A smeared envelope containing a letter that confessed to a murder, promised more to come and concluded with the signature used by the famous Zodiac killer, who murdered five people in Northern California from December 1968 to October 1969, thrust a North Carolina newspaper into a quandary this week.
The letter, sent to the Fayetteville Observer, specifically confessed to the murder of Spc. Megan Lynn Touma, a solider seven months pregnant and stationed at Fort Bragg, who was found dead in a hotel bathtub last week. She is the second pregnant U.S. soldier murdered in the last six months.
The letter’s chilling words said, “I am responsible for the dead body,” then named the address where Touma was found. “It was a master piece,” the note said. “I confess that I have killed many times before in several states, but now I will start using my role-model’s signature. There will be many more to come.”
Police immediately confiscated the letter and asked the paper not to release its contents, telling executive editor Brian Tolley that news of the note would interfere with their investigation and unnecessarily frighten the public.
“Not printing the letter goes against nearly everything I, and this paper, stand for,” wrote Tolley in an Observer article. “Our job is to gather and report information, not to keep it in the dark.”
But yesterday, according to Tolley, the newspaper confirmed that the symbol on the letter was also found written in lipstick on a mirror at the crime scene.
“We now know exactly why (the police), sitting in my office, were confident that the letter was an important piece of evidence and not a hoax,” Tolley wrote in an article published today.
Tolley contacted Fayetteville Chief Tom Bergamine and told him the paper had to move forward with publishing the letter, which can be seen below:
Fayetteville police Lt. David Sportsman told the Observer that though the letter is considered important, it was likely written to mislead investigators. “There is absolutely no reason to believe there have been any other killings or that any other killings have occurred related to this so-called confession,” he said.
Sportsman declined to confirm whether the letter’s symbol, which resembles the crosshairs of a rifle scope and was renewed in the public eye following a movie released about the Zodiac serial killer last year, was found in the room.
The body of Touma, 23, was found last Saturday in room 143 of Fairfield Inn by Marriot, next to a mall in Fayetteville, N.C. The decorated soldier had reported to Fort Bragg on Thursday, June 12, but chose to stay at the hotel though the military holiday weekend.
According to a friend of Touma’s cited in an Observer article, the soldier’s fiancé was also stationed at Fort Bragg and she was exited to join him there. Her friend, who gave birth herself five months ago, said Touma “asked about delivery, just being a mom. I kept telling her how awesome being a mom was.”
Four days after she signed in to Fort Bragg, she failed to show up for formation with the 19th Replacement Company, though according to Maj. Angela Funaro, an 18th Airborne Corps public affairs officer, she was not reported AWOL.
Spc. Megan Lynn Touma
Touma’s body was not found until her scheduled checkout date from the hotel, June 21. The Army has since launched an investigation to determine how her absence was overlooked for more than a week.
According to the Observer, her room at the hotel had been marked with a “Do no disturb” sign since June 17, which is why the room was not checked until Touma’s body was discovered four days later. An autopsy report has not yet been made public, and cause of death has not been confirmed.
Touma’s military company held a private memorial ceremony yesterday.
Police have not yet released news of any leads in the investigation, though the author of the confession note appears to be taunting the department. The letter, apparently composed on a typewriter, dated June 17 and postmarked June 24, states, “Fayetteville law enforcement are very incompetent. I basically sat there and watch while investigators were on site.”
The note mimics the work of the author’s so-called mentor, the Zodiac killer, who also sent notes to the press confessing his or her crimes, signed with the ominous crosshairs symbol, though the serial killer from the 1960s gained notoriety by sending the notes in cryptographic code.
The Zodiac killer has been rumored to have killed as many as 37 people, though only five murdered and two surviving victims were ever confirmed. The known killings stopped in 1969, but the letter kept coming until 1974. The serial murderer was never caught, and the case remains open to this day.