Police are now speaking publicly about what the Lewiston-Clarkston community has been whispering privately for years.
The prime suspect in four unsolved homicides was involved with the Lewiston Civic Theatre and told police he slept at the theater the night of Sept. 12, 1982, when Kristina Nelson, Brandi Miller and Steven Pearsall disappeared.
Police believe the three may have been killed at the theater that night.
The suspect also told former Asotin County, Wash. Sheriff Herb Reeves he was with 12-year-old Christina White the afternoon of April 28, 1979. She has not been seen since.
“There are four victims involved and one suspect. We’re 99 percent certain who the culprit is,” Lewiston police Capt. Duane Ailor said.
“What concerns me greatly is we feel we have a suspect responsible for four murders,” he said. “And what happened before he came to our area and since he came? … There’s a great possibility he may be a serial-type killer.”
On the day she vanished, Christina White went to a friend’s house. She called her mother to say she wasn’t feeling well and was told to come home. She never appeared.
Ailor said the suspect offered to help search for the girl. Neither her body nor her bicycle were found.
Stepsisters Kristina Nelson, 21, and Jacqueline “Brandi” Miller, 18, apparently walked toward a Lewiston grocery on Sept. 12, 1982. Nelson left a note in her apartment letting her boyfriend know where she was.
Both women may have walked by the Civic Theatre. Nelson had previously worked as a janitor there.
Steven Pearsall, 35, was dropped off at the theater at midnight by friends. A janitor there, he told them he intended to do some work and practice his clarinet.
Earlier in the day, Pearsall had been working at the theater with the suspect.
The suspect told police he also left the building for a time to get pizza and returned at about 10 p.m. He fell asleep and didn’t wake up until 4 a.m., he said.
“He claims he never saw or heard anyone come into the building,” Ailor said. “Needless to say, Pearsall has never been seen since he went in the (theater’s) doors.”
He is convinced the two women somehow ended up at the theater that night and “Pearsall got involved in this by mistake. … I believe he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The decomposed bodies of Nelson and Miller were found in 1984 near Kendrick.
The suspect was interviewed by police twice and twice refused to take a polygraph exam that could vindicate him. He still lives in the community.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom White acknowledged officers are very aware of the suspect.
“We’re doing as much as we are allowed to do. … We’ve gone clear to the very edge of what the law says we can do as far as contacting this person.”
About five years ago, Ailor said he talked with former Asotin County Sheriff Herb Reeves and uncovered another piece of evidence.
“I about fell out of my chair,” he said. Reeves remembered the suspect telling him he was at the house Christina White was visiting.
That information added cement to Ailor’s suspicions.
“I think the chances are great that he’s either done this before or will do it again. It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t do it again.”