Fugitive Suicide Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

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COLUMBIA - There are still a lot of unanswered questions Monday after a wanted Columbia man took his own life Saturday.  The man matched the desciption of a suspect in several burglaries and sex crimes police said they believed were targeted at college-aged women.

Columbia Police identified the deceased man as 36-year-old Zane Black. Police confirmed he is the man accused of peeping on a girl Friday night. Police won't confirm what, if any, connection he may have with recent break-ins and sexual assaults or those in the east campus area in 2013.

Michael Himmel, criminal justice instructor at Columbia College and former police officer, has been involved with similar investigations where a suspect commits suicide.

"They will have to go back and look at the totality of information they received or collected at prior crime scenes," Himmel said. "They may be looking at things such as fingerprints, DNA, trace evidence, hair, fibers from multiple scenes."

Even though the suspect of the crimes is now dead, Himmel said, he thinks the investigation will remain open until police are able to confirm whether Black is the man responsible for the string of crimes. Himmel said in situations like this, the police will go over all of the information and witness accounts of the suspect. He also said if any witnesses made eye contact with the suspect the police might bring them in to identify him in a photo lineup.

"It will not be a closed investigation. I'd be surprised if it is solved in the next several months," Himmel said.

With the man accused of these crimes potentially off the streets, some East Campus residents said they feel at ease.

"For me, I can kind of feel a little bit relieved," MU student Emily Villalpando said."It's just kind of creepy and sad altogether."

Villalpando said it had to be scary for the victims to know the accused man was on the loose for so long but said she does not think Black's death will bring closure.

Emily Rothove, a resident at The Domain, has a personal connection to the investigation. She said of one of her friends is one of the female victims, and this weekend's news brought on a new wave of emotions. Rothove said news of the manhunt made her happy because, after months of hearing no developments, police finally had a lead. News of the suspect's death, though, brought on emotions of uncertainty.

"We wish he had been caught and had to pay for this," Rothove said.

Rothove said death is a tragedy, and she feels for Black's family, but she said they wish the suspect was caught and could have a sense of closure.

"There is no apology, there's no 'he is punished,' it's just kinda, he's gone," Rothove said.

Columbia Police have not said what the next steps in the investigation will be.