A serial killer may be on the loose in a small rural Ohio town where six women have disappeared.
The unsolved disappearances have residents of Chillicothe, population 22,000, terrified and fearing the worst, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Saturday.
The women disappeared over the past year. Two remain missing. The other four turned up dead. Cops found the bodies of Timberly Claytor, 38, and Tiffany Sayre, 26, just weeks ago and ruled their deaths homicides. Local enforcement created a special unit to investigate the cases and called in the FBI to help.
Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt said that while investigators haven’t discounted the possibility of a serial killer, there are other avenues of pursuit.
“At this point, there’s no smoking gun that says, ‘Hey, we’ve got a serial killer on the loose,’” he said at a June 2 press conference to announce the discovery of Claytor’s body. “We have missing people and we have a homicide. There are certainly people talking in the community and people that are upset and understandably concerned about that. When there are those concerns, we don’t rule that out. We have to keep an open mind to the possibilities, but the evidence is going to dictate where we go with the investigation.”
Chillicothe is about an hour south of Columbus and home to a regional campus of Ohio University.
The Enquirer said the women had ties to each other through drug use and possible prostitution. Some knew each other through shared acquaintanceships.
The first to disappear was Tameka Lynch, 30. She was reported missing May 20 last year by her husband who told cops he last saw her a few days earlier.
Four days after her reported disappearance, a kayaker found Lynch’s naked body in Paint Creek.
An autopsy found Lynch likely died from a drug overdose, but said the manner of death was the result of “undetermined circumstances,” the Enquirer said.
Charlotte Trego, 29, was reported missing by her mother two days after Lynch was reported missing. Police said Trego left her home after being evicted by her roommate.
After finding Lynch’s body, law enforcement searched Paint Creek for signs of Trego without success.
Wanda Lemons, 38, was reported missing Dec. 28. A friend said she’d last see her on Nov. 3. The friend told investigators Lemons talked about taking a trip to Texas with a truck driver.
Shasta Himelrick, 20 and pregnant, disappeared Christmas night and was quickly reported missing by her family.
The next day she stopped at a gas station. Her car was found abandoned, the doors open and the battery drained near the Scioto River.
On Jan. 2, her body turned up in the river. The coroner ruled her death suicide by drowning, but her family and friends said Himelrick looked forward to being a mother.
The Enquirer said residents started to speculate about a serial killer after Sayre disappeared May 11. She was last seen at a bar with two men that night.
On May 29, the date of a vigil for Sayre at the city’s park, a woman’s body was found in weeds near a highway just south of Chillicothe.
The body was identified as Claytor’s. She had not been reported missing.
Claytor had been shot three times in the head and cops fingered a sex offender as the suspect. The man has been jailed but has not yet been charged, the paper said.
On June 20 hikers found Sayre’s body in a culvert near where Lynch was found 13 months ago.
Autopsy results are pending but cops say Sayre was murdered. Her body had been wrapped in a white cloth and duct tape was found nearby.
Sayre’s aunt, Shelly Hehr, told the Enquirer she hopes someone comes forward with information about the murder.
“Somebody did this. Somebody is responsible, and somebody knows who is responsible. I know, if you are scared, you might not want to come forward, but you should be scared if you don’t come forward because, if somebody doesn’t come forward and help stop this, you don’t know who could be next,” the aunt said.