‘He likes being named the I-70 killer’: FBI profile on the unsolved case that haunts investigators

The hunt for the I-70 killer leads police to release age-enhanced sketch of suspect
The hunt for the I-70 killer leads police to release age-enhanced sketch of suspect
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 8:45 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- “I grew up a farm boy in Ohio. I never dreamed I would have spent my life doing this.”

Larry Ankrom would spend that life at the FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, specializing in behavioral science, eventually becoming chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit for the western part of the United States. In layman’s terms, Ankrom is an FBI profiler.

“I’ve worked on hundreds of serial killer cases,” he said. “There’s the profile, and later, hopefully there is the interview with the killer. You try to learn something from one case that might help the next. But things that seem logical to us are not logical to them.”

As soon as detectives in Indiana, Missouri and Kansas realized they had a serial killer on their hands, they reached out to Ankrom.

“I start by looking for cookie crumbs left along the way,” Ankrom said. “Early on, I realized this case was very unusual. You don’t see serial killers targeting businesses this way. I think the idea that he could just drive in and pull this off thrilled him. He has spent time fantasizing about this, picturing it in his mind.”

Investigators found it odd that the killer would pick busy locations. Ankrom thinks it made sense.

“I don’t think he even knew what store he was heading into. He probably thought more people might help him blend in, making him comfortable. And as we have heard from the few witnesses we had; this guy doesn’t look like the bogeyman. There is nothing alarming about his appearance.”

Ankrom then focused on what happened inside those stores.

“He knew his priority was to get in and get out quickly. His whole MO is in and out. He had very limited interactions with the victims. But he had enough personal skills to convince them that if they just cooperated, and went with him to a backroom, they would be fine.”

And afterwards?

“After he kills them, he is running away. His heart is racing. It’s like he has run a marathon. It’s very gratifying to him. His thrill is then reliving what happened in his mind, over and over. He is exhausted and might need to crash for a few days. He likes to read the news articles about what happened. He wants to know what the police know. He likes being named the I-70 killer. He thinks he is smarter than everyone else.”

But there was no time to rest after Indianapolis. For some reason, the killer had to get to Wichita.

“Whatever triggered him, he was committed, driving hundreds of miles so quickly. He may have had jobs on the road he needed to get to. I don’t think he went to Wichita searching. He went there with a purpose.”

But to Ankrom, Wichita was clearly different, when trouble walked in the front door before the killer could escape.

“First, I don’t think he expected to find two women in that store. Now, instead of just shooting one, he has to tie them up. He probably wasn’t prepared for that. Second, we know he tried to keep the noise down by muzzling his gun with a wedding gown. Third, he is confronted with the customer who walks through the door after closing. And what does he tell him? The same thing he probably told every victim: ‘all I want to do is tie you up so I can get away.’

Ankrom paused.

“This was impressive on the killers’ abilities. In a high-risk environment with a lot of stress, where multiple things didn’t go as he had planned, he didn’t panic. He was surely nervous, but he showed maturity. It’s impressive. This killer is not some dopey guy. He is in control of his scenes.”

Ankrom thinks the killer was probably concerned about the witness that got away and may have decided to change his appearance afterwards. While he gives the killer credit for Wichita, he said he made other mistakes going forward.

“He showed us consistent patterns, which allowed us to paint a picture. He showed very little criminal sophistications. For example, serious killers would never leave shell casings at the crime scene. He left us with some real potential as far as physical evidence at every scene.”

There are those cookie crumbs.

“But we have not been very lucky on touch-DNA cases,” Ankrom warned.

Then there is the gun. Ankrom is not as convinced as detectives that the killer was using an antique Erma Werke 22 German pistol.

“That gun is awfully hard to carry and hide. It has nearly a foot long barrel, and that’s not what some witnesses described. But if it is the Erma Werke, it is so rare and unusual, there must be a reason he would choose that. It must be very important to him. Maybe it’s a ceremonial piece for him or something passed down from a family member. There is some sort of emotional attachment. That gun would be his partner in this.”

And that gun would bring in the killers’ acquaintances.

“If that specific gun is so important to him, or has some story behind it, he has probably told somebody about it. Besides that, somebody knows this guys’ characteristics. We know from the Wichita witness that when the killer got nervous, he kept rubbing his face, over and over. That’s a specific nervous trait. Somebody has seen this man do that before.”

After Raytown, the killings stopped.

“There may well have been other cases, elsewhere, that we don’t know about,” Ankrom said. “Or it’s possible he was arrested for something else. It’s possible he is dead. But if he is alive, and out there, his desire did not just go away. The thrilling feelings he got did not just go away. They are still inside him.”

Ankrom estimates the killer was in his late 20′s or early 30′s at the time of the I-70 murders. He believes he either lived or worked in the Indiana area.

“Serial killers usually start in their comfort zone, have a problem somewhere, then return to their comfort zone. This guy started in Indiana, ventured to Wichita, had a problem, and came right back to Indiana. It’s textbook.”

If the killer is still out there, and Ankrom suspects that he is, he has a final message for him.

“He’s also a coward, shooting women in the back of the head.”