CNN is reporting that Detroit police are investigating the grisly deaths of four black women that occurred during the holiday season. Three of the deaths were linked to online ads that "specifically dealt with prearranged adult dating services," police Chief L. Godbee said.
"We felt it is imperative to alert the public that deciding to meet unknown persons via the Internet can be extremely dangerous," Godbee said at a Monday-afternoon news conference, according to CNN. Godbee told the Detroit Free Press that they were "stopping short of calling it a serial pattern."
Two of the bodies were discovered in a car fire early Christmas day. They were burned beyond recognition.
In the Christmas morning incident, "the victims have been identified tentatively and are black females, ages 28 and 29," Godbee said.
The bodies found [in the trunk of a car] on December 19 were those of two African-American women aged 23 and 24, and neither body showed outer signs of trauma, according to Godbee.
"We are awaiting the medical examiner's final report for the determination of the cause of death for each of the females." Godbee added.
Godbee identified the website carrying ads that three of the victims were linked to as backpage.com.
The website did not immediately respond to an e-mail from CNN Monday afternoon seeking comment after Godbee's news conference.
Backpage.com told CNN in 2010 that it promptly responds to law enforcement inquiries, and said the site includes links to help users notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children if they identify potential abuses.
Godbee is right to make people aware of the possible perils of online dating, but social predators exist in all settings. We also have to be careful not to blame the victim.