Trace Evidence

The Hunt For An Elusive Serial Killer

Buy the Book: Amazon
Title: Trace Evidence
Published by: RosettaBooks


For years an elusive serial killer sought his prey along lonely highways of the West. By abducting, sexually assaulting, and strangling his victims in one jurisdiction and dumping their bodies in another, he created an investigative nightmare for detectives throughout northern California.

In a gripping true-crime drama that reads like a haunting suspense novel, Bruce Henderson, coauthor of the #1 New York Times hardcover bestseller And the Sea Will Tell, unravels the story of the “Interstate 5” sex-strangler murders drawing on exclusive interviews with key investigators: Vito Bertocchini, the burly ex-street cop who took the killing of a beautiful young woman personally; Kay Maulsby, the rookie homicide detective who helped to unmask the killer; Ray Biondi, the homicide bureau lieutenant, who fought severe budget cuts that threatened to derail the investigation; and criminalist Faye Springer, who attempted to connect the suspect to his victims through subtle but persuasive microscopic evidence.

The killer was unbelievably adept at staying one step ahead of authorities as the body count grew. Even after police finally identified the culprit — when a would-be victim escaped his grasp — they lacked the evidence to charge him with murder. Instead he was convicted of assault and sentenced to a few months in county jail. With the clock ticking, investigators worked desperately to build a first-degree murder case before the killer was set free.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews — including the killer’s wife, who never spoke to authorities — Henderson delves into the psychological complexities of his characters with astute sensitivity and eloquence, building a chilling, fascinating portrait of a depraved and unrepentant serial killer whose own brother was a veteran homicide detective in a neighboring county.

Trace Evidence, structured with the razor-sharp precision of a Hitchcock film, is a powerful commentary about our society’s priorities. If investigative resources had been based on need and not on politics, lives might have been saved.

Knowing that this is a true story and the characters are real people will haunt you for days.


“Because of a composite drawing and his assault of a prostitute, Roger Kibbe was the prime suspect in a series of abductions and sex stranglings over several years in the vicinity of Sacramento, California. Without hard evidence, though, the investigation of the ‘I-5 Killer’ dragged on and the murders continued until trace-evidence specialist Faye Springer entered the case. The outwardly mild-mannered Kibbe, brother of a homicide detective, was convicted in 1991 on the basis of microscopic fibers and paint chips linking him to multiple victims. Henderson, coauthor of And the Sea Will Tell, has written a solid, compelling account of the capture of that most vicious of criminals, the random serial killer.”
—Library Journal

“As slowly and meticulously as any homicide investigator, Henderson compellingly chronicles the search for and eventual arrest of a cunning serial killer dubbed the ‘I-5 Strangler’ because he picked up most of his victims along lonely stretches of interstate highway near Sacramento, California. Henderson begins by recounting the escapades of a teenage boy who stole women’s clothing from neighbors and then ritually cut up the garments. As an adult, the once meek teenager added kidnapping, sexual abuse, and strangulation to his repertoire. Henderson, coauthor with Vincent Bugliosi of the bestseller And the Sea Will Tell, does a masterful job of tracking serial murderer Roger Kibbe’s crimes and exposing the disturbed personality of the mild-mannered strangler, who fooled nearly everyone, including his homicide detective brother. Lusciously detailed and immensely readable, this is true-crime writing at close to top form.”

“A roadside strangler, meek as a ‘corner greengrocer,’ confounds California detectives in this tense and gritty true-crime account from the co-author of And the Sea Will Tell. In July 1986, when Stephanie Brown’s body was discovered in an irrigation ditch off a desolate stretch of Interstate 5, San Joaquin detectives noted that the young woman had been strangled and her blouse had been cut. One month later, a graying, soft-spoken man offered a ride to a female motorist stranded on I-5; when her partially nude, bound body was found 50 miles away, criminalists ignored the numerous scissor cuts in her pink tank top. The signature style of the ‘I-5 Strangler’ would be present at five more ‘female body dumps’: always the young women would be strangled, usually with a nylon cord, and always their clothing would reveal a bizarre pattern termed by one baffled Department of Justice criminalist as ‘non-functional cutting.’ Convinced that these murders were the work of a ‘highly organized’ serial killer, Lt. Ray Biondi of Sacramento County Homicide repeatedly called for a multi-agency task force to coordinate the cross-jurisdictional detective work, but ‘ego and politics’ prevented such organization. With novelistic urgency, Henderson tells two equally chilling stories here: how a handful of detectives and one trace-evidence expert nabbed the killer despite what Henderson calls an ‘unbelievably stupid’ battle plan and how Roger Kibbe, a detective’s brother and ‘somebody’s husband,’ became that killer.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Some books about serial killers are dramatic and emotional. Trace Evidence, by contrast, has a steady relentlessness that allows the reader to become fascinated by the characters of the investigators and the facts of how the evidence was assembled. This killer specialized in picking up his victims along Interstate 5, near Sacramento, California, and he had an odd penchant for snipping at their clothes with scissors. As deaths of young women in several different jurisdictions began to form a pattern, a few detectives with contrasting approaches (excitable and given to hunches vs. cool and logical) formed a team. Author Bruce Henderson relates how they followed through on a bewildering number of leads, how they ranked their potential suspects on a point system that proved remarkably effective, and how, finally, a trace evidence expert spent many long hours looking through a microscope to cinch the case with analysis of fibers. Trace Evidence is skillfully structured, emphasizing the investigation rather than the trial, and includes crisp photographs of the key evidence.”