In Missouri, both ends of Interstate 70 end in murder.
In the spring of 1992, six people were murdered along I-70 in a killing spree that stretched from Terre Haute, Indiana, all the way to Wichita, Kansas.
In St. Charles, the victim was 24-year-old Nancy Kitzmiller. In Raytown, 37-year-old Sarah Hart Blessing.
Only a few pieces of evidence connected the murders between April 8 and May 7. Five victims were brunette women working at small stores just off I-70. The exception was Michael McCown, whom police believe the killer mistook for a woman because he wore his long hair in a ponytail. Each victim was shot in the head with the same .22-caliber rifle.
On Zumbehl Road in St. Charles, the Bogey Hills Plaza sits just south, in the shadow of I-70. The parking lot asphalt shimmers in the midday sunlight, and the gentle roar of highway traffic hums quietly in the background. Workers break for lunch, parents take their children to get haircuts, and people scour the grocery store aisles.
The whole scene feels like a typical afternoon in a suburban town, but this particular shopping center holds a secret.
On May 3, 1992, Kitzmiller was working the day shift alone at Boot Village, a Western footwear store that was located at 2079 Zumbehl Road. She had a big smile, blue eyes and long, curly brown hair.
She began her shift at noon that day. It ended two and a half hours later with a bullet in her skull. Customers found her body in a back room.
Nearly 240 miles away is the Kansas City suburb of Raytown, which appears to have gone through a period of growth but gave up on itself halfway through. Today, Raytown looks as if it is haunted by the ghost of a once-promising future. The city sits in the metaphorical shadow of neighboring suburb, Lee’s Summit.
On May 7, 1992, Blessing got ready for work. She owned a small shop, the Store of Many Colors, in the Woodson Village Shopping Center on 63rd Street and Woodson Road. At the store, she sold herbs and other goods for improving spiritual and physical health.
Blessing arrived at her store around noon that day and was never seen alive again. Around 6:15 p.m., a man in a gray sportcoat, slacks and dress shoes walked across the large parking lot and toward Blessing’s store. The murderer entered the store at approximately 6:30 p.m.
Shop neighbor Tim Hickman heard a loud pop while he was inside his video store. He went to investigate and found Blessing dead in the back room of her own store. Like Kitzmiller, she had been shot in the head.
A grocery store clerk who was gathering shopping carts saw the killer leave Blessing’s shop. He left the parking lot by walking up a hill just behind Blessing’s store that led to Woodson Road The clerk was not confronted.
That was the I-70 serial killer’s last known murder.
Kitzmiller was buried in Oklahoma City, but her parents, Don and Carol Kitzmiller, still live in St. Charles. According to a 2012 St. Louis Post-Dispatch story, they avoid the Zumbehl Road exit. When they run errands, they go somewhere else.
Today, the address of 2079 Zumbehl Road houses a St. Louis Bread Company. Boot Village is no longer there. But 24 years later, the memories still linger. The pain still seethes.
Blessing’s Store of Many Colors was open for a month before her murder. It is now Fantastic Sams Hair Salon.
The scars left by two unsolved murders are connected by a trail of blood across Missouri. Sometimes, the bad guy is caught, and there is closure. But for the families of the six victims, that closure never came.
The murders remain unsolved 24 years later, and no motive has been established. The victims were not sexually assaulted, and only a small amount of money was taken from each store. Police believe that the killer would now be in his 50s, but they have little to identify him. Witnesses described him as a white male about 5-foot-7, weighing 140 to 160 pounds with light brown or red hair.
Until the case is solved, the identity of the I-70 serial killer will be one of the highway’s greatest secrets.