Mayor: No evidence of serial killer, hate crime in Piedmont Park deaths

Josh Noblitt leaves a candle following a vigil for stabbing victim Katherine Janness on Sunday at Piedmont Park.

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Josh Noblitt leaves a candle following a vigil for stabbing victim Katherine Janness on Sunday at Piedmont Park.

There is no evidence that the deaths of a woman and her dog at Piedmont Park were committed by a serial killer or were hate crimes, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday. But the case is not a typical one for investigators and more help is needed in solving the case, she said.

“This does not fit the description of anything that we’ve seen,” Bottoms said.

The majority of homicide cases in the city have involved gunfire and victims often know their killers, Bottoms said Tuesday during a news conference. But 40-year-old Katherine “Katie” Janness and her dog, Bowie, appear to have been randomly targeted.

On July 28, they were both found stabbed to death inside the popular park. The two had gone for a late-night walk near their Midtown home, but when they didn’t return, Janness’ longtime girlfriend used a cellphone tracking app to find them. Emma Clark discovered the body of the dog first, then Janness about 100 feet away.

Katherine Janness (left) was found dead at Piedmont Park. Her longtime girlfriend, Emma Clark, used a tracking device to find Janness when she didn't answer her phone.

Credit: Family photo

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Credit: Family photo

The Atlanta Police Department asked the FBI to assist with the investigation to add additional resources, Chief Rodney Bryant said Tuesday.

“This was so unique that I felt like we needed to collaborate with as many resources as we possibly can,” he said.

No suspects have been publicly identified, but the case is a priority for investigators, APD Deputy Chief Charles Hampton said. The department’s leaders said maintaining integrity during the investigation is key, and that means details released in the case have been minimal.

“I assure you that the men and women that are assigned to this investigation are working around the clock,” Hampton said.

On Tuesday, police released photos of six people who were in the park around the time investigators believe Janness was killed. APD has asked for the public’s help in checking their security cameras in the area.

Although there are security cameras in the area and nine inside the park, they were installed in 2008 and are obsolete, Jon Keen, Atlanta’s deputy chief operating officer, said Tuesday. They are not integrated with the newer cameras in the city, he said. Investigators are still working to determine whether the cameras hold any additional evidence, Keen said.

The city is planning to install 250 additional cameras by December, according to the mayor. But Hampton said investigators solve numerous cases without the help of technology.

“Don’t let the cameras get in the way,” he said. “We have the talent and we will bring justice in this case.”

Also Tuesday, the animal rights organization PETA said it is doubling the reward for information about the deaths of Janness and Bowie, bringing the total to $20,000.

Two vigils have been held at the park, and investigators canvassed the area Saturday in search of clues and witnesses. PETA is hopeful the additional reward will motivate people to come forward with information. The organization said Tuesday that an Atlanta-area member added $10,000 to the reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person responsible.

“Anyone who would kill a woman and the dog who likely tried to defend her, as loyal dogs invariably do, is a threat to the entire community of living, feeling beings,” PETA Vice President Colleen O’Brien said in an emailed statement. “PETA knows well the sociological studies of killers who target the most vulnerable among us and urges anyone with information to come forward to help police identify this callous killer.”

Anyone with information on the crimes is asked to contact the APD homicide unit at 404-546-4235 or Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477. Tipsters can remain anonymous and may also text information to 274637 or visit the Crime Stoppers website.