INDIANAPOLIS — For decades, the identity of an elusive character dubbed the “Days Inn” and “I-65” killer eluded police as investigators attempted to solve the murders of three women in the ‘Indiana and Kentucky in the late 1980s.
On Tuesday, law enforcement officials said they had solved the case.
Indiana State Police, along with several federal and local agencies, say investigators have determined that the now deceased Harry Edward Greenwell was responsible for the rapes and murders of Vicki Heath, Margaret “Peggy” Gil and Jeanne Gilbert. The women worked as clerks at motels along the I-65 corridor.
Investigators also linked him through DNA analysis to a 1990 sexual assault of a woman in Columbus, Indiana.
Greenwell died of cancer in Iowa in 2013 at the age of 68.
“There are detectives in this same room who have been involved in this in one form or another for generations,” said Doug Carter, Indiana State Police Superintendent. “I hope today brings some comfort in knowing that the animal that did this is no longer on this Earth.”
Tuesday’s announcement puts an end to cold cases of assaults and murders of women. Police noted, however, that there is a “distinct possibility” that Greenwell is linked to other unsolved cases. sergeant. Indiana State Police’s Glen Fifield said detectives are continuing to investigate whether the Kentucky-born Greenwell is linked to other violent crimes in the Midwest.
I-65 KILLER:What we know about his victims
WHO WAS HE? A timeline of Harry Edward Greenwell’s criminal history
Gilbert’s daughter, Kim Wright, said families may never know why their loved ones suffered this horrific fate, but the revelation of the killer’s identity has brought some solace.
“I’d like to believe that whatever each of us defines as justice, or whatever each of us might define as closure, that we are all now able to share in the healing process knowing that the long-known abuser has now been out of the dark, into the light,” said Wright, an attorney.
The announcement of the identity of the Days Inn killer puts an end to an investigation that has lasted more than 30 years. The search for the killer began in 1987 when Heath, 41, was found assaulted and shot behind a Super 8 motel in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
In 1989, two other women fell victim to the killer.
Gill, a 24-year-old night auditor at a Days Inn in Merrillville, was sexually assaulted and killed in the early morning hours of March 3.
An eerily similar attack occurred at another Days Inn dozens of miles away the same night. Gilbert, a part-time auditor for the Remington Motel, was assaulted. A motorist saw the body of the 34-year-old man on the side of the road in White County. Police say the two women were shot with the same .22 caliber handgun.
Police said DNA collected from the scene of Heath’s murder was linked to Gilbert’s death.
DNA has also linked the same assailant behind a 1990 sexual assault against a Days Inn employee in Columbus, Indiana. In this case, the clerk escaped and was able to describe the attacker vividly, leading to the police sketch of the suspect which circulated widely.
Police said Tuesday a DNA match to Greenwell was made through a close family member and returned a 99.99% probability.
Greenwell’s criminal history was detailed in a document given to reporters by police. In 1963, he was sentenced to two years in prison and five years probation for an armed robbery in Kentucky. Two years later, the police arrested him for sodomy. Greenwell was paroled in 1969 from Kentucky State Penitentiary.
He served time in Iowa for burglary. Police said he escaped and was captured twice. The prison released him in 1983.
Five years later, the investigation into the Days Inn killer has begun.
Police credited “investigative genealogy” for the major breakthrough in the case. They said major improvements in DNA technology over the years had helped their ability to use the method.
“I just hope that the efforts of this group will somehow turn a blind eye to the long standing family and friends of not just Miss Heath, but all of the victims depicted,” said David Fegett, assistant chief of operations for the Elizabethtown. police department.
Who were the victims of the I-65 killer?
The I-65 killer case began with the horrific murder of Heath.
In February 1987, customers of the Super 8 motel could not find anyone at the reception. The hall was torn apart. Potential customers called the police to investigate the strange scene.
Police made the gruesome discovery near a trash can in the back of the motel. Heath had been assaulted and had been shot twice in the head.
The bloody crime rocked the city of Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
Two years later, the killer continued horribly familiar attacks the same night.
Gill, a 24-year-old night auditor at the Days Inn in Merrillville, was attacked and killed in the early hours of March 3, 1989.
About 50 miles to the south, another Days Inn employee suffered the same fate.
Gilbert, a part-time auditor at the Days Inn in Remington, was found shot dead on the side of the road by a passing motorist in White County.
Police determined that Gill and Gilbert were killed by bullets from the same rifle. Both motels had been robbed. In total, the killer stole $426.
Gilbert was a working mother and taking business classes at St. Joseph’s College, an Indianapolis Star article reported. Gill enjoyed cooking, painting and cross-stitching. She worked her way up from housekeeper at the motel to auditor.
Gill’s parents at the time said they weren’t talking revenge – just uncertainty. His mother called the absence of a suspect at the time a “mixed blessing”.
“In some ways, it’s the peace of not having to look at someone. But you read something else and wonder ‘was that him too?’ “said Anna Gill at the time.
Decades later, Wright told reporters she also felt peace. While she and the other families may never be able to answer some questions about their loved one’s final moments, she finds peace in Gilbert’s memory.
She remembers her mother’s last words to her and her brother – specifically how Gilbert said she loved them and would see them “tomorrow”.
“I didn’t see her tomorrow,” she said. “But I see it every day. I see it in me. I see it in my brother. I see it in my family.”