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No suspected serial killer in Seattle, despite online rumor

October 17, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: King County detectives have been notifying locals about a serial killer in Seattle after several women in a southern section of the city and the nearby city of Burien were found dead with their bodies posed in the same way.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The King County Sheriff’s Office and Seattle Police Department both said they are not investigating a suspected serial killer. The sheriff’s office, whose jurisdiction includes Burien, said it had no evidence of deaths under investigation in these locations sharing similar characteristics.

THE FACTS: Seattle authorities this week are refuting widely shared claims of a serial killer terrorizing the community.

The claims erupted on social media over the weekend as Seattle residents warned each other about the alleged criminal.

“King County Detectives have been notifying locals about a serial killer in Seattle right now,” read a tweet that was shared to Instagram, where it amassed nearly 40,000 likes. “Multiple women’s bodies have been discovered recently in the Burien and SODO area, apparently posed in the same way,” the post continued, referring to a district of downtown Seattle.

“Serial killer warning in Seattle!” read another tweet, which included a screenshot of an email attributed to a local bar manager. The email claimed a killer had been “abducting and dismembering women in their 30s” between 12 a.m. and 7 a.m. in the south Seattle area.

The Seattle Police Department refuted the claims on Twitter and in an emailed statement, saying it did not have any serial homicide cases.

The King County Sheriff’s Office, which is the main law enforcement agency for unincorporated areas of the county and 12 cities including Burien, also denied the claims on Twitter and by email.

“The King County Sheriff’s Office is aware of unsubstantiated on-line social media reports that select death investigations, in the vicinity of South Park / SR509, may share similar characteristics,” the statement read. “At this time, the Sheriff’s Office has identified no evidence affirming this for any cases under our jurisdiction.”

It’s unclear where the baseless rumors originated, though unsupported claims related to serial killers occasionally spread in cities across the country. A real case of a man suspected of serial killings in California made headlines recently when he was arrested in Stockton.

The King County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 7 did request the public’s assistance investigating what happened to a female found dead on the side of Highway 509, near south Seattle, but it did not suggest the case was linked to any other cases in the area.

The bar manager cited as the author of an email spreading the claims did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.