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Escorts may be target of Detroit serial killer

Detroit police fear a killer may be targeting escorts after learning that three of four women found dead in car trunks within blocks of each other had placed sex-related ads on the same website.

Attorneys general for 45 states had raised concerns earlier this year about how the site, Backpage.com, polices ads for adult services.

The latest two victims, women ages 28 and 29, were found Christmas morning when Detroit firefighters discovered their badly burned bodies in the trunk of a car that had been set ablaze in a garage. Two other women were found Dec. 19 in another car trunk. The Medical Examiner's Office has not determined how they died.

Police Chief Ralph Godbee said three of the women had placed ads for "prearranged adult dating services" on Backpage.com, and investigators were preparing search warrants Tuesday to get more information from the Phoenix-based website. Police were stopping short of calling the deaths the work of a serial killer, Godbee said.

Backpage.com said that it had provided police with information about ads that a suspect may have posted on numerous websites and that the police investigation involves at least 30 different ads on multiple websites, "separate and distinct from ours."

Meanwhile, the families of Demesha Hunt, 24, and Renisha Landers, 23, whose bodies were found Dec. 19, were preparing for a joint funeral Thursday.

The Detroit women were found in the trunk of a car parked in the driveway of a vacant home on the city's east side. They were reported missing by relatives after they didn't return from a night out. Police said there were no outer signs of trauma to the bodies.

Their mothers told the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday that the cousins weren't escorts.

"These were good girls. They were not on the streets. They had homes," said Landers' mother Chikita Madison.

The attorneys general of Michigan and Illinois were among those across the country who wrote Backpage.com on Aug. 31 demanding that it show it was not promoting illegal sexual activity. The officials had raised similar concerns about Craigslist, which agreed to close its adult services section last year.

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