KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Lorenzo Gilyard, a former trash company supervisor, was described by some neighbors as mild-mannered and friendly. Then he was charged with killing 13 women.
Gilyard, 56, is due to go on trial Monday for seven murders. If convicted on even one of the first-degree murder counts, his only possible sentence would be life without parole.
Prosecutors agreed in January not to seek the death penalty against Gilyard, as long as Gilyard's attorneys agreed to a trial before a judge without a jury. His attorneys also agreed to give up nearly all of their client's appeal rights.
Gilyard, 56, has been in jail since 2004 on allegations that he strangled 12 women and girls between 1977 and 1993 in Jackson County. Authorities added a 13th murder charge last year.
Court papers filed by the defense list the victims as Catherine M. Barry, 34; Naomi Kelly, 23; Ann Barnes, 36; Kellie A. Ford, 20; Angela Mayhew, 19; Sheila Ingold, 36; and Carmeline Hibbs, 30.
The other victims were Stacie L. Swofford, 17; Gwendolyn Kizine, 15; Margaret J. Miller, 17; Debbie Blevins, 32; Helga Kruger, 26; and Connie Luther, 29.
The trial, which was expected to last three weeks, will revolve largely around DNA evidence — without which the homicides might have continued to languish without a suspect.
In telephone conversations between Gilyard and relatives, the suspect consistently contends that he is innocent and eager to go to trial.
"I know I couldn't get convicted of something I didn't do," Gilyard told a relative in one call, which was among more than 200 minutes of recordings that The Kansas City Star recently obtained through a legal request.
Gilyard rarely discussed details of his case, but in one conversation he discussed the DNA evidence that prosecutors say linked him to the victims. He told a friend that his trial would come down to "their scientists against my scientists."
Gilyard had a long history of scrapes with the law and has served time for crimes including child molestation. State probation records show that from January 1969 to June 1974, he was suspect in five rape cases, though he was never convicted of the crime.
But Gilyard was largely off the police radar when he was arrested in April 2004 and charged with killing a dozen of the victims — all but one a prostitute.
By that time, Gilyard lived with his wife of about a decade in a modest, single-story home at the end of a quiet dead-end street in south Kansas City. His wife divorced him after his arrest.
A crime lab eventually used DNA to link a total of 13 murders to the same suspect. The identify of the suspect remained unknown until the lab analyzed a blood sample taken from Gilyard in 1987, when he was a suspect in the death of one of the women he is now charged with killing.