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US police have identified the so-called “I-65 Killer”, also known as the “Days Inn Killer”, who murdered three motel workers near a Midwestern freeway in the late 1980s.
Harry Edward Greenwell, who died aged 68 in 2013, was named after tests of crime scene samples found a ‘99.9999 per cent positive’ match, state police said from Indiana.
Greenwell was named the “I-65 Killer” because he sexually assaulted and shot dead three women at motels near the major north-south Interstate 65 freeway in the central United States.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Glen Fifield said in a joint press conference with the FBI on Tuesday: “Greenwell had a long criminal history and had been in and out of prison several times, s even escaping from prison twice.
“He was known to travel frequently to the Midwest.”
Sergeant Fifield said genealogy data and crime scene evidence had been used to identify Greenwell after a 30-year search.
The first murder took place in February 1987 when Vicki Heath was sexually assaulted and shot in the head while working nights at the Super 8 hotel in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
Police said evidence also linked Greenwell to the sexual assaults and murders of Margaret “Peggy” Gill and Jeanne Gilbert in Indiana in 1989.
Ms. Gill worked at a Days Inn in Merrillville when she was killed, while Ms. Gilbert worked at a Days Inn in Remington.
Sergeant Fifield said investigators also linked Greenwell to the sexual assault of a 21-year-old employee at a Days Inn in Columbus, Indiana, in January 1990.
“This victim was able to escape her attacker and survive. She was then able to give an excellent physical description of the suspect and details of the crime,” the police sergeant said.
“She is the only known victim to have survived this killer’s vicious and brutal attacks.”
The woman described her attacker as a man with green eyes and said the good one was lazy, Indianapolis-based NBC News affiliate WTHR reported.
Sergeant Fifield said the Indiana State Police crime lab matched ballistic evidence linked to the murders of Ms Gill and Ms Gilbert.
Police then compared DNA evidence linking the deaths of Ms Heath and Ms Gilbert to the Columbus attack.
Sergeant Fifield said a major factor linking the four crimes was their proximity to Interstate 65, which runs from Gary, Indiana, to Mobile, Alabama.
The police sergeant also said investigative genealogy, the use of DNA analysis in combination with traditional genealogy research and hospital records “generated a significant and important lead” in all four cases.
Sergeant Fifield continued: “Further investigation and relatedness lab testing by the Indiana State Police lab on positive crime scene samples identified the suspect.
“The match was 99.9999% positive.
“It was this scientific breakthrough that ultimately led to the identification of the I-65 killer, Harry Edward Greenwell.”
Sergeant Fifield said investigators are continuing to contact other police departments in the Midwest because there is a “strong possibility” that Greenwell has committed other unsolved murders, rapes, robberies or assaults.
Kimberly Gilbert Wright, Ms Gilbert’s daughter, told Tuesday’s press conference that her family was grateful for police efforts to identify her mother’s killer.
“She is always in the heart of my family,” she said of her mother. “We talk about her like she’s never gone. My brother and I were blessed to have spent the last seven months of her life living with her and feeling the joy she could bring to every day of our life.”
Greenwell was born in Kentucky and died of cancer in Iowa, according to an obituary posted after his death.
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