Fears for missing sister renewed in slayings case
By Mike Blasky
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Posted: Aug. 12, 2012 | 2:00 a.m.
Updated: Aug. 12, 2012 | 10:41 a.m.
He was a man with a bad leg and a big smile, and Bobby Joe Jenkins didn't think much about him when things went bad in the summer of 1999.
Why would he? The man bought candy and ice cream for the youngsters and was the social butterfly of their poor east valley apartment complex, always bumming around for cold drinks and hot meals, Jenkins said. He was constantly drunk and a bit of a womanizer, but everybody knew and liked him.
"He would try to play around, grabbing the women, chasing people even though he couldn't run," said Jenkins, 54. "But he would try anyway."
Jenkins was the one who came up with the nickname: "Criptoe," because of the man's pronounced limp. It stuck.
He considered the man a friend, even if his eye sometimes wandered too close to Jenkins' home.
"My sister used to tell me all the time, 'Tell your friend to stop staring at me,' " Jenkins said. "It made her uncomfortable."
But Jenkins had no reason to suspect him when his sister suddenly disappeared that August, and neither did the police.
He didn't think much about Criptoe again until he saw his mugshot in the news on Wednesday morning, when he was shocked to learn that he and his sister had been living next to Nathan Burkett, a convicted killer whom police were calling one of Las Vegas' first known serial killers.
Now Jenkins thinks about Criptoe. And he wonders about his sister.
Brigitte Mitchell Thomas, 33, disappeared on Aug. 19, 1999, from the Regatta Apartments at 2101 Sandy Lane, near Pecos Road and Lake Mead Boulevard.
timeline of Burkett
TRACING BURKETT'S MOVEMENTS
1978: Las Vegas police believe a killing spree began when Barbara Ann Cox, 22, was found strangled in a parking lot outside apartments at 211 W. Bonanza Road. Nathan Burkett was interviewed by police but was apparently not a suspect at the time.
1983: Five years after Cox's death, Burkett was sentenced to prison in Mississippi for the killing of his mother, who was burned to death.
1992: Burkett was scheduled to be released from prison.
1994: Police believe Burkett's move back to Las Vegas coincided with the February killing of Tina Gayle Mitchell, 27, who was found behind a home on H Street near Washington Avenue. She had been strangled. Two months later, the body of Los Angeles woman Alethea Maria Williams was discovered in the same place Mitchell's body had been found. Williams also had been strangled. Burkett has been questioned by police in her death but not charged.
1996: Burkett moved to the Regatta apartments near Lake Mead Boulevard and Pecos Road, neighbors said. He lived in the area until about 2002.
1999: Brigitte Mitchell Thomas, 33, disappeared from the Regatta apartments in August. She lived next door to Burkett and her family believes the cases could be linked. Police have not named Burkett a suspect.
2002: Valetter Jean Bousley, 41, was found dead on Sept. 4 outside a church on F Street near Monroe Avenue. She had been strangled.
2003: Burkett was arrested by Las Vegas police on a murder charge in October. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Bousley's death. Officials took a sample of his DNA.
2009: Burkett was released after six years in prison.
2010: In January, Las Vegas police detectives reviewed Mitchell's cold case. In May, Cox's sister Connie Bainbridge called Las Vegas police and asked about her sister's death. Detective David Culver was assigned both cases and began to enter DNA found at the scenes into a national database.
2011: Burkett was identified as a suspect in Cox's killing from his DNA in November.
2012: The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations located Burkett in Picayune in July. That same month, Burkett's DNA also proved to be a match in Mitchell's death. Burkett was arrested. Burkett was extradited to Las Vegas Tuesday on murder and sexual assault charges in Cox and Mitchell's killings.