Coin Shop Killer:
Suspected in six murders in Washington
state, including the killings of an elderly couple whose bodies have not
been found. Robbed, raped and killed across several other Western states,
including two suspected murders in Montana, two in California and one
attempted murder in Utah. Sinclair often preyed on coin shops and their
Status: Died in jail in Alaska.
Serial killers -- they're not always
who we think
For years, the issue of whether Charles T. Sinclair
was a bona fide serial killer remained a question of his intentions.
Like serial killers, he trolled -- from New Mexico to
Canada. Like serial killers, he had a pattern, killing coin shop dealers,
all strangers. But unlike the popular perception of serial killers,
Sinclair appeared to have a motive -- money.
Serial murderers are said to kill without conscience,
for power, even for pleasure. People who kill for money are robbers.
But when Pete Piccini, a Jefferson County cop who
chased Sinclair for years, entered a ministorage shed near Sumas in
1990, he discovered a pile of evidence and a mountain of conflicting
ideas about Sinclair and his crimes.
In the bottom of a barrel in the shed were a yellow
flowered bed sheet and pillows. They matched the linen used to strangle
and wrap the body of 18-year-old Amanda Stavik.
Stavik, a Central Washington University student,
vanished Thanksgiving Eve 1989 while jogging. Her body was found Nov. 27
in the South Fork of the Nooksack River. There was evidence of rape.
Another item to emerge from the shed was a school
yearbook. Leafing through it, investigators saw Stavik's picture. She
had been a classmate of Sinclair's son.
Piccini, diligently running down a missing-person
report from his own county, had discovered a sex crime that called into
question the profile of a man then sought as "The Coin Shop Killer."
"It was hard to define Sinclair; he was all over the
map," said Piccini, who retired as Jefferson County sheriff in December.
Unlike Hollywood's Hannibal Lecter or the real-life
Ted Bundy, not all serial killers present an easy-to-spot profile ripe
with rituals, methods and arcane messages. Many remain unnoticed for
years because their crimes show little or no common link.
Charles Sinclair defied the textbook definition of
serial killer, even though he is thought to have killed more than a
dozen people, including six in Western Washington.
Even now, Piccini struggles to understand exactly
what kind of monster he had found.
RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE: CE-felony
MO: Executed coin shop
proprietors in robberies across seven U.S. states and British Columbia.
DISPOSITION: Died of heart
attack in jail before trial, Aug. 1990.