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Time: 2:57:43 PM
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Sporting a flare for the dramatic, the killer uses plastic sheeting to strangle his victims and is fond of scrawling angry, moralistic messages on their backs in blood-red marker.
He is Guatemala's Jack the Ripper, and police say he has strangled five prostitutes here in the last three months and may have killed streetwalkers in El Salvador and even Los Angeles.
In an effort to find the serial killer, police officers are hitting the streets at all hours, searching for prostitutes and passing out computer-generated composites of the man they say is behind the killings.
The pictures, compiled from witnesses who say they saw the suspect enter various hotels with prostitutes later found dead, depict the killer as a short, tan-skinned, 35-year-old with closely cut black hair and sunken brown eyes.
Police say he goes by the last name Blanco and speaks with a Salvadoran accent.
"Everyone is scared. They all say 'I wonder if the next man I go with could be this killer,"' said Rosa, a prostitute who charges $5 a trick to support two children.
"What we do is dangerous, but this killer is hunting us," she said, refusing to give her last name.
Although prostitution is not illegal in Guatemala, streetwalkers have long complained that officers unfairly harass and sometimes attack them. Some have refused to cooperate with police.
But Enio Rivera, director of Guatemala's national police force, said canvassing areas frequented by prostitutes moved authorities so close to an arrest last week that the suspect left the country.
"We're afraid our suspect has fled to El Salvador," Rivera told reporters Thursday. "We have been in close contact with authorities there because we are convinced this man will kill again."
The killings are believed to have begun Jan. 27 when police discovered the body of an unidentified prostitute who had been strangled in a dingy, pay-by-the-hour hotel in downtown Guatemala City.
In a note to police written on his victim's back, the killer said he "didn't like it, but couldn't help killing" and that his murderous spree had included the slaying of two prostitutes in Los Angeles. Authorities in California say they have no record of those killings.
Two weeks after the first victim was discovered, police found the strangled body of Roxana Jamileth Molina in a drab hotel room on the Guatemalan capital's western outskirts. And on March 6, the owner of nearby hotel, lead police to the remains of another strangled, unidentified prostitute.
The killer's fourth victim was discovered four days later, also near downtown Guatemala City. The woman's body had "death to all the dogs. Seven down, three to go" etched in flowery handwriting on her back.
On March 29, the body of a fifth strangled prostitute was discovered in Huehuetenango, 180 miles northwest of Guatemala City.
Rivera said Thursday that police don't know for sure how many women the serial killer has slain but that authorities in neighboring El Salvador are ready to blame the same suspect for the murder last month of a prostitute there.
He said the killer uses his red marker to tattoo his victims with the letters MS, the initials of the Salvadoran gang "Mara Salvatrucha," which has members all over Central America.
"If he returns to Guatemala, the prostitutes are the ones in danger," police spokesman Faustino Sanchez said Thursday. "If we are going to catch this delinquent, we will have to do it with their help."