicide. Who shot him and why, no one has been able to figure out for years.

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A Gathering of Serial Killers

The Seattle Times
January 15, 2003
By Alex Tizon

Can we blame it on the rain? Do the dark green forests that blanket the land bring out the monster in a few of us? These questions might seem frivolous if the facts were not so damning: Police continue to unfold the grisly details of three of the nation’s most notorious serial-murder cases, all within a 280-mile radius of Seattle, the emerald hub of the region. In the universe of serial killings, the Pacific Northwest, if only in public perception, may be one of its capitals.

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John Muhammad’s Meltdown: The Story of the Beltway Sniper

The Seattle Times
November 10, 2002
By Alex Tizon

The smile was absent that day. The million-dollar smile he flashed whenever it served him, the gleam of winsome pearl that charmed women and men from Baton Rouge to Bellingham.

On that day 14 months ago, inside a small courtroom in Tacoma, John Allen Muhammad could barely gather his thoughts. He was dumbfounded. He was losing his children.

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