After more than 35 years since the first killing in Elizabethtown attributed to the I-65 Killer, the man responsible for the deaths of three women along the Interstate 65 corridor in Kentucky and Indiana has been identified.
In a news conference Tuesday in Indianapolis that gave what officials were calling “long-awaited answers to questions that have plagued the families of victims,” Harry Edward Greenwell, 68, was identified as the man responsible for the women’s deaths and another assault in the late 1980s and early 1990.
Also known as the Days Inn Killer, Greenwell died Jan. 31, 2013, and was identified by the FBI’s Gang Response Investigative Team, or GRIT unit, using investigative genealogy, officials said.
According to Public Information Officer for Indiana State Police Lowell Post Sgt. Glen Fifield, investigators were able to make a 99.999% match to Greenwell in the crimes using the technique.
“Many investigative and scientific techniques have either improved or been created through new technology since the 1980s and ’90s,” he said during the news conference.
According to Greenwell’s obituary printed June 12, 2013, in The Courier-Journal, he was born in Louisville Dec. 9, 1944, and was from New Albin, Iowa, at the time of his death. Investigators said he died from cancer.
He retired from the Canadian Pacific Railroad after working there for 30 years and “enjoyed organic gardening, selling his organic produce at the local Farmers Market, traveling, reading, wordsmithing, avid college sports fan, and selecting winning thoroughbred horses,” the obituary read.
But through a timeline of criminal events, investigators paint an entirely different picture of Greenwell saying he had an “extensive criminal history.”
According to their findings, Greenwell committed his first crime of armed robbery Jan. 17, 1963, in Louisville. He was convicted April 12 of the same year and sentenced to two years to the Kentucky State Penitentiary.
He was arrested for sodomy in Jefferson County in 1965; for burglary in Vernon County, Iowa, in 1982 where he escaped custody twice; a traffic violation in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in March 1989 and later that month for a domestic incident where he violated a restraining order and committed criminal trespassing; for felony possession in 1998 in Allamakee County, Iowa; and again for violating a restraining order in 1998, but that case was dismissed.
“He was in and out of prison several times even escaping from jail on two separate occasions,” Fifield said in the news conference.
According to Fifield, although Greenwell had a gap in his criminal history does not mean he stopped committing crimes.
It was then, according to information provided by Fifield, that Greenwell committed his most heinous acts.
According to investigators, Greenwell’s first identified victim was Vicki Heath of Radcliff, who was killed Feb. 21, 1987, at a Super 8 Motel in Elizabethtown.
Heath, 41 and a mother of two, was a clerk at the motel and was sexually assaulted before being shot twice in the head with a .38 caliber firearm.
The business also was robbed.
According to Greenwell’s obituary, he at one time had family in the Elizabethtown area.
Then on March 3, 1989, Jeanne Gilbert, 34, and Margaret Gill, 24, were both killed as they worked at various hotels in Indiana.
Gilbert was a clerk at a Days Inn Motel in Remington, Indiana, and was sexually assaulted and shot twice, once in the head and once in the chest, with a .22 caliber firearm.
Gill was a clerk at a Days Inn Motel in Merrillville, Indiana, and was also sexually assaulted with two gunshot wounds to the head from a .22 caliber firearm.
Both businesses were robbed.
In another incident, investigators believe Greenwell sexually assaulted a woman Jan. 2, 1990, at a Columbus, Indiana, Days Inn Motel. That woman survived and was able to help authorities compile a sketch of the perpetrator.
Authorities were eventually able to link the crimes together, first the two March 3, 1989, incidents with ballistics and then Heath’s killing to Gilbert’s and then to the Columbus, Indiana, incident using DNA.
But that is where the case stalled for decades.
Indiana State Police requested assistance from the FBI’s GRIT unit in 2019.
Fifield said investigators documented significant events in Harry Greenwell’s life to include law enforcement contacts, and reviewed DNA evidence in the case, Greenwell’s criminal history, historical police reports, historical Iowa Department of Corrections records including some self-reporting by Greenwell, newspaper archives, public records and interviews.
According to Herbert Stapleton, special agent in charge of FBI Indianapolis office, the FBI was able to piece the final pieces of Greenwell’s puzzle together, although he didn’t detail exactly how.
“It’s through these technological advances and perhaps more importantly strong, collaborative partnerships among law enforcement personnel that we were able to identify this person and hopefully bring closure to all those effected.”
He called the investigation over the course of decades a “relentless and dogged pursuit,” where leads were tracked across the country.
It was an investigation that spanned generations of detectives at the Elizabethtown Police Department, Deputy Chief of Operations Major David Fegett said at the news conference.
“This case really highlights the generational dedication of the Elizabethtown Police Department,” he said. “Our detectives take each case personal, and they never lose faith, they never gave up hope that their case will see closure.”
Fegett and others said he hoped Tuesday’s announcement would bring “long overdue closure.”
Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter said he hopes the information brings some solace “knowing the animal that did this is no longer on this earth.”
“The message is, you might be able to hide for a while, but we’re going to find you, even if you’re not here,” he said.
While Tuesday’s announcement concludes a portion of the investigation, Fifield said the work continues to possibly link more crimes to Greenwell.
“Investigators have long believed that there’s a distinct possibility that there are murders, rapes, robberies or assaults that have not yet been connected to this investigation,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism