A gold medallion of an angel. A turquoise rosary. A leather bracelet engraved with "Linda."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is hoping that photographs of these items, taken as evidence from a man convicted of sex torture, will help solve a handful of cold cases or at least identify their owners, spokesman Frank Fisher said Wednesday.
The images were collected during a nearly 20-year-old case involving David Parker Ray, who was convicted of sexually torturing his victims but also boasted of killing others. The photographs, which were recently posted on the FBI's website, will be tweeted and reposted on Facebook -- tools that have helped solve other cold cases, Fisher said.
Similar campaigns that used social media have helped authorities capture gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, who was on the FBI's Most Wanted List, Fisher said. A tipster in Iceland led the FBI to Bulger and his girlfriend in California following a publicity campaign that included social media announcements.
The FBI hoped to use social media to reach families of any unknown Ray victims, who might recognize the clothing or jewelry and contact authorities. Ray died in prison in 2002, but had written about killing and burying 40 victims. No bodies have been found, and agents were not sure whether the writings were fantasies or accounts of actual crimes.
"We hope, however way it can happen, that these images do get to families and friends of loved ones who are missing," said Fisher. "We hope that they look at these images, and if they recognized any of them as belonging to their loved ones, that they call us as soon as possible."
Susan Smith Howley, policy director for the Washington, D.C.-based National Center for Victims of Crime, said families recently have been using social media to network and to help authorities in investigations.
"For so many of the families, they've been left with questions," said Howley. "Anything that can bring attention back to cases is appreciated. This is one way."
New technology on the Web, such as a national database of missing or unidentified people, also can be used by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement, the public and families of victims, she said.
Authorities believe some people reported missing in the 1990s were connected to Ray. Federal agents said Tuesday that leg bones were recently discovered in New Mexico's Elephant Butte, which is near Ray's home.
Fisher also said investigators have identified as a "place of interest" last week and would return to the scene soon.
Ray was arrested in 1999 after a woman wearing only a dog collar and chain fled his home. She told police Ray had tortured her, and investigators found surgical tools and video cameras inside his white trailer that he called a "toy box." He was convicted in 2001 of kidnapping and torturing one woman, and pleaded guilty to kidnapping and rape charges in another case.
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