Messenger speaks with former investigator about Hilltop Creeper
Chris Rudy worked in law enforcement for 30 years, spending half that time in criminal investigations.
The book, “The Last Victim,” which he collaborated on with retired journalist George Davis, documents the hunt for convicted serial rapist William Griffith, Jr. who was found guilty in the attacks of 39 women from 1980-88 in four Ohio counties.
The Westside Messenger spoke with Rudy about his case from more than two decades ago and what insights could lead to the capture of the “Hilltop Creeper.”
Sean Lehosit: What are the parallels between the “Hilltop Creeper” and the Griffith case?
Chris Rudy: Griffith struck in barrages of activity. The “Creeper” has to spend a great deal of time looking for victims as Griffith did. Griffith always had employment where he was mobile, be it in sales or driving a tow truck. He spent all his time cruising trailer parks and allotments populated with duplexes or apartments. He looked for women who had a child and no man around. He would begin by watching their residence to see if there was a man in the picture, and if so, when he was there. He would steal mail, make hang-up phone calls or obscene phone calls. All in an effort to see when they were most likely alone so he could determine the best time to strike. He would spend weeks peeping at night… The “Creeper” has to be spending the same amount of time looking for victims and determining when is the right time to attack.
SL: How can residents better deter or detect sexual deviants in their communities?
CR: Like with any type of criminal activity in an area, being a good neighbor and looking out for one another is best… It’s good for every neighborhood to have a nosey neighbor. The police need to find that neighbor and tap into their intelligence. Silence is what allows crime to continue, whether it’s sexual abuse with children or any other type of crime. People need to engage their communities and question what doesn’t look right and call the police. As far as basic crime prevention tips, having a dead bolt lock that has a 3-inch throw in the frame is excellent, light motion sensors, and/or a great old dog. People such as Griffith and the “Creeper” love to operate in darkness. They can defeat locks, but they'll move on if it’s too difficult. Have a brother or male friend leave the message on your answering machine. Lock your doors and windows.
SL: What could be a reason for the recent drop in “Hilltop Creeper” incidents?
CR: The fact a few weeks have passed with no activity can be indicative of him being in jail for a different type of crime, being sent out of town for business, vacation or he is doing his homework in another area of town since the Westside has been blowing up with activity for July and August.
SL: What evidence led to the capture of Griffith?
CR: The capture of Griffith came after his last attack in April 1988. Griffith was one of three suspects for a number of years. Surveillance by police never yielded any information for arrest and they had to move on to other crimes. When I began to investigate the attack of Melissa Brown, I talked to some of the other detectives in the county who looked into similar attacks. I was told it was probably Griffith. I talked to his wife and low and behold she just had an argument with him and asked him to move out. She had been sorting laundry and found a strange pair of ladies panties and told him it was the last straw. She allowed me to look at the belongings he left behind and I found a pair of tennis shoes that matched latent shoe prints lifted by crime lab technicians at the scene of Brown’s house. I then went over all the old cases and found several cases where latent fingerprints were lifted at the scene. Griffith had been in jail a couple times for voyeurism so I got his fingerprint card from the jail and submitted them to be compared to latent prints from the early ‘80’s and bingo.
SL: What might lead to the arrest of the “Hilltop Creeper?”
CR: The “Creeper” will be captured sooner rather than later, I hope. Keeping the case in the public eye is great. A lot of people in my case thought it would end with a woman shooting him or a surprised boyfriend shooting him. Anything is possible. In the late 1990s the state of Ohio began gathering DNA samples from inmates of state prisons who were guilty of certain offenses. Slowly, it changed to any inmate of a state prison no matter the crime. Now there are arrestees of municipal and county jails who have DNA taken. If the police have any evidence they can match (they’re not going to let us know if they do) they will eventually make the connection. They may have latent print evidence of a cloth glove or leather glove. They may have a vehicle color or an odor of the offender they are keeping to themselves for when they get a suspect.
“The Last Victim” is available on Amazon, Kindle and can be ordered from www.thelastvictim.net.