I-70 serial killer targets woman at St. Charles store: ‘This guy’s motivation was the act of the killing’

The I-70 Killer strikes in St. Charles, killing 24-year-old Nancy Kitzmiller and starting a local investigation that detectives haven't let go for 30 years.
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 3:49 PM CST
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ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV) - It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the KMOV newsroom. The sun was shining on a beautiful spring Sunday. The Cardinals game against the Padres was on a television in the corner. The next newscast was still hours away. And then the phone rang.

“There’s a lot of police officers at the Bogey Hills shopping center. I’m not sure what happened, but yellow tape up. It looks bad.”

We started working the phones, calling police and stores nearby. No information, but definitely a scene.

I grabbed a photographer. “Let’s go.”

The I-70 Killer strikes in St. Charles, killing 24-year-old Nancy Kitzmiller and starting a...
The I-70 Killer strikes in St. Charles, killing 24-year-old Nancy Kitzmiller and starting a local investigation that detectives haven't let go for 30 years. Now, even after all that time, St. Charles police are leading the hunt for the murderer as retired detectives and new investigators outline why they refuse to let the case go cold.(KMOV)

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Nancy Christine Kitzmiller was just 24. She grew up in Mustang, Oklahoma, but her family moved to St. Louis when she was 10. She went to high school at Fort Zumwalt and had recently graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in geography. As with all young people, life was moving fast. She moved from her parents’ home in St. Peters to Creve Coeur, had interviewed for a cartography job with the Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis, and most importantly to her, had just bought a Chevy pickup truck days earlier. She had two passions in life: soccer, and anything and everything country and western. Nancy didn’t even begin playing soccer until her senior year at Fort Zumwalt. Incredibly, she wound up being the captain of Oklahoma State University’s soccer team the next year. After she graduated, she organized her old high school friends to play in a women’s soccer league in Bridgeton. When it came to country fare, be it clothes, music, rodeos, or her specialty, western dancing, Nancy had few peers. The Texas two-step? She owned it. With sparkling blue eyes and long, curly brown hair, she was a friend to everyone, and was still beaming about her family vacation to Paris just weeks earlier.

That all changed on May 3, 1992.

Nancy wasn’t supposed to work that day, but she volunteered to come in so another worker could have the day off. She knew she would be working alone and opened the Boot Village store in the Bogey Hills Plaza shopping center, a strip mall just off Interstate 70 at Zumbehl Road, at noon. Around 2:30 p.m., a customer found Nancy’s body in a backroom of the store. She had been shot in the head. At first, police believed they had a robbery gone bad on their hands. But Nancy’s purse was undisturbed. Only a small amount of cash was missing. Police scratched their heads.

Boot Village sat between a beauty salon and a veterinary clinic. Police had few early clues. A man was seen sitting outside of the store around 12:30 p.m. A passerby reported seeing who they thought might be the killer, saying it was a man of medium height, with dull red hair. Because detectives thought they were working a robbery, they focused on a robbery that occurred a month earlier at the Hallmark store in the same plaza, where a man with a gun stole $200 and forced two workers into a backroom where he sprayed their faces and fled. The modus operandi looked eerily similar. But now a murder scene? It just didn’t make sense.

“You go into a Western store at 2 p.m. on a Sunday, what are you expecting you’re going to get?” asked Pat McCarrick, longtime St. Charles police detective. “You’re not going to get much money. Your average stick up man, this is not what he’s going to do. This guy’s motivation was the act of the killing, not the robbery.”

Where was the suspect? Nobody saw him walk in or out. And unlike the other I-70 serial killer locations, there was no residential area nearby to hide a getaway vehicle. Bogey Hills Golf Course sat behind the store.

St. Charles Detective Don Stepp has held the case in his lap for decades. “He could have gotten away that way. But he didn’t. He came out the front. He came in the front and out the front.”

The Major Case Squad was activated. Sixteen officers worked the case. Pat Morici, a St. Louis City homicide detective would be the commander.

Nancy Kitzmiller, 24, was killed in a St. Charles store in 1992 by a serial killer who police...
Nancy Kitzmiller, 24, was killed in a St. Charles store in 1992 by a serial killer who police believe killed at least 6 people across 3 states.(St. Charles Police Department)

“It’s the only case I never solved with the Major Case Squad. It was horrible not to solve”

Morici retired two years later.

“It still haunts me to this day.”

St. Ann police captain John O’Rando would lead the investigation.

“We just had a lack of evidence there. You think it’s a robbery, and then you realize it’s something else. That was not a routine investigation. There appeared to be no motive.”

O’Rando is also retired. He still follows the case.

“I watched one of your video stories last week from the time of the murder. And I said, ‘Hey, that’s me’ in there. Yeah, I still try to follow it. But 30 years is a long time to try to solve a crime.”

After the final I-70 killing of Sarah Blessing in Raytown, all the police agencies involved gathered there to compare notes. They would meet again in 1994 in Jefferson City. When three similar killings popped up in Texas in 1993 and 1994, the group met again in 1995 in St. Charles. This time, Texas officials joined them.

As puzzling as leads were as years moved on, there were suspects. In 1994, police arrested Lonnie Wiseman, a career criminal, in Idaho, only to discover that he was in prison at the time of the I-70 murders. Wiseman wasn’t a free man forever though. He was charged in 2013 for a 1994 murder in Virginia. That case was solved, nearly 20 years later, using new DNA evidence. In 1995, detectives traveled to Dallas to interview a suspect in prison, but that fizzled. In 1996, police held a news conference and named Robert Craig Cox as a suspect. Cox was also sitting in a Texas Prison, with a rap sheet that included robbery, assault, rape, kidnapping.......and murder. He admitted in interviews to a fascination with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. Cox still sits behind bars. In 2001, the FBI questioned an Indiana truck driver named Randall Bishop. He matched the composite. Police were intrigued that he was a truck driver, and he was facing a rape charge. But DNA in that investigation didn’t match.

Detectives would work with the FBI lab in Quantico to form a profile. They went through the process twice. Both times, results suggested the killer was from the Indianapolis area, and that he was fulfilling a fantasy.

Then there was the all too familiar and similar case of Amy Blumberg. On New Year’s Eve, when the rest of the world was ringing in Y2K at midnight, I was standing in the rain at the O’Fallon, Illinois Police Department, where detectives were wondering if the I-70 killer had struck again after Amy Blumberg was murdered at, of all places, a dance apparel store. Like the I-70 killer, there seemed to be no motivation for the crime. No robbery, no sexual assault. Turns out, it was another killer, who was turned in years later by his wife during a bitter divorce battle.

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We left the Boot Village and headed back to the station. The car was quiet, almost numbing. I remember thinking, another senseless homicide, but this one without an apparent motive. Who kills a young woman in broad daylight, with dozens of people nearby, for no reason? Your heart breaks for the families. I would follow Nancy Kitzmiller’s story over the years, praying for a resolution.

The Kitzmiller family declined our request to be interviewed for this story. We respect their privacy.