This story airs Dateline NBC on August 7, 2009.
BOCA RATON, FLA. — On a steamy August afternoon in south Florida, the mall -- like malls anywhere -- can be a place to escape, an everyday Christmas of possibilities in the upscale shop windows.
For some people, it's an air-conditioned Main Street where they can let their brain slip out of gear for awhile.
Jane Doe: A lot of mothers go there with their kids to walk around, get them out of the house.
A -- call her Jane, as in Jane Doe -- is speaking in disguise because of the terrible things that happened to her one day after she and her young son had a nothing-special wander through the big mall near Boca Raton, north of Miami.
- Linda Cardellini Says She's Marrying Her Childhood Crush
- Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Premiere Will Be a 'Watch 'n Sniff' Event
- Channing Tatum Gets Star-Studded Salute in Hilarious Music Video Spoof
- Anchorman 2 Trailer Released: Watch It Now
- Dolce & Gabbana Convicted of Tax Evasion, Sentenced to Jail Time
While she was shopping -- spraying on a sample of perfume, buying a fashion baseball cap -- someone was out in the parking lot. Waiting. Watching. On the hunt for vulnerable women.
He must have locked on Jane as she and her son exited the mall at Nordstrom about one o'clock that day. She was doing the usual mother's juggling act as she popped the hatch of her black SUV.
Jane Doe: I put my son in first. I strapped him in his car seat.
Dennis Murphy: He's in back.
Jane Doe: Yeah, in the back. Then I go to the back of the truck and I put the stroller in, shut the gate, and start walking to the front … And that's when I hear my son, and he's, like, "mama, mama." And I could tell, like, he's worried or scared. That's when I look in to see if he's OK, and there's a guy sitting there.
It was a guy in a floppy hat and wrap-around shades, sitting in her SUV, right next to her 2-year-old.
Dennis Murphy: That moment; how terrifying is that?
Jane Doe: I was in shock at that moment. And I just stood there and the guy said, "Get in the car," and I was frozen. And when he said, "Get in the car" for the second time that's when I noticed the gun.
The gun is pointed at her son.
The man in the hat ordered her to drive away from the mall and find a drive-through ATM machine.
She follows his directions.
Jane Doe: He tells me to withdraw $200. So I withdraw $200 and I gave it to him. And then I withdrew another $200, and another $200. And then when I go for the $800 it denies me, because I reached my maximum.
Dennis Murphy: And yet you must be thinking, "We’re both dead here."
Jane Doe: Yeah, but the guy had said, "Just do what I say and I’ll take you back to the mall."
But he doesn't. He tells her to pull into the slow moving sludge of midday traffic. Her son, sitting next to the gunman, is lulled asleep by the moving vehicle.
Jane was at the wheel, glancing at the car to her left. The other driver can't see inside the dark smoked glass windows of her big SUV. Never sees her stark terror.
Jane Doe: I thought of crashing, like, my truck. But then I thought, you know, if I did that then he might get mad and hurt my son.
The gunman orders Jane to pull into the rear parking lot of a Hilton hotel. He tells her to get out.
Jane Doe: And I was begging him not to kill me. And he said, "I’m not going to. I don't need any more problems than I already have, or any more trouble than I’m already in."
"More trouble"? What's this guy talking about? It's all a surreal jumble. One minute you're buying a baseball cap and the next moment you and your young child are looking at eternity.
Jane Doe: I remember thinking, you know, "Nobody knows that I’m going to die today.”
The gunman wanted her to swap seats with him. Him driving. Her in the back seat with the kid.
Then bad gets a lot worse.
Jane Doe: I see him pull out a pair of handcuffs. And he handcuffs my wrists behind my back and he pulls out a bag of zip ties. And he zip ties my ankles together, and then zip ties my neck to the headrest. And he takes out a pair of darkened sunglasses with duct tape, I’m guessing, and puts them on my eyes so now I’m blindfolded.
Dennis Murphy: Speak to me of terror.
Jane Doe: I started losing it. And I started choking, choking myself because the zip tie was so tight, you know, I was choking myself and I couldn't breathe and gagging and crying and I was just hysterical.
Whatever she's doing seems to work. Her abductor eases up on the zip tie around her neck.
Jane Doe: So he loosened it, and, you know, he's like, "Is that better?" and I’m, like, "Yes."
He pulls into traffic and then abruptly stops again. He has a plastic bag with him. He reaches in and pulls out a knife.
Jane Doe: I didn't know what he was going to do with the knife, so I was crying, "Please don't kill me, please don't hurt me." He was, like, "I’m not. Just stay still. Don't move." And he cut the zip tie off my neck. And that was it. Then started driving again.
But now Jane thinks whoever this guy is he doesn't seem to know the local roads. He's managed to get himself on the toll road, the Florida Turnpike, and he's steamed at his error.
Jane Doe: He makes a u-turn, and I guess my son's bottle fell and he started crying. And I saw that it went, like, under the driver's seat. So he grabbed it and gave him his bottle and he stopped crying.
After two hours of this -- him driving the big SUV erratically, Jane in back, bound by the ankles and hands, blackout sunglasses over her eyes -- he stops the vehicle and, lo and behold, they're back at the Town Center Mall where it all started.
Jane Doe: He tells me that he's going to put the zip tie back on my neck. And he's going to let me call somebody and tell them that my truck is broken down and that they need to come get me.
The guy dials her cell phone.
Jane Doe: I tell him who to call, my son's father. And I told him, you know, "My truck's broken down. Come get me.”
Dennis Murphy: Did you get the feeling he was trying to come across as a nice guy to you in some weird way?
Jane Doe: Like, he changed to kind of a nicer guy in a way. It sounds kind of weird, but a different person almost.
But Mr. Nice and accommodating was still in control. He had a final order for his victim.
Jane Doe: "Now, when the police come, I want you to tell them that I’m short, fat and black." He then takes the sunglasses that he had on me off and he put a pair of swimming goggles on me that were blacked out.
In the back seat, still bound, strapped to the rear seat headrest, and now the world gone totally dark.
Jane Doe: He said to me, "If I see anything on the news with my face or my picture, my description, I will come after you."
The gunman slammed the door and was gone.
But he'd be back.
The mall was perfect for his kind of hunting.
The mall gunman had slipped away, but Jane Doe was still bound inside her idling SUV. Blacked-out swim goggles prevented her from seeing.
Her 2-year-old son was in his car seat beside her.
Dennis Murphy, Dateline NBC: How are you restrained now? You've been tied here at the neck?
Jane Doe: Right. And I was handcuffed behind my back.
The father of her boy had been alerted and was on his way to the mall, but she had no intention of waiting to be found out in the many football fields of mall parking.
Dennis Murphy: How do you get out of that?
Jane Doe: Well, I had my hands behind me, and I pulled them under my butt and roll my feet like this.
Dennis Murphy: And how'd you get out from the restraint on your neck?
Jane Doe: I pulled the goggles up, and there was a button right here, and I pushed the headrest up. Like, I didn't know where he was. I was scared. Like he would see me and then at that point I just had to go.
Jane knew the mall and sped to the valet parking stand.
Jane Doe: I pulled up to the valet and I said, "Can you please call the police? I was just kidnapped." And he looked at me and said "Are you kidding?" And I was like, "No." And I showed him all my restraints. And he called the police.
So after an ordeal like Jane’s, you'd think maybe you were finally in the clear when the police showed up. But it hadn't been Jane’s day from the very start and now the cops weren't making it any easier.
She got the distinct impression that the arriving city of Boca Raton police officers did not believe her story. Not the gunman, not the terrifying ride around, none of it.
Jane Doe: I don't know, it just didn't seem like that they believed what I was telling them.
Dennis Murphy: Even with the scrapes that you had on your neck and your arms?
Jane Doe: Yes.
The cops checked out the cheap handcuffs still on her wrists, the zip ties in the back seat, and simply did not believe that anyone could get themselves out of that kind of bondage unless it was all a set-up of some kind. She'd have to be Houdini.
Dennis Murphy: Police didn't believe you could get out of that bind you were in, did they?
Jane Doe: No.
And when she recounted her terrifying odyssey--the business about the Florida turnpike, they doubted her story even more. The SunPass electronic device on her windshield hadn't recorded her entering the toll road.
There was no debit on her account.
Boca Raton Police Captain Matthew Duggan says now the town's officers weren't blowing off the woman's story.
Matthew Duggan: I wouldn't classify it as doubting a victim. I would clarify it as substantiating what they said, because ultimately, when we catch this guy, it will be evidence against him.
Dennis Murphy: They asked you to take a lie detector test, didn't they?
Jane Doe: Yes.
Dennis Murphy: You'd been a crime victim. What did that say to you?
Jane Doe: If they needed me to, for whatever reason, I was going to do it. I wasn't hiding anything.
Dennis Murphy: If there was a request for a lie detector test from the woman abducted, did that say something about initial hesitation in believing her?
Matthew Duggan: We have to be objective in what we look at. And, you know, if a lie detector was used it would be another tool that would just substantiate stories.
The Boca police did send out crime scene techs that evening to process the car and gather prints and DNA.
But still, the authorities' initial skepticism about Jane Doe and whether she was trying to pull some kind of crazy number on them, meant that as a news story it never got much play. The account of a woman abducted from the Town Center Mall came with an asterisk attached. It was termed an "alleged abduction." The tens of thousands of shoppers who use this mall every day never heard boo about it.
It was as though Jane Doe had never encountered the gunman in the fishing hat and wraparound sunglasses.
It was only a few days later -- an eon in the lifespan of police blotter news -- that the detectives were finally able to confirm Jane’s story about getting on the turnpike.
Matthew Duggan: We actually pulled video records from the toll plazas, and we could actually see her car going through the toll plaza.
Apparently, her SunPass device had simply malfunctioned when it indicated she hadn't entered the turnpike.
Months went by and Jane never heard from the police again. She was just another urban crime victim with a hair raising story to tell her friends and family.
Jane Doe: I just thought that they weren't going to catch him. And I didn't think anything was going to come out of it, unfortunately.
And then one day in November, three months after her abduction, she got a call from a sheriff's detective in the same county.
They were working a case that had started at the same mall. An old case.
And the victim had been shot to death.
Yes, she'd be happy to talk to them.
Jane Doe: I see his face every day, every day. I still do.
The face of the carjacker. The guy who'd put a gun to her child and left her shackled in the back seat after forcing her to withdraw $600 from an ATM machine.
It was a bad day at the mall for the young mother we're calling Jane Doe.
Dennis Murphy: You thought you were dead several times?
Jane Doe: Yeah.
At first the local police didn't entirely believe her story of abduction and terror when it happened in early August.
But now, in November, the Palm Beach County sheriff's office -- another investigative agency -- asked her for help in an ongoing investigation.
Jane Doe: They wanted to talk to me about the murder of Randi Gorenberg in March.
Like Jane Doe, Randi Gorenberg had been at the same Boca Raton, Fla., mall before she was shot to death during an apparent abduction.
Randi was a 52-year-old mother of two married to a successful chiropractor.
Dateline interviewed her mother, Idey Elias.
Idey Elias, victim's mother: She was very down-to-earth, very basic, loving daughter. Wonderful mother. That was Randi.
On March 23, 2007, Randi Gorenberg stopped off at the Town Center Mall a little before noon.
That was her that day, in Puma sneakers and carrying an expensive purse. An exterior mall security camera captured her pausing for a moment to check voice mail on her cell phone.
It was 1:15 p.m. when she headed for her black Mercedes SUV with smoked-out windows. What happened once she reached the parking lot, we do not know because the mall owners had not placed security cameras there.
911 got a call 39 minutes after Gorenberg was photographed outside the mall.
Someone got shot. It's a female.
The caller was saying he'd seen someone tumble from the passenger side of a black Mercedes SUV near a county park five miles north of the mall.
Male voice: Oh my God.
Dispatcher: Is she -- is she moving?
Male voice: No, she's dead. She -- she's dead. She got two shots in her head, my gosh.
Arriving deputies found that the victim wasn't wearing shoes, and yet her expensive jewelry, a Cartier watch, diamond ring and necklace were untouched. There was no ID on the person. The SUV was gone.
It would later be videotaped by a security camera at a nearby home depot. The abandoned Mercedes was found behind the store. The vehicle was registered to a Randi Gorenberg. The murdered woman now had a name.
Palm Beach County homicide Captain Jack Strenges.
Capt. Jack Strenges, Palm Beach County homicide: When we looked in the vehicle, we found that her belongings were gone.
Dennis Murphy: And her shoes were missing.
Strenges: Yes, her shoes were missing along with her purse.
The sheriff's detectives rolled to Randi Gorenberg's $2 million home, and there in front of the house they saw a young man who struck them as acting strangely.
Strenges: Back and forth talking on the cell phone, smoking a cigarette.
The young man in the family driveway turned out to be Randi’s 25-year-old son, Daniel, who had not yet been notified of his mother's murder.
The murder investigation was only hours old, but the detectives were displeased that the victim's son gave them an alibi that didn't check out and had handed over, as requested, the clothes he said he'd been wearing that day. Only it turned out later they were the wrong clothes.
Dennis Murphy: Police officers don't like to be lied to.
Capt. Strenges: Correct. Particularly when we're trying to narrow down the exact timeline. The timeline is critical to this type of investigation.
Randi Gorenberg’s husband, Dr. Stewart Gorenberg, also left detectives scratching their heads when they informed the chiropractor that his wife was dead.
Strenges: It was just not the typical response that you would see from family members when their spouses or kids have been killed and murdered.
Within days of the murder, Dr. Gorenberg hired a lawyer. He and his son stopped talking directly to police.
The cops were focusing their initial investigation on the usual suspects in this kind of out-of-the-blue, no-known-enemies, kind of killing: Family members.
And the husband wasn't making himself any less suspicious in the cops' eyes by the way he was acting.
Idey Elias: Mother... please help us (crying) find this murderer, this monster.
Randi's mother and daughter, Sarie, called a news conference to ask for the public's help.
Even though they were in the same building that day, neither Dr. Gorenberg nor his son Daniel participated in the appeal.
Dennis Murphy: Were you angry at your son-in-law for not talking to the police?
Idey Elias: I was angry. Yes. But people handle things differently.
Guy Fronstin: Every communication I had with him for the first couple months, he was devastated.
Attorney Guy Fronstin represents Dr. Gorenberg and his son. He says they had absolutely nothing to do with Randi’s murder.
Guy Fronstin: I understand the sheriffs are doing their job. They were trying to run down a murderer. And that's what we all want. They just were looking at the wrong people.
Detectives examined the chiropractor's finances and home life under a microscope. They looked at the son's emotional history.
But months passed and the cops were no closer to catching Randi’s killer.
Dennis Murphy: So into the spring and even in summer, the murder of Randi Gorenberg is a mystery?
Then that same summer came the Jane Doe carjacking at the mall.
The Boca Raton police had given area agencies a heads-up about the gunman's M.O. and asked detectives to go back through their old files for a possible match.
Maybe the Randi Gorenberg killing had its roots at the mall, in an abduction like Jane Doe's.
The similarities were obvious: the Town Center Mall, two stylish women, both with big black SUVs?
Capt. Jack Strenges: Personally I don't believe in coincidence. I think there's some significant connections there with the SUVs, the location and stuff like that.
So it wasn't until November -- eight months after the Randi Gorenberg killing -- that police finally sat down with Jane Doe to hear her story from the top. She was looking like the lucky one who got away and her account could be investigative gold.
Jane worked with a police sketch artist and produced this sketch of her abductor: the floppy hat, the wraparound shades, the bland regular features.
Jane felt, though, that the composite hadn't really captured the guy who'd kidnapped her and her son.
Still the detectives were pleased. They had something to work with.
Jack Strenges: I think she was very brave. She was a very good witness to what occurred. She's been able to provide us with significant information.
Two victims. But if it was the same perpetrator in both, why was one victim released and the other cruelly shot to death?
And there are other differences, too. Jane Doe had been bound with handcuffs and plastic ties, blinded with blackout goggles.
The murder victim had not been restrained in that same way.
And with Jane Doe, the goal was apparently to steal her money from an ATM. But in the Randi Gorenberg case, that would have been impossible.
Idey Elias: Randi did not have an ATM card.
Dennis Murphy: So, hypothetically, if her abductor is intent on taking her to an ATM machine to withdraw some cash and she's saying, "I don't have an ATM card," he's probably not believing it.
Idey Elias: Right.
But how could that have gotten him so jacked up that he ended up killing her?
The cops get psychological and theorize it's because Mr. Control had abducted an uncontrollable victim.
Capt. Jack Strenges: She resisted, obviously, because she tried to get out of the vehicle just prior to getting shot.
Jane Doe, on the other hand, obeyed all his commands and made a concentrated effort to talk to him.
Jane Doe: With my son in the car, there was no chance for me to fight back. So I couldn't risk his life.
Despite Jane Doe's valuable addition to the Randi Gorenberg case file, weeks went by and they were no closer to finding her killer.
By then, the Christmas decorations had been up at the mall for weeks.
And in early December, out there, he was back.
The hyena returned to the water hole.
It was the most wonderful time of the year, December 2007, and the retailers at the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, Fla., couldn't agree more.
The parking lot was jammed with shoppers, few of them aware that one, and probably two, women had been abducted from that very place as they got in their SUV’s. One had been murdered.
Jane Doe was the other who lived to tell the harrowing tale.
Dennis Murphy, Dateline NBC: Come the holidays, you’ve got to do some Christmas shopping, I imagine? Do you think about going back to the mall?
Jane Doe: No. I don't go to that mall. I pretty much stayed out of the malls.
It was a good call on her part, because on Dec. 12, a Town Center security camera took this photo about 1 p.m. of a mother and daughter entering the mall.
Single mom Nancy Bocchiccio and 7-year-old Joey, were shopping for Christmas cards.
The little girl was regarded by her family as a kind of miracle daughter. Nancy's sister, Joann Bruno, remembered her sister thinking that once she turned 40, children weren't going to happen for her.
Joann Bruno: The doctor said she wasn't going to be able to have any. So when she was having Joey, she was thrilled because it was really a miracle.
Joann Bruno: Her original due date was Christmas day. And she was our Christmas angel.
And what a bundle Joey turned out to be: A center of attention, dancing, karaoke-singing cutie. A budding golfer.
But on that December day, as they walked past the Sony store security camera on the way to the food court, they had only hours left to live.
At 3 p.m. Nancy and Joey left the mall through the same exit that Randi Gorenberg had used on the day she was killed. These are last pictures ever taken of them.
We don't see Nancy and Joey reach their car -- a big black SUV -- because the owners of the mall had still not installed security cameras out there.
They must have been grabbed upon reaching the SUV.
Capt. Matthew Duggan, Boca P.D.: Within minutes of them being on video exiting the mall, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office gets a 911 phone call from Nancy’s cell phone. There's no dialogue, and the phone immediately hangs up.
Minutes later, Nancy Bocchicchio's black SUV is spotted at this drive-through ATM -- the same one Jane Doe had been directed to. She withdraws $500.
Hours passed without any word about the mother and daughter, then, just before midnight, a security guard at the mall noticed a black SUV with its engine idling.
Inside the vehicle, it was as bad as you'd expect.
Both of them.
Capt. Duggan: There was a female and apparently her daughter -- were dead in the back of a dark SUV.
The festive Christmas ribbons at the mall were joined by strung yellow crime scene tape as Capt. Matt Duggan took charge.
Dennis Murphy: You're a veteran investigator. You've seen a lot of rough stuff. How cold, how bad is this mother-daughter?
Matthew Duggan: I mean, how does anyone describe a mother and a daughter being shot at basically point blank range?
Family members believe without hesitation that Nancy died trying to defend Joey.
Joann Bruno: I know my sister and I know to protect Joey, I know she was fighting.
And evidence of her resistance: the cheap novelty store handcuffs used to restrain Nancy were broken, an indication that she'd struggled to get free.
The timeline of the crime was a blank. No one had seen, and no cameras recorded, the SUV returning to the lot but the unknown person at the wheel had almost certainly been there before in almost identical circumstances.
Matthew Duggan: Nancy had handcuffs on her hands, her feet were tied with tie wraps. She had goggles over her eyes that were also blacked out, and her head had been affixed to the head rest.
Dennis Murphy: This is all the signature of your August robber-abductor.
Matthew Duggan: To a tee.
Dennis Murphy: There's no question in your mind that you're looking for the same guy in those two cases.
Matthew Duggan: In my mind, there's no question at all.
The cops knew what they had and they were going to have to bring Jane Doe back into the picture ASAP.
Jane Doe: I got a phone call in the morning telling me that a mother and her child were found murdered at the mall. I don't even know the words to describe it. Like, my heart sank. I just -- I knew it was him.
Dennis Murphy: I imagine it's a double feeling of incomprehension, those poor people, and "there but for the grace of God, on that day it could have been me"?
Jane Doe: Yeah. Maybe he was going to murder me. And some chance, he didn't. I don't know why. And then I had to deal with him murdering, you know, a mother and her child.
Looking back, Joanne, the sister, remembered that she and Nancy had even talked about the first incident.
But as they casually followed the news, it didn't seem to have had any connection to the Boca mall.
And few but her friends knew anything about the second incident -- Jane Doe's carjacking ordeal.
Some Boca Raton residents became outraged to learn that a kidnapper and killer had savaged women and children, apparently at will, and the cops hadn't found him.
(TV news reports)
This may be one in a string of similar violent crimes committed by a man or group of men preying on a group of shoppers.
Now Boca Raton was a town deeply distressed. With the specter of a possible serial killer hanging over one of south Florida’s most affluent communities, councilmen were up in arms, and shoppers were thinking twice about going to the mall.
I'm afraid to go to the mall, I’m afraid to take my kids anywhere.
The Jane Doe story was certainly horrifying news to Nancy’s sister.
Dennis Murphy: It must have been chilling for you to read and hear the account of that survivor of the abduction, the details about being restrained, threatened. And you have to wonder, "Are these the last kinds of words that my sister heard?"
Joann Bruno: It had to be. I mean they were -- they were tied up, also. And Joey, poor little thing. She looked so frightened. It was a look I’ll never forget.
Dennis Murphy: 7 years old.
Joann Bruno: Yeah. Seven. And on her eighth birthday, I bought her a coffin.
And, of course, the horror in an echo chamber, was reverberating most of all for the woman who got away, a mother with her own young child.
Jane Doe: I feel horrible. Horrible for what they're going through.
Jane Doe was back in the police interview room. Go over it again. Give us a detail. Who is this guy?
After the mother-daughter murders in December, police had no doubt that Jane was telling the truth about her abduction from the same Boca Raton mall in August, 2007.
The swimming goggles, the handcuffs, the plastic ties around her neck -- everything he'd done to Jane, the killer had also done to Nancy Bocchicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey.
Jane Doe: It haunts me every day. My son and I might not be here today.
Once skeptical police had given Jane a lie detector test. Now she was their star witness. They re-interviewed her.
Dennis Murphy: Are they more interested the second time than they were the first? When they're taking down your report?
Jane Doe: Yes. I went through it all again. You know, numerous times.
This was the composite police sketch she'd come up with. And this is the word picture description that went with it. A man she thought in his late 20s or early 30s. No body hair. Someone who could have been at the bar next to you.
Jane Doe: He didn't have an accent, but he could have been Hispanic or maybe Pacific Islands, you know.
Dennis Murphy: About 6 feet tall, not much taller?
Jane Doe: Yeah, about six feet. Regular build. I saw he had a ponytail -- about this long from the base of the back of his neck and it was curly.
Jane had also told investigators that tucked inside a plastic bag from a shoe store called Traffic was a kidnap kit, a well thought-out set of tools he used to control his victims. But still, something wasn't adding up.
Capt. Matthew Duggan: The work that went in to committing this crime -- the planning, the preparation, does not equate to the ultimate reward.
The killer, after all, got just a few hundred dollars from his victims.
And now it was a matter of catch him before he strikes again. A reward of $350,000 was offered.
The Boca Raton police and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office formed a task force of nine detectives assigned to the case.
Behind the unmarked door of the task force office, there's a visual reminder for investigators about what's at stake.
Capt. Duggan: We put up a couple of pictures of the victims, with just simple words underneath saying that "This is why we're here."
The task force determined after reviewing hundreds of hours of security camera tapes…
“I’m just looking at the different people that were passing by in front of the store here.”
...that the man in the floppy hat was not seen anywhere inside the mall following his victims.
Matthew Duggan: We got at least three clear shots of Nancy and Joey, and we're confident that they weren't actually targeted, or at least stalked, while in the mall.
That meant the killer laid in wait for his victims in the parking lot, pouncing only after they left the mall in broad daylight with thousands of people around.
Capt. Duggan: During the Christmas season, there's approximately 70,000 people a day going in and out of that mall.
Thousands of people, but just which one had blood on his hands?
Police tried to get inside the killer's head. They reasoned that the mall was a place where he operated comfortably. Did that mean maybe he was a current or former mall employee? Someone who perhaps knew that there were no security cameras in the parking lot? Detectives ran down hundreds of leads.
Capt. Matthew Duggan: To date, we received over 850 leads, and we've completed over 90 percent of them.
Within days of the mother-daughter murder, one of the most promising leads was a report that Nancy’s credit cards and cell phone had been found by two homeless men in a vacant lot in an African-American neighborhood in Miami, sixty-miles to the south.
Matthew Duggan: It could have been a tactic he used to send us on a wild goose chase down to Miami. It could also be on his way home. It could be a place that he frequents but doesn't live.
It wasn't the first time the killer had tried to get police to think an African-American might be involved in the crimes.
Remember, before he left Jane, the carjacker told her to lie to police about his description.
Jane Doe: “I want you to tell them that I’m short, fat and black."
But she hadn't done that. She worked with the police artist at refining the sketch.
She combed through magazines and went online studying men's pictures looking for facial characteristics that resembled her carjacker.
In February -- by then six months since her terrifying abduction -- Jane sat down once again with a new forensic artist, John McMahon of the Broward county sheriff's office.
Det. John McMahon: When I was doing that composite, I just felt that I was dealing with a very brave and strong person.
Unlike the first sketch attempts, where the floppy hat and sunglasses predominated, this time there was more nuance to the character--like the small pony tail. Detective McMahon had a hard time replicating the skin tone Jane had described-- a golden brown--so he used bronzing lotion which worked perfectly.
Jane Doe: It's very good. You know, as close as you can get from a sketch.
Soon the sketch was out there in south Florida: on moving billboards, and wanted posters. And some went up at the Town Center Mall, where the killer had targeted his victims beginning almost a year before.
And there's one more incident that's come to light since the murders, but it happened way back in August when Jane Doe had been abducted. A few days later, here at another upscale shopping area of Boca Raton -- Mizner Park -- an armed man approached a woman in a parking garage and demanded she take him to an ATM machine.
If it was the same carjacker who'd pulled off the Jane Doe robbery and who'd murdered the two women and a child, the target of the assault here would get away from the gunman altogether. She wasn't getting in the car with him.
Capt. Matthew Duggan: She refuses, and actually threw her purse on the other side of the car in the passenger seat well of the car, gives him $200 cash, and basically says, "Go away."
Initially, the woman refused to file a report. But months later, after the double murders, she came forward and gave police a description of the suspect. It matched that of Jane’s carjacker to a tee.
Matthew Duggan: This is why this case is so interesting and so frustrating. Because the actions of the perpetrator on this date totally are inconsistent with his actions on other dates.
Dennis Murphy: And then, of course, after the second event there's a firestorm of criticism of Boca Raton PD that "if we'd only known about August -- if they'd only put up signs -- if they told us --," mother and daughter would never have gone to the mall that day. Is that a fair criticism?
Matthew Duggan: I believe that our response to the August case was swift, and it was thorough. We put it out to the mall, and we put it out to the media. So no, I really don't think it's a valid criticism. However, hindsight being 20/20, if we could have done anything to alleviate, you know, what happened to Nancy and Joey, you’ve got to believe we would have done it.
The mall killer task force has sent its investigative work onto the FBI behavioral science unit, the so-called profilers for a psychological portrait of what makes this perpetrator tick.
Capt. Jack Strenges: It does give us a fresh set of eyes to look at the case.
We had our own veteran of that same FBI unit set eyes on the case, too. He wanted to talk to Jane Doe, and check out the crime scene. Maybe Clint Van Zandt would see a new piece of the puzzle.
Jane Doe: When my son sees the sketch on TV, he says, "bad man." So he knows what happened.
What kind of man kidnaps women? Terrorizes children? Sometimes kills and sometimes doesn't?
What goes on in the brain of the man in the fishing hat and the wraparounds?
We asked our colleague, former FBI agent Clint Van Zandt, what he makes of the ongoing investigation. Van Zandt was with the Behavioral Sciences Unit -- the profilers -- when it first started. He's an NBC News analyst.
Dennis Murphy: Clint, this is the entrance and exit where the security camera sees two of the victims coming out.
We drove to the upscale Town Center Mall in Boca Raton. On any given day here, there were an estimated 35,000 shoppers for the killer to choose from when selecting his prey.
Dennis Murphy: Clint, your idea of a hunting ground, a mall? Put me in the head of a perpetrator?
Clint Van Zandt: This is the place to come and find it all. This is a cash predator's shopping ground.
Van Zandt also spent two hours debriefing Jane, the only woman carjacked by the killer who lived to talk about it, trying to understand why the killer let her live when others died.
Jane Doe: I just tried to talk to him like he was just a regular person. Maybe try to relate to him in some way.
Clint Van Zandt: I think that's what really saved you in this situation. Does he seem to have any particular knowledge about police procedures? About mall security? Were there things he was trying to avoid, or that he seemed to have knowledge of?
Jane Doe: Well, he avoided cameras, you know, like at the ATM. I mean, he—
Van Zandt: Intentionally, you thought, he was trying to stay away from the cameras?
Jane Doe: Yeah, I mean -- I felt like he's definitely done this before.
The elaborate paraphernalia he brought with him, dime-store handcuffs, swimming goggles prepped as blackout masks, suggested that we were in psychopath country in trying to understand him.
Dennis Murphy: It seems to me, after the ATM you go from a scary incident to absolutely horrifying when he gets out his bag of tricks.
Clint Van Zandt: There's something unique about those cuffs for him. Whether there's a ritualistic aspect about it, whether that means something psychologically to him. But a signature aspect, just like Picasso signing a painting, the signature says, "This is unique to me."
But remember that unique bag of tricks was absent in the Randy Gorenberg case.
She was the only victim who wasn’t blindfolded or handcuffed...
And that critical difference, what Van Zandt calls the killer’s signature, has caused investigators two years on to now rethink their theory of the case.
Maybe the Gorenberg murder is not related to the Jane Doe or Bocchiccio cases after all?
Capt. Jack Strenges: At this point in the investigation, we have not been able to forensically link. Gorenberg case to the other incidents that occurred at the mall.
No forensic link - even though Gorenberg like the other two women was last seen at the mall before she was carjacked.
And then last December, police released a new theory about the Gorenberg case, a lead that could put Randy’s husband Stuart Gorenberg in the picture, perhaps as the true intended victim that day.
Police say they’ve learned he was seeing prostitutes before his wife’s murder, cruising the family’s black Mercedes GL though some of the seedier streets of nearby Broward County.
Investigators theorize that maybe some toughs also living in that neighborhood spotted his fancy SUV coming and going and decided to tail him home one day with the idea of a future rip-off in mind.
Sgt. Bill Springer, Palm Beach Co. Sheriff’s Office, press conference:
“It may be possible that he was a target, that somebody may have followed him, knew where he lived and that maybe he was the intended victim that day but Randi happened to have been driving that Mercedes Benz.”
A theory that suggests robbery—but if that was the motive why did the killer take only Randy’s purse, leaving behind a valuable Cartier watch and diamond pendant?
It’s only a working theory and investigators acknowledge problems with it—a woman mistaken for a man.
Maybe it was something botched and hurried.
Capt. Jack Strenges: Well, if he was the intended target, and again this is just an investigative theory, it was just a crime of opportunity at that point. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When Randy Gorenberg’s mother heard the police say that the killer or killers may have actually been after her son-in-law rather than her daughter, it was another hammer blow to the family.
Idey Elias, mother: You have no idea how difficult that was to hear, the fact that someone else may have been the target, and not my daughter. That’s like a double murder to me.
Stuart Gorenberg’s attorney responds that the allegation of his client seeing prostitutes is baseless. And while the police may be floating this theory to generate leads, the tactic hasn’t worked. As a result of local media coverage of the prostitutes angle, the lawyers says that, Dr. Gorenberg - a chiropractor - had to close his practice.
And just last month police interviewed the Gorenberg’s son, Daniel - who police say was uncooperative in the early stages of the investigation.
In this go-round this time he answered all of the detectives’ questions and has now been officially ruled out as a suspect.
So now two police agencies in two different counties are pursuing two different theories of the crimes. As a result, the Boca Mall Murder Task Force is no more.
Capt Matt Duggan: Technically this task force would be termed I guess disbanded, at this point—and by the time the forensics came in, we felt comfortable in saying that the cases are not linked. Plus both investigations appeared to be heading in different directions.
Boca Raton P.D. has only one full-time detective working a case getting colder and colder.
Jo Ann Bruno: It hurts. Makes me feel that they’re giving up or at least before Palm Beach County and Boca Raton were working together. I felt it was more manpower.
At Nancy’s Bochiccio’s house time has been frozen back to that day in December, 2007. Joann Bruno has preserved her sister’s house just as it was when Nancy and her seven-year old daughter left to go Christmas shopping at the mall. Joann goes over to the house a few times a week to feel Nancy’s warmth, to think about Joey’s smile... and to grieve all over again.
Jo Ann Bruno: I promised my sister, before she was buried, that I wouldn’t give up. And I won’t. But I just pray to God every day that before I leave this earth, that do catch him. The one thing I need — that he’s caught.
Van Zandt: I can’t imagine anyone coming up with a profile that would suggest anything other than the killer is probably still out there, and fully capable of doing this again.Jane Doe: I'd like to see him get caught. I'd like to be able to just look in his eyes, you know? To see who this person was that did this to me and that did this to Nancy and Joey, and possibly Randi, yeah.
For now, he's still only a sketch and a lifetime of horrifying memories.
"Jane Doe" has sued the owners of the Town Center Mall -- and so have the families of Randi Gorenberg and Nancy Bochicchio. The lawsuits allege that the mall did not have adequate security in place. Mall owners deny those allegations, saying the mall was and is a safe place. They say they have increased security since the attacks -- including installing some surveillance cameras in the parking lots.
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints