Charles T. Sinclair


Charles T. Sinclair

A.K.A.: "Coin Shop Killer"

Classification: Serial killer?
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 0 - 13
Date of murders: 1980 - 1990
Date of arrest: August 13, 1990
Date of birth: 1946
Victims profile: Men and women
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Several States, USA / Canada
Status: Died of heart attack in jail before trial on October 30, 1990

Coin Shop Killer: Charles Sinclair

Suspected in six murders in Washington state, including the killings of an elderly couple whose bodies have not been found. Robbed, raped and killed across several other Western states, including two suspected murders in Montana, two in California and one attempted murder in Utah. Sinclair often preyed on coin shops and their employees.

Status: Died in jail in Alaska.

Serial killers -- they're not always who we think
Friday, February 21, 2003

For years, the issue of whether Charles T. Sinclair was a bona fide serial killer remained a question of his intentions.

Like serial killers, he trolled -- from New Mexico to Canada. Like serial killers, he had a pattern, killing coin shop dealers, all strangers. But unlike the popular perception of serial killers, Sinclair appeared to have a motive -- money.

Serial murderers are said to kill without conscience, for power, even for pleasure. People who kill for money are robbers.

But when Pete Piccini, a Jefferson County cop who chased Sinclair for years, entered a ministorage shed near Sumas in 1990, he discovered a pile of evidence and a mountain of conflicting ideas about Sinclair and his crimes.

In the bottom of a barrel in the shed were a yellow flowered bed sheet and pillows. They matched the linen used to strangle and wrap the body of 18-year-old Amanda Stavik.

Stavik, a Central Washington University student, vanished Thanksgiving Eve 1989 while jogging. Her body was found Nov. 27 in the South Fork of the Nooksack River. There was evidence of rape.

Another item to emerge from the shed was a school yearbook. Leafing through it, investigators saw Stavik's picture. She had been a classmate of Sinclair's son.

Piccini, diligently running down a missing-person report from his own county, had discovered a sex crime that called into question the profile of a man then sought as "The Coin Shop Killer."

"It was hard to define Sinclair; he was all over the map," said Piccini, who retired as Jefferson County sheriff in December.

Unlike Hollywood's Hannibal Lecter or the real-life Ted Bundy, not all serial killers present an easy-to-spot profile ripe with rituals, methods and arcane messages. Many remain unnoticed for years because their crimes show little or no common link.

Charles Sinclair defied the textbook definition of serial killer, even though he is thought to have killed more than a dozen people, including six in Western Washington.

Even now, Piccini struggles to understand exactly what kind of monster he had found.


MO: Executed coin shop proprietors in robberies across seven U.S. states and British Columbia.

DISPOSITION: Died of heart attack in jail before trial, Aug. 1990.