Carol Flood died where she slept, in a dark Houston alley.
Police found Flood, 62, naked from the waist down behind an abandoned YMCA building on Oct. 10. Her body was beaten and her neck, swollen and streaked, displayed the classic signs of strangulation.
Cops believe Flood's death may be related to two other recent murders, raising the specter that downtown Houston has a serial killer preying on women in its midst.
All three victims were black women. Two were homeless and found within blocks of each other. The other victim, the first to be killed, was younger and not homeless but her body was found near a homeless shelter.
All were killed the same way, strangled with a ligature, like a rope or wire.
Houston cops won't say definitively that the women were killed by a lone serial killer, but they won't rule out the possibility either.
"We don't have any evidence that points to just one suspect," said John Cannon, a spokesman for the Houston Police Department.
"The two most recent victims were both homeless and were strangled a couple blocks away from each other," said Cannon. "When we started looking for other similar cases, that's when we noticed similarities with another woman found in June. We thought: we can lump these together," said Cannon.
Cannon said police are processing DNA, but would not say where or if biological evidence had been found on all three victims. He said there was no conclusive evidence of sexual assault in any of the cases.
The two homeless women were both killed near where they slept and are believed to have been attacked while still asleep.
Police say Flood had been living on the streets for years. Often she would spend her days at the Houston Public Library, but when she could scrape enough money together, she would watch a movie at Edwards Greenway Palace Theater. It was there that she was last seen, taking in a triple feature at 3:45 p.m. on Oct. 9, the day before her body was found, according to police.
On June 18, a homeless man called the cops to say he had found a dead body in a vacant lot, near a dark underpass and just across a set of train tracks from the Star of Hope Mission.
The body belonged to Raquel Mundy, a 24-year-old single mother of two who, like Carol Flood, was found strangled and nude from the waist down. Her body had decomposed so much the cops could not determine if she had been sexually assaulted.
Mundy had just moved from California and was studying to be a medical assistant.
"Tomorrow is a big day. I start school at ten am. Yes betterin my self and my girls along the way," she wrote on Facebook on June 15. A day later she posted: "At school waitin on the teacher to enter the room. Im so proud of my self. Made a change in my life."
The following day, she drove to Houston and just after midnight loaded her two children and her mother onto a Greyhound bus for the long ride back to California.
She risked parking late at night in a McDonald's lot, with numerous No Parking signs. Her car was towed and after trying to call some relatives to get a late-night ride to the car pound, gave up. She was last seen getting into a dark grey or blue car.
Three days later she was found dead.
On Sept. 30 the body of Reita Long, 52, was found outside the Catholic Co-Cathedral in downtown Houston. She, too, had been strangled.
Unlike Flood and Mundy, Long's body was found fully clothed.
According to a Houston Chronicle profile, Long had been a college graduate and onetime school teacher who, suffering from a mental illness, lost her job and began living on the streets in her late 20s.
Police have visited "every homeless shelter downtown," warning homeless women not to sleep outside alone and to "be on the lookout."