I first heard of the missing women and the possible serial killer theory back in May 2015. It seems 3 of the missing women knew each other, and there are apparently other connections...prostitution and drugs are in the mix:
For years, Chillicothe, Ohio, was known as just another notch on the Rust Belt, afflicted by the same old problems of drugs, poverty and unemployment. If the town ever made national news, it was because a presidential candidate stopped by vowing to fix things, only for those promises to evaporate after Election Day.
But in the past couple of months, Chillicothe has crept back into headlines for something other than a stump speech. Something much darker. Something evil.
Chillicothe is no longer just another Rust Belt town. Now it’s the place where women go missing and wash up dead.
In little over a year, at least six women have disappeared from the town of only 21,000. Four of their bodies have been found, almost all of them dumped in creeks or streams flowing away from the town.
The women have similar stories. Most of them were hooked on drugs, and many moonlighted as prostitutes to fund their addictions, police say. Some of them even knew one another.
The similarities between the victims and the crime scenes have Chillicothe terrified that a serial killer is on the loose. Local police, several county sheriffs’ offices and state investigators have banded together to solve the spiraling murder mystery.
Even FBI analysts are assisting with the investigation, busy compiling a profile of a possible serial killer.
“I don’t want to come out and say ‘yes, we have a serial killer,’ but it’s a small community that we live in … and the number of females who have come up missing, and then the bodies that we’ve found, that’s quite a bit for our community,” Staff Lt. Mike Preston of the Ross County Sheriff’s Department told The Washington Post.
“The community is starting to get concerned,” he said. “Everyone just wants answers.”
In the absence of answers — and arrests — residents are getting scared. The fear that a serial killer is stalking prostitutes swirls around Chillicothe.
“Obviously there has to be something going on,” said Jessica Sayre, whose older sister, Tiffany, was the latest victim. Her body was found in a drainage pipe Saturday after she had been missing for more than a month. - As women keep washing up dead, Ohio town fears a serial killer is on the loose
Series of missing Ohio women stirs fears of serial killer
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Nestled in the hills of Ohio's Scioto Valley, this rural town is unaccustomed to the widespread fear that has grown steadily as women have disappeared in the past year.
Six unresolved cases are causing residents to speculate that a serial killer is in their midst. Two of the women remain missing and four have turned up dead.
Two of the dead — Timberly Claytor, 38; and Tiffany Sayre, 26 — were found within three weeks of each other, and both cases have been classified as homicides.
While local law enforcement officials, who recently tapped the FBI for help before Claytor's body was found, haven't discounted the possibility of a serial killer, it isn't the only avenue they are pursuing, Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt explained at a June 2 press conference about the discovery of Claytor's body.
"At this point, there's no smoking gun that says, 'Hey, we've got a serial killer on the loose,' " Schmidt said. "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," he said. "We have to keep an open mind to the possibilities, but the evidence is going to dictate where we go with the investigation."
Year of fear
The troubling trend of missing women in this town of 22,000 about an hour south of Columbus began a little more than a year ago.
Officials have said the women are connected through a common history of drug use, possible prostitution and connections to the same social circle. A kayaker found the naked body of Tameka Lynch, 30, on May 24, 2014, in Paint Creek, about a 30-minute drive from Chillicothe.
6 missing, dead
Six women have been reported missing in the Chillicothe, Ohio, area in the past year. The bodies of four have been found:
• May 24, 2014. Tameka Lynch, 30.
• Jan. 2. Shasta Himelrick, 20.
• May 29. Timberly Claytor, 38.
• June 20. Tiffany Sayre, 26.
• Wanda Lemons, 37, about 5 feet 7 inches tall and 135 pounds with shoulder-length brown hair and blue eyes. She has a tattoo of dolphins making a heart on her lower back. Missing since Dec. 28.
• Charlotte Trego, 38, 5 foot 4 inches tall and 160 pounds with dark hair and blue eyes. She has a tattoos of “JAMES” on her chest and a Playboy bunny on her upper arm. Missing since May 3, 2014.
Four days before investigators found her body, Lynch's husband reported her missing. He told police he had not seen her since May 16.
Although a coroner determined Lynch likely died from a multiple drug overdose, her manner of death was the result of "undetermined circumstances."
After finding Lynch, law enforcement searched along Paint Creek and into the Scioto River for any signs of another missing woman — 29-year-old Charlotte Trego. Her mother reported her missing two days after Lynch was reported missing.
Trego hadn't been seen in two weeks, which Yvonne Boggs said was atypical for her daughter.
Trego had left her home on the east side of Chillicothe on foot after a roommate evicted her, according to the initial police report. No sign of her was found during the search of the creek and river, and law enforcement have indicated they've been unable to learn much more.
Next came Wanda Lemons, 38, last seen by her mother Oct. 2 and reported missing Dec. 28. A friend of Lemons told Chillicothe police she had last seen her Nov. 3 and she had talked about going with a truck driver to Texas where Lemons has family.
Lemons' mother told police that she would go for lengthy periods without speaking to her daughter but it was unusual for her not to call or visit during the holidays.
At about the same time Lemons' mother went to police, a pregnant 20-year-old, Shasta Himelrick, went missing. Her family last saw her Christmas night and quickly reported her missing.
She was captured on film at a Chillicothe gas station the morning after Christmas. Her car was found abandoned, the doors open and battery drained, about 20 minutes south of town near the Scioto River.
Her body was found in the river Jan. 2. Although the coroner ruled Himelrick's death a suicide by drowning, her family and friends have their doubts, saying Himelrick was happy about being pregnant.
"I think if she (Himelrick) did do what they say, I think someone may have forced her to do it," her grandmother, Janice Timmons, told the Chillicothe Gazette in March.
Himelrick's disappearance heightened awareness among residents here about those missing, but speculation that a serial killer might be in their midst picked up steam when Tiffany Sayre went missing May 11.
Sayre had been at the Chillicothe Inn with two men that night and told a friend she was going to stop by again before going home. As the community came together in the city's park for a vigil for Sayre and the other women May 29, a woman found a body in some weeds a few hundred yards from U.S. 23 — a highway known as a primary route for drug trafficking — about 6 miles south of Chillicothe.
The body was Timberly Claytor, a woman not yet reported missing. She had been shot three times in the head, and law enforcement quickly closed in on Jason A. McCrary, 36, of Chillicothe, who was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor more than a decade ago.
He has not been charged with Claytor's murder but remains in the Ross County Jail on a charge that he failed to register his address as a sex offender. Investigators are waiting for results of DNA collected in a vehicle seized during a search warrant of McCrary's home before filing charges.
On Saturday, just three weeks after Claytor was found shot, a couple of hikers found Sayre's body in a culvert not far from the location of Lynch's body more than a year ago. While results of an autopsy are pending, officials have confirmed her body had been wrapped in a white cloth and duct tape was found nearby.
They are investigating her death as a homicide.
Ramping up the investigation
Before Claytor's body was found, Chillicothe Police Chief Keith Washburn asked the FBI for help, and a task force including the Ross County Sheriff's Office was created.
The task force is working in an undisclosed location with members of local, state and federal agencies and has created a dedicated tip line and e-mail. Sayre's aunt, Shelly Hehr, this week encouraged people with information to report it.
"Somebody did this. Somebody is responsible, and somebody knows who is responsible," Hehr said. "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."
When they receive tips for any of the missing women, Washburn said detectives assigned to the cases drop whatever they are doing to follow up. The problem is that many of the tips turn out to be false.
"We've checked land, air and water for any signs of (the women)," Washburn said. "But the problem is you're trying to find a needle in a haystack unless you have the information. The information we have is running dry on some of these cases."
Investigators have traveled throughout southern Ohio and Kentucky trying to get information on Sayre, in addition to interviewing subjects and administering polygraph tests. On May 23, officers also did something they rarely do when they arrested three alleged prostitutes in hopes of getting information about the missing women.
Washburn said prostitution in the Chillicothe area appears to be driven by a need for quick money to purchase drugs.
"One of the things that people have said is we treat these people differently because of their lifestyle," Washburn said. "That is totally untrue. These ladies are someone's daughter, someone's mother, sister, aunt. These are human beings. We are going to give it 110% to try to find them."
As investigators continue pounding the pavement, residents in Chillicothe also have been coming together in marches and vigils.
A Facebook page was created to spread the missing women's information across social media. A GoFundMe has been created to help Sayre's family pay for her burial.
And two weeks ago, sisters-in-law Samantha and Mary Green began a weekly community protest that they're calling No Dope, Just Hope.
"I'll be out here every Saturday, even if I'm 70," Samantha Green said. "We need to protest. There's no future for our children if it keeps going this way." - Series of missing Ohio women stirs fears of serial killer
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