In 1987, 41-year-old Vicki Heath was working at the Super 8 Motel just off I-65 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in order to make some extra money. She had recently gotten engaged, and was looking forward to this new chapter in her life as her two kids were reaching adulthood. That all tragically ended on February 21, 1987, when police received a call about a “complete mess” in the lobby of the motel. The caller worried that the front desk clerk was missing. Police arrived and found Heath’s body behind a nearby dumpster.
Two more women – Margaret “Peggy” Gill and Jeanne Gilbert – were killed two years later, each while working at different Days Inn motels in Indiana. A final woman, referred to only as Jane Doe, was sexually assaulted at the Columbus, Indiana, Days Inn in 1990.
More than 30 years went by without police being able to charge a suspect, whom they referred to as either the “Days Inn Killer” or the “I-65 Killer,” since the motels were off the highway.
On Tuesday, however, Indiana State Police (ISP) announced that they had finally identified the serial killer as Harry Edward Greenwell, who died in 2013 at the age of 68. He had been living in New Albin, Iowa and had an “extensive criminal history ranging from 1963 to 1998,” the ISP announced.
“In 2019, the Indiana State Police requested the assistance of the FBI’s Gang Response Investigative Team (GRIT). Since these crimes were committed, many investigative and scientific techniques have either improved or been created through new advances in technology. One of these methods is Investigative Genealogy and combines the use of DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research and historical records to generate investigative leads for unsolved violent crimes,” the ISP explained. “This technique involves uploading a crime scene DNA profile to one or more genetic genealogy databases in an attempt to identify a criminal offender’s genetic relatives and locate the offender within their family tree. Utilizing this process, a match was made to Greenwell with a close family member. Through this match it was determined that the probability of Greenwell being the person responsible for the attacks was more than 99 percent.”
FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Herbert J. Stapleton said in the press release that “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.”
“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,” he added.
Kimberly Wright, Jeanne Gilbert’s daughter, said in the same press release: “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.”