RENO, Nev. – A pair of women's underwear found with the body of a college student who had been kidnapped and strangled may have been left behind to taunt authorities searching for a serial rapist, police said Tuesday.
The underwear contained the DNA of two people — the same man who committed at least two sexually motivated crimes against other young college women in the area in the past four months, and an unknown woman, police said.
"Our belief is the suspect in this case left these panties there either to taunt the police, to taunt the community, or somehow didn't realize he had them and dropped them in that regard," Chief Michael Poehlman told KKOH Radio.
The black thong underwear, emblazoned with the head of the cartoon character the Pink Panther, found with the body Friday did not belong to 19-year-old strangling victim Brianna Denison, police said.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the unknown DNA belonged to another woman who might have been assaulted.
Denison, a sophomore at Santa Barbara City College in California, was visiting her hometown over winter break when she was abducted Jan. 20 while she slept on a couch in a friend's home near the University of Nevada, Reno.
Police suspect her killer is the same man who committed the sex crimes, and their search has plagued much of the area around the university with fear.
"What is critical to us is there was DNA on these panties, not Brianna's or anyone else in the house," Poehlman said.
The underwear also may have been stolen in a burglary or perhaps belonged to a woman who had dated someone and later noticed the garment missing, police Lt. Robert McDonald said.
It's important the woman who owns the underwear come forward because any information she has may lead police to Denison's killer, McDonald said.