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Bremerton's person of interest under surveillance | Case against 'serial killer' still too thin for charges
Police are unwilling to confirm the identity of the "person of interest" in the Bremerton serial killer case, but some new details about the investigation have emerged in recent weeks.
Bremerton police released a pair of sketches of the person of interest following the Feb. 3 murder of Melody Brannon, 61, outside of her High Avenue Home. The man in the sketch was interviewed by police, but they have not moved to make an arrest while they continue to work on building a case against him for Brannon's murder along with the May 3, 2011 murder of Sara Burke and the June 20 knife attack of a man that survived.
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent recently confirmed that the man is now under round-the-clock surveillance by police. But, Lent said, investigators do not yet have enough direct evidence to make an arrest or see to the successful murder prosecution in court.
"Until we have that DNA that can tie him or the weapon that was used, then how are we going to convict and prosecute?" Lent said. "And that's what we want — him off the street forever."
Bremerton Police Chief Craig Rogers was unwilling to comment for this story.
"We've given out all the information that we can possibly give out and I have nothing further to add," Chief Rogers said.
Multiple sources say that police have surveillance footage of a man, believed to be their person of interest in the two murders, buying a knife from the Safeway Store located at the corner of Callow Avenue and 11th Street only minutes before one of the attacks. Lent described the video as circumstantial and said investigators need more direct evidence tying the person of interest to the murders in order to win a conviction.
A week after Brannon's murder police said that the crime was likely tied to the stabbing death of 19-year-old Sara Burke on Warren Avenue and the June 20, 2011, stabbing assault of Kenny Cobb as he walked along Burwell Street. The seemingly random attacks occurred within blocks of each other in the Union Hill Neighborhood and involved lone victims.
The police raised the specter of a serial killer loose on the streets of Bremerton. The FBI, state and county police all joined in the effort to find the killer as the city police racked $63,000 in overtime working the case.
That possibility of a serial killer living and walking among the residents of the Union Hill neighborhood has captivated the city and region for months as citizens continue to ask about the person they fear. During several "public information" sessions citizens have asked if the "person of interest" was under surveillance, where that person of interest lived and whether or not he had been ruled out as the murderer.
Bremerton police have remained tight-lipped, releasing no new information about their ongoing investigation since word of Brannon's murder broke, saying they did not want to jeopardize the investigation.
Police also gave convoluted directions to citizens as to whether or not they should take down or leave up fliers and posters depicting following their interview with him. Bremerton Police Department Lt. Pete Fisher continues to say that if the posters can help jog a person's memory about one of the attacks or the person depicted then they can still be a useful tool for gathering tips, of which the city has received more than 500.
Although Cobb survived after being stabbed in the neck, he was unable to positively identify his attacker. Lent said that like many victims of violent assaults, Cobb was traumatized and unable to choose the person of interest out of a police lineup.
Lent said that no knife has ever been recovered by police.For the recent murder investigation, police have used five warrants to search locations that the person of interest has either been seen or was considered to be living. The searches gained five separate evidence batches. The results from the first three batches of evidence that were seized were inconclusive, according to Mayor Lent. Two batches of evidence are still being processed by forensics experts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Results from at least one of those last two evidence batches were expected early this week.