500 days later: Why some investigators think the I-70 serial killer later targeted women in Texas
FORT WORTH, Tx. (KMOV) -- It was May 8, 1992, the day after Sarah Blessing was murdered in Raytown. There were now six bodies sprayed between Indianapolis and Wichita, and everyone along Interstate 70 was on high alert. Police kept waiting. The public kept watching. Alerts were put out to stores along the highway. Posters were put up. Newspapers throughout the Midwest had headlines screaming about the serial killer.
Then it stopped, as suddenly as it began.
Spring turned to summer, then summer to fall. A maniac killer who traveled the highway killing six people in less than a month had gone quiet. Fall turned to winter, then spring again, then summer. There was no explanation. Had he fled the country? Did he commit suicide? Was he in jail for some other crime? Did he somehow, incredibly, return to a normal life as if nothing ever happened?
September 25, 1993. Some 500 days after Sarah Blessing was killed, Mary Ann Glasscock went to work at Emporium Antiques in Fort Worth, Texas. A friend went to the business later in the day and discovered Mary’s body. Like the I-70 killings, the small store sat in a strip mall area, just off Interstate 35. And like the I-70 killings, Glasscock had been shot once in the back of the head, there was little money missing, and an old residential neighborhood was behind the street. It appeared to be a routine homicide case until a few weeks later, when Amy Vess was slain inside the Dancers Closet store in nearby Arlington. Again, a small store, just off the interstate, with little money missing, and she was shot in the head.
Fall turned to winter. The killer was about to strike again, this time in Houston, just off Interstate 69, where Vicki Webb was working at the Alternative Gift shop. He left Webb lying for dead, but she miraculously survived.
Texas police now had their own interstate serial killer on their hands. The question was, could it be the I-70 killer, or was it a copycat on their hands? Police departments in Indianapolis, Wichita, Terre Haute, St. Charles, and Raytown began comparing notes. Fort Worth police called the similarities “almost too similar to disregard.” Arlington police said it was “definitely possible” the killer was the same person.
Then they stopped again. Now, 30 years later, the question remains unanswered. Was he, or wasn’t he?
Longtime St. Charles detective Pat McCarrick said tying the I-70 killer to Texas is a tough call.
“I am the definition of the split decision,” said McCarrick. “There are many people smarter than I who believe that it is. And it may be. I am not yet convinced that it is, but I am not convinced that it isn’t either.”
The detective who has worked the I-70 case longer than any other is Mike Crooke. He inherited the first case in Indianapolis and has followed it since, traveling the country, speaking to agencies. Now, even in retirement, he is widely considered the leading authority on the I-70 killer. He has traveled not just to all the I-70 scenes, but also the ones in Texas.
“The similarities in all three cases are just so close. You are welcome to call me crazy but it’s just a certain feeling that I had when I was at the Texas scenes, that this has got to be connected. It’s just a feeling that I have. I’m not zeroed in and positive. But if they were connected, what was this guy doing between time periods?
There have been many times over the years, sometimes when it is quiet, sometimes when he wonders if the case will ever be solved, Crooke pulls an old audio tape out of his drawer. The retired detective has gone over every piece of evidence countless times, but this piece, well, this is no ordinary piece. It will not solve the case, but it will motivate Crooke forever.
It was November 1, 1993. The killer had just shot Amy Vess twice in Arlington, leaving her to die. But after the killer fled, Vess summoned every piece of energy and courage she had left and crawled on the floor to the store’s counter, reached for the telephone, and called 911. She knew she was dying; she knew it would be the last thing she ever did. Barely able to speak, you can hear Vess choking on her dying breaths.
“That will fire you up if you’re having a time where maybe you are struggling and think you should just give up,” Crooke says, his voice cracking as he recalls the tape. “That will get you chills every time you hear it.”
Hundreds of miles away, McCarrick has the same tape in his drawer. Like Crooke, he occasionally pulls it out to listen. He says you only need to hear it once.
“How she even managed to get to the phone and complete the call,” McCarrick said as he shakes his head. “It’s a terrible thing to listen to. People sometimes say ‘you’re spending too much time on this case. This case is cold.’ Whenever I was told that by one of my bosses, I would go get that tape and play it for them. I would only have to play it one time. After they hear it, they say, ‘you know what, you stay on that case.’ If there’s somebody who can listen to that tape and not be moved by it, they need to find another line of work.”
There is a horrible twist of fate in many of the killings. In Indianapolis, Robin Fuldauer wasn’t supposed to be working on the day she was murdered. A co-worker called in sick. In Terre Haute, Michael Mccown had a doctor’s visit that morning. He considered taking the rest of the day off but decided to go to work. In St. Charles, Nancy Kitzmiller was supposed to be off that horrible Sunday afternoon. She agreed to work so a co-worker could have the day off. And in Houston, Amy Vess agreed to work that day on her day off. It ended with her calling 911.
Amy Vess was only 22.
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