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Episode 115

The Redhead Murders

November 8, 2021   Tags: , , , , ,
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For decades there has been the question: was there a serial killer hunting redhead women in the late seventies to early nineties. Many of the victims are still not identified. A few of the cases have been solved, with their killers not completely ruled out of the other crimes. Could it be coincidence or is there a Redhead Killer still walking free even now?

West Virginia Jane Doe and Lisa Nichols Murders:
On February 13, 1983, an elderly couple were walking near US Route 250 north of Littleton, West Virginia when they discovered a body. The area was frequently used to illegally dump trash. Littleton had seen three days of snow, but the body had no snow on top of it. And footprints could be seen in the white powder.

The victim was a white woman between 30 and 45 years of age. She was about 5’6” and 135 pounds. She had auburn hair. The victim showed no signs of struggle, sexual assault or violence. Even with no evidence, the death was ruled a homicide. 

The coroner estimated she had been dead for two to three days, but only placed in the field hours before discovery. During the autopsy, strangulation was ruled out because there was a lack of ligature marks and bruising. But it was noted that suffocation couldn’t be excluded. 

In September of 1984, 28-year-old Lisa Nichols had been living with a man named Thomas Gatewood. She was a sex worker who went by the name “Babydoll.” She was estranged from her family and struggled with drug addiction. 

Lisa worked at the Shell Lake exit truck stop near Shearerville, Arkansas. She had gone to work on the 12th. Around midnight that night she entered a semi-truck with two men. It was the last time she was seen alive. 

Four days later a hitchhiker was walking on Interstate 40, near exit 79--roughly 20 miles west of West Memphis, Arkansas, and just a few miles from the truck stop. There the hitchhiker came across the body of a strawberry-blonde woman. 

The body only had a knit shirt on. It was clear she had been strangled.

The Murder of Tina Farmer:
21-year-old Tina Farmer left her home in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Thanksgiving 1984. Her family said the young mother was last seen with a trucker. However, Indiana law enforcement didn’t share any of the missing details with other jurisdictions. 

On January 1, 1985, Tina’s body was discovered on an embankment of the southbound lanes of I-75 in Campbell County, Tennessee. She was fully clothed in a beige velour top and men’s Levi jeans. She was barefoot and wrapped in a blanket. She had been strangled. 

A description of the victim was given to the press in hopes of finding Tina’s identity. She had red, curly, shoulder-length hair and green eyes. Her body was covered in freckles. She was also 10-12 weeks pregnant. A drawing of the victim was released.

Within two months, law enforcement thought they may have a person of interest--even though they didn’t know who their victim was at the time. On March 6th, 1985, a man was arrested for kidnapping and felony assault--and his victim was a redhead.

The man had met her at the Katch One Club. She was a dancer. The woman agreed to go back to the man’s hotel. But things quickly took a turn. The man had a gun and claimed he was a Texas Ranger working in narcotics. Based on reports, it’s unclear if they had a consensual sexual encounter, but the dancer tried to leave in her own car. 

The supposed “Texas Ranger” wouldn’t allow it. He drove her back to the club but wouldn’t let her out of the car. He ripped her t-shirt into pieces. He used parts of the shirt to tie her hands and feet, and gag her. Then he drove her to woods near Watt Road on I-40. 

Once into the woods, the man used more of the woman’s shirt to strangle her. He wrapped it tightly around her neck. She lost consciousness. Thinking he had killed her, the perpetrator left. 

When the woman came to, she led police to 26-year-old Jerry Leon Johns. Johns wasn’t a Texas Ranger. He owned a semi truck business called Rebel Trucking Company. He was arrested, and two years after his attack on the Katch One Club dancer, he was convicted and sentenced to 73 years in prison. 

Investigators began to look into him for the redhead murders. Law enforcement cross checked his truck logs, receipts and alibis. At the time he was ruled out for the murders.

Eventually, in 2016, a grand jury decided if Johns was still alive, he would be charged with Tina's murder. Unfortunately Johns had died the year before in prison. 





Murders After Johns Arrest:

On March 31st, skeletal remains were discovered off of westbound I-24 in Cheatham County, Tennessee. 

The coroner estimated the woman had been dead for two to five months. She was between the ages of 31 and 40 years old. She was white and petite--5 feet to 5’2”. She had red hair. 

Because of the state of the remains, her cause of death is unknown. Near them were a light pink shirt with pink flowers, a pink sweater with blue spots, a black bra, and a hat with palm trees. 

The next day, another unknown victim was discovered in Knox County, Kentucky. Her body was inside an old Admiral refrigerator in a dumpsite off of US 25E near Gray. The only clothing she had on was two dirty, short, white socks on each foot. The woman’s jewelry was still present, including two necklaces--one with a gold eagle pendant, the other with a heart pendant. Brown boots were not far from the refrigerator. 

The victim was estimated to have died somewhere between 24 hours and four days before her body was found. Her cause of death was asphyxiation. She again had red hair and freckles. She was also petite--4’9” to 4’11” and 100 pounds.

According to witnesses, the woman was at a truck stop in Corbin, Kentucky. She was trying to catch a ride to North Carolina. Despite no one knowing her name, about 500 people from the area attended her funeral. 

Two days after the woman in the refrigerator was discovered, a passerby in Campbell County, Tennessee also made a discovery. The person was near a garbage disposal site at an abandoned strip mine, 200 yards from Big Wheel Gap Road. 

32 bones belonging to a 10 to 14-year-old girl were there. The coroner thought the victim had been dead for at least over a year, possibly up to four years. With further testing, the girl wasn’t thought to be from the area. Most likely she grew up in the midwest or possibly even the Pacific Coast or southwest. 

This victim has the least known about them, but there was enough of her skull to recreate what her face may have looked like.

Eleven days later--on the 14th--another teenager’s remains would be discovered. Along Interstate 81 in Greene County, Tennessee, a nude body was found. The coroner estimated she had been dead for two to three weeks. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma. But again her identity was unknown. 



ASSIGNMENT:

28-year-old Lisa Nichols was last seen alive just before midnight on September 12th, 1984, at the Shell Lake truck stop in Shearerville, Arkansas.Her body was discovered four days later along Interstate 40 near West Memphis, Arkansas. She had been strangled.  

35-year-old Espy Pilgrim was trying to get home to her children in North Carolina in the spring of 1985. Her body was discovered inside a refrigerator at a dump location along Route 25 in Gray, Kentucky. Her cause of death was asphyxiation. Her identity was discovered in 2017.

17-year-old Elizabeth Lamotte disappeared on November 22nd, 1984 from Manchester, New Hampshire. Her body was discovered on April 14th, 1985, off of Interstate 81 in Greene County, Tennessee. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma. Elizabeth's identity was discovered during the Terry Rasmussen investigation. 

West Virginia Jane Doe’s body was discovered on February 13th, 1983. She was found along US Route 250 in Littleton, West Virginia. Her death was ruled a homicide, the cause unknown. She was white, 30-45 years old. She was 5’5” to 5’6”, 135 pounds. She had medium length auburn hair. She had a c-section scar. The victim had also received fitted dentures within eight weeks of her death. 

Cheatham County, Tennessee Jane Doe’s remains were skeletal. They were discovered on March 31, 1985, on I-24. According to the medical examiner she was between 31 and 40 years old. She was white. 5 feet to 5’2”. She had red hair. Near the remains was a light pink shirt with pink flowers, a pink sweater with blue spots, pants, a black bra and a hat with a palm tree design. 

Campbell County, Tennessee Jane Doe’s remains were incomplete when they were discovered near Big Wheel Gap Road on April 3rd, 1985. Only 32 bones were located, but law enforcement was able to render a sketch of what she may have looked like. She is believed to be a white girl between the ages of 10 and 14. 

If you have any information on these cases, please contact us.

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