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Campground Killer


George H. Lafferty

This a purely fictional story and any resemblance of the characters to real individuals, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.

The camouflage suit he was wearing was a near perfect match for the terrain he was hiding in. The pine trees, with their bed of brown needles and the dark, near black shadows between the green needles on the limbs of the trees blended well with his green, brown and black suit. Only a movement caught purely by accident, by one of the campers below, could give him away and he made all necessary movements slowly and carefully. He watched the innocent people below going about the business of setting up camp with interest, wondering how many he could take out at once, before they knew they were under attack. As in all attacks by a single person against a camp of many, surprise was the important factor to him. They would be surprised, of that he was sure.

Who would ever believe a trip up to the State Park for the weekend to camp, fish, hike and jog, would be the place where he would make his first kills? That a trip planned for rest and relaxation would wind up a slaughterhouse. That they, or at least most of them were going to die.

He had dreamed of this for years and planned it to the smallest detail, for he had no intention of being stopped or caught. At least not until he was the most notorious serial killer the USA had ever seen. He had a perfectly clean record, never been arrested, never even gotten so much as a parking ticket. He had always been a very careful driver and obeyed even the most silly of driving or parking regulations. He had read every book on serial killers, mysteries, and detective novels he could find since childhood. He had studied criminology but never with the intent of becoming a police officer. He had, very early in life, become interested in the perfect crime. He wanted very much to be the master criminal. 

Oh, not for money and not really for the fame, as he intended to be the hardest man to trace to the crimes the police had ever come up against. Indeed, he was going to make every effort to never be caught. He knew just how to do this too, he had read and watched enough TV to know the police's worst nightmare was the one who killed totally at random, over a wide area and had a selected number of victims, then just stopped altogether.

Never to strike again, never to leave a trace and never to give himself away to the press, friends or anyone else. He had practiced for years, in the woods, in the mountains, and in the desert and in any other rural areas in what he considered his theatre of operations. He had assembled his war bag accordingly. The right cammo outfits for the right areas, the best times to act, the right weapons and most important, his escape routes.

He watched them now, as they laughed and made a game of collecting firewood, cleaning up around the rocks they had piled in a circle for the night's campfire, arranging lawn chairs, setting their equipment on the picnic table. Hanging Coleman lanterns on a couple of bare tree limbs, high enough to give more light and far enough away to try to keep the insects away. He counted them - a man, the woman who must be his wife, a young girl and a younger boy. Oh, and an older girl, a woman really, she looked to be nineteen or twenty. Five potential bodies, a nice round number, for his first foray at killing. He sighted through the four power telescopic sight mounted on the FR-F1 Sniper rifle he had selected as his weapon of choice. 

The FR-F1 sniping rifle, known as the Tireur d'Elite, is a manually bolt-operated, 10-round detachable box, magazine-fed, 7.62-mm x 51 or 7.5-mm x 54 weapon. The length of the stock may be adjusted with the butt-spacer plates. This weapon's sighting system consists of the Model 53 bis 4-power telescopic sight and integral metallic sights with luminous spots for night firing. It weighs 11.9 pounds, has a barrel length of 21.7 inches, and a total length of 44.8 inches. This weapon has a muzzle velocity of 2,794 fps and a maximum effective range of 800 meters. Standard equipment features a permanently affixed bipod whose legs may be folded forward into recesses in the fore-end of the weapon.. He had purchased the weapon at a gun show, two years ago, from a private dealers table, with a small bribe under the table, to overlook the obviously phoney ID he had used. 

The cover story, of course, which the dealer heartily agreed with, was that he didn't want any AT&F or US Gun Control people to know he even owned the weapon. It was a perfect killing machine for the purpose he had selected it for and he smiled as he peered from his concealed position, watching his selected prey go about the business of having fun. When the older woman and the oldest daughter yelled for everyone to come and eat lunch, the killer was ready.

Sighting in on the older male first, he squeezed the trigger and watched the man's head nearly disintegrate. Quickly working the bolt action, he fired again, this time at the older female, dropping her with a hole in the upper middle of her back, one which had to have destroyed her spine. Once again, he quickly worked the bolt, firing and killing the oldest girl as she stood screaming at the sight of her parent's gruesome deaths. The young ones were either too scared or too much in shock to even move and his next two rounds struck then down where they stood. He watched through the scope for awhile but there was no movement from any of his victims.

Slipping quietly out of his hidden position he quietly and carefully policed up his brass, then slipped away, being careful to leave no tracks at all.

He was at home, sipping a cold beer when news of the killings came on the six O'clock news. The police used all their normal tactics of crime scene investigation, a slow careful search of the entire area and even tried dogs, all to no avail and hesitantly admitted there were no clues at the present time. Nothing had apparently been taken from the crime scene, as in money or valuables, the family Jeep Cherokee was parked in the closest parking area and nothing seemed to have been disturbed in any way. The police advised an investigation into the family background preceding their weekend outing was in progress, and requested anyone with any information regarding this horrible crime contact the police.

Lt. Ron Jamison, Homicide division of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, was assigned to the case on a permanent basis, along with his partner Detective Sgt. Tim Vogel. The Rollins family had been of Little Rock, AR and were within forty minutes driving time from their home in 'East End,' a small suburb of Little Rock, on the adjoining border with Saline County. Interviews with family, friends and coworkers provided no leads into the bizarre case. A deeper background investigation was to reveal nothing to warrant the slaughter of the whole family in a popular camping area. Months were to go by slowly for the detectives as nothing new of any sort was developing in this strange case. Only the ammunition used said anything at all and that only that a ballistics test showed the rounds were 7.62, a common military round. The type of weapon was described as a military assault or sniper rifle, though it did not seem to match any US made weapon. A continuing check of hundreds of foreign weapons was in progress and the make should
soon be determined.

Seven months later, in an Arizona desert playground, near a KOA Campground, about a hundred yards out into the desert, a camouflaged figure inched slowly forward in an old desert storm type suit, blending in well in his sand and cactus background. Finding a small flat rock ledge, the killer placed the fold down bipod of his FR-F1 rifle on the ledge, giving himself excellent support for the deadly sniper rifle. He lay there for a long time awaiting his target of choice. Then, when two adults came to round up the four children, playing on the playground equipment, he opened fire.

They never had a chance, as the nearest thing that would have given them any cover at all was the refreshment stand nearly thirty feet away. He did not give them time to get anywhere near that far before dropping the last of them with a killing shot to the head. When he was finished with his killing, he calmly policed his brass and crawled away, dragging the sand colored blanket he had covered himself with, to blot out even the signs of his crawling. As he had calculated, the stiff breeze that was blowing across the desert, quickly eliminated even those faint signs.

Though the cases were many hundreds of miles apart and in totally distant jurisdictions, the similarities were quickly divined and the cases put together as the second scene of the same deranged killer. This time, the ballistics report was sent straight to the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department and with the additional rounds to work with the weapon was discovered to be a French FR-F1 Sniper rifle and an investigation into all known sales in the US was initiated. 

The murders were still in the headlines, two days later, when the killer once again relaxed with a cold beer, while watching the reports of his latest activities. Upon hearing them refer to the "deranged killer" he simply smiled and said aloud, "that's what you think. I guess you are all entitled to your opinion and you just go on thinking that and we will get along just fine. Some people like to kill deer or pheasant or quail or raccoons or even bear, me, I just like killing people. Rich, poor, any age, any color, any religion, and any way I can." Hearing his wife's car pull in the driveway outside, he shut up and changed the channel to an old movie. 

This time only three months had gone by, before once again the FR-F1 spoke out, killing two backpack hikers on a path in the great Redwood National Park in California. Once again ballistics linked the killings and this time a headline about the "Campground Killer" caught the attention of UPI and it didn't take long for all the news media to pick it up and the newest US serial killer had a name. The location, in a national park, brought in the FBI but with no better immediate results than local authorities. No motive, no links between victims, nothing seemed to give any clue as to the reasoning behind the killings. Nine months passed before the FR-F1 spoke its deadly message again, this time at Mount Rushmore, and four more bodies were discovered, killed by the "Campground Killer," with his 7.62 ammunition.

Then, four short months later, again in Arkansas, in the northwest portion of the state at Devil's Den state park, he struck yet again. This time, he seemed to be in no hurry to leave and simply kept on killing anyone who came up the paths or tried to save those trapped by his fire. Seven dead and one wounded, who died within hours of reaching the hospital, made it eight more dead for the "Campground Killer."

A massive manhunt of stores, pawnshops, gun shows and anywhere else a weapon may be sold came up absolutely empty. Twenty-five people killed and not one police official has the slightest clue where to turn next. Watching the TV, his wife said, "Isn't this just terrible, why can't they do something to stop this madman."

"I don't know," he said, "maybe this guy is just too smart for them. I know one thing though, if he keeps it up, sooner or later they will get him."

Nearly two years have passed since the last killing and the question remains, where will he strike next, when will he strike again and who will be the next to die.

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