Deangelo Martin, 34, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of felony murder. He had already been charged in the stabbing and sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in May and the kidnapping and assault of a 51-year-old woman in June.
Martin's alleged victims were found in abandoned houses across the city as far back as February 2018. Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy identified the victims at a news conference as Anetta Nelson, 57, found on Feb. 26, 2018, Nancy Harrison, 52, who was found March 19, 2019, Trevesene Ellis, 55, who was found March 24, and Tamara Jones, 55, who was found June 5.
Investigators have said they believe all four women were sex workers. All of the victims’ bodies were found face down with a used condom beside them. A coroner determined that two of the victims died of blunt force trauma but the other two bodies were badly decomposed and the coroner was unable to determine their cause of death.
Worthy said investigators were examining two other homicides to determine whether Martin was tied to those killings.
The Detroit Free Press reported that rumors of a serial killer lurking in downtown Detroit had been circulating on social media since mid-May. Police, however, initially repudiated those rumors, saying, “there is false information circulating” and “this is not true."
“I think it's pretty clear that we believe he is a serial killer," Worthy said of Martin Wednesday.
"Predators ... look for people who are seemingly vulnerable, left out and left behind,” the prosecutor added. “People that they think will not fight back, people that they think nobody cares about, people that they think won't be missed. But they're wrong ... We worked tirelessly to make sure that we can bring them some modicum of justice, of respect and of dignity, no matter what they were engaged in before, during, after they were reported missing."
Martin was arraigned Wednesday afternoon. A probable cause conference was scheduled for Oct. 2 and a preliminary examination on Oct. 9.
Six years ago, Detroit had at least 30,000 empty houses and 20 square miles of vacant land. Mayor Mike Duggan has said removing blighted houses is a priority in his efforts to revive Detroit since the city's 2014 exit from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Duggan this week announced plans to ask voters to approve the sale of up to $250 million in bonds to eradicate residential blight across the city. A proposed resolution to put the initiative on the March 2020 ballot has been submitted to the City Council.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.