April 8, 1992: The I-70 serial killer claims his first victim

Victims Patricia Magers (top left), Patricia Smith (top center), Nancy Kitzmiller (top right),...
Victims Patricia Magers (top left), Patricia Smith (top center), Nancy Kitzmiller (top right), Robin Fuldauer (bottom left), Michael McCown (bottom center), and Sarah Blessing (bottom right).(KMOV)
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 1:55 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- It all began in Indy.

Wednesday afternoon, April 8, 1992. Just 26 years old, Robin Fuldauer was already the manager of the Payless Shoe store. It was really no surprise to her friends, after all, she was the salutatorian of her high school class, just down the street at Lawrence Central, and had just graduated a few years earlier from Indiana University. Her life was in front of her. The shoe store only had two full-time employees, and on this fateful day, her co-worker called in sick. Robin knew she would be running the store alone, and headed out from her North Indianapolis apartment.

Sometime around 1 p.m., a serial killer was about to embark on a month-long journey, one that would take him to five cities, leaving six bodies behind. He was patrolling Pendleton Pike road, a busy thoroughfare in Indianapolis.

“I think there would have been a variety of stores to choose from,” said Captain Roger Spurgeon of the Indianapolis police department. “It was just a matter of whatever our suspect was looking for.”

Police believe the killer entered the Payless store around 1:15, took Robin to a storage room in the back, and shot her twice in the head with a .22 caliber handgun. He rummaged through the cash register, taking less than $100. He was out the door before 1:30, leaving Fuldauer lying dead behind a closed door. For the next hour, Payless customers would have their run of the store, with nobody in sight.

Next to the shoe store was a busy Speedway gas station, with customers coming and going by the minute. At about 3 p.m., Lucretia Gullett’s shift at Speedway was about to end. “I was almost getting off work and I received a phone call from the district manager of the Payless store,” Gullett remembered. “He told me that he had been calling the shoe store for quite a while, and no one was answering the phone. So, I told him I would go next door and see what was going on.”

The walk from Speedway to Payless took less than 30 seconds.

“I walked to the door and opened it up,” Gullett said. “I looked to the left and noticed the cash register was open and nobody was there. I immediately called police. I went to the back of the store. There was a woman and child looking at shoes. I asked them to leave, and told them something was wrong. And then I waited for the police.”

Gullett stood watch over the front door while detectives made their way to the back. She could see the closed door that police looked into. “One officer looked down to the right, and he was shocked at what he saw.”

Police found a couple of witnesses in the area who thought they saw something. None of those leads panned out. Spurgeon, who inherited the case over the years, says that in spite of the busy area, and in spite of the busy time of day, there were no early leads in the case. “If you describe a suspect as somebody you really have a keen interest in because of some sort of an evidentiary link, or eyewitnesses, no, there was nothing there which stood out.”

Then came Wichita, where 700 miles away, just three days later, Patricia Magers and Patricia Smith were murdered in the same fashion. Almost immediately, police were hit with a bombshell: The same gun used in Indianapolis was used in Wichita. Suddenly, Indianapolis and Wichita had a serial killer on their hands. “I’m sure it was stunning to the investigators,” Spurgeon said, “to find that there was a positive link between the two cases so far apart from each other yet so close in time to each other.”

Soon, more killings would occur. Mick McCown in Terre Haute. Nancy Kitzmiller in St. Charles. Sarah Blessing in Raytown. All within the same month. Then, nearly 30 years would pass, and no sign of the man who would become the I-70 Serial Killer. Now, a task force has formed to go after the killer full force. The FBI and ATF are teaming up with the various police departments. They are all hoping advancements in DNA might someday solve the case.

“Science was not as developed then as it is now,” said Columbus Ricks of the Indianapolis unsolved homicide unit. “We are going to see if DNA and new technology can assist us in solving this case.” Since the task force has launched, tips have been pouring in from all of the cities. Ricks told News 4 a new witness may have emerged in the Fuldauer case.

Incredibly, Gullett wasn’t aware the homicide scene she walked into three decades ago became linked to a serial killer, or that it wasn’t solved all these years earlier. “I became aware of that when I received a phone call from you. I was like, shocked! I was like whoa! That’s when I put two and two together, and like, wow!”

Gullett spent time talking with investigators herself last week. “They wanted to know if there was anything else I came up with or thought about.” And then she winked and smiled. “Maybe. Maybe. It might just be a coincidence. But yes, I hope I can help.”

Times change. Today, a Batteries Plus store sits where the Payless shoe store stood in 1992. But what hasn’t changed is that police departments are digging, talking to each other, and hoping for a DNA match. All while families like the Fuldauer’s wait for an answer that has never come.

“Closure is an overrated term,” said Ricks’ homicide unit partner David Ellison. “Although families may have good answers, it still doesn’t take away the pain of missing their loved one. I’m just hoping that’s where we can get to.”

It all began in Indy. Sadly, it didn’t end there.