INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — This spring marks 25 years since a serial killer started his spree across the Midwest in Indianapolis. More than two decades later, detectives remain hopeful someone knows something that could help piece together the so-called I-70 killings.
Not a day goes by Cumberland Police Chief Mike Crooke doesn’t think about it.
“I personally have visited every crime scene, every single one of them,” Crooke said.
He was the lead investigator with IMPD on the first known case and one of the only original detectives still working.
“We haven’t given up,” he said.
In April 1992, police said Robin Fuldauer, 26, was working alone at Payless Shoesource in the 7200 block of Pendleton Pike after a co-worker called in sick. Investigators believe a man came into the store, took her to the back and fatally shot her before escaping out a back door.
“Robin was a very kind soul, she was very intelligent, she was a hard worker, caring person,” said her sister, Susan Fuldauer.
Crooke said through the register transactions, they believe the crime happened in the afternoon.
“There were people that were in and out of the store that some actually stole shoes, which kind of threw us off you know at the beginning,” Crooke said.
It was sometime before a worker at a gas station next door discovered the crime scene.
“It’s not until you start getting the pieces of the others do you realize it’s just more than a robbery,” Crooke said.
The killer then traveled across the Midwest over the next 30 days, leaving a trail of bodies.
“It’s left such a hole in our hearts to have Robin’s life cut short the way it was and to have the other victim’s lives and their families impacted it’s just it’s so tragic,” Fuldauer said. “It makes you absolutely value every minute of every day but you never stop thinking about the ones that you’ve lost and lost in such a tragic heinous way.”
Police said the suspect then went to a bridal shop in Wichita, Kansas around closing time. He got Patricia Magers, 33, and Patricia Smith, 23, to the back of the store where he killed both of them.
But police got a break in the case, a witness. Retired Wichita Police Lt. Michael Hennessy said a man returned to the store that day to pick up an item.
“He was greeted by an individual being a white male, with a weapon being a small rifle as he described it and he was asked by this gunman to come in to the back room with him but he refused to do so,” Hennessy said.
Hennessy said the witness left the store and called police.
“That was our first lead in the case there as far as having an eyewitness,” Hennessy said.
From there, police said the suspect traveled to Sylvia’s Ceramic Shop in Terre Haute.
“It was horrible. First thing I thought was I thought of my mom and I thought my family would never be the same and it’s not,” said Teresa Lee, Michael McCown’s younger sister.
Police said Michael McCown, 40, was stocking shelves at his mother’s store. The suspect shot him immediately.
“We just all loved him so much. So did all of his friends,” Lee said.
Police said the killer went on to St. Charles, Missouri where he killed Nancy Kitzmiller, 24, at Boot Village. Then he killed Sarah Blessing, 37, in Raytown, Missouri.
Investigators linked the cases through ballistics.
St. Charles police said it could be a .22 caliber weapon.
Investigators also developed a sketch of a suspect. A white male, mid-20’s to mid-30’s, 5’7”, weighing 140-160 lbs., slender to medium build, with short, tinted red hair.
Crooke said it could possibly be a hitch hiker, military man, traveling salesman or a trucker.
“We literally went through and got hotel registrations from every single hotel across I-70, up and down the interstates all over,” Crooke said.
Crooke said investigators checked toll booths, license plates and traffic stops during a time lacking the same media coverage, surveillance and DNA technology seen today.
“At one point we know we had 67,000 names,” Crooke said.
Hundreds of investigators working the cases worked to track down tips and leads. Crooke send a significant amount of time was spent on people purposefully submitting false ones.
“Then we would have another part of this which we would have husband wives or girlfriend boyfriends that would be the girls were mad at the male for some reason and they would call in they were basically were false leads we still had to check out,” Crooke said.
Months after the killings in the Midwest, Crooke said investigators learned of more potential victims in Texas. Two women died and one survived.
There’s no concrete evidence linking the Texas cases to the Midwest ones, but Crooke said he believes the same individual could be responsible.
“The next series of events then that started in Texas were all done in the same fashion with the exception that we have different ballistics,” Crooke said.
Crooke said in most of the cases, the suspect targeted women working by themselves at businesses without much money on hand. He was able to make the women feel like they’d be okay if they followed his instructions. He was able get them to a back room where he shot them in the head before fleeing.
To this day, investigators haven’t been able to pinpoint who is responsible.
“We have a couple people who are incarcerated in jail in Texas that one of them is claiming maybe to have done this,” Crooke said.
He’s not convinced, though.
“The facts that he knows are just things that would be common to anybody,” Crooke said.
As the years pass, the tips are trickling down but both he and Robin Fuldauer’s family remain hopeful someone knows something.
“We want to make sure this person can never do this again,” Susan Fuldauer said.
Crooke said periodically he listens to a 911 recording from one of the fatal Texas cases, the moments before a woman lost her life.
“Among everything else it’s just another thing that really reminds you hey you don’t want to give up on this one,” Crooke said.
It’s a reminder to keep digging.
If you know anything about these crimes, call Central Indiana Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.