‘We will never, ever give up’ | St. Charles detective recalls decades spent chasing the I-70 serial killer

A man killed six people in 1992, appearing out of nowhere to strike in broad daylight before disappearing just as fast.
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 3:53 PM CST
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ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV) - For 41 years, Pat McCarrick proudly wore the badge of the St. Charles Police Department. When it came time to retire, McCarrick looked at the calendar. He remembers the exact date he was hired: December 15, 1973. He looked again at his retirement date: November of 2014.

“That’s not going to work,” McCarrick told his bosses. “I’m working a few more weeks. I need to finish the job.”

He retired on December 14. 41 years to the date.

Finishing the job has always mattered to McCarrick, who has overseen numerous homicide investigations in his career, including Nancy Kitzmiller and the I-70 serial killer.

“This case is the essence of why we exist as a police department,” McCarrick said. “You don’t forget a case like this. You don’t give up on a case like this. If we don’t do this right, the other things don’t matter very much. "

The Kitzmiller case landed in McCarrick’s lap in 1993, one year after the murder. By that point, police knew they were dealing with a serial killer.

“We did a lot of work in the early part of the investigation looking into people who had an opportunity to commit the crime,” McCarrick said. “We did a lot of work locating people who may have been in the area at the time. We had thousands of names at or near the scene of the crimes.”

McCarrick then laughed, “We even had Kevin Costner’s name. We’re pretty confident he didn’t do it.”

McCarrick recalls that there were some leads early on.

“We had probably a dozen what you might call ‘persons of interest.”’

Some of those became too interested.

“We had several people claim responsibility for the crime. We went to the Leavenworth, Kansas prison to interview one. The man had committed a robbery in the same shopping plaza that Nancy Kitzmiller worked in a week earlier. But he was just using us.”

For a detective that has seen just about everything over the years, the I-70 killer has thrown some curve balls into the investigation.

“If you’re going to do a robbery in a high-risk situation and you’re after the money, you’re going to rob a bank or a grocery store.”

McCarrick paused when asked if he could ever recall such a similar, heinous crime.

“It’s unique. I think there are some parallels between this case and the Unabomber case, because that went on for so long in so many different places with so many different victims.”

While decades have passed without an answer, McCarrick is still hopeful.

“I would not characterize this case as cold, because we have never stopped working on it for almost 30 years. We have never put it on the shelf.”

That refusal to give up sparked the launching of the task force that hopefully will bring answers with it. He may have retired years ago, but when the task force gathered, there was McCarrick, sitting near the front, listening to every word.

“Things are a lot different now than they were in 1992. We can do things now that weren’t even dreamed of 30 years ago,” he said. “We think the science is going to solve it. It’s more than DNA. It’s science and technology.”

The case file now sits with St. Charles Detective Kelly Rhodes. She knows McCarrick is only a phone call away.

“Fresh eyes on a case are always a good thing. I hope she sees things that I didn’t see. I have confidence in her.”

McCarrick looks back on his career proudly, on the many cases he has helped solve, and the many families he brought answers to. But he also understands there is one big fish left in the pond.

“The best thing that we can do in a murder case is stop the guy so he can’t hurt anyone else. We will never, ever give up.”

McCarrick paused, and we prepared to say goodbye. And then he smiled.

“I think we’re going to get it this time.”