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Police: Grisly murders tied to website targeted by Wash. officials

SEATTLE - A series of gruesome murders in Detroit has caught the attention of Seattle's mayor, police chief and the Washington state attorney general.

At least three of the four murders may be linked to a website operated by the company that owns Seattle Weekly - which state officials have been trying to take down for months.

The victims of the murders - all women - have been killed, stuffed into car trunks and then lit on fire, leaving the women's charred bodies burned beyond recognition - all in the past week.

The one thing tying three of the murders together is the online website backpage.com, according to detectives. Investigators say three of the four victims advertised themselves as adult escorts on the notorious website.

They are the same type of ads targeted by Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.

"We know this service has become quite notorious as a way to sell human beings," McKenna said. "Now with the news from Detroit we have another tragic underlining of the reasons we want this site taken down."

Getting that site taken down has been a thorn in the side of Seattle police and Mayor Mike McGinn, who came out swinging this summer against backpage.com and its parent company, Village Voice Media. The company also owns Seattle Weekly.

And now, with a murderer on the loose, Detroit police are urging the public to be vigilant about any online ads - especially these.

"We felt it imperative to alert the public that deciding to meet unknown persons via the Internet can be extremely dangerous," says Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee.

A Seattle police spokesman said they are concerned about the new developments, given the history of backpage.com in this area.

"We're certainly concerned because of the fact that Backpage is very active in our area - not just in Seattle but Washington state. Prostitution is a very high risk place to be for young women and girls and certainly this is very reminiscent of the Craigslist killer," said Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb.

"I think it's fair to say that our detectives are ... going to be having a heightened awareness about this. ... Backpage in Seattle is a big deal."

The mayor's office says they also are reviewing the issue. In the meantime, backpage.com did not respond to emails seeking comment from CNN reporters.

In the past backpage.com spokespersons have said they made safety changes and are working with law enforcement.

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