'Serial killer' charged with killing four women and leaving their bodies in abandoned houses

Vittoria Elliott
Deangelo Martin, who is charged with murdering four women and leaving their bodies in abandoned houses in Detroit, pictured during his arraignment hearing: AP

A suspected serial killer has been charged with murdering four women and leaving their bodies in abandoned houses in Detroit.

Police had arrested Deangelo Martin in June for allegedly stabbing and sexually assaulting a 26-year-old woman, who managed to escape, the previous month.

He now faces four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of felony murder related to the deaths of Annetta Nelson, 57; Nancy Harrison, 52; Trevesene Ellis; and Tamara Jones, 55. He is also facing charges for the kidnapping and assault of another 51-year-old woman.

The 34-year-old was arrested just two days after Ms Jones's body was discovered.

Police say two of the victims died from blunt force trauma while the bodies of two others were too decomposed to d

etermine their cause of death.

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said Martin exhibited the patterns of a serial killer, targeting women in their 50s who were working as prostitutes and leaving their bodies in a kneeling position in abandoned houses with a used condom near by.

She said: "I think it's pretty clear that we believe he is a serial killer."

Sex workers are easy prey for killers because they are already vulnerable and marginalised. Prostitution remains illegal in many places in the United States, making sex workers less likely to report violence or ask police for help.

Martin pleaded not guilty and was refused bail by magistrate Laura Echartea, who called him a danger to the community.

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The murders led the police to search more than 4,200 vacant homes.

There are more than 19,000 vacant addresses in Detroit, down from some 30,000 six years ago. The city has been funding the demolition and reconstruction of thousands of abandoned properties.

This week, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan said he aimed to have all of the city’s other abandoned buildings searched and boarded up by the end of the month. He also announced he would ask voters to approve $250 million in municipal bonds that would be used to address residential blight over a period of five years.

Police say that they are continuing to investigate two other murders that they suspect may also be connected to Martin.