What we know about a possible serial killer case after multiple women found dead in Detroit

Women found naked in vacant houses

Detroit police arrested a person of interest Friday in a possible serial killer case.

DETROIT – Detroit police said this week that they have linked the deaths of three women to a possible serial killer who may be targeting sex workers.

A person of interest in the case was arrested Friday evening after Chief James Craig said police wanted to speak with him.

The victims

Police said the victims were all found naked in vacant houses in areas that are highly known drug areas. All of the victims appeared to be in their late 40s to mid-50s.

  • Nancy Harrison - Body discovered March 19 in the area of Coventry Street -- she is considered the first victim.
  • Travesene Ellis - Body discovered May 24 on Linnhurst Street, near Schoenherr Road -- she is considered the second victim.
  • Tamara M. Jones, who was found in a vacant house on Mack Avenue on Wednesday, June 5.
  • Anyone with information needs to contact police at 313-596-2260.

Police arrest person of interest

Craig said police were looking to speak with Deangelo Kenneth Martin, a 34-year-old homeless man known to frequent the area where bodies of three women were found.

Martin was taken into custody in the area of 7 Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue about 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Chief Craig identified a person of interest in a potential serial killer case.

Police search for victims in vacant homes

Detroit police went door-to-door Friday, looking for people in vacant homes on the city's east side as the hunt for a possible serial killer continues.

Crews searched areas where three bodies have already been found. Some teams used cadaver dogs to look for bodies.

"There could be another vacant house on the east side that may have a victim," Mayor Mike Duggan said. "We have no reason to believe that but we need to check it out."

Mayor, chief hold news conference (watch below)

Duggan opened Friday's news conference denouncing the violent crime and applauding the Detroit Police Department's work to help make arrests. Duggan emphasized the help from community members in making the arrests in other violent crime cases.

Duggan, Craig hold news conference on possible Detroit serial killer case

"This violence is just not acceptable," he said. "It was members of the community coming forward that made these arrests possible."

In the case of this possible serial killer on the east side, Craig said he and his investigators decided to investigate these women's deaths as a possible serial killer based on the case similarities, despite not having a confirmed cause of death for two of the victims.

"You have females, late 40s or 50s -- in the case of the two that have been identified, 52 and 53 -- again, the third has not been identified and we're not certain of her age. So we're very transparent and quick to get the information out because this is about the business of keeping people safe, so we don't hide that," the chief said.

Craig said he was involved in a serial killer case when he worked in Los Angeles that spanned the course of 25 years.

"That serial killer went dark for 14 years. Turned out he was a city employee, actually a civilian employee at one point of the police department," he said.

Craig also said he knows that sex workers are sometimes almost invisible in the community.

"They are not likely to report people missing, which offers yet another challenge for us," he said.

The chief also said there is the possibility of a second suspect, which he said is always the case. However, he said he and his staff still believe there is a single person responsible for the three deaths, based on their experience with these kinds of cases.

Blight fight continues

Craig also said he and Duggan have been talking about the blight in the city -- specifically abandoned homes where bodies have been found.

"What we're talking about today is focusing on an area where these tragedies have happened, and it makes good corporate sense," he said.

He said he believes this kind of focus, with the help of community volunteers including the Detroit 300, means the city will see a difference.

"I think this relationship is what makes a difference in this city," he said.

Victim's family speaks out

This week, the family of one of the victims spoke with Local 4 and is sharing why they believe investigators initially dropped the ball on the case.

Tim and Gary Harrison want people to remember their sister, Nancy Harrison, for who she was. 

"A great, great heart. She would help anybody. Do anything," Tim Harrison said. "My sister didn't deserve this."

'My sister didn't deserve this' -- watch:

Travesene Ellis and Nancy Harrison named as two of the victims of the alleged serial killer.

Nancy Harrison's body was located inside an abandoned home on Coventry Street on March 19. Detroit police Chief James Craig said the department initially believed Nancy Harrison died as the result of a drug overdose.

Her brother is not happy with that ruling, they said the signs pointed to murder from the very beginning.

"The woman had a broken nose, broken jaw, blunt trauma to the head," Gary Harrison said.

Detroit police are now actively looking for a possible serial killer and rapist in connection to the three deaths.

Detroit police investigate a possible serial killer case on the city's east side in June 2019. (WDIV)

"Chief Craig, he wants to be the hero by saying his people are on it and stuff. No, no," Tim Harrison said.

Police believe the killer targeted women who worked in the sex industry. Gary Harrison said that's not the case with his sister.

"She wasn't down there working to make money or to support her habit," Gary Harrison said.

Her family is determined to get to the bottom of what happened to their loved one.

"If it takes a day, it takes a week, it takes a month, it takes a year. We're going to find out who did this," Gary Harrison said.

Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,500 reward for information on Nancy Harrison's death.


About the Authors:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.

Koco joined the Local 4 News team in September of 2016. She was born and raised in Metro Detroit, attended Central Michigan University, and previously worked at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.