January 7, 1998 in Nation/World

Evidence Points To Spokane Serial Killer Detectives Seek Ties To Other Unsolved Murders; Names Of Three Women Added To List Of Missing

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Detectives chasing a serial killer in Spokane are seeking three more missing women who share the drug-and-prostitution lifestyle of recent murder victims.

Evidence shows that at least four women have been killed by the “same person or persons” since last fall, sheriff’s Capt. Doug Silver said at a news conference Tuesday.

Investigators are looking for clues that may link other unsolved murders as well.

The evidence connects the deaths of Laurie Wason, 31; Shawn McClenahan, 39; Shawn Johnson, 36; and Darla Sue Scott, 29, Silver said.

They all were shot, then dumped around Spokane.

Wason and McClenahan, the latest victims, were found in an overgrown gravel pit near 14th and Carnahan the day after Christmas.

Scott and Johnson were found in the Hangman Valley south of Spokane.

A man walking his dog discovered Scott’s partially buried remains on Nov. 5. Nearly six weeks later, utility workers found Johnson’s body about a mile away.

Saying he does not want to jeopardize “investigative integrity,” Silver would not discuss what evidence links the four women to the same killer or killers.

Authorities formed a four-detective task force in September. The detectives are looking into the unsolved murders of 18 women since 1984, including seven last year.

Silver and police Capt. Chuck Bown command the task force, which is made up of two city detectives and two county investigators.

On Tuesday, the task force added Jessica Fitzgerald, Brandy Mitchell and Sunny Oster to the list of women missing from the Spokane area.

Like many of the victims, the three missing women have a history of drug or prostitution arrests.

Fitzgerald, 23, has been arrested for prostitution in Spokane twice since 1995, the last time on Oct. 23 near Sprague and Grant, according to court records. She has a 3-year-old son and has been known to live in California and Missouri. She last was seen on Dec. 16.

Mitchell, a 23-year-old Colorado native and the mother of a 22-month-old daughter, has a history of drug and driving arrests in Spokane, court records show. She was married in the Spokane County Jail in April 1995 and filed for divorce in 1996. She was last seen on Nov. 1.

Oster, 41, has been arrested on prostitution charges at least three times in and around Tacoma, according to state court records. She has no criminal record in Spokane County.

She was last seen in Spokane in late October.

Detectives are still searching for Linda Marie Maybin, reported missing in November. The 34-year-old Maybin has been arrested for prostitution in Spokane.

Neither Silver nor Bown would comment on possible motives or suspects. “We’re in no position to do that,” Bown said.

Bown said the task force has determined that several of the 18 unsolved homicides are not connected to the deaths of Wason, McClenahan, Johnson and Scott. He would not say which ones weren’t linked to that series, but said some of the remaining cases may be linked in other ways.

Detectives are continuing to look for connections, Bown said. “We’ve only gotten part way through that job,” he said.

More detectives may be assigned to the task force as leads are developed, he added. That may mean that other criminal investigations will have to wait. “We’re asking the public to be patient and understanding,” Bown said.

The task force also has considered searching for more victims in the areas where the other bodies were found.

Anyone with information on the missing women, or the unsolved homicides, is asked to call Crime Check at 456-2233.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Color Photos


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