Tips in the hunt for the I-70 serial killer come pouring in as KMOV hits the road to dig deeper
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - They came from everywhere. Indianapolis, Wichita, Terre Haute, Raytown, and of course, St. Charles. Then came the FBI and the ATF. Then the DNA. For two days, anyone and everyone who was involved in the hunt for the I-70 serial killer swapped notes and files. Some were new to the case. Others old. Then there was Patrick McCarrick, long ago retired from the St. Charles police department. But, he’s never forgotten the case that sat in his lap many years ago.
“The location is a Panera Bread store now,” McCarrick said. “I was in there to pick up some dinner about a year ago. I said to the manager, ‘Look, I’m a retired police officer. I worked on a case that happened here many years ago. I’d kind of like to go in the back room. He said, ‘Oh you’re talking about the girl who was killed.’ He said, ‘Come on, I will take you back there.’”
McCarrick said he never will forget the Nancy Kitzmiller case, just as the other agencies will never forget Robin Fuldauer, Michael McCown, Patricia Magers, Patricia Smith, and Sarah Blessing. 1992 may have been a long time ago, but this case is top of mind.
To all the men and women corralled into a conference room for two days in St. Charles, this was the chance to take one last stab at a case that is nearly 30 years old. They recognize it likely may be their last, best chance.
“I was concerned if we didn’t take a good hard look at this case right now it might never get done,” said Captain Ray Floyd of the St. Charles police department. It was Floyd who got the ball rolling and organized the task force. And Floyd liked what he saw. “There’s motivated detectives in there. Our evidence in St. Charles may not be enough to solve this case, but our evidence collectively across the board with the other entities may be enough to solve this mystery.”
As word got out about the task force, combined with KMOV’s coverage plans, the phones began ringing.
“We have received dozens and dozens of calls,” said detective Kelly Rhodes from St. Charles. The Kitzmiller case file will soon land on Rhodes’ desk, after longtime detective Don Stepp retires. “Here in St. Charles, we have received so many. The phone calls are flooding in. And every single phone call that we get will be looked into.”
It’s not just happening in St. Charles. In Indianapolis, where the serial killer struck first, the calls are also pouring in.
“I was really surprised by one,” said sergeant Columbus Ricks of the Indianapolis police department’s unsolved homicide unit. “She was fairly close to the incident when it occurred, and she had no idea what was going on until your station’s story broke. She saw it and she called and said, ‘I had no idea what was going on and this is what I saw.”’
For most in the room, excitement revolved around DNA, or specifically, advanced DNA methods. When Jami Harmon of Sorenson Forensics spoke, you could hear a pin drop.
“In 1992, labs were switching from the older longer method of DNA testing to this newer, faster method. It was a game changer.”
That potential game changer includes touch or handler DNA.
To be sure, there was still head shaking in the room, mostly because nothing with the serial killer made sense. Robbery wasn’t a motive. There were no sexual assaults. There was never a sign of any vehicle. Composite sketches were pretty generic. He was using an antique German target shooting pistol as his weapon. And, who drives 1,200 miles back and forth between Indianapolis and Wichita?
“I’m not sure even he knew when he was going to kill next,” said Detective Tim Relph of the Wichita police department. Relph knows the unknown mind of a serial killer as well as anyone. He worked the infamous BTK serial killer case from back in the 1970′s, where Dennis Rader left behind the bodies of 10 victims in the Wichita area before getting captured nearly 30 years later. Relph was part of the team that captured Rader, interviewed him, and testified against him.
The detectives are back at home now. There is much work to be done, and it has already started.
“We’ve already developed in St. Charles roughly 25 to 30 leads to look at.,” Floyd said. “There are a couple of leads that are definitely worthwhile to exploring.”
In the weeks ahead, as the detectives do their work, KMOV will take you on their journey. Somewhere out there is one phone call, one tip, one lead, that hopefully will match a name with a DNA sample that might not have been possible nearly 30 years ago. If that name comes up, for detectives like McCarrick who have spent much of their lives chasing the I-70 serial killer, it will be much more than professional. It’s personal. “If you’re working on a case like this and don’t get personally involved, what the hell is wrong with you?”
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