A passerby found the severed head on Feb. 10, wrapped in two plastic bags and stuffed inside a backpack in Barstow, Ca. Authorities haven’t identified the victim or her killer, but the circumstances point in a particular direction, says USA Today. The proximity to the truck stop and the interstates suggests that the slaying might have been the work of a distinctive type of criminal: a serial killer operating along the nation’s highways. During the past four decades, at least 459 people may have died at the hands of highway serial killers, FBI statistics show. Investigators believe the killers find their victims and dispose of the bodies along highways, sometimes near quiet roadside rest areas or at bustling truck stops.
Often, the victims are prostitutes. Authorities have 200 suspects, mostly long-haul truck drivers. The FBI says it has helped arrest at least 10 suspects believed to be involved in more than 30 of the killings. The FBI won’t divulge the names of the victims, the dates the victims were abducted or discovered, or the locations where the killers either found their victims or dumped the bodies. The FBI says it is bound by its promise to local law enforcement not to disclose any details of the slayings – even basic information that is public record. The FBI makes such a promise so that local agencies will share details of the crimes with the bureau. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, USA Today sought details, saying “many families drive from state to state and need accurate information to determine where they should and should not stop.” The FBI denied the request, even though the bureau had posted on its website a small image of a U.S. map that shows the general location of many of the highway slayings.