Images 1 and 4 are facial reconstructions of what the victims may have looked like when alive.
|Other names||Bible Belt Strangler|
Span of crimes
|State(s)||Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia|
The "Redhead murders", are a series of unsolved homicides believed to have been committed by an unidentified serial killer, also known as the Bible Belt Strangler, in various parts of the United States, including Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. It is presumed that the killings occurred between October 1978 and the 1980s, but they may have continued until 1992. The victims, many of whom have never been identified, usually had reddish hair and their bodies were abandoned along major highways in the United States; presumably, they were hitchhiking or engaged in prostitution. Authorities are unsure of how many people were responsible for these murders, if they were all performed by the same perpetrator(s), or how many victims there were. It is believed that a total of six to eleven victims were involved. Of the presumed victims, four have been identified.
Wetzel County victim
The body of a white female was found naked alongside Route 250 near Littleton, Wetzel County, West Virginia on February 13, 1983. A pair of senior citizens reported that they thought the remains were a mannequin before discovering it was a human corpse. The body had been placed at the area recently, as the snow was on the ground and absent on the body. Tire tracks and footprints indicate she died at a different area and was transported to the location where she was found. It is presumed that she had died two days before. She had not been an apparent victim of sexual assault, although foul play may have been involved in her death. This woman's cause of death was not officially determined, but she is a possible victim, as she may have been suffocated or strangled. This woman was one of the older victims, as her age range was between 35 and 45. The woman's hair was auburn, which matched the criteria for the killer. Her height was estimated to be approximately five feet six inches (168 cm) and weight as 135 pounds (61 kg). Her eyes were presumed to be brown, although decomposition made it difficult to accurately determine eye color. She had two distinct scars, including one found on her abdomen from a Caesarean section, indicating she had at least one child and another found on one of the index fingers. The woman's legs and underarms were shaven, indicating an attention to grooming not characteristic of a transient or hitchhiker. A person of interest has emerged in this case, believed to be a middle-aged white male at the height of approximately five feet ten inches (178 cm) and weighing 185 to 200 pounds (84 to 91 kg). The man was seen near the area where the body was found and could have been involved with disposing of her body. The victim herself may have been seen alive in Wheeling, West Virginia as an employee or customer at a bar. She was subsequently buried after a funeral took place. West Virginia authorities are skeptical if this woman was a victim of this span of killings.
The body of 28-year-old Lisa Nichols, who also used the last name of Jarvis, was found on September 16, 1984 along Interstate 40 near West Memphis, Arkansas. She was a resident of West Virginia and authorities were not able to come into contact with family members for some time, indicating she was estranged from them, resulting in her remaining unidentified for nearly a year. Her body was not identified until June 1985, nine months after she was strangled and left wearing only a sweater. She was identified through fingerprints. Nichols is believed to be a part of the Redhead Murders, as she was found along a highway and had strawberry-blond hair at the time of her demise. Her remains were identified by a couple from Florida, who had allowed her to stay with them for a period of time. Nichols may have been murdered after leaving a truck stop along the highway and may have attempted to hitchhike.
On January 1, 1985, a bound body was found at the roadside near Jellico, Tennessee, in Campbell County on Interstate 75. Although her murder occurred about three days before, presumably on December 30, 1984, she was already in an advanced state of decomposition. Like the others, she was white and had short red hair, which was somewhat curly. She was likely between the ages of 17 and 25, although she may have been as old as 30 at the time she was murdered. The victim was found clothed, with a tan pullover, a shirt and jeans. The Jane Doe had green or hazel eyes, which could not be positively confirmed as a certain color because of the state of her body. The young woman also had freckles, various scars and burn marks on her body and was two and a half to five months pregnant when she was strangled. She had no evidence of dental work, except for a partial denture holding two false teeth on her upper jaw. It is believed that she was between five feet one and five feet four inches (163 cm) when she died and was approximately 110 to 115 pounds (50 to 52 kg).
It was announced on September 6, 2018, the victim had been identified as Tina Marie McKenney Farmer of Indiana. Fingerprinting was the method of identification. She was 21 at the time of her death and was last seen in Indianapolis accompanied by a trucker headed to Kentucky. Farmer had one daughter prior to disappearing in 1984. She was reported missing by her family, yet authorities in Indiana did not enter her into national databases, as there was no law in the state, like others, which required them to do so.
Campbell County victim
The second victim in Campbell County was found on April 3, 1985, but her hair color is unknown, which does not immediately indicate she was a victim of the Redhead Murderer. She was believed to have died between 1981 and 1984, one to four years before. Unlike the other victims, she was younger, between 9 and 15, when the others were estimated to be over 16. She was located by a passerby about 200 yards off Big Wheel Gap Road, four miles southwest of Jellico in Campbell County, some distance from Interstate 75, near a strip mine. The cause of this girl's death is unknown, as her remains were partial, but still may be homicide. Thirty-two bones, including her skull, were all that were recovered from the scene. Her skull allowed facial reconstruction. She wore a necklace and bracelet made of plastic buttons from clothing. There were a pair of boots recovered that were size 5, which may not belong to the victim, and a few scraps of clothing. Due to the condition of her body, her height, weight, eye color and hair color were not possible to estimate.
Recent analysis of the victim's remains indicated she was not native to the area she was discovered. The tests showed she was likely born in Florida or central Texas, later relocating to the Midwest, Rocky Mountain states, the Southwest or the Pacific Coast.
Cheatham County victim
The skeletonized body of a red-haired female was located on March 31, 1985 in Pleasant View, Cheatham County, Tennessee. She was believed to have died three to five months before, due to an unknown cause. However, her case is possibly linked to the redhead murders because her remains were found at the side of Interstate 24 between mile markers 29 and 30. Unlike some of the other victims, she wore clothing: a shirt, sweater, pants and underwear. She was white, between five feet and five feet two inches (157 cm) tall with an inestimable weight. By examining her teeth, the victim had some evidence of crowding and overlapping of her teeth. This woman was believed to be between the ages of thirty-one and forty at the time of her death.
The body of a woman who had died by suffocation was found in a white Admiral refrigerator in Gray, Knox County, Kentucky on April 1, 1985, alongside Route 25. The refrigerator had a decal of the words "Super Woman" on the front. The victim had been dead for a few days, and was nude except for two distinctive necklace pendants, one of a heart and the other of a gold-colored eagle, and two pairs of socks; one white, and the other white with green and yellow stripes. There were reports that the victim may have been soliciting a ride to North Carolina over CB radio. Five hundred people attended her funeral, which was also televised. The case was a local sensation in Gray, as the town was a "quiet" and "sleepy" place where little out of the ordinary usually happened. Distinguishing features of the body included a number of moles (on the right side of her neck, near one ankle, and below each breast), a yellow-stained upper incisor, and a scar and other marks on her abdomen, indicating that she had borne a child. Her eyes were light brown and her hair was red and nearly a foot long, which fit the pattern of the redhead killer. After her autopsy, she was determined to be between 24 and 35 years old and approximately 4 feet 9 to 4 feet 11 inches tall. It is also possible that she owned a pair of boots found near the refrigerator. Several missing persons have been eliminated as possible matches for the victim. After the case was publicized in January 2013, the police received some tips, but it is unknown if they became solid leads.
On October 1, 2018, it was announced she had been positively identified as Espy Regina Black Pilgrim of North Carolina.
On April 14, 1985, a young white female's body was located in Greeneville, Greene County, Tennessee. She had died by severe blunt-force trauma and possibly a stab wound three to six weeks before and was an advanced state of decomposition. However, her fingerprints were possible to obtain, as well as her DNA and dental information. She had been approximately six to eight weeks pregnant shortly before she died, but had miscarried recently. She was estimated to be 14 to 20 years old (possibly as old as 25) and was five feet four inches to five feet six inches (168 cm) tall at a weight of 130 to 140 pounds (59 to 64 kg). She had a slight overbite and had some fillings in her teeth, showing that she had dental care in life. She had also painted her fingernails pink. Because she had light brown to blond hair with red highlights, it is possible that her case could be related to the Redhead murders. Authorities hoped in late April 1985 that they would identify her body through fingerprints but were unsuccessful. Six missing women were ruled out as possible identities of the victim.
In November 2018, the victim was identified as New Hampshire native Elizabeth Lamotte, who was 17 at the time of her death. Lamotte had disappeared on April 6, 1984. She was identified through a DNA match after a DNA profile was obtained from Lamotte's family by New Hampshire police in 2017. She had been staying at a group home in Manchester and never returned after gaining furlough. Lamotte's DNA was initially taken to compare against the adult victim of the Bear Brook murders, as an unidentified girlfriend of the suspect was known by the same first name.
It is believed that most of the victims remain unidentified due to being estranged or not close with existing family members or may not have been native to the states in which they were found. In 1985, not long after the Greene County victim was found, the states of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi requested the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance with the cases. There were inconsistencies with some of the victims, as some were found with or without clothing and some had a sexual encounter before their murders. During the conference, it was stated that four victims found in Texas and a victim found in 1981 in Ohio, nicknamed "Buckskin Girl” (later identified as Marcia King), were ruled out as possible victims in 1985.
A possible suspect emerged in the mid-1980s when a 37-year-old trucker attacked and attempted to strangle a woman with reddish hair, but was later dismissed, although he had left her lying near a highway, presuming she was dead. Another suspect was a 32-year-old trucker in Pennsylvania who was questioned after kidnapping and raping a young woman in the state of Indiana before she managed to escape. This suspect was also dismissed, after being questioned by Tennessee police.
In 2018, students enrolled in a sociology class at Elizabethton High School studied the case with the aid of their instructor. The class coined the name "Bible Belt Strangler." Furthermore, the information developed by the class was submitted to an FBI profiler. They described the subject as a white male born between 1936 and 1962 (aged between 23 and 49 in 1985) who was likely a commercial trucker frequenting Interstate 40. They estimated his height and weight to be 5'9"-6'2" and 180-270 pounds, respectively. His work was likely based in or near the city of Knoxville, Tennessee.
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