Crimes involving dismemberment are rare and highly complex which may include an explosive concoction of emotion and rage, according to an expert in the field.
Erica Hutton, who is a forensic psychologist from Indiana, told The Montana Standard that crimes involving dismemberment — like the one currently being investigated in Butte — are far beyond the average offense.
“It is the ultimate killing, ‘I don’t want to just kill you; I want to cut you up,’” Hutton said.
Two hikers found a bag with a pair of human legs in it just off Moulton Reservoir Road on the afternoon of June 26. Police are treating the incident as a homicide. They have no suspects and are awaiting results from the Montana Crime Lab in Missoula.
Crimes involving dismemberment are sometimes fueled by strong emotions of hate and sometimes sexuality, she said.
Hutton, who is not actively involved in the Butte investigation but is familiar with it, said this case could be a very methodical killing.
Hutton said she often assists investigators in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan on murders involving dismemberment in her role as a professional profiler. Hutton is a professor of criminal justice at Trine University in Angola, Ind.
She said it’s rare to find a pair of legs in a dismemberment case because it’s very difficult to severe a large limb like the leg. She said if the severed limbs in the Butte case were neatly cut, this could mean the killer is experienced.
“This person knows what they are doing and has probably done this before,” she said.
Butte investigators have released few details about the legs while the investigation is ongoing.
Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff John Walsh would only say the legs were severed just above the knees and belonged to an adult, white male.
As a criminal profiler, Hutton is an expert in criminal behavior and helps investigators search for possible offenders by the characteristics of the crime. Even with the limited information on the Butte case, Hutton suspects the offender is a very methodic, organized and “in control” type of individual.
She describes some killers as “serial hunters.”
“The serial hunter kills within his own geographic region and hand picks his victims, a hunter doesn’t just kill anyone who comes along,” she said.
The victim possibly knew his killer and was lured to him before being killed. He may have methodically dismembered the body and scattered the parts around the area.
Despite two large searches of the Moulton Reservoir Road area — including one using search dogs — police have not found any more body parts.
However, Hutton believes there are more body parts scattered somewhere in the Butte area.
Though there has been limited information released by the police, Hutton said she is able to come up with a general profile of the killer. She suspects the killer is a white male between 29 and 40 years old. He is likely very strong and over 6 feet tall and in good shape. The killer is likely intelligent and possibly in a relationship and even married. He’s possibly a laborer who works with power tools.
She says the killer is usually psychopathic and has the ability to blend in with normal society. This type of personality can appear normal and calm, and even be eager to help investigators.
“This person could be quite charming,” she said.
Butte investigators have suspended the search for more body parts to await the analysis of the limbs from the crime lab. Walsh said he hopes DNA from the legs may match with someone on a DNA data base.
Investigators are asking the public to report anything suspicious they find around the city. Those with information helpful to this investigation are asked to call Crimestoppers at 782-7336 or Sgt. Jimm Kilmer at 497-1161. Those who call Crimestoppers may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward.
Reporter John Grant Emeigh may be reached via email at john.emeigh@ lee.net or phone at 496-5511. Follow him at Twitter.com/@johnemeigh.