TRIPLE ATTACKS BY A VAMPIRE KILLER
Al Keeling, Panama City Times Crime Reporter
NOVEMBER 29, 1997. Two local women were found dead and another narrowly escaped death in what can only be described as two heinous and violent murders and a third bizarre and nerve-wracking kidnapping and rescue.
The mutilated nude body of Elizabeth Parker, 31, a local realtor, was discovered Monday, November 24th, on the shores of Carico Bayou. Some time Sunday night, the woman was raped and her neck was brutally slashed. A subsequent autopsy revealed the slashes were knife wounds. As expected, there was massive blood lose. Curiously, the amount of blood remaining in the victim’s body, when added to the volume spilled at the murder scene, fell short of matching the estimate of Parker’s total blood volume when the woman was alive. “It seems that somehow at least 1.5 liters of the woman’s blood was removed from the crime scene,” stated city coroner, Dr. David Booth.
On November 25th, the partially nude body of a second victim, Theresa Harrell, 28, was found hideously mutilated in a house at 1120 Raintree Road. Harrell had also been raped. Her neck was also slashed several times with a knife. The woman died sometime the night before. As with the first victim, the blood lost by the second did not correlate with evidence evaluated at the scene or uncovered during the autopsy. Booth stated that he was “baffled by the apparent absence of nearly 2 liters of blood, which are simply missing.” The average woman’s body contains approximately 3 to 3.5 liters. Harrell was an assistant professor of English at St. Andrew College.
After the second killing, rumors erupted that The Slit Throat Slasher, Manco Bronter, executed at Florida Prison in Starke earlier this year, had made good on his pre-execution promise to return from the dead and continue where he left off, beginning with a sixth victim. Bronter’s grotesque trademark was the infliction of throat slashes on his victims. The number of slashes on each was sequentially increased to document his growing number of victims. Bronter managed to murder five women before he was incarcerated and executed. The Parker woman’s body was mutilated with six throat slashes, Harrell’s with seven.
However the rumor, chronicled by this paper’s Morning Edition of November 26th, and criticized by some, died a quick death. A copy-cat charade was revealed that very night, when law enforcement authorities responded to the assault of a male victim, Joseph Davis, 69, a private chauffeur who was stabbed and seriously injured in his limousine at the Franklin Center Post Office. Davis, who has recently recovered, swears that the man who stabbed him and left him for dead was a vampire. Davis was abducted earlier that evening behind the Friendly Flagon on Harbor Avenue and forced to carry his kidnapper to Franklin Center, apparently a location pre-selected for stalking a third victim.
Davis called police from his car phone just in time to report the abduction he witnessed of Susan Shaowong, 24, who was forcibly taken from the Post Office shortly after the attempted murder on the elderly Davis. In a bizarre man hunt that culminated in a chase through Oak Grove Cemetery and the storage grounds of the new Panama City public works facility, police rescued Ms. Shaowong who had been temporarily imprisoned in an underground chamber in the cemetery. Shaken and bruised, but otherwise safe, she was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The man responsible for these crimes was not Manco Bronter, who incidentally was found buried at Oak Grove Cemetery. Instead victim testimonies point to a man believed known as Harrison Van Gilter, not of this area, origin unknown. The transient had been sleeping for some time in a coffin within an excavated cemetery chamber. Police surprised the nude Van Gilter in his underground chamber as he was about to assault Shaowong. The assailant fled from the cemetery to the City Works storage grounds, and ultimately managed a daring escape under gun fire. Van Gilter eluded police when a freight train from the Port of Panama City traveled past the storage grounds and he managed to jump aboard. His whereabouts, to date, are unknown.
Police inspected the contents of the cemetery chamber and eventually replaced the rightful occupant, Frederick Collins, who had been laid to an assumed eternal rest in early November. Apparently when he took over the casket of Mr. Collins, Van Gilter moved his body to the grave of, and placed the body in, the coffin containing the recently-interred Manco Bronter. Both bodies were found one atop the other in the partially-closed casket as investigators were in the process of exhuming Bronter’s corpse early Wednesday evening to end rumors of a Slasher back-from-the-dead rampage. The discovery of Collins’ body led investigators to his grave site where they discovered Van Gilter and Ms. Shaowong.
Interviews with Shaowong and Davis can be summed up in their responses to a question we asked them: “Is Harrison Van Gilter really a vampire?” Davis: “Yes. He’s a true vampire. He’s real. God help us if he comes back.” Shaowong: “I never believed in vampires before, but now I do. Yes. He is a vampire.” On a happier note, Ms. Shaowong recently married Lawrence Hayes, Jr., the son of Panama City Mayor Larry Hayes. The newlyweds are currently honeymooning in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the search for Harrison Van Gilter continues. Is he really a vampire? At least two of our citizens believe so. When asked the same question, local law enforcement agents refused to confirm or deny.
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