ST. LOUIS — The so-called "I-70 killer" remains elusive 20 years after a multistate crime spree, but police say they haven't given up on the case.
Authorities think the same man was responsible for killing six people in five Midwestern cities in April and May of 1992. Four of the killings occurred in strip malls along Interstate 70 — two in Missouri, two in Indiana. The other two victims were at a bridal shop near Interstate 35 in Wichita, Kan.
Among the victims was Nancy Kitzmiller, 24, who worked at Boot Village in St. Charles, near St. Louis. Customers found her body in a back room of the small store.
St. Charles police on Wednesday provided previously unreleased information in hopes of generating new leads. Lt. David Senter said that based on ballistic evidence and witness statements, the weapon was a .22-caliber gun, possibly an Intratec Scorpion or Erma Werke Model ET 22. Ammunition was CCI brand .22-caliber long rifle, copper-clad lead bullets.
Senter said the case remains open, even if finding the killer all these years later is something of a long shot.
"The investigator met with (Kitzmiller's) family last week," Senter said. "That brings it home because they are still around, still here. It's a constant thing for them."
Nancy Kitzmiller's father, Don Kitzmiller, did not have a listed phone number. But he recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the pain remains.
"It's not cold to us," Kitzmiller said. "It happened yesterday to us. To lose a child is something you never get over."
Police cite common factors in all six killings. All the victims worked at small shops near the interstates, mostly businesses with just an employee or two, Senter said. Five of the victims were women and police think the killer mistook the lone male, who wore his hair long, for a woman. All six were shot in the head. In most cases, a small amount of money was taken, though police said robbery was incidental.
"Killing was the motivation, no doubt in my mind," said Lt. Mike Hennessey, a Wichita detective assigned to the case.
The spree began April 8, 1992, in Indianapolis, where 26-year-old Robin Fuldauer was killed at a Payless shoe store. Three days later, Patricia Magers, 32, and Patricia Smith, 23, were shot to death at a bridal shop in Wichita.
The lone male victim, 40-year-old Michael McCown, was killed at his shop, Sylvia's Ceramics, in Terre Haute, Ind., on April 27, 1992.
Kitzmiller was killed May 3, 1992. Four days later on the other side of Missouri, Sarah Blessing, 37, was shot to death at the Store of Many Colors in Raytown, a gift shop near Kansas City.
"It started and ended very quickly," Hennessey said. "It just happened in such a short period of time, and he seemed to pick his victims very carefully. Something set him off."
Perhaps the best description of the killer came in Raytown. A neighboring video store owner saw a man enter the gift shop, then heard a pop. A grocery clerk saw the man climb a hill to I-70, then vanish. The video store owner found Blessing's body.
Authorities think the killer was a white male in his mid-20s to mid-30s, but probably closer to mid-30s, Senter said. That would make him in his mid-50s if still alive.
The same killer might have been responsible for three crimes in Texas in 1993 and 1994 in which women at small shops were targeted. Two of those victims died, and one survived a bullet to the neck.
Crime-fighting technology has improved vastly since the early 1990s, especially DNA technology. But police said the killer simply left little to go on.
"Since none of this was sexual crime-based and we have no prints to work with, DNA is out of the question," Hennessey said. "What cracks most of these cases is the killer talks. But serial killers don't tell anyone. That's how they get away with it."