Cold Case solved: ‘I-65 Killer/Days Inn Killer’ identified by police

Police believe he may be connected to more crimes


Harry Edward Greenwell’s family described him as “a man with many friends” with a “willingness to help anyone.”

Indiana State Police say he was a killer.

Photo provided/ISP
A mugshot of Harry Edward Greenwell from the Iowa Department of Corrections.

Greenwell had been dubbed the “1-65 Killer,” or “Days Inn Killer” by many due to the proximity of his crimes to hotels along the I-65 corridor. He died from cancer at age 68 in Lansing, Iowa, in January 2013. ISP Sgt. Glen Fifield, public information officer of the ISP-Lowell Post, said “Greenwell had an extensive criminal history and had been in and out of prison several times, even escaping from jail on two separate occasions.” He said Greenwell was known to travel frequently in the Midwest.

Fifield said police used Investigative Genetic Genealogy to connect Greenwell to the murders of Vicki Heath, Margaret “Peggy” Gill, and Jeanne Gilbert, of Rensselaer, as well as the vicious attack on a 21-year-old woman working at a Columbus Days Inn in 1990.

Investigative genetic genealogy, also known as forensic genetic genealogy, is the science of using genetic and genealogical methods to generate leads for law enforcement entities investigating crimes and identifying human remains, according to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). “Genetic Genealogist use DNA profiles from a crime scene or from unidentified human remains to identify close genetic DNA profiles or matches. By comparing the known genealogy of those close familial matches, this constrains the number of possible close relatives of the perpetrator or victim. Such efforts enable investigators or researchers to more closely focus their investigation in cold or stale criminal cases providing new leads,” according to the ISOGG.

Police used DNA from a close family member of Greenwell’s and were able to link him to the murders and the attack with a 99.999% match.

“As most of you know, I-65 runs from Gary, Indiana, all the way down south to Mobile, Alabama. Investigators have long believed that there is a distinct possibility that there have been murders, rapes, robberies, or assaults that have not yet been connected to this investigation. Investigators are actively working with other departments in the Midwest to determine if Greenwell was a perpetrator of other violent crimes yet to be solved.”

“Investigators documented significant events in Harry Greenwell’s life to include law enforcement contacts (along a timeline). These events were gathered by review of Greenwell’s criminal history, historical police reports, historical Iowa Department of Corrections paperwork, which included some self-reporting by him, newspaper archives, public records, and conducting of interviews by detectives,” Fifield said. “As most of you know, I-65 runs from Gary, Indiana, all the way down south to Mobile, Alabama. Investigators have long believed that there is a distinct possibility that there have been murders, rapes, robberies, or assaults that have not yet been connected to this investigation. Investigators are actively working with other departments in the Midwest to determine if Greenwell was a perpetrator of other violent crimes yet to be solved.”

ISP Superintendent Douglas G. Carter said, “Indiana State Police investigators work diligently every day, in close collaboration with our state and federal law enforcement partners all across Indiana and beyond our state lines, to help solve senseless crimes like this one, no matter how many days, months or even years have passed since the crime occurred.”

FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Herbert J. Stapleton said police worked the case continuously.

“These cases did not go unsolved all these years because of a lack of investigative inactivity – investigators continuously tracked leads across the country and did everything they could to identify the person responsible for these crimes,” he said. “Now, through technological advances and strong, collaborative partnerships we were able to identify this person and, hopefully, start to bring closure and healing to the families of Vicki, Peggy, and Jeanne; as well as the surviving victim.”

Gilbert’s daughter, Kimberly (Gilbert) Wright, spoke at the ISP news conference.

“Our family is extremely grateful to all of the agencies, along with agency partnerships, who have committed to keeping these unsolved cases at the forefront for more than 33 years, and who have worked tirelessly to bring these cases to resolution for all who have suffered from these crimes,” she said.

Gilbert: A mother of two

Photo provided/ISP
Jeanne Gilbert

Gilbert, who was 34 years old at the time of her death, was working as a night clerk at the Days Inn in Remington when the inn was robbed and Gilbert went missing, according to police. Her body was discovered on County Road 150 West between County Road 950 South and County Road 900 South, near Brookston. Gilbert died of gunshot wounds.

In 2001, an ISP detective told American Crime Journal it is believed that her abductor entered the registration office while she was reading or doing homework in the side office.

“She exits to speak with him or he blitz attacks her, controls her, pries the cash register open, and locks the lobby door. He then takes her out the steel exterior door in the side office to his vehicle,” the ACJ website reports.

It is now known that it was Greenlee who attacked Gilbert. He forced her into his car and drove away from the area heading south on I-65, taking exit 188, IN-18 to Brookston.

Around 6 a.m. on March 3, 1989, the nude clad body of Gilbert was found in a frozen ditch on the east side of County Road 150 West. The body was not concealed, according to ACJ’s investigation. Then White County Coroner Larry Smith, reported that Gilbert was shot three times with a .22 caliber weapon. One shot was in the back of her head, behind the left ear. The second was in her shoulder blade.

“The fatal shot entered next to her left breast, went through the lung, and pierced her aorta, the body’s main blood vessel,” Smith would report.

Gilbert also had numerous scrapes on her body, believed to be the result of being pulled out of a trunk or van, American Crime Journal reported. She had been sexually assaulted. DNA that was later recovered would match the same perpetrator that murdered Peggy Gill – Greenwell.

Peggy Gill: Soft spoke, quiet and shy

Photo provided/ ISP
Margaret “Peggy” Gill

On the same date that Gilbert’s body was discovered, Margaret “Peggy” Gill would be murdered at a Days Inn located in Merrillville. Her manner of death was gunshot wounds to the head.

On March 2, 1989, shortly before 11 p.m., Gill arrived at work at the Days Inn for her 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. At 1:40 a.m., Gill checked in her last guest, who went up to his room, according to ACJ.

At approximately 2 a.m., a guest entered the hotel to book a room. There was no one around.

Gill failed to call a co-worker around 5 a.m., on March 3, 1989, a daily work call to report on the previous night’s activity.

Shortly after 6 a.m., the first officer arrived in the parking lot of the hotel. An officer entered the lobby to make contact with Gill at the front desk, but she wasn’t there. Her green Plymouth Volare was in the parking lot. Her keys and purse were behind the front desk.

Merrillville Police officers began to search the hotel. Once on the second floor, officers entered the vacant wing. At the end of the hall, they would find the five-foot six-inch nude body of 24-year-old Gill was found. She had been raped and shot twice behind her left ear with a .22 pistol, according to American Crime Journal. She had a fresh cut on her left shoulder. Her Days Inn uniform was folded and neatly stacked next to her body.

Vicki Heath: Recently engaged

Photo provided/ISP
Vicki Heath

Vicki Heath was 41 years old when while working the overnight shift at the Super 8 Motel in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on Feb. 21, 1987, when she went missing, according to American Crime Journal. Her body was found behind a dumpster in the parking lot of the hotel later that evening.

The Hardin County Coroner would report she had been robbed, beaten, sodomized, and shot twice in the head with a .38 handgun. One of the .38 bullets that killed Heath had exited her body and went into the ground. It was recovered.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 21, 1887, Elizabethtown Police Department received a call from a guest at the Super 8 Motel stating they walked into the lobby to check out and it was “a complete mess, in total disarray.” They couldn’t find the front clerk or anyone else who worked there. They were worried.

Police say it looked like there had been a “brawl” between a group of people. Items from the front desk were all over the floor; furniture in the lobby had been overturned, and the payphone had been ripped from the wall, American Crime Journal reported. The front desk clerk was nowhere to be found. The officer called for backup, believing there may be a group of men fighting and the clerk had been hurt in the fray.

The officer reportedly went upstairs to quickly walk down the second-floor hall listening for any activity. When he got to the end of the hall, he went downstairs to the first floor and decided to go out the rear door to the back lot to search the property.

Police found Heath lying on her back in “dead muddy grass caused by fresh melted snow.” She still had on her sweater and plaid skirt. Her clothes were torn and mangled, according to police. She had some blood and mud on her. It appeared she’d been shot in the head, police said.

A set of muddy footprints led away from her body and partway into the parking lot where they abruptly ended, and a fresh set of tire tracks started.

A profile

Photo provided/American Crime Cournal
I-65 Killer Wanted Poster

Police created what they believed to be a profile of the person wanted for the murders of the three women. They say the offender would enter the premises and speak with the night auditor. More than likely to case out the victim and situation he was entering. This would also disarm the victim.

He was friendly and would say he is a truck driver looking for something to eat in the early morning hours. About 15 minutes later he would enter and blitz attack the victim often throwing scorching hot coffee in their face, jumping the counter, and gaining control of them, American Crime Journal claims.

The killer would proceed to steal the money himself by prying open the cash drawers and then sexually assault his victims in the back office on the spot. When he was finished, he would escort the victim outside the building and execute them. The offender in the DNA-linked cases and other suspected attacks was extremely violent with his victims, regardless of if they fought or not.

Profiles created by both Indiana police investigators and Kentucky investigators agreed that  the killer was a “white male, close to his victims in age, but lived far from both crime scenes,” ACJ reports.

One touted the killer “had prior arrests for armed robbery and weapons-related crimes.” Another said, “he had been arrested for various sex offenses.”

The FBI would release their profile on the offender suggesting, “he (the offender) had little police contact since adulthood, outside of a horrible driving record.”

Who was Greenwell

Photo provided/ISP
Harry Edward Greenwell

According to Greenwell’s obituary, found at Legacy.com, he was an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, “providing public safety for 30 years.” He retired in February 2010.

He enjoyed organic gardening, “selling his organic produce at the local Farmers Market, traveling, reading, wordsmithing,” and was an avid college sports fan. He also enjoyed selecting winning thoroughbred horses.

Greenwell’s 2013 obituary says that he was a husband and a father.

“His spirit will live on in many good deeds he offered,” the obituary reads.

Greenwell will also now be remembered as a murderer – the I-65 killer.

 

 

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