*~ February, 2008 -- Page 2 ~*
America's Most Wanted host:
Serial killer at work in Boca (2/7/08)
By Leon Fooksman |South Florida
Did a serial killer commit three slayings and three robberies in the Boca Raton area last year?
A television crime-solver says yes. The Palm Beach County sheriff says there are possible connections. Boca Raton's police chief says it's too early to tell.
But some of the area's top law enforcement officials were suddenly forced to answer the question Wednesday after America's Most Wanted host John Walsh, taping a new episode, said there is a " horrible, cunning and pathological monster" living in South Florida who is behind these crimes, which all originated at shopping centers.
Hours after Walsh came to that conclusion, the Boca Raton Police Services Department released a new Web site revealing new details on the homicides and robberies. The department denied the timing of the release and the subsequent news conference had anything to do with Walsh's statements.
"There's not a right time to release information," Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander said. "Right now it's valuable, in terms of the timing, to release this information."
Among the revelations on myspace.com/brpsd: The mother who was found shot dead along with her 7-year-old daughter at the Town Center mall on Dec. 12 apparently called 911 while they were kidnapped. But Nancy Bochicchio's cell phone call, picked up by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, disconnected before she could say anything. The operator tried to call the cell phone but got no response.
The Bochicchios' slayings have fueled speculation that their killer may have had a hand in three other incidents.
On March 23, Randi Gorenberg was last seen leaving the same mall and was found about 40 minutes later shot in the head and dumped next to the South County Civic Center west of Delray Beach, investigators said.
On Aug. 7, a 30-year-old mother and her 2-year-old son were abducted from the mall, forced to drive to an ATM and withdraw $600, then tied up. They were released about an hour later.
On Aug. 10, a 19-year-old woman was robbed at gunpoint at Mizner Park in Boca Raton, and the assailant demanded she take him to an ATM. She gave him $200 and got away.
The Bochicchios, too, were forced to drive to an ATM and withdraw $500, according to the new information on the Web site. The mother and daughter were bound with duct tape, plastic ties, handcuffs and goggles. Their hands, feet, and necks were tied to restrict movement in their SUV. When they were discovered, the bindings on Nancy Bochicchio's wrists were broken. It's not clear who broke the bonds or whether she resisted the suspect.
Alexander said forensic evidence does not link any of the cases. Although there are similarities in the ways the attacks were carried out, he said investigators can't assume the same person or people are responsible for all the crimes.
"There's a lot of speculation on the suspect. Until we have a firm picture from the experts about things we can confirm about the suspect, it's just speculation," Alexander said.
Still, Walsh said he is convinced a serial killer is prowling South Florida.
"This is a horrible, cunning and pathological monster, and I really think the public is in great danger," Walsh said. "Everyone has to be on guard until this guy is stopped."
He added: "It's not just about the money, the ATMs. It's about the power trip. It's controlling women."
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said the incidents are linked but he stopped short of suggesting a serial killer is on the loose.
"We have events linked through MO. You can brand it as a serial killer. Do I have specific hard evidence to say yes? Absolutely not," Bradshaw said.
Among the similarities, he said, in all but the Mizner Park robberies: Women were targeted, they were abducted at an upscale mall, and they were driving SUVs.
Walsh and Bradshaw made their comments to reporters at the end of filming a segment for Walsh's Fox network show, due to appear Feb. 16. The show will chronicle three of the crimes. Walsh said his show will have a new composite sketch of the Bochicchios' killer.
Boca Raton police have received more than 500 tips on the Bochicchio killings, but no suspects have been named. Last week, 10 detectives from the Police Services Department and the Sheriff's Office teamed up to investigate the incidents and determine whether they are linked to other crimes. The new online site is intended to draw more leads. .
Bradshaw said the upcoming, nearly hourlong segment on America's Most Wanted will help.
"For someone sitting there
and watching this, it will dawn on them, and they'll say, 'I saw this
guy. He was in the mall, he was in the parking lot, or I saw him buy
flex-cuffs,'" he said. "That's how you solve this."
Posted: Feb 7, 2008 09:13 AM
We're finding out Nancy Bochicchio called 9-1-1 before she and her daughter were killed. Fox's America's Most Wanted is back in town to try and help catch the guy they're now calling a serial killer.
America's Most Wanted is back in town to re-enact the murders linked to the Town Center Mall and using words we have not heard before. "This is a serial killer. "Don't let your guard down until we catch this guy," says Walsh.
And with Palm Beach County's Sheriff by his side, host John Walsh drops a bombshell. Nancy Bochicchio made a 9-1-1 call on her cell phone before she and her daughter were shot to death.
Dispatchers tried to return the call but were unable to reconnect with her.
Walsh thinks that's why the two were shot. "It's not just about the money. It's about controlling women."
Walsh thinks the other woman, Randi Gorenberg, was shot when she tried to get away. She was last seen alive leaving the Town Center Mall in March. And, then, there was the mother with her 2-year-old son who did get away alive back in August. She is the reason America's Most Wanted is releasing a new sketch of the killer. "She, during that whole hour and a half observed lots of things about this creep."
The sheriff stopped short of calling this a serial killer, but Boca's police chief did confirm Nancy Bochicchio made a 9-1-1 call during her ordeal.
America's Most Wanted will feature all three Boca mall cases during its February 16 episode.
Meanwhile, the Boca Raton Police Department set up a Myspace page specifically for the Bochicchio case. Police wanted to create one central location for people to find the latest on the investigation and to help generate more leads.
There is a $350,000 reward for
information leading to an arrest.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's
Office is studying a video from the ATM Bochicchio was forced to withdraw
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Florida Atlantic University is warning its faculty and students that a serial killer could be to blame for the slayings of a woman and her 7-year-old daughter at the Town Center mall in Boca Raton last December.
"In an effort to continually keep the University community informed regarding issues that may be of concern, we wanted to make you aware that local media today reported that Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said the investigation into the person who murdered a mother and her child at Boca Raton's Town Center Mall in December might be a serial killer," a statement e-mailed by the school Wednesday read.
The school released the statement after Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told a America's Most Wanted television crew that the killings of Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey, and the shooting death of Randi Gorenberg could have been done by the person, WPBF News 25 reported.
FAU's statement warned students and staff to take caution and be aware of their surroundings.
"The University would like to remind members of its community to be aware of their surroundings and to always follow safe practices. On an individual basis, faculty, staff, students and visitors should exercise appropriate caution in carrying out their activities both on and off campus," the statement read.
Gorenberg, a Boca Raton mother of two, was shot to death on March 23 after leaving the Town Center mall in Boca Raton, authorities said. Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter were found shot and bound in their SUV in the parking lot of the mall on Dec. 12.
Bradshaw was interviewed by John Walsh in suburban Delray Beach Wednesday during a taping of an episode of television show America's Most Wanted. After the taping, Walsh told WPBF that he suspects that a serial killer may be to blame for the recent killings.
"This is a serial killer. He is good at what he does. It's all about the power trip, and I know that when the cases get closer and closer together, like this pattern has, they are on the attack. So I say to everybody, 'Don't let your guard down. It's a game for him,'" Walsh told WPBF.
Bradshaw said that goggles or masks and plastic restraints were used in the Bochicchio killings as well as in a robbery of another mother and her child on Aug. 7 at the Town Center parking garage. That mother and child survived the incident after the robbery.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Teri Barbera said that there are similarities among the cases but that investigators are not sure if they are the work of a serial killer.
The Boca Raton Police Services Department has established a MySpace Web page specifically for the Bochicchio investigation at: http://www.myspace.com/brpsd.
By Luis F. Perez |South Florida
Go anywhere in this city and someone wants to park your car. There's valet parking at doctor's offices, banks, movies and even at Publix.
But many of these valet operations function illegally, according to the city code. They set up shop without proper city approvals, and they block off spaces for valet parking. They also put up signs warning they'll tow your car, but they don't have the right to do so.
"Some of these valet operations seem to be just happening without any city input," said Jorge Camejo, development services director for Boca Raton.
In the last year, Boca Raton started a quiet enforcement push to get valet operators to comply with the law.
The City Council will discuss the issue during a Monday workshop. Camejo said the staff will present options to rein in unregulated valet parking, which many businesses offer as a convenience.
But this amenity turns into a nuisance and safety problem when not done properly.
In one instance, city inspectors issued a notice of violation on Oct. 26, 2006, to Muvico, according to city records. The movie theater palace, on Airport Road visible from Interstate 95, put cones in front of its ornate entrance to mark off spaces for valet parking only.
Company officials said they're working on fixing the problem.
A follow-up inspection by the city in July showed that Muvico was still out of compliance. A city inspector spoke to a company representative after the follow-up inspection.
"I advised him that all of the numbers and lettering marking parking spaces have to be removed, all signage pertaining to 'valet parking only or vehicles will be towed' must be removed and no cones [are allowed] to save spots," the inspector wrote in a report.
At around 3 p.m. Wednesday, cones still blocked an area that prevented patrons from parking in many empty spaces, and signs threatening to tow cars and pavement markings remained.
"We're in the process of working it out with the city," said Mike Wilson, senior vice president of strategic corporate development. "We're trying to come up with a solution that satisfies the city requirements and at the same time meets the demands of our customers."
The city has been waiting since April for the company to finalize its parking plan for review. Last week the city scheduled a March appearance for Muvico before a special master, who can levy fines against the company for noncompliance.
Under the city code, valet operators are allowed to cordon off areas only if the property has more spaces than required by the city. For example, if the city approved a building with 100 required parking spaces, none of those can be restricted from the general public for valet or any other reason. Most developers build only enough parking spaces to gain city approval for their projects. So the majority of valet companies that block spaces are violating the city code, officials said.
Mayor Steven Abrams called illegal valet operators a "pervasive" problem. Also, those operators will often take up the spaces near the front entrances of businesses.
"Valet parking is for the convenience of the public, not for the convenience of the valets," Abrams said.
The council hopes to re-establish the ground rules, whether that means contacting valet operators or writing a new law, Abrams said.
There is no way to determine how many of these valet operations are running in the city. Many times they come and go with the opening and closing of restaurants, city officials said.
The city gave Boca Parking Systems a verbal warning on Jan. 14 that it was operating without the needed occupational license at the Boca Clinic, a new medical office building at 1601 Clint Moore Road. David Leonard, BPS president, said had he known about the city rules, he would have obeyed them. He has submitted plans for city review.
Leonard said he welcomes more city oversight, because he often competes with fly-by-night operators that don't follow rules. He said if the city plans to make drastic changes, it should ask for input from valet company owners. He also suggested the council consider forming a parking advisory committee, like the one in Delray Beach, to deal with parking issues.
Odds are valet parking won't be disappearing from Boca Raton any time soon. Abrams said the city welcomes businesses offering the service.
So long as it's done "in a way that's convenient for all," the mayor said.
Luis F. Perez can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6641.
The sketch of this man with a floppy hat and sunglasses is one you may be familiar with.
It's been on tv and passed out in flyers but now it will also be on a billboard.
"My sister always had a heart of gold and she was always doing charity work and Joey was just the sweetest little child," says Nancy's sister Joanne.
These are just a few reasons why Nancy Bochicchio's sister, Joanne, keeps going and getting involved any way she can to bring the killer to justice.
Not wanting us to show her face, Joanne stoically received a three thousand dollar check to cover the cost of a billboard that will be posted somewhere in Palm Beach County.
"We try to help any way we can to catch this guy," Owner, Richard Hujdus said.
Written in the name of Nancy and Joey Bochicchio, the money was donated by Player's Sports Bar and Grill in Fort Lauderdale, fitting, the family says, because Nancy was a huge sports fan, and would have been ecstatic over the Giant's Super Bowl win.
But while Nancy was missed during the big game, Valentine's Day is a special holiday for the family.
"It was a day of love and we celebrated it as a family," Joanne said.
And Nancy and Joey will be painfully missed.
"Everybody bought each other gifts on Valentines Day. It was like Christmas and it's just realizing another holiday that they're gone," she said.
Billboard To Help Solve Boca Mall
A fundraiser last week, at Player's Sport Bar and Gill raised $3,000 that will be used to install the billboard. It will be displayed just south of Hillsboro Boulevard on 441 in the city of Coconut Creek.
A mall security guard found the bodies of Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, in their SUV outside the Town Center mall on Dec. 13. They had been bound and shot to death.
There is a $350,000 reward for information leading to the killer.
"We're just happy that the owner of Sports Bar came forward and donated money and we hope that other businesses and people can get involved and donate money or volunteer time," said Sky Mercede, a friend of the victims.
The Boca Raton Police Services Department has established a MySpace Web page dedicated to the Bochicchio investigation which has previously unreleased details about the December 12th murders of Bochiccio and her daughter.
On the site, police state that the suspect(s) "used a variety of material to bind and control Joey and Nancy, including duct tape, plastic ties, handcuffs and goggles. "Their hands, feet, and neck were bound to restrict their movement in the vehicle. When they were discovered, the bindings on Nancy's wrists were broken. There is no direct evidence to suggest who broke the bonds or whether Nancy resisted the suspect(s) in any way."
The Web site report also reveals that Nancy Bochicchio made a 911 call to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, but that the phone went dead. Attempts to call back were unsuccessful.
If you have any information for investigators please call Palm Beach County Crimestoppers at 1-800-458-TIPS.
By Jerome Burdi |South Florida
The TV show America's Most Wanted may be linking the phrase "serial killer" and Boca Raton. But whether it's true that a killer is targeting women in mall parking lots has yet to be determined.
America's Most Wanted host John Walsh concluded Wednesday, in front of Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, that there was a serial killer on the loose. He was in town taping a new episode, set to air Saturday, about the cases that have plagued south Palm Beach County.
A 10-member task force of Boca Raton and Sheriff's Office detectives was formed to look at two homicide cases: a mother and daughter, whose bodies were discovered at the Town Center at Boca Raton, as well as another woman who was killed after leaving the mall. All were shot in the head.
There are also two robbery cases in Boca Raton that may be connected.
"They have a lot of leads to follow up," said Boca Raton Police Officer Sandra Boonenberg. "And the more publicity it gets, the more leads there are to follow."
The Boca Raton Police Services Department dedicated a new Web page ( www.myspace.com/brpsd) to the cases:
Mother, daughter slain
Before they were killed, the two were bound at the hands and feet so they could not move. Goggles covered their eyes.
The mother and daughter entered the mall about 2:20 p.m. that day and left shortly after 3.
They were abducted and taken to an ATM, then forced to withdraw $500. Emergency dispatchers received a 911 call from Bochicchio's phone, but it disconnected before dispatchers could hear anything. When the operator called back there was no response. Detectives are not sure where the two were shot or how they got back to the mall.
"This terrible and tragic discovery touched off a massive investigation involving resources from around the country," the police Web site says.
Carjack victim escapes
About 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7, a woman, 30, was getting into her SUV in Nordstrom department store's parking lot when she saw a man in the back seat, pointing a gun at her son.
He told her to go to an ATM and made her withdraw the money.
He then forced her to drive to a parking lot near Glades Road and Florida's Turnpike where he handcuffed her and covered her eyes with sunglasses and goggles.
The man brought them to the mall parking garage unharmed. The woman freed herself and called police.
"While there is presently no physical or forensic evidence directly linking this case to any other incidents, there are enough similarities to lead Boca Raton investigators to believe this case is related to the Bochicchio investigation," police wrote.
Mizner Park robbery
A 19-year-old was headed to her car Aug. 10 in the Mizner Park parking garage when a man approached her with a gun.
He demanded money and she handed over $200. He then demanded that she take him to an ATM.
She escaped, saying she would get money while he waited in the garage.
The bandit, too, escaped after she called police. Though police are shying away from a connection with the Town Center cases and this one, the new task force is working on it. The victim in this case was not bound, nor was she driving an SUV.
"The suspect's method of operation was very different during this event," Boca Raton police wrote.
At 1:16 p.m. March 23, surveillance cameras captured Gorenberg leaving the Town Center mall near Neiman Marcus while talking on a cell phone.
Detectives think Gorenberg made it to her car safely but don't know what happened after that.
At 1:54 p.m., a witness heard gunshots and saw Gorenberg pushed from her Mercedes at Gov. Lawton Chiles Memorial Park, on Morikami Park Road and Jog Road west of Delray Beach, about five miles from the mall. At 1:59 p.m., surveillance cameras captured the SUV entering the Home Depot parking lot at Atlantic Avenue and Jog Road, less than two miles from the park.
Detectives found the Mercedes shortly after, behind the Home Depot.
There's no physical evidence connecting the Gorenberg murder to the murders of Bochicchio and her daughter. But the fact that they both were women with SUVs shot in the head after being at the mall makes detectives wonder.
The same person committing the crime in all the cases is possible, but to have the two robberies between two homicides is unusual. A serial killer tends to kill at least three times before "cooling off," experts say.
Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander said there is not enough evidence yet to say the cases are connected. Bradshaw said there are similarities but wouldn't say a serial killer is on the loose.
"You need a break of some sort," Boonenberg said. "[Sheriff's Office detectives] have an open unsolved case, and we have an open unsolved case. The more people you have working on it, the more likelihood you have of solving it."
Police are asking anyone with information on these cases to call police, 561-338-1352, or Crime Stoppers, 800-458-8477.
Jerome Burdi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6531.
By Leon Fooksman |Sun-Sentinel.com
BOCA RATON - A series of new crime-prevention measures are coming for residents and shoppers in the Boca Raton area in the wake of a mother and daughter found fatally shot at the Town Center mall, a coalition announced on Monday.
A task force of mall directors, business leaders and police officials said they have teamed up with National Crime Prevention Council to devise ideas for people to protect themselves around the city. The group will be meeting within three weeks to come with specifics on the campaign.
Some ideas could be public-service announcements reminding residents to avoid unlit areas at night and to be extra conscious of their surroundings as they travel the city.
The initiative was spearheaded by the mall's owner, Simon Properties. The company said it had planned to launch such a campaign before Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey, were found dead at the mall on Dec. 12. The company hadn't selected a city for the initiative until the Bochicchios' were murdered. Shortly after the killings, officials decided to launch the campaign in Boca Raton.
Simon officials will be speaking to the Boca Raton City Council this afternoon to update them on their initiatives.
Palm Beach Post Staff report
Monday, February 11, 2008
BOCA RATON — Business and community leaders gathered at the Town Center mall this morning to announce they were partnering with the National Crime Prevention Council to outline safety goals specifically for Boca Raton.
Attending the conference were Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander, Alfonzo Lenhardt, President and CEO, National Crime Prevention Council, Tim Earnest, senior vice president of Simon Management Company, which owns the mall, and Town Center mall manager Joe Cilia.
The announcement was made at the
mall where two women and a child were abducted and murdered by an armed
robber in two separate incidents last year.
By Luis F. Perez and Leon Fooksman
| South Florida Sun-Sentinel
The owners of Town Center mall heard the criticisms in person Monday, one month after the city's elected leaders publicly rebuked them for their lack of community outreach in the wake of two high-profile killings.
Simon Property Group executives and a representative of the Washington, D.C.-based National Crime Prevention Council told the City Council about a crime prevention task force they're forming - a move mall officials announced Jan. 12.
Company officials also outlined the steps they have taken to work with law enforcement and to keep the public safe since Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and her daughter, Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, 7, were found dead Dec. 13 in a mall parking lot. Many of the company's initiatives, they said, started well before the murders of the mother and daughter, which brought national attention to the mall. Still, council members said the public doesn't know about those programs.
"While it seems like you're doing good job communicating with your tenants, you have not been doing a good job communicating with the community," Mayor Steven Abrams said.
Last month, the council sharply criticized mall management for not letting the public know how it was addressing public safety. Councilwoman Susan Whelchel suggested the mall move its valet parking areas away from the front entrances so patrons could use those spaces.
Since then, mall officials have moved most of their valet parking and announced pilot programs allowing parents shopping with children to use the valet parking for free or to use its Upfront Parking program at no charge.
On Monday, mall officials said the free parking program has been well-received. Even so, council members wanted to know why the mall restricted the hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m weekdays. Whelchel said most children are in school until 3 p.m. and parents often shop on weekends with their children.
"We'll look at that," said Lydia Gilmore, Simon's portfolio vice president for its Florida malls.
Gilmore said it's a pilot program and that Town Center plans to evaluate it. She said the mall has been planning security enhancements since the company began developing the current expansion, which is scheduled to be completed this spring. The upgrades include a bigger, state-of-the-art, closed-circuit surveillance program, a new police substation and added security officers. The management also has hired off-duty Boca Raton police officers to patrol the mall. There's security patrolling the mall around the clock, she said.
"We don't just close up the building and go home," Gilmore said.
The mall also started a safety awareness program with its retailers that operates like a neighborhood watch program, she said. It has conducted surveys with shoppers and offers security escorts and a parking lot shuttle to anyone who asks for it, Gilmore said.
Earlier in the day, mall officials and city leaders announced a partnership with the crime prevention council to form the task force. The 12-member group will meet within three weeks to begin drafting new ideas for people to protect themselves around Boca Raton, they said.
Organizers haven't decided on specifics, but said some ideas could include: public service announcements reminding residents to avoid unlit areas at night and to be extra conscious of their surroundings as they travel the city; the Police Department sending out alerts on crimes to residents' computers and cell phones; and putting up signs at the mall and other shopping areas alerting shoppers not to leave valuables in their cars.
Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander said the city is relatively safe, but residents need more information to avoid being targeted.
"I feel we need to do more with public information," Alexander said. "We can't rest on our laurels in being a safe city."
Luis F. Perez can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6641.