On the Ice-Cold Trail of the I-70 Killer
Did this anonymous psychopath commit the perfect crime?
The Man in the Green Jacket
“He looked,” Jeff Meyrose later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “like a guy who had been sleeping in his clothes.”
Meyrose first saw the man in the green jacket walking down Pendleton Pike, a.k.a. “The Pike” to Indianapolis residents. Speaking with Post-Dispatch reporters in May 1992, the paint store manager said the man carried a long bag and Meyrose assumed he was a hitchhiker—he’d come from the direction of I-465, which intersects with I-70 three miles south of the Pike.
The man in the green jacket stopped at Meyrose’s store, then repeatedly circled the building before sitting on the curb nearby. Meyrose said the man remained there for a half-hour or more, staring at the Payless Shoe Source across the street and rifling through his bag. The man, said Meyrose, was “talking to himself, giggling.”
“I’m telling you,” Meyrose reportedly said, “he was either on drugs or he had mental problems.”
Manager Robin Fuldauer, age 26, was in the shoe store working alone, covering for a co-worker who’d called in sick.
From Jeff Meyrose’s view at the MAB Paint Store, the strange man disappeared around 2 p.m. A little later, he caught a glimpse of the man calmly trying to hitch a ride going north, back toward I-465.
Robin Fuldauer was later found shot to death in the rear of the shoe store. It was April 8, 1992.
The Man with the Gun
He was late to pick up his tuxedo, but the women at the Wichita, Kansas La Bride d’Elegance and Sir Knight Tuxedo and Formal Wear were kind. They closed at 6 pm but they’d open the door for him when he arrived.
The Associated Press reported that the witness—who has never been named—arrived at 8:30. Patricia Magers, the 32-year-old store owner, and bridal consultant Patricia Smith were nowhere in sight. As he walked in, he was confronted by a slight, red-haired man with a semi-automatic.
The Unsolved Mysteries segment about this case first aired in March 1994, and it depicted the killer’s encounter with the surviving witness as a brief dialogue. The killer tried to get the man to enter the store and go in the back, but the witness managed to beg off and get away. Some reports said he waited to call police, others said he called immediately. Regardless, he was able to provide a detailed suspect sketch.
By the time the unnamed witness arrived, Patricia Magers was dead, and Patricia Smith was dying. The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Magers determined she’d been shot. He later told the Associated Press it was the toughest autopsy he’d ever performed. He knew Magers and he’d given her “into marriage as her surrogate father.”
Magers and Smith were killed on April 11, 1992.
The Silent Man
No one heard. That’s the thing about the day Michael McCown was murdered in Terra Haute, Indiana. In the in-depth report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, antique shop owner Bob Lambert told of a normal afternoon. Checking out some new furniture, speaking to a couple of customers. No one at an auto shop just up the street noticed anything unusual. It was just an average day.
In Sylvia’s Ceramics Shop it was probably quiet. As the Post-Dispatch reported, owner Michael McCown—”Mick” to his friends—was “reaching for a small, white ceramic house” on a shelf when he was shot at close range in the back of his head. McCown, who wore his hair long and had an earring, died immediately. Theories of the crime in the years since have suggested the killer mistook McCown for a woman.
Whatever the case, McCown was shot once, with a .22. He wasn’t robbed of the $15 in his pocket. The till still held $50. McCown’s wallet was gone.
Investigation seemed futile. It was as if a ghost had walked in a shot a man then left, leaving no trace of himself behind. It was virtually a cold case before the end of the week.
It was April 27, 1992.
The Man with Dull Red Hair
Nancy Kitzmiller, age 24, opened the Bogey Hills Plaza Boot Village in St. Charles, MO at noon that day. It was Sunday, some businesses around the store were closed.
Multiple reports about her say she was in her element. Kitzmiller loved playing soccer, loved her home state of Oklahoma, western gear, country and western music.
Sometime between unlocking the door and 2:30 pm that afternoon, someone shot Kitzmiller in the head and took money from the cash register. The murder was like all the previous murders, especially Michael McCown’s—though there were reportedly plenty of people visiting other retail outlets, no one heard the shot.
A passerby did see the killer, though. The last customer Nancy Kitzmiller waited on was of medium height, with dull red hair.
She died on May 3, 1992.
The Man in the Window
The clerk at the Raytown, MO Video Attic told a St. Louis paper, “I didn’t think anything of it.”
“He could see me through the window. I glanced at him. He glanced at me.”
The description of the man in the window was the same as all the previous descriptions—which is to say, he was the definition of nondescript. Another white man in his 30s, medium height and weight. He’d reportedly been hanging around the Woodson Village shopping center for a while that day. Like the man Jeff Meyrose saw on The Pike in Indianapolis, this man was mumbling.
Store of Many Colors was next to Video Attic. Reflexologist Sarah Blessing was at work that day. She was 37 and had just begun working there. The man walked in near the end of her shift. The video clerk next door heard a popping sound and left his store in time to see the killer walking away looking “looking cool and calm, like he didn’t have a care.”
Inside the store, Sarah Blessing was dead from a single .22 caliber bullet to the head. While Woodson Village wasn’t all that close to I-70, a grocery store employee saw a man fitting the suspect description later that day. He was making his way up a hill that led to the interstate.
It was May 7, 1992, and as far as anyone knows today, the killer was done.
First, the gun. Ballistics linked all six murders right away. One man, using the same semi-automatic .22—possibly an Intratec Scorpion or Erma Werke Model ET 22, according to evidence released in 2012—left a trail of death along Interstate 70 from Indiana to Kansas. It took him just one month, almost to the day, the same cipher who muttered to himself, often killing with a single shot to the head.
Save Michael McCown, there were striking similarities among the victims. While Wichita victims Patricia Smith and Patricia Magers were working together, all the others were alone. The women were all described dark-haired and petite. None of them were raped or otherwise sexually violated. Any theft seemed like an afterthought.
There were other odd details. Multiple reports since the murders occurred have said he rubbed the bullet casings with jeweler’s rouge. This may seem a senseless detail if you’re unfamiliar with firearms, but it’s used to polish the feed ramp on a semi-automatic so the bullet will slide easily into the chamber.
The I-70 killer knew something about taking care of weapons.
Some believe he killed later in Texas, but there isn’t much consensus there. The murders were similar in style, but the gun was different. And that’s almost all anyone has to go on.
One theory about the killer’s identity suggests he was Indianapolis serial killer Herb Baumeister. The would-be thrift store mogul physically resembled descriptions of the I-70 killer; lazy eyelids, reddish hair, similar build. He even ended up with a similar moniker: the 1-70 Strangler.
Given what’s known about serial killers, however, Baumeister seems a strange suspect. Most of the victims were women, and their murders were cold-blooded executions. Baumeister was a sexually-motivated serial killer who targeted gay men. He buried the bodies of some of his victims on his property. He eventually committed suicide.
Baumeister may have killed 27 men across two states. That the I-70 killer‘s murders had no obvious sexual element might support the idea he committed those murders, too. He wouldn’t have had any sexual interest in the women. But why? Just because he could?
It’s hard to make sense out of that.
It’s only a theory.
Presenting an unsolved series of murders with no suggested answer to the mystery seems unfair. But that’s exactly the case here. Over the course of a month, one lone killer randomly shot people across several states and then was gone. He left little evidence behind aside from bullet casings, witness descriptions, and conjecture about what he was doing, and why. It may be that the only way he’ll ever be caught is if he told someone or left his weapon behind.
The ghostly I-70 Killer left bewildered, grieving families and nameless fear in his wake. That’s what monsters do.
It’s appalling but true: Sometimes they simply get away with it.