When an iced-over creek thawed in the spring of 1996, police were summoned to the discovery of a hand protruding from the shallow water; the mystery regarding Renee Bell’s disappearance had been solved— her body, mostly intact, was found. She was one of the four prostitutes believed raped and murdered by a convicted serial killer, Mark Antonio Profit of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Three other bodies would be found in the secluded and dense area known as “Theodore Wirth Park”- some of the women were found charred and burned in the vaginal area; police believed the killer wanted to burn away the evidence. The state surmised that the women worked as street prostitutes in a nearby area known for drug trafficking and prostitution. Profit was accused of luring the woman with the promise of cocaine, then raping and strangling them in the park. Fiber evidence found in the defendant’s car was tied to the ligatures found on the woman, and Profit was convicted of the one murder charged (and an attempted rape count on a surviving victim) and sentenced to two life sentences; he has since died in prison. Profit’s attorney, Robert D. Miller of Minneapolis, said the Minnesota Supreme Court nearly ordered a new trial for Profit by a 4/3 vote to affirm the convictions.
In mid-December 2010, Suffolk County Police (New York) found four bodies wrapped in burlap discarded on a desolate and bramble-infested stretch called “Gilgo Beach.” The bodies were matched to 4 missing prostitutes. Their names were Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman; Maureen Brainard-Barnes; and Amber Lynn Overstreet- Costello. Later, another body was found in the area and matched to Shannon Gilbert- all of the women were prostitutes. Their murders are widely believed to be a serial killer’s work, although the cases remain unsolved. The girls advertised online for their services.
OUR FREE OPINION
Statistics support the premise that prostitutes’ (aka “Sex Workers”) are at greater risk for violence; the type of prostitute- “street-walker,” “online ads,” and “managed” seems to matter when it comes to violence, including homicide. These risk factors are not novel to history– prostitutes during the Eighteenth-Century in Paris who became part of the “demimonde” (a managed and elite system of prostitution) operated in much safer environments than the woman who worked the streets. Legal brothels in the United States report next to no violent crime. Even on the street, the prostitute’s with “pimps” report less violence from their customers. Many of the statistics about prostitutes, in general, are skewed owing to the reliance, in some circumstances, on “self-reporting,” the transient nature of the business, and fear from the law.
Moreover, acts of violence tend to depend heavily on drug and alcohol use and addiction. But it seems clear that when prostitutes operate without “back-up,” they are at the greatest risk for violence and murder. Prostitutes are not likely to go away soon- many think they need more protection and fewer sanctions, so they are not left to be isolated in dangerous spots. The homicide rate in the United States for female sex workers in 2012 was reported at 204 per 100,000.