(DETROIT) — Detroit police warned women on Tuesday against setting up meetings with strangers over the Internet, after three of four murdered women found in the trunks of burning cars have been linked to a nationwide site similar to Craigslist, according to police.
“We felt it’s imperative to alert the public that deciding to meet unknown persons via the Internet can be extremely dangerous,” Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee said. “We implore people to be careful, let someone know where they’re going, who they’re with. If you’re arranging something, do it in a public place. With the vast increase on utilization of social media on the Internet we must continue to be vigilant in identifying any website which may potentially pose a threat to individuals,” said Godbee.
The three victims had offered escort services on Backpage.com, according to police. The site is an Internet bulletin board with listings for everything from child care to auto parts and forums on numerous topics.
The website said on Tuesday it was cooperating with police and had given investigators information about “ads that the suspect or others posted on numerous web sites,” according to a statement from Backpage.com legal counsel Steve Suskin, posted by the Detroit Free Press.
Suskin said there were ads on 15 websites not connected to Backpage.com.
“Backpage.com shares the concerns of law enforcement and the community that every effort be made to stop violent criminals from using the Internet to commit their crimes,” the statement said.
On Dec. 19, a 23 and 24-year-old were found dead in the trunk of a 2009 Chrysler 300 that was parked in the driveway of a vacant dwelling, police said.
A 28 and 29-year-old women were found four blocks away in a 1997 Buick LaSabre on Christmas morning around 1 a.m. The Detroit Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire, and after extinguishing the fire, found the bodies in the trunk, badly burned.
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Andreas Preuss, CNN
Eliott C. McLaughlin, Joshua Berlinger and Ashley Fantz, CNN