Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Notable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994 » Trial George Russell Jr.: 1991 - Petty Thief Turned Murderer, Troubled Youth, A Serial Murderer On Mercer Island, Authorities Zero In On Russell

Trial George Russell Jr.: 1991 - Authorities Zero In On Russell

blood white killer victims

Investigators called on an expert in sexualized crime who said that the murders were the work of one man. Although the expert said the serial killer would be a young, white male, police zeroed in on Russell, who grew up in a white, upper middle class neighborhood and "acted white." The challenge of the investigation and of the subsequent trial was connecting Russell to all three victims.

Semen found in Mary Ann Pohlreich matched Russell's blood type. Hair found on all three bodies proved to be "Negroid." Eventually, Russell was tied to missing rings from the bodies of Carol Bleethe and Randi Levine. Small blood stains in a truck Russell borrowed on the night Pohlreich died matched her blood type. Police arrested Russell on January 10, 1991.

During Russell's trial, the prosecution succeeded in admitting into evidence the controversial DNA tests for the hairs, semen, and blood stains. But winning a conviction rested on moving beyond circumstantial evidence and convincing jurors that the degrading pose of all three bodies constituted the unique "signature" of a single sociopathic killer.

Both the prosecution and defense brought experts in sexual homicide and behavioral profiling to the stand. John Douglas, the famous FBI behaviorist, testified that he found a common denominator in the way the victims were "penetrated vaginally, anally or orally with some type of device, foreign object." He also said the close timeframe of the murders pointed to one perpetrator.

Russell Vorpagel, a respected 20-year FBI veteran now private investigator, disagreed. He claimed there were too many differences in the way the women were killed, degraded, and posed to have been the work of one person. He said Pohireich's body was posed peacefully, Bleethe's body was not raped; a woman could have been the killer. He said the odd stab wounds on Levine's body separated her murder from the others.

Russell's lawyers emphasized the possibility that the wrong man was accused. They hinted that ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends were responsible, not the friendly guy at the defense table.

Russell, smartly dressed in a navy sports coat, gray slacks, white shirt, and tie, appeared alternately bored and bemused. He did not take the stand.

After 22 hours of deliberation, the jury returned verdicts of guilty of the first-degree murder of Pohlreich and aggravated first-degree murder in the cases of Bleeth and Levine. Judge Patricia Aitken sentenced Russell to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Jurors later told reporters that there'd been little disagreement that Russell was the lone killer. They just took a long time to discuss the bizarre facts.

B. J. Welborn

Suggestions for Further Reading

Olson, Jack. Charmer: A Ladies Man and His Victims. New York: Avon Books, 1994.

Transcript: City Confidential: Sunny Days, Deadly Nights on Mercer Island. A&E Home Video.

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