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Detective Trapp, Part 2: A mangled body is discovered and a grim search begins

TNS NEWSFEATURES (EDITORS: Part 2 of a 5-part series. Subsequent parts will move through Thursday, Dec. 5.), Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

He had worked murders with Trapp for more than two years, wearing a suit and tie and short-brim fedora. The camaraderie was instant, and by now they could sometimes read each other's thoughts with a glance. At the office, their cubicles were a few feet away, and they liked to get each other's attention by launching spongy ping-pong balls at the other's head.

"Yin and yang," he called their partnership. Both were devout Christians, Trapp a Catholic who liked Blanton's whiskey, Linn a Calvary Chapel evangelical who believed in the Bible's inerrant word and shunned alcohol.

He could debate theology tirelessly, and liked to ask why she sometimes prayed to Mother Mary, rather than directly to God. "Every once in a while, I want to talk to a woman," she would say, and sometimes had to add: "Can we just get back to murder?"

"She's all girl," he would say when he teased her about the price of the Christian Louboutins and Manolo Blahniks she wore off duty. "She's a dude," he'd say when he recalled how hard she punched the bag in Krav Maga class or took control of a scene.

Linn's approach to his job was informed by his years hunting fugitives, where he had been a step removed from the victims' families. The suspect was his focus.

Unlike Trapp, he didn't pin the victims' faces on his cubicle wall. Neither did any of their veteran partners, one of whom was once asked how he could function clear-headedly after seeing decades of murder victims, and who replied, "I don't know them."

 

Trapp was different. She went out of her way to know the victims, and their families' bottomless pain, which she somehow seemed able to absorb without limit. "That's what makes me push," she said.

When Anaheim police stop suspects, their tattoos are noted and fed into a database, and by this method detectives quickly identified the victim as Jarrae Estepp, 21, of Ardmore, Okla. An officer had detained her the year before, on suspicion of prostitution, and recorded that "Jodi" was inked on her neck. It was her mother's name.

Trapp thought Estepp fit the profile of a "circuit girl" -- a sex worker who cycled through Anaheim, Oakland, Las Vegas and other prostitution hubs. Back at her desk, with the reek of the recycling plant still in her clothes, Trapp began faxing hotels in the resort district around Disneyland, trying to find the room where Estepp might have been staying. This didn't bring any results.

The heart of the sex trade in Anaheim was a few blocks west -- a mile-long north-south stretch of Beach Boulevard vice cops called the Track. It's a wide street that bisects the city's far western corner. To the north it spills into Buena Park, close to Knott's Berry Farm. To the south, it turns into the city of Stanton.

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