The murder case is so bizarre and chilling that one police officer said it belongs on the "X-Files" television show.
Marvin Charles Gabrion Jr., who appeared briefly -- and with a smirk on his face -- in Buffalo's federal court on Thursday, has not been charged with any killings.
But police suspect him of raping a Michigan woman and then killing her before she could testify against him, kidnapping the woman's baby, and killing one or two other witnesses in the rape case.
And investigators are looking into another chilling angle -- Gabrion's possible involvement in the disappearances of a number of people whose identities he had assumed in a Social Security benefits scam.
"He was using the names of various people in various cities, and picking up their Social Security checks," one police official said. "We want to know where these people are. We haven't located them yet."
His court-appointed attorney, Joseph Mistrett of the Federal Public
Defenders Office, could not be reached to comment.
It's too early to determine if any of the people were killed, the official said, but that is one of the fears police have. Authorities said it is believed the Michigan native may have been picking up Social Security checks in the names of at least nine people.
A nationwide manhunt for Gabrion, 43, ended Tuesday when police captured him outside a post office in the Town of Sherman in Chautauqua County. He had gone to the post office to pick up a Social Security check that was sent there to Robert James Allen.
Over the past two years, police believe, Gabrion made a number of visits to Sherman and nearby Jamestown, establishing a post office box and a bank checking account for himself, both under the Allen name.
"There really was a person named Robert James Allen who was legitimately receiving (Social Security) benefits, but we haven't been able to locate him," a law enforcement official said.
"It's disturbing to know someone like this was in our community," Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said of Gabrion. "From everything we've been told, he's an extremely twisted, dangerous, scary, cold-blooded individual.
"We don't know whether he actually had a residence here, but he was doing banking and picking up checks here."
So far, Gabrion has been charged with rape, Social Security fraud, welfare fraud, unlawful flight and driving while intoxicated. But officials in Michigan say he is the prime suspect in more serious crimes.
Last year, Gabrion was charged with raping Rachel Timmerman, 19, near Grand Rapids, Mich., according to Angela Moore of the Newaygo County prosecutors office.
The rape case was supposed to go to trial in Newaygo County on June 25 of this year.
"But on June 19, we received a letter, purportedly from Miss Timmerman, saying she no longer wanted to go through with the case," Ms. Moore said.
After that, Miss Timmerman and her baby daughter disappeared. Turtle hunters found Miss Timmerman's body in a secluded lake on July 5. The victim's eyes and mouth had been covered with duct tape, and cinder blocks had been tied to her body. The woman was still alive when she was put into the water.
The baby, Shannon VerHage, and Wayne Davis, 44, a witness in the rape case, are still missing. Another witness in the rape case has not been heard from since then, but he is not yet listed as a missing person, Ms. Moore said.
Miss Timmerman's mother-in-law, Kim VerHage, said police have told her they are investigating reports that Shannon may have been sold by Gabrion.
"The police have told me they have reason to believe Shannon is still alive, but they haven't said why," Ms. VerHage said. "This has been very hard on our entire family. Rachel and Shannon lived with me half the time.