CHICAGO, IL — On January 28, 2000, Chicago PD officers arrested Andre Crawford, 37, for seven murders that occurred on the city’s South Side between 1993 and 1999.
The following day, while in custody, Crawford admitted to four more killings that investigators hadn’t yet linked to the others — as well as to having had sex with the resulting dead bodies.
Crawford grew up in the very area where he hunted vulnerable females, largely targeting drug addicts and prostitutes. Born to an addict mother who sold her body to get high and left him unattended for long periods, Crawford went into the foster care system early on, where he suffered years of further abuse.
As an adult, Crawford lived among Chicago’s transient community and ran with the petty criminal underclass around the Englewood and New City neighborhoods. He hustled for cash, self-medicated with drugs and liquor, and split his nights between ratty flophouses and abandoned buildings. And he hated prostitutes.
“He said they shouldn’t be out there, they should get a job and do something better with their lives.”
Although he had a criminal record dating back to 1985, Crawford is not known to have turned homicidal until eight years later. On September 21, 1993, Crawford lured Patricia Dunn, 24, to a vacant lot where he smashed in her skull. Afterward, he smoked crack cocaine and sexually violated her remains.
Crawford struck again on December 21, 1994, tempting Rhonda King, 36, into an empty house, where he bludgeoned and strangled her to death. Crack and necrophilia again followed, as it would with most of Crawford’s other murders.
After laying low for a while, Crawford then murdered 27-year-old Angel Shateen in 1997. From there, Crawford escalated the frequency of his attacks, ultimately resulting in a total of 11 slayings.
On June 20, 1999, Evandrey Harris, 41, proved to be Crawford’s last known victim.
All the while, beat cops popped Crawford for a variety of violations, including drug possession and attempted sexual abuse. Each time, he walked and worse, each time the authorities failed to take a DNA sample from him.
Finally, in early 2000, tips from women who had had run-ins with Crawford pointed investigators in the proper direction. One tipster said she heard Crawford on a bus discussing the wave of prostitute murders and saying:
“[Drug-addicted sex workers] need to be strangled and have their heads beaten in.”
Chicago PD arrested Crawford and matched his DNA to the seven murders they suspected were the work of a single killer. Over the course of the next three days, Crawford sat in front of a video camera and painted a more complete — and gruesome — picture.
In addition to murder details, Crawford’s arrest brought to light that he regularly attended community meetings, specfically to track the progress of police as they pursued the South Side serial killer. He also participated in Operation Safe Passage — a program in which adult volunteers walk kids to and from school in Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods.
In 1999, after a 50-member Chicago PD task force teamed with the FBI, Crawford said he moved from the South Side to the city’s similarly impoverished West Side “because there was too much heat.” He said he failed to kill there, though, as “the women were tougher.”
At present, Crawford is serving life without the possibility of parole. He has since stated:
“I’m glad I got caught. I was like a shark in a pool.”
That chilling declaration points out how Chicago’s neglected, drug-and-crime-ravaged South Side served as an ideal hunting ground for homicidal psychos in the 1990s. In addition to Crawford, Gregory Clepper, 28, became known as the “South Side Strangler” after he slaughtered six women between 1991 and 1996.
Also during the mid-’90s, serial rapist Ralph Harris, 23, robbed five men on the street and then senselessly killed them after he had their money.
Today, Chicago’s South Side routinely makes headlines for record numbers of shootings. Amid all that gunfire, led by feminist author Mikki Kendall, some observers suspect that at least one new serial rapist and killer may be decimating the area, prompting a November 2017 Vice investigation that, so far, has only led to more questions.
We should all prepare ourselves for some potentially horrifying answers.
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Main photo: Andre Crawford [Chicago Police Department]