More than 30 years after he allegedly raped and murdered three female motel clerks along Interstate 65 between Indiana and Kentucky in the late 1980s, the police have identified the infamous “I-65 Killer” as Harry Edward Greenwell.
Indiana State Police, with several federal and local agencies, said investigators have determined that Greenwell — who is now deceased — was responsible for the rapes and murders of Vicki Heath, Margaret “Peggy” Gill, and Jeanne Gilbert. The women all worked as clerks in motels along the I-65 corridor.
Heath was shot as she worked the night shift at a Super 8 Hotel in Elizabethtown, Ky.
Gill and Gilbert were shot and raped on the same day as they worked shifts at two different Indiana Days Inns located 50 miles away from each other.
Investigators have also linked Greenwell through DNA analysis to a sexual assault of a woman in 1990 in Columbus, Indiana.
Greenwell died of cancer in Iowa in 2013 at age 68.
“There are detectives in this very room that have been involved in this in some form or another for literally generations,” said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter during a press conference identifying Greenwell as the killer. “I hope today might bring a little bit of solace to know that the animal who did this is no longer on this Earth.”
The announcement, which was made on Tuesday, Apr. 5, brought an end to the cold cases of the women’s assaults and killings. Police noted, however, that there’s a “distinct possibility” Greenwell could be linked to more unsolved cases. Sgt. Glen Fifield of the Indiana State Police said detectives are continuing to investigate whether Greenwell, who was born in Kentucky, is connected to other violent crime in the Midwest.
Gilbert’s daughter, Kim Wright, said the families may never know why their relatives suffered the horrific fate, but the revealing of the killer’s identity provided some consolation.
“I’d like to believe that whatever each of us defines as justice, or what each of us might define as closure, that we’re all now able to share the healing process knowing the long known attacker has now been brought out of the dark, into the light,” Wright, an attorney, said.
The announcement of the Days Inn killer’s identity bookends an investigation that’s spanned more than 30 years. The search for the killer began in 1987 when Heath, 41, was found assaulted and shot to death behind a Super 8 motel in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
In 1989, two more women fell victim to the killer.
Gill, a 24-year-old overnight auditor at a Days Inn in Merrillville, was sexually assaulted and killed in the early morning hours of Mar. 3.
An eerily similar attack occurred at another Days Inn dozens of miles away on the same night. Gilbert, a part-time auditor for the Remington motel, was assaulted. A motorist saw the 34-year-old’s body on the side of the road in White County. Police said both women were shot with the same .22 caliber handgun.
Police said DNA collected at the scene of Heath’s killing linked to Gilbert’s death.
DNA also linked the same attacker behind a 1990 sexual assault of a clerk at a Days Inn in Columbus, Indiana. In that case, the clerk got away and was able to vividly describe the attacker, which led to the police sketch of the suspect that circulated widely.
Police on said a DNA match to Greenwell was made through a close family member and returned a 99.99% probability.
“Greenwell had an extensive criminal history and had been in and out of prison several times, even escaping from jail on two separate occasions,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Glen Fifield said at a press conference.
“He was known to travel frequently in the Midwest.”
Greenwell’s criminal history was detailed in a handout given to reporters by police. In 1963, he was sentenced to two years in the reformatory and five years probation for an armed robbery in Kentucky. Two years later, police arrested him on a sodomy charge. Greenwell was paroled in 1969 from the Kentucky State Penitentiary.
He served a prison sentence 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 began.
Police credited the “investigative genealogy” for the major breakthrough in the case. They said major improvements to DNA technology throughout the years aided their ability to utilize the method.
“I just hope that the effort this group has put in will somehow bring long, overdue closure to the family and friends of not just Miss Heath, but all the victims that are represented,” said David Fegett, deputy chief of operations of the Elizabethtown police department.