Serial Killer/Rapist DNA Matches that in Missouri Murders Jul 25, 2017 0:51:52 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Jul 25, 2017 0:51:52 GMT -5
1990/1997 DNA Matches that in Missouri Double Murder
NEW MADRID COUNTY, Mo. – We all feel safe in our homes, in our communities. But in 1998, a brutal crime ripped apart that sense of security. On a mild March evening, a man talked his way into the home of Tony and Sherri Scherer outside Portageville and in less than 30 minutes, he had killed Sherri and Megan (above), her 12-year-old daughter.
But, that’s not all he did. Investigators tracked the killer’s crimes across three states as he continued his carnage.
“There was no going back,” Tony Scherer said. “No bringing anybody back. No turning the clock back.” We sat down with Scherer and his son, Steven, to talk about the day that changed their lives.
Like his dad, Steven Scherer is a farmer who values his privacy. “At first I told Dad, I don’t want to be a part of it really,” Steven said of participating in our Heartland Unsolved report. “And then I got to thinking. I was like, well he might need me there.” And it’s Steven, just 15-years-old on that day, who takes us back to that Saturday, March 28, 1998.
Father and son spent the day working the fields. “And we were headed home at about 6:20 that night,” he recalled. “And there was a trailer truck that had gotten out in the road and couldn’t get turned. Anyway, it was blocking our way home.” As Tony visited with the other farmer, Steven called his mom and chatted briefly about going to his girlfriend’s house when they got home. He called back 20 minutes later. “And there was no answer on the phone,” he added. “And me and him just figured that they’d gone to town to pick up a pizza. Pulled up to the house. Everything looks normal. He walks in the garage and puts his hand on the car hood. And he said it’s not even warm. And he’s looking at the mail and I’m flying through the house,” the teenager continued. “And out of the corner of my eye, I see my mom and sister. I was always the kid playing jokes, pranks. And that’s, you know, at first glance that’s what I thought. And then when I reached down I felt my mom and she was warm. I looked at my sister and I felt her and she was cold. I said Dad, Mom and Megan are dead!” Scherer walked into the room, saw his wife and daughter, and immediately called 911.
Portageville officers Mark Stockton and Freddie Hill are first on the scene. Stockton recalled the impact of that scene. “I was at the Portageville Police Department along with my partner Captain Freddie Hill at the time the call come in,” he remembered. “And I would say that’s probably the worst thing that I've ever seen in my life.”
“You don't know sometimes how to respond to that, you know,” Hill added. “But your law enforcement kicks in and you want to catch this guy.”
Portageville Police Chief Ronnie Adams said, “I’ve been a police officer over 40 years and that scene right there affected me more than any scene I ever been at.”
Highway Patrol Investigator Don Windham led the team assigned to secure and process the scene. “I think when I walk in and I’ve seen a lot of these, when I walk in, I think I flip a switch I guess to say okay, what do I need to do to try to find out who did this,” he related. Mrs. Scherer, he recalled, was found lying on her stomach in front of the couch. She had been shot in the back of the head. Megan, too, had been shot. She had also been sexually assaulted. “It was obvious the target of this was Megan, the young girl.” To this day, Windham has difficulty describing how they found Megan. “She was in a, what was really the horrific part of this, not only was she assaulted and shot and ... just horribly ... she was posed like he wanted to show what he had done,” he explained. “I can tell you that he brought some items to help him control the victims. And I have evidence that I believe will show that he also took those items back with him.” When asked if they had been tied up, he replied, “They were both bound, yeah. And gagged.” Windham decided to try something that would later play a huge role in linking this brutal crime to two others. “I actually took some touch DNA from Megan. And they also actually found a hair in her left hand. Well, the lab said that DNA and the hair in her left hand matched.”
As Windham worked the scene, Corporal Bud Cooper commenced the search for a suspect. “We set up a command post at the Armory,” Cooper remembered. “We had a lot of officers come in from the area. I’d say, ultimately, we ended up with 75 to 100 police officers here.”
Terry Stevens, now the New Madrid County Sheriff, worked as an investigator for the prosecutor’s office at the time. “We were just trying to get organized at that time,” he recalled. “We had officers out at the scene. And we were developing leads as soon as we got people on site.”
In the meantime, Cooper wondered how far he could have gotten. “Thirty miles, 50 miles, 75 miles, and alerting the people in Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, outside Missouri.”
Tony and Scherer were coping as best they could. “During that time I was kind of like just walking around in a hypnotic state,” Tony Scherer said. “You gotta go. You gotta get up and go.”
“After everything happened, everybody told me that I had to be strong for my dad,” Steven interjected. “So, that's what I did.”
Both father and son believe now as they did 19 years ago that this killer, for some reason, targeted their family. “He [the killer] had a plan,” Tony said. “And what he does he’s good at. He needs to be stopped.”
Dyer County, Tennessee. Less than three hours after Sherri and Megan Scherer were murdered, the perpetrator showed up at a home in Dyer County, Tennessee, and investigators believe he intended to kill again. According to police, a mother and her three children returned from the store around 9:30 p.m. “It was unusually warm that Saturday,” Sargent Bud Cooper remembered. “They had their big door open on the trailer.”
The lady said a maroon-colored van pulled into the driveway and a man in dark clothing approached. She told investigators the man said he was looking for a road nearby, but didn’t know the name of it. She became instantly concerned. “The guy in the van said he was looking for his friend, a guy by the name of Jeremy Taylor,” Cooper continued. When the stranger offered to get a map, the woman reportedly attempted to call a neighbor, but her phone wasn’t’ working, but she didn’t tell the man this. She told him her neighbor knew Jeremy Taylor and he should go to that person’s trailer for directions. That’s when the stranger pulled a gun, Cooper said. “He raised his jacket and pulled the gun out of his waistband. She immediately lunged and grabbed the gun and started fighting with him over the gun.” She continued fighting as she backed her way inside the trailer and told one of the kids to get the shotgun they kept in the livingroom. At this point, the man managed to pull his hand free from the woman’s grasp and his gun went off, shooting her in the shoulder. Apparently, this frightened her assailant and he hurried to his van and took off.
According to Cooper, the account of his second victim helped authorities develop a theory concerning what happened at the Scherer home. “Certainly, you would think that there were similarities,” Cooper reasoned. “He’s using some type of ruse to talk to Sherri and Megan. Or they’re separated and he pulls the gun on one or the other.”
Investigators spent years researching other cases similar to the Scherer case. But it wasn’t until 2006 that they got a DNA match in a case that didn’t appear to be anything like what happened to Sherri and Megan.
Greenville, South Carolina. Genevieve Zitricki (above), 28, lived alone at Hidden Lakes Apartments in Greenville, South Carolina. On the night of Tuesday, April 5, 1990, she was asleep in bed when a man, armed with a small hammer, broke in through a sliding glass door. “She was bludgeoned to death,” said Captain Chris Hensley of the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Office. “The suspect also used something to strangle her with.” After sexually assaulting the woman, he dragged her lifeless body into the bathroom, put her into the tub and turned on the faucet. Then he returned to the bedroom and turned it upside down. “All the drawers had been opened,” Hensley added. “There were clothes all over the floor. And then there was the mirror above the dresser. The suspect took a magic marker and wrote a message on the mirror. It said ‘Don’t fuck with my family.’”
What did this mean? “I think at the time those investigators were looking for someone who had some type of argument with Jenny Zitricki,” Hensley surmised. “Speaking with the profilers in this case, they believed it was just a false message. Something to throw law enforcement off. They didn't think it was a random attack."
Is it possible he knew Ms. Zitricki? “Yes,” Hensley replied. “Some type of ... whether he followed her home from a bar and what little type of a relationship they had, who knows?”
He admitted this wasn’t the type lead anyone expected. “We had the FBI profilers that were coming in and looking at our case and looking at their case and explained to us the differences, which is the Greenville homicide was probably one of his first. And the Portageville double homicide, he had educated himself and sharpened some of his skills.” The Greenville case confirmed they had a serial killer on their hands. Someone who had brutally taken at least three lives.
Memphis, Tennessee. In May 2017, lead investigator Bud Cooper learned about a new DNA link in the Scherer case. Memphis police had begun testing a backlog of rape kits including one from March 1997 which revealed the man who sexually assaulted and killed Megan and shot Sherri to death had raped a 14-year-old girl in Memphis just a year earlier.
Now, Cooper and Hensley had a whole new list of potential suspects to track down. They also interviewed the Memphis victim, who described a man using a ruse to talk his way into her home. “Not gonna hurt you. Just do what I say. Take it in the house.” According to Cooper, this was what he initially said to the woman. Then, he said, “Listen, lady, all I want is your car. All I want is your car. Let’s take it in the house.” The suspect used the same tactic a year later in Dyer County. The information gave Cooper a better idea of what happened when that same man approached Sherri and Megan Scherer. He believes the suspect made up a story to gain their trust, then used a revolver to intimidate them. “He’s relaying his message to his victims to calm down. He’s not going to hurt them. Just to be able to gain compliance.”
Tony Scherer agrees, but has a theory of his own. When he and Steven got home that evening, the dogs were kenneled. “I just assumed that the guy said, ‘You get that dog out of here or I’m going to kill it,’” he said.
“Not only the DNA, but the way they were bound and tied,” Don Windham added. “And the way he took items away. And brought things in. Some of those items, some of those things match.”
His Memphis victim said her assailant put on yellow rubber dishwashing gloves and pulled out a roll of duct tape. Cooper believes an underage child was his ultimate target in all three cases. This frightening conclusion made Jenny Zitricki’s murder seem out of place. But Cooper saw a suspect evolving from a silent killer in South Carolina, to a man with a very specific plan. “And,” he added, “then you fast forward seven years and he’s talking his way into the house. He’s comfortable talking to not only one, but four, people at the same time.”
“Dyersburg and Memphis are just 30 minutes from Portageville,” advised Stockton. “Long way from the Carolinas, but we’re hitting two incidents within an hour and 15-minute drive to 30 a minute drive from our hometown. So hopefully something else will come up.”
What was the suspect doing from 1990 to 1997? “I think that there are still departments testing evidence. And it would not surprise me if we get another hit,” Cooper said. He also learned something interesting from the Memphis victim. When she was shown a composite drawing of the suspect, “she felt the composite drawn after the Scherer murders and Dyer County shooting actually looked more like her attacker than the one created by police in her case. She said if the mustache would have been drawn in a full mustache, that that was a much better likeness.”
The two DNA links in the Scherer case stand as a painful reminder. The man who killed them had killed before and sexually assaulted another child just one year earlier, but investigators refuse to dwell on the “what ifs.” Cooper admitted, “We’re not at a point where we’ve got time to think about what if that hadn’t happened. We’ve got to talk about how we’re going to find this guy and put him in jail. And then we’ll solve all the ‘what if’s.’”
Renewed Hope. “I don’t feel that Bud’s let up any,” Tony Scherer said. “He's still very devoted to this case.” There'’s no shortage of devotion when it comes to the Scherer case. You can tell when you speak to any officer who’s had a hand in investigating it. And now, there’s a real momentum building as the Memphis lead kicks everything into high gear.
“I would say there’s renewed hope,” Cooper confirmed. “And that’s what it is – renewed,” Cooper confirmed. “I think there’s been hope from day one.”
“When you think, it’s been a while and then something pops up like the Memphis deal, that renewed me,” Stockton added. “Hey, I hope we get closer.”
“You know, they have several suspects that they had eliminated in different ways back in 97,” Hensley asserted. “Now that we have new technology, we can go back through their suspect list.”
“I can’t speak for everybody,” Stevens explained, “but for myself, as the sheriff, I’m very optimistic that we’re going to solve this case.”
Final Thoughts from Tony and Steven Scherer. “Your path just comes to you,” Tony Scherer said. “Eventually, you know what you need to do.” He should have enjoyed a simple path in life. Marry a hometown beauty, raise a family and farm his family’s land. But on one evening, in less than 30 minutes, his life veered violently, inexplicably off course. They all mean well,” he continued. “Don’t get us wrong on that. And they want to help. They want to do something for Sherri. To help us.” Tony Scherer still lives in the house where he lost Sherri and Megan and explained why he chose to stay. “I’d say stubbornness,” he admitted. “Not gonna run me out of our home. You get to look at pictures sometimes and it just brings back a lot of good memories. Everything’s not bad. Life goes on and we try to remember the good things.”
Tony and Steven are also both brutally honest. They don’t want to be in the spotlight. But, they’re doing it for their family and to bring attention to the man who shattered it into a million pieces. “This guy can’t be that lucky,” Tony insisted. “Somebody saw something. Even though it’s 19 years, you know I’ve seen stranger things happen.”
“It’s hard not to live in regret,” Steven added. “It’s hard to stay positive.” Especially when everyone knows about the worst day in your life. “There’s always that one person who brings it up it seems like two or three times a week,” he said.
After speaking with both men, it becomes clear they aren’t just dwelling on the pain of the past. “You know, something like that happens to your family, all you want to do is blame yourself for how you could have changed it,” Steven explained. “But, I finally got to the point that I know that I can’t. So, you just try your best to move on.”
Suspect Description. The man (see composite above) who murdered Sherri and Megan Scherer and Jenny Zitricki, assaulted the Dyer County woman and sexually assaulted a Memphis teenager is described as a white male, between 30- and 50-years-old with a slight build. At the time, he had shaggy, greying hair and a greying mustache and was possibly driving a maroon or dark-colored van. If you think you know who he is or have any information, please contact the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Office at (573) 748-2516 or the Missouri State Highway Patrol at (573) 840-9500.
Source: Kathy Sweeney, KFVS, July 19, 2017.