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In August and early September of 2001, a series of extremely bizarre murders had investigators puzzled. The national media lost interest in the events following the hoopla surrounding 9/11, but amateur detectives and conspiracy theorists continue to be fascinated by the cases. Dubbed by the news the "Prime Murders", a series of strange ] killings in rural Wisconsin, northern Michigan, and Minnesota left authorities in the dark.
The first case was Jerry Thompson, a 32-year old man from Missouri who went on a camping trip deep in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests in Northern Wisconsin. He brought a friend, Alex Eyrie, on the trip. On August 11, park rangers received a mysterious 911 call, from an individual who did not speak. Tracking the origin of the call, police found the mutilated and dismembered body of Jerry in a small creek. Although the corpse was heavily manipulated, its eyes gouged out, authorities were able to identify the body. The corpse had the word "sieve" crudely carved into the stomach. Alex was found nearby, tied to a tree, but physically healthy and with access to food and bottles of water. Although he was neither dehydrated, malnourished, nor physically harmed, Alex was still mentally unstable and shaken from his experience. In an interview with the police, Mr. Eyrie claimed that he did not make the strange 911 call, and was unaware of who did.
Mr. Eyrie explained that a strange masked man appeared on their campsite. He had black drapes covering his face, and some kind of handgun, and shot Jerry in the leg so that he was unable to move. Next, he tied Alex to a tree, setting aside granola bars and bottles of water for him. Then, the killer shot Jerry in the head, killing him, and proceeded to mutilate the corpse in front of Alex. What was strange was that the masked man did not speak at all during this encounter, nor remove his face garments. The local news caught hold of the story, but the national media remained uninterested at this point.
On August 13, similar events occurred in a small farmhouse seven miles outside the village of Aniwa, Wisconsin. Authorities received a strange 911 call from some person who did not speak; tracking the location of the call, police found the similarly mutilated corpse of Merry Williamson, with the word "sieve" carved in the abdomen, and gouged-out eyes, in the basement of the home. Her husband, James Williamson, was found tied up in the same cellar, with granola bars and bottles of water set aside for him. James was mentally disturbed after the incident, but was able to describe a strange masked man who did not speak. Police immediately connected this killing with the camping murders, and investigated the concept of a possible serial killer afoot. Warnings were broadcast on local TV and radio stations in northern Wisconsin, advising citizens to be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious events to the authorities.
On August 15, two different killings in the morning and evening occurred in northern Michigan. Ahmeek, Michigan, saw a total of three deaths. Two college students were murdered in their home, with the same pattern of mutilation, but this time there was no witness or 911 call. A similar event afflicted a lone 43-year old man in the same town. Police discovered the same "sieve" carving, connecting the incident to the previous events. At this point, authorities around the nation really began to take notice. As the crimes passed over state lines, the FBI became involved.
Police noticed that all the victims of the killings had previously had their email account or computer hacked, several days before the murder. On August 21, the FBI received a strange letter in the mail from an individual claiming to be the killer. The 723-page document was nearly incomprehensible, but had the phrase "realizing the sieve of Eratosthenes, for the salvation of all Mankind" repeated frequently. The letter seemed to discuss bizarre forms of astrology and the occult, with numerous diagrams illustrating the positions of the planets. The author, presumably the killer, wrote about the end of the World and mass cataclysm. The letter had no return address, but police matched DNA samples found on the document with evidence on the crime scene, confirming that the murderer had handled the letter. Unfortunately, the police had no suspects that matched the DNA evidence.
James Harrison, an investigator for the FBI, noticed an eerie fact about the murders: only individuals with a prime serial number (the final four digits of the social security number) were victims of the killer. Only about one in ten individuals have a prime serial number. This would explain why the killer hacked the victim's computers and email accounts--he was determining their social security number, and only pursued those with a prime serial.
On August 25, three additional killings occurred in Waite Park, Minnesota. In every case, the corpse was mutilated (dismembered and the eyes gauged out); the word "sieve" was crudely carved into the body; the witnesses were tied up but given food and water, and emerged mentally unstable; there was no evidence of rape or sexual assault; a mysterious 911 call from a non-speaking individual brought police to the scene. Authorities suspected that the killer purposely called 911, perhaps to add thrill or excitement to the crime. The five witnesses described the same masked figure. Two men in their forties, who remain anonymous, and one male high school student were killed on the 25th. Three additional deaths occurred in Waite Park, on September 1, 3, and 7, following the same pattern; every victim had a prime serial number.
On the night of September 10, park rangers found a corpse deep inside Chippewa National Forest, miles from the nearest road or major trail. The body was dismembered and lacked eyes, and had the same strange "sieve" scrawled across the abdomen. Checking with the records department, police found that the victim, a Missouri college student aged 21, had a prime serial number. Although there was no witness, the authorities made a breakthrough; a digital camera had been set up inside the tent, and may have filmed the murder. The device was badly damaged, but police were able to eventually recover the footage. Immediately, the case was closed, the footage was destroyed, and the investigation ceased due to "lack of evidence".
I have a good friend who once worked as an intern in the FBI department relating to video evidence. While the footage was being destroyed, he managed to copy the first half of the film and save it on his hard drive. In 2001, he offered to show the video to me. What I saw was extremely disturbing.
The camera was pointed toward the entrance of the tent. The first eight minutes show simply the plastic wall and zipper of the tent. At nine minutes in, the zipper begins to open. A masked man with pitch black facial garments starts to enter. Screams are heard. The masked man quickly pulls out a handgun, and fires a bullet, presumably maiming the college student in the leg. Slowly, the man closes the zipper to the tent, and begins to unmask himself, revealing a horrifically disfigured face. The ears are gone, only a single bloodshot eye is present, the nose is partially severed, and, worst of all, a huge gaping hole can be seen in the left cheek, allowing one to peer into the murderer's mouth and esophagus. After three minutes of staring at the maimed and screaming camper, the man curls his lips, breaking into a strong smile. At this point, the video cuts to static.
The remaining half of the footage was destroyed forever.