The I-70 serial killer: Will DNA nab him? Detective speaks out after initial results come in

The investigation heads to Terre Haute, Indiana, where investigators try to make sense of why the killer claimed his only male victim.
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 10:10 AM CST
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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (KMOV) -- The hunt to find a serial killer continues.

The task force investigating the 1992 killings that spanned Interstate 70 from Indianapolis to Wichita, including the murder of Nancy Kitzmiller in St. Charles, has long felt science, technology and DNA was their best chance to solve a case that has stumped detectives for 30 years.

Now, the advanced DNA testing techniques have begun.

At the time of the murders, DNA testing was limited to semen and saliva samples.  But today, DNA has advanced to touch, or handler DNA.  At each homicide scene, police agencies are in the process of sending in evidence they have stored in their offices since the day of the killings.

The first of those results, from Terre Haute where Michael McCown was the third of the six homicide victims, has come back without definitive results.

“We are not willing to discuss the details of their findings because the other agencies involved have their own evidence that they too are either in the process of having examined or will be having examined in the very near future,” said Detective Brad Rumsey of the Terre Haute Police Department. “We cannot provide anything further in regards to our case results without causing potential issues with those that may come from the other agencies investigations.”

But, multiple police sources tell News 4 that if the Terre Haute results provided a positive match, detectives would be moving quickly to make an arrest.

“They would not be waiting on other jurisdictions to solve their homicide case,” a longtime veteran homicide detective said.

The other police departments in Indianapolis, Wichita, St. Charles and Indianapolis now wait for their own results.

Touch DNA is now being credit with solving old homicide cases nationwide.

“We are now able to take samples where skin cell DNA taken from someone that has handled something and use it to obtain DNA from those handled items,” Jan Harmon of Sorenson Forensics said. “We are not doing only saliva and semen tests anymore.”

In Terre Haute, for example, Michael McCown’s wallet was missing from the police. Police there have long suspected the killer reached into Mccown’s pants to take it. And police kept the pants for evidence. The best chance for touch DNA may come from Wichita, where the killer used a wedding veil to hold his gun, hoping to keep the noise down before he shot Patricia Magers and Patricia Smith.  Police have the veil. In St. Charles, a DNA sample has been sent off, and detectives are anxiously waiting for their result.  Indianapolis is expecting to ship off their sample in the days ahead, and has been told testing will be given immediate priority. Police in Raytown also await.

Police officials emphasize the DNA results, while they are the best chance to solve their case, are not their only option. They continue to work the case and follow leads daily.