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Allison Edwards, Staff Writer

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a series of homicides were committed by a man who went unidentified for many years, until he was recently discovered. Vicki Heath, Margaret “Peggy” Gill, and Jeanne Gilbert were all sexually assaulted and murdered years apart from each other by the “Interstate 65 corridor in Kentucky and Indiana” (CNN.com). For more than thirty years, these killings were a cold case, until recently, when the killer was identified as Harry Edwards Greenwell, who passed away in 2013 at the age of sixty-eight. Greenwell already served “at least two prison sentences, in Iowa and Kentucky, for a string of violent crimes,” (NYTimes.com).


All of these women worked as night clerks at hotels on the interstate, not knowing that the killer was after them. On February 21, 1987, in the dawn’s early hours, police found the body of Vicki Heath, forty-two, “behind a Super 8 motel in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Three hundred miles north, in Merrillville, Indiana, two years later, an employee at Day’s Inn discovered the body of Margaret Gill, twenty-four, in a motel room on March 3, 1989. Two hours later, police got another disturbing call that thirty-four-year-old Jeanne Gilbert’s body was found in a ditch “about fifteen miles away on a road near a farm,” after she was abducted from a Day’s Inn at gunpoint in Remington, Indiana, (NYTimes.com). All three women were shot to death with a .22 Caliber.

In January 1990, a twenty-one-year-old “clerk at a Day’s Inn in Columbus, Indiana” came forward saying that she was “raped at knifepoint in a motel robbery,” which fit the pattern of the previous attacks. Police did more investigating and used genetic genealogy to identify the killer. This method is “the combination of genetic analysis with traditional historical and genealogical research to study family history,” which has helped solve cold cases for many years (Spanshot.com). This caused a breakthrough in the case and police arrested Greenwell, who was born and raised in Kentucky. When investigators searched for information about him, they found out that he had a previous criminal background of robbery and sodomy.

The relief of this cold case has put the three victim’s families at ease. Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter stated in a press conference, “The animal that did this is no longer on this Earth. I’m not going to say his name. I think we need to focus on the victims today” (WTHR13.com). Kim Wright, Gilbert’s daughter, stated, “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” (USAtoday.com).