Police in California are investigating a spate of recent murders as the possible work of an unidentified serial killer.
Stockton Police made the shock announcement on Wednesday that investigators are looking into a series of unsolved cases that all share a strikingly similar pattern.
Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said in a press briefing that all of the victims were killed during the night or in the early hours of the morning, in dark places and when they were alone.
“We do see some similarity where it’s really areas of darkness, it’s really areas where the person is by themselves, maybe not even knowing it’s coming, and that’s kind of what [we’re] looking into in some of the most recent ones,” he said.
All of the victims were killed either in cars or while they were walking alone and none of them appear to have been robbed, he said.
The ages of the victims vary as well as the locations of the murders – but each area was described as being “very dark” with no surveillance cameras nearby.
Additionally, there are no known witnesses in any of the cases.
“People are by themselves, they don’t have that situational awareness that we would like for folks to have,” said the police chief.
Investigators have not confirmed how many murders fit into the same noticeable pattern however the rate of murders in the California city has surged since the start of the year.
In a press release posted on the police department’s Facebook page warning the public about the concerning trend, it said that it had investigated 43 homicides in the city so far in 2022 – 11 more than in the same time frame in the previous year.
The gender of the victims is also unclear.
However, at least four murders that appear to match the pattern described by authorities have taken place in the city within the last month alone.
Each of the killings involved a male victim being shot dead either in his car or on a sidewalk in the early hours of the morning.
Back on 30 August, a 21-year-old man was found dead inside his vehicle at around 6.40am. He had been fatally shot.
At around 1am on 20 September, a 35-year-old man was found shot to death inside his car.
Around the same time the following day, another male victim, 37, was found dead from gunshot wounds on a sidewalk.
Less than one week later on 27 September, a 54-year-old man was also shot to death on a sidewalk.
The Independent has reached out to Stockton Police for confirmation about whether these killings are part of the pattern in question.
Chief McFadden said that investigators had noticed enough similarities between multiple unsolved murders that police needed to warn the public – but insisted that the evidence does not yet show it is the handiwork of a lone serial killer.
“We have been provided absolutely zero evidence that leads us to believe that one individual is running rampant in the city of Stockton killing people,” he said.
“We don’t know if it’s one person, or if it’s five or six people. We just don’t have that information right now.”
However, he added that investigators also “haven’t ruled out anything yet”.
The department is putting together a team to examine the patterns investigators noticed related to recent homicides.
“As detectives have been looking at the data and evidence for some of the recent homicides, they have noticed the homicides are occurring during the night or early morning hours and our victims were alone,” police said in the announcement.
“We are currently assembling a team of detectives, task force officers (federal, state, and county), crime analysts, camera room operators, and evidence technicians who will be taking a very close look at some of these patterns we are seeing.”
Meanwhile, members of the public are being urged not to wander alone through dark and isolated places and to report anything suspicious.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Stockton Police Department at (209) 937-8377 or the Investigations Division at (209) 937-8323. Tipsters can also submit information anonymously at Stockton Crime Stoppers by visiting StocktonCrimeStoppers.org or calling (209) 946-0600