Atlantic City prostitutes fear possible serial killer - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/23/06-ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey

Atlantic City prostitutes fear possible serial killer

The bodies of four women were found Monday behind a strip of motels near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The bodies of four women were found Monday behind a strip of motels near Atlantic City, New Jersey.

 Prostitutes working in the shadows of Atlantic City's glitzy casinos say they are living in fear of a possible serial killer after the bodies of four women were found in a drainage ditch behind a row of seedy motels.

Several prostitutes interviewed Wednesday said that since learning of this week's grisly discovery they have armed themselves with pepper spray and are no longer going with "dates" to the busy road that passes near where the bodies were found.

"It scares the hell out of me," said Christine, a prostitute eyeing cars driving by a cheap motel on Pacific Avenue near several casino entrances. "We're all talking about it, and I'm still ready to jump in the first car that comes along. But I got anxiety, bad."

Like all the streetwalkers interviewed Wednesday, Christine would only speak if her full name was not made public.

Autopsies found that two of the women found Monday had been slain: one by strangulation with a rope or cord, one by smothering. The others were too badly decomposed to determine a cause of death, prosecutors said.

Authorities would not say whether they believe the killings were carried out by the same person, but noted that they were left within a few hundred feet of each other in the same ditch. The head of each victim faced east, toward the casinos.

Bunny, a prostitute and drug dealer who works out of the same Pacific Avenue motel as Christine, said she will no longer accompany clients to motels on the Black Horse Pike, locals' name for the seedy stretch of Route 40 in Egg Harbor Township where the bodies were found.

"That's just too dangerous," said Bunny, who plans to concentrate on selling drugs instead of sex this week. "You can't let your guard down, even for a minute."

The only woman authorities have been able to identify, 35-year-old Kim Raffo, died from strangulation. Her body had been in the ditch a couple of days, an autopsy showed.

It was less clear how long the other victims had been dead; up to a week for one, up to a month for another, and the fourth body was too badly decomposed to determine a time of death.

Victim remembered

Raffo, raised in Brooklyn, New York, came to New Jersey about four years ago after getting into problems with drugs in Florida, said her sister, Maria Santos. Only since she was found dead did Santos learn the former PTA mom was selling her body -- but she knew her formerly close sister was in big trouble.

"I knew she wouldn't contact me because she was so ashamed," said Santos, of Miramar, Florida.

Christine, 37, said she knew Raffo, who she said used to work street corners about a mile from where Christine usually works.

"She was a sweet person; she'd do anything for anybody," recalled another prostitute, Khadijah. "Maybe they took her kindness for weakness."

Bill Southrey, president of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, said Raffo stayed at the mission for one day last year, and two days in January.

Southrey said files show she had struggled with drug addiction and came to the mission because she had lost her place to stay with a friend. She talked of trying to get a job and moving to Florida.

Christine said word of the killings has been slow to circulate among her fellow streetwalkers.

"We don't exactly read a lot," she said. "Even dates, not a lot of them know about it. Last night, the guy I was with, I started crying, and he asked me why I was crying. I told him, and I got him all freaked out."

Khadijah, 38, said that because of the killings she will only "date" regular clients in a motel she knows. She's thinking about reviving her former habit of carrying a knife, and said she will rely on her boyfriend to scout out clients for her, at least until things cool down.

"I'm only out here on the days I absolutely need to," she said.

How often is that?

"Every day."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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