STREAMING NOW: Watch Now
CLOSINGS: View Closings

Detroit police search abandoned homes and board them up after suspected serial killings

Since March of 2019, three women on the east side of Detroit have been found dead in three abandoned homes.

Posted: Jun 8, 2019 11:30 PM
Updated: Jun 8, 2019 11:30 PM

Even with a man in custody in connection with the suspected serial killings of three women in Detroit, the city is taking precautions to prevent more attacks.

Since March, three women on the east side of Detroit have been found dead in three abandoned homes partially dressed. Investigators believe a serial killer and rapist was likely responsible, Police Chief James Craig said.

A man described as a person of interest was taken into custody Friday, police said. Authorities have not said why the man is a person of interest, and CNN is not identifying him because he has not been charged.

But while the investigation is underway, the city has put into action plans to keep similar violence from happening again.

Boarding up homes

Police, the city and community members are all working to collect information on the crimes that may have already occurred and prevent more from happening.

Volunteers in the community are going door to door, canvassing the area near where the women were found, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said.

Each of the three victims were found in abandoned residences, and 40 police officers will be going out in teams of two starting Friday to search open, empty homes, the mayor said

Authorities fear that there may be more victims police have not been alerted to in more houses since the women were found days, and in one case weeks, after their deaths.

Once police have cleared the houses, they will alert officials to board them up, Duggan said. By the end of July, Duggan said, 1,000 houses on the east side will be boarded up.

And by September, citizens will be able to download an app that would allow them to report anyone trying to remove the boards and enter the houses, Duggan said.

"To turn back this violence, it's going to take our entire city—the police and the community together to say once and for all that this violence is just not acceptable," Duggan said.

The victims

The three women found dead were found in similar circumstances, police said.

Two have been identified: Nancy Harrison and Travesene Ellis, Duggan said Friday.

Police said all three victims are believed to be sex workers, but Harrison's family has since said she was not, according to CNN affiliate WXYZ.

Harrison, the first victim found, is also the only confirmed homicide. Initially, police suspected she died by drug overdose, but a medical examiner ruled she died of blunt force trauma. The other two victims do not yet have a cause of death.

One victim was 52-years-old, and another was 53, Craig said.

But the third victim has yet to be identified.

Police describe her as an African-American female, about five feet tall and 100 pounds. She was described as having a short, cropped Afro hairstyle, that Craig said might be about three inches. Authorities do not yet know her age, and say she was "long deceased" when found.

The investigation

The police chief announced Wednesday that police believed the three deaths were connected and likely perpetrated by one person before the other two deaths were ruled homicide. Mayor Duggan said the move is uncommon, but likely the right one.

"Rather than wait until the chief knew for sure, he felt it was important to warn this community about the possibility of somebody killing women in this manner," Duggan said Friday.

The investigation began after police discovered Harrison's body in a vacant home on March 19.

Then on May 24, they found Ellis. June 5, the third woman was found.

"Of course, there is a reason why we are linking the three, but because we are still very early in this investigation we just want to identify the violent perpetrator," Craig said Wednesday.

One challenge Craig discussed Wednesday was that if the series of crimes was affecting sex workers, police would need their help providing information. But, he acknowledged, many would likely be apprehensive to speak with police.

"This is not about apprehending sex workers, this is about apprehending a very violent, predatory suspect," he said.

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 46°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 53°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 45°
Decatur
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 44°
Fort Payne
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 46°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 498887

Reported Deaths: 10122
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson719121402
Mobile36328740
Madison32639469
Tuscaloosa24372421
Montgomery22765520
Shelby22231218
Baldwin19890289
Lee15057158
Calhoun13901294
Morgan13770255
Etowah13407325
Marshall11452213
Houston10130264
Elmore9499190
Limestone9429138
St. Clair9041227
Cullman8991183
Lauderdale8618214
DeKalb8507175
Talladega7628165
Walker6593259
Jackson6551104
Autauga633392
Blount6246128
Colbert6004121
Coffee5268104
Dale4676107
Russell407333
Franklin400078
Covington3998106
Chilton3902103
Escambia379273
Tallapoosa3631143
Clarke344553
Chambers3432111
Dallas3422142
Pike293273
Marion288595
Lawrence285386
Winston258568
Bibb245758
Marengo243057
Geneva240570
Pickens225557
Barbour213951
Hale212269
Fayette202257
Butler201766
Henry183641
Cherokee178140
Monroe166739
Randolph165140
Washington156836
Macon147745
Crenshaw146555
Clay146054
Cleburne139941
Lamar133933
Lowndes132851
Wilcox122825
Bullock117436
Conecuh107024
Perry106227
Sumter100432
Coosa90224
Greene88732
Choctaw55423
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 780894

Reported Deaths: 11534
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby877551513
Davidson81978873
Knox46346589
Hamilton40635463
Rutherford38663387
Williamson25433204
Sumner21498320
Montgomery17505213
Out of TN1711195
Wilson16553211
Unassigned15813126
Sullivan14489275
Blount14167184
Bradley13039141
Washington12834234
Maury12262162
Sevier12127165
Putnam10647170
Madison10130231
Robertson9016121
Hamblen8086165
Anderson8075158
Greene7317145
Tipton6972103
Coffee6423115
Dickson6274106
Gibson6197141
Cumberland6130123
Carter5996155
McMinn596293
Roane593896
Bedford5826120
Loudon573567
Jefferson5700119
Lawrence557883
Monroe536990
Warren532877
Hawkins527898
Dyer5243101
Franklin475485
Fayette468673
Obion437095
Lincoln415962
Rhea415373
Cocke402596
Cheatham396344
Marshall392257
Campbell382859
Weakley379660
Giles375597
Henderson362374
Carroll349281
White339766
Hardeman339165
Macon337473
Hardin331963
Lauderdale309742
Henry301475
Marion295245
Scott288344
Wayne288230
Overton286258
Claiborne283769
McNairy268653
Hickman267141
DeKalb266951
Haywood264960
Smith257736
Grainger244946
Trousdale239822
Morgan230838
Fentress229644
Johnson217338
Chester202448
Bledsoe201210
Crockett197647
Unicoi181647
Polk178722
Cannon178030
Union173334
Grundy170130
Lake167926
Sequatchie157227
Humphreys155221
Decatur154137
Benton151139
Lewis147525
Meigs126923
Jackson125734
Stewart124125
Clay107131
Houston103732
Perry103628
Moore94616
Van Buren79720
Pickett74623
Hancock49712

Community Events