Charlie Hess, a volunteer investigator for the El Paso County, CO, sheriff’s office, and Robert Browne, a convicted killer of a 13-year-old girl, had been exchanging letters for two years. In between the pleasantries, Hess recalled to the Los Angeles Times, Hess pushed Browne to say more about murders he said he carried out – how, unbeknown to law enforcement, he had killed 48 people over 25 years. Hess, 79, first heard about Browne in 2002. Hess was meeting with the two other volunteers who make up the cold-case unit.
Hess was a soft-spoken former FBI and CIA officer who had moved to Colorado Springs after his son-in-law’s murder. Lou Smit was a retired detective who had solved more than 100 homicides and probed the slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. Scott Fischer was a former newspaper reporter and photographer who had stepped down as publisher of the Colorado Springs Gazette. Something had always bothered Smit, 71, about the Browne case. Why did Browne kill a teenager in a burglary and hide her body parts with such skill? And surely it was no coincidence that two Browne neighbors in his Louisiana hometown had died violently, their killer never found. “You know, I think he’s a serial killer,” Smit told his partners. “I think we can do a bit more.”