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SPECIAL REPORT: A Serial Killer Amongst Us… Does the Evidence Add Up?

When “Heather” posted her services on Backpage.com, she had no idea that Neal Falls would show up armed with a gun and Dexter’s kill kit… a nightmare situation for sure. When he entered her apartment, Falls pointed a gun at Heather and simply asked her, “Live or die?”  Then he proceeded to choke her.

Heather chose live and attacked that SOB with a garden rake like a bat out of hell.  A violent fight for survival ensued and Falls began to lose the initiative of his attack.  In an effort to subdue Heather and take the rake from her, Falls made the mistake of putting down his gun.  Fortunately, Heather acted quickly, grabbed the gun and shot Falls to death.

Police have ruled her actions self-defense, but that is not what is interesting about the case.  When they searched Neal Falls’ car, they found his kill kit, loaded with the following very scary and very telling items:Neal Falls Kill Kit #1

  •  4 sets of handcuffs
  •  3 axes
  •  2 knives and a box cutter
  •  a sledgehammer
  •  a shovel
  •  a machete
  •  plastic bags, bleach, and household cleaners
  • a bulletproof vest

Following Heather’s harrowing escape from this man’s onslaught, the discovery of the kill kit, and a little background investigation by police, Falls is now suspected in the disappearance of at least 9 women in Illinois, Nevada, and Ohio.

Between 2000 and 2008, Neal Falls rented a room in Henderson, Nevada, which is approximately 20 minutes away from Las Vegas by car.  During that time, four prostitutes went missing.  The dismembered bodies of three of the women were found dumped along highways.Neal Falls Gun and Handcuffs

Chillicothe, Ohio is also the locale of a very bizarre series of events that the discovery of Neal Falls may shed light on.  As is typical for a small town in a mid-western state, Chillecothe has a population of about 22,000 and a very low crime rate.

In 2014, Chillicothe had no homicides, a mere 8 rapes, 393 burglaries, and an abysmal 33 grand theft autos. (2)  By comparison, Miami-Dade County, Florida, with a population of over 2.6 million people, had 212 murders, 1,142 forcible rapes, 17,115 burglaries, 8,478 grand theft autos. (Miami-Dade Crime Statistics (2014))

As you can imagine, when six local women went missing every few months and their remains started popping up in rivers and creeks not far from each other, locals began to suspect a serial killer was responsible.

Based on what happened to Heather and the gruesome discovery in the trunk of Falls’ SUV, law enforcement suspects that Neal Falls maybe their answer.

THE MURDERED WOMEN OF LAS VEGAS

Lindsay Marie Harris:

Lindsay Marie Harris

Lindsay Marie Harris

America’s Most Wanted aired Lindsay’s case three times before her remains were found and five more times since.  Neal Falls’ death may be the first break in a case that has been cold for a long time.

She had worked as an escort in Las Vegas.  At the time she went missing in May 2005, her Mercedes was found at a different casino than the one she had called a friend from.  Additionally, a PT Cruiser rented in her name was found in the dessert near her home.  Later that months, police outside of Springfield, Illinois recovered two severed legs near Interstate 55, which is approximately 1,600 miles away from Las Vegas.

However, it was not until 2008 when an FBI crime lab positively identified the legs as belonging to Lindsay Harris, based on DNA testing.  The rest of her remains were never recovered.  AMW posits that this evidence suggests her killer may be a trucker.  It was also reported that Lindsay’s legs were severed by a similar type of weapon/tool as the body of Misty Marie Saens.  Her cause of death is still unknown.

Misty Marie Saens:

Misty Marie Saens

Misty Marie Saens

Like Lindsay Harris, Misty Saens worked as an escort in Las Vegas.  Misty went missing sometime in early 2003, when Neal Falls was known to be living close to Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada.  On March 6, 2003, her dismembered remains were found wrapped in plastic and cloth along a dessert roadway that leads to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

But for her connection to the other victims as a young, Las Vegas escort who went missing, her death remains an unsolved mystery to this day.

Jodi Marie Brewer:

Jodi Marie Brewer

Jodi Marie Brewer

According to reports, Jodi Brewer went missing from Las Vegas in August 2003.  Like Lindsay and Misty, Jodi was also an escort.  Her dismembered remains were found later that month near the California-Nevada border.  Her torso, wrapped in plastic and a sheet, was discovered on a highway off-ramp in the dessert.

Like Misty Saens, her connection to the other women is the fact that she worked as a Las Vegas area prostitute, went missing between March 2003 and April 2006, was in her early 20’s, and her partial, dismembered remains were found on the side of the roadway.  Her cause of death is unknown and her case is still listed as unsolved.

Jessie Foster:

Jessie Foster

Jessie Foster

According to a website posted by Jessie Foster’s mother, her daughter was lured to Las Vegas by an unknown person.  After living there for a while, she reported to her parents that she met a guy, fell in love, moved in with the guy, and got engaged.  The mother also reports that the she later learned the guy was a known violent pimp and that Jessie had been arrested for solicitation.

Jessie Foster was last seen in North Las Vegas between late March and early April 2006.  She has not been seen since and no remains have ever been recovered.  What happened to her continues to be an unsolved mystery.  That said, she does share the same commonalities with the other women – young, Las Vegas area escorts who went missing while Neal Falls was living nearby in Henderson, Nevada.

THE MISSING WOMEN OF CHILLICOTHE, OHIO

Tameka Lynch and Charlotte Trego:

Tameka Lynch

Tameka Lynch

Tameka Lynch was the first body recovered.  It was found by kayakers washed up on a sandbar in Paint Creek near the town of Bainbridge, Ohio.  According to news reports, the local sheriff indicated that the body was badly decomposed but showed no signs of obvious trauma.

Another thing we know about the Tameka Lynch case is that she knew Charlotte Trego.  According to Trego’s mother, Lynch and Trego traveled to Bainbridge, Ohio together in the past.  It is also worth pointing out that the two women both went missing around the same time in May 2014.

It is not known what Tameka Lynch did for work or whether she suffered from a drug problem.

Charlotte Trego

Charlotte Trego

Charlotte Trego went missing in May 2014 after she was evicted by her roommate.  She left behind a 12 year old daughter who is being cared for by family.  According to initial statements made by Chillicothe Police Chief Keith Washburn, there was no reason to believe Trego was deceased.  Chief Washburn initially stated, “Sooner or later, she will run into law enforcement somewhere and she will be ran through the system… We have no reason to believe she is deceased.”

That has since changed as her name was added to the list of missing Chillicothe women.  Her status remains “missing.”

Wanda Lemons:

Wanda Lemons

Wanda Lemons

Lemons went missing on November 3, 2014 –  six months to the day from the last time someone saw Charlotte Trego alive.  According to news reports, Wanda Lemons was last reported making her way from Chillicothe to Texas with the help of a truck driver.  Her mother reports that it is not unusual for Lemons to go extended period of times without contacting her, however, it is unusual for Lemons to let the holidays pass without contacting home.

Lemons was last seen by her mother on October 2, 2014.  That means Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentines Day, Easter, and 4th of July would have all passed without any contact whatsoever.  Lemons is also known for going by her previous married name of “Hodges” and her maiden name of “Jackson.”  Her case is still unsolved and her status remains “missing.”

Shasta Himelrick:

Shasta Himelrick

Shasta Himelrick

The last time Shasta Himelrick was seen alive was on December 26, 2014.  She was recorded on surveillance video leaving a Chillicothe gas station in the early morning hours.  She was 20 years old and pregnant at the time.  Her body was recovered from the Scioto River on January 2, 2015, approximately one mile away from where her abandoned car was found out of gas with a dead battery.  Like Tameka Lynch, her body showed no signs of pre-mortem trauma consistent with a cause of death.

In fact, according to an autopsy performed by the Ross County Coroner’s Office, Shasta Himelrick’s death was ruled a suicide by drowning.  While it is not known if she suffered from hypothermia before and at the time of her death, the Coroner believes that she entered the river on her own free will.  A toxicology report indicates that she had cocaine and oxycodone in her system at the time of her death, although not in toxic quantities.

Shasta’s family does not believe she committed suicide and if anything, they think someone pushed her to it.

Timberly Claytor:

Timberly Claytor

Timberly Claytor

This is where the story of these women gets weirder.  According to Jamil Burgin, Timberly Claytor’s ex-boyfriend, Claytor knew Charlotte Trego, Wanda Lemons, and Tiffany Sayre.  Burgin also reports that Claytor had been fighting a heroin addiction. Burgin said Claytor and the other women struggled with drug issues and other problems.  According to Claytor’s friend, Marcia Pummel, she was “a good person at heart, but drugs had changed her.”

Claytor was 27 years old and the mother of two young children.  Her body was found face down next to a vacant building located approximately five miles south of Chillicothe.  She had sustained three gunshot wounds to her head from a .380 caliber handgun.

Interestingly enough, a suspect was not only named in this case, but has also been indicted for murder.  On July 24, 2015, Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt was able to obtain an indictment against Jason McCrary for Claytor’s murder.  According to Schmidt, forensic evidence in the form of DNA and blood, as well as eye witness testimony that put Claytor and McCrary together the night before the body was found, as well as surveillance video, helped prove McCrary had murdered Claytor.

Schmidt admits, however, that McCrary’s motive is unknown.  That case is brand new and is presently pending.

Tiffany Sayre:

Tiffany Sayre

Tiffany Sayre

About six months after Wanda Lemon’s disappearance, which btw, was six months after Charlotte Trego’s disappearance, Tiffany Sayre went missing after meeting with someone at the Chillicothe Inn.  According to family members, she literally disappeared without a trace.

Hmmm… what that was about?  According to one news report, the Chillicothe Inn is known for being a locale used for prostitution.

According to Tripadvisor, the Chillicothe Inn is #7 of 7 hotels in Chillicothe.  Of the 31 reviews by guests, half described it as “poor” or “terrible.”  Located on a major thoroughfare next to a McDonald’s, this roadside, two story, motel with wall unit air conditioners and 1970’s brick, is the epitome of why you never touch the comforter in hotels.

Prior to her death, Sayre made a selfie video using her cell phone where she discussed her struggle with drug addiction.

Her body was eventually found by hikers on June 20, 2015 in a culvert located in a nature sanctuary approximately 25 miles from Chillecothe.  Her body was wrapped in a blanket and in an advanced state of decay.  However, a cause of death has yet to be released.

ANALYSIS:  DOES ALL THIS ADD UP?

Qualities that Make Serial Killers Different:

Most homicides are one time events that typically involve robberies, drug dealing, domestic violence, gang violence, and the occasional paranoid, schizophrenic nut bag who feels the need to shoot up a school or movie theater because mommy fed him peas as a child.  However, serial murder is a very uncommon occurrence.

According to the FBI, “Serial murder is a relatively rare event, estimated to comprise less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year.” (1)

Attendees at a symposium on serial murder sponsored by the FBI, “agreed that there is no generic profile of a serial murderer. Serial killers differ in many ways, including their motivations for killing and their behavior at the crime scene. However, attendees did identify certain traits common to some serial murderers, including sensation seeking, a lack of remorse or guilt, impulsivity, the need for control, and predatory behavior.  These traits and behaviors are consistent with the psychopathic personality disorder.  Attendees felt it was very important for law enforcement and other professionals in the criminal justice system to understand psychopathy and its relationship to serial murder.”  Id.

According to Vernon Geberth (Former Commander of Bronx Homicide, NYPD), serial killers are driven by psychological gratification which usually involves sexual contact with the victim.  In a paper titled Psychopathic Sexual Sadists, Geberth applied the clinical criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder (also known as “psychopathy”) and Sexual Sadism as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorderswhich is the holy bible of clinical mental health diagnosis.

According to Geberth, the DSM-IV defines Antisocial Personality Disorder as follows:

“The essential feature of the disorder is to be found in patterns of irresponsible and antisocial behaviors beginning in childhood or early adolescence and continuing into adulthood. Lying, stealing,truancy, vandalism, initiating fights, running away from home, and physical cruelty are typical childhood signs. In adulthood the antisocial pattern continues and may include failure to honor financial obligations, maintain consistent employment, or plan ahead. These individuals fail to conform to social norms and repeatedly engage in antisocial behaviors that are grounds for arrest, such as destroying property, harassing others, and stealing. Often these antisocial acts are committed with no seeming necessity. People with antisocial personality disorder tend toward irritability and aggressivity, and often become involved in physical fights and assaults, including spouse and child beating. Reckless behavior without regard for personal safety is common, as indicated by driving while intoxicated or getting numerous speeding tickets. Frequently these individuals are promiscuous, failing to sustain a monogamous relationship for more than one year. They do not appear to learn from past experiences in that they tend to resume the same kinds of antisocial behaviors they were punishment for. Finally, they seem to lack feelings of remorse about the effects of their behavior on others. On the contrary, they may feel justified in having violated the rights of others.”

Thus, serial killers are psychopathic killers, which is very different from a psychotic killer.

Unlike the psychotic killer, serial killers tend to be very organized offenders.  They have above average intelligence and their hallmark is a well thought out and planned crime.  They choose their victims purposefully based on whatever criteria/appeal they have and use cunning and premeditation to avoid capture.

This differs greatly from the psychotic killer, who does not live in reality, and who lacks the wherewithal to avoid capture.  Unlike the methodical, well planned serial killer, a psychotic killer may act purely on impulse, choose an arbitrary victim, and be very sloppy and disorganized in his methodology.

Investigating and Identifying Serial Killers:

Geberth points out a very important concept:  The greater the psychopathology of the offender, the more distinctive his/her criminal behaviors tend to be.  Additionally, sex-related serial murders tend to have a repetitive nature.  While not all serial murders are necessarily sex-related, a substantial portion are.

This gives investigators a helpful tool to work with.  If they can identify a repetitive distinction that makes these homicides different from all others, they may be able to link them to the same offender.  For example, the BTK Killer was known to bind, torture, then kill his victims – hence the name.

IS NEAL FALLS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL OF THESE CASES?

With the limited information the available to the public it is too soon to tell.  First of all, there is nothing new about missing or murdered prostitutes.  Killing hookers is almost as old as hiring them for sex.  Any random John can be the guy responsible for these deaths.

That said, there are common threads.

The Nevada women were all Las Vegas escorts, they were all about the same age, and the three that have been found were brutally dismembered.  These facts are consistent with Neal Falls who tried to murder Heather, also an escort, and who clearly had a plan to dismember her.

When it comes to the Ohio women, they do seem to have a repetitive commonality.

Charlotte Trego and Wanda Lemons are missing. Tameka Lynch, Shasta Himelrick, Timberly Claytor and Tiffany Sayre have been found dead.

On the one hand, they are almost all prostitutes who hung out in the same seedy part of town.  They almost all struggled with drug addiction.  Not to mention, they knew each other and disappeared from the same small town that is not known for crime, around the same time, and were found in nearby areas – mostly involving dumpings in water or woods.  Some were wrapped in plastic and fabric.

However, none were dismembered.  Initial autopsies on some ruled out homicide as a conclusion.  Some bodies showed no sign of pre-mortem trauma.  In one case, a suspect other than Neal Falls has been charged based on very compelling evidence.  In another, the coroner concluded that the victim had committed suicide.

My instinct as a criminal lawyer tells me that some of these women’s deaths may be connected while others are not.  Keeping in mind Chillicothe is a small town, it would not be of any consequence that all the local drug using prostitutes knew each other… just like all the lawyers in a certain area know each other, or doctors, or accountants, or members of a big police department.

Drug addicts stay connected because they help each other score junk. Using word of mouth, they let each other know when a dealer has stuff to sell and when he is out.  On the streets of major cities the junkies all know each other, so much more so is this true in a small mid-western town.

Insofar as the Nevada women are concerned, there is no indication that any of them were drug addicts.  But this may not matter if our killer is targeting prostitutes.  The common thread may be the availability and willingness of young women to invite the killer into their home or hotel room or to enter his.

CONCLUSION

Law enforcement knows there are things in common and things that are different amongst all of these cases.  Yet they are suggesting there is a link that ties in Neal Falls.  I suspect they make this suggestion for one of two reasons:

First, they likely have additional key information that has not yet been made public.  Knowledge of key facts and evidence may tie all these cases to Falls in ways we can’t presently think of.

Second, they may be mistakenly attributing these cases to Neal Falls because he is a handy answer to unanswered problems.  Truth be told, dismemberment is not an uncommon practice in homicides.  Either is using plastic, bleach, and cutting instruments.

To assign all these cases to one person based on that alone seems like folly to me.  While the Nevada murders do seem very closely related in their barbarism and proximity insofar as distance and timing is concerned, the Ohio murders may have absolutely nothing to do with them.

While I do not doubt for one second that Neal Falls has killed before or that he has dismembered before, much more evidence is needed before he is conclusively tied to the crimes in Nevada or Ohio.  I seriously hope law enforcement has more information than they are revealing because it would be a serious injustice to simply close out these homicides because a maniac killer was found in a far away state attempting to do something similar.

After all, if Neal Falls is not responsible for the Ohio or Nevada murders in truth, that means the real killer(s) are still walking amongst us…