FILE PHOTO - The city of Detroit Michigan skyline is seen along the Detroit river from Windsor Ontario
By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - Detroit police on Friday assured residents of the Motor City that despite rumors on social media they were not aware of a serial killer roaming the downtown streets that they had kept secret from the public.
The whispers apparently stem from the murder of 26-year-old Elizabeth Candice Nichole Laird, whose body was found in a dumpster outside an apartment building on the city's east side on Wednesday.
Police have asked for the public's help in finding a person of interest in the murder of Laird, who according to an autopsy was killed by "compressive asphyxia", which refers to crushing a victim until they can no longer breathe.
"There is false information circulating on social media that there is a serial killer at large in downtown Detroit, and that five to six female victims have been found in dumpsters prior to the May 15 homicide ... and that Detroit Police have failed to communicate this information to the public," police officials said on Facebook. "This is not true."
Assistant Police Chief David LeValley told reporters on the day that Laird's body was found concealed in the dumpster that she had a "negative encounter" with a man inside her apartment building before she was slain.
On Friday, police said they were searching for 50-year-old James Quill Cockerham for questioning in connection to the case and asked that anyone with information concerning the crime or his whereabouts contact detectives.
Detroit's police chief, James Craig, said in January that homicides had declined in the city in 2018, marking the second year in a row of declines in the city of some 675,000 people.
In 2018, there were a total of 261 criminal homicides, Craig said, compared to 267 in 2017.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Alistair Bell)