Fact check: False claims of serial killer ‘currently hunting’ in many different communities

·5 min read

The claim: Mugshot shows a serial killer ‘currently hunting’

Multiple social media users are warning of a serial killer that is allegedly active in several different communities across the country.

"There's a serial killer or abductor who is currently hunting in Pekin, my friend was almost taken by him," reads an Aug. 11 Facebook post that has been shared more than 1,400 times.

The claim has been repeated by multiple users, with each naming a different community but telling an identical story alongside a mugshot of the supposed serial killer.

"He drives a truck with LED lights and hits cars of women alone and once they pull over he takes them," the posts read. "Multiple disappearances. If you are in the area and you are hit by a truck with LED lights keep driving and call the cops. Stay safe."

But the claims are false. The man shown in the mugshot included in each of the posts is in jail in Tennessee, where he was briefly sought by law enforcement last month after he walked away from an inmate work detail. Police say they are not seeking any serial killer in the communities identified.

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USA TODAY reached out to several users who shared the claim for comment.

Photo illustration of yellow law enforcement line with police car and lights in the background.
Photo illustration of yellow law enforcement line with police car and lights in the background.

Mugshot shows man who fled inmate work detail, sheriff's office says

In early July, the Dickson County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee shared a mugshot of a man who was being sought by authorities after he walked away from an inmate work detail.

The man was found just a few hours later and is still in custody in Dickson County, Jennifer Caruthers, public information officer for the Dickson County Sheriff's Office, told USA TODAY.

The incident was reported by local media at the time.

The mugshot is the same one being shared with the posts that allege the man is a "serial killer or abductor." Caruthers, who confirmed the mugshot was a Dickson County Sheriff's Office booking photo, had seen some of the viral social media claims herself and recognized the man in the mugshot.

"He's not a serial killer," she said. "Just a local, one of our local guys that ends up in jail a lot."

Multiple versions of the claim have spread online with different communities listed alongside the claim, including Lafayette, Louisiana, Lufkin, Texas and Pekin, Illinois.

Jessica Pebsworth, a spokesperson for the Lufkin Police Department, said investigators recently discussed the claim, but have found no evidence to support it.

Pekin Police Chief John Dossey hadn't seen the post before he was contacted by USA TODAY, but said there have been no serial murders in the community.

"I do not believe there is any truth to the claims," he said.

Valerie Ponseti, a spokesperson for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office, said investigators have had no reports similar to the claims made in the post. Matthew Benoit, a senior corporal for the Lafayette Police Department, said he wasn't aware of any crimes in the city involving the individual pictured in the post.

Fact check: Chain of posts about a man with a knife going door-to-door is a hoax

The Dickson County Sheriff's Office said the man shown in the photo is serving a sentence for a parole violation and escape.

Dickson County is west of Nashville and has a population of about 54,000 people.

This isn't the first time false claims of supposed serial killers have spread on social media. There were similar claims last year in Hot Springs, Arkansas, after a woman was found dead in what investigators described as an isolated incident, and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after a body was found in the Mississippi River, but police said no foul play was suspected.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a mugshot shows a serial killer who is "currently hunting." An array of viral social media posts claim this man is in different local communities, but police in each place say there's no truth to the claim. The man pictured in the mugshot was briefly sought by authorities in Tennessee after he walked away from an inmate work detail, but he was quickly taken back into custody. The mugshot was taken by the Dickson County Sheriff's Office, which said the man isn't a serial killer and is still in custody on unrelated charges.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claims of serial killer hunting in many communities