6 Store Clerks Were Murdered Along I-70 in the Midwest Decades Ago. Will New DNA Technology Catch Killer?

"We definitely have new evidence to test," says Det. Kelly Rhodes of the St. Charles, Mo., police

I-70 killer victims
Michael McCown, Nancy Kitzmiller, Patricia Magers, Patricia Smith, Robin Fuldauer, Sarah Blessing. Photo: St. Charles Police Department (6)

The spring of 1992 became a nightmare for six families whose loved ones were fatally shot by a never-identified man who became known as the I-70 killer. Thirty years later, the murders remain unsolved — but officials hope modern technology will bring answers.

"We definitely have new evidence to test and the advantage of advanced DNA processing on our side. I'm really optimistic," Det. Kelly Rhodes, task force leader at St. Charles, Mo., police department, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

"We can't figure out why someone would go on this rampage and just kill people for no apparent reason," she says. "I can only describe it as evil."

The killing spree began on April 8, 1992, when 26-year-old Robin Fuldauer, the lone employee working at a Payless ShoeSource store in Indianapolis, was found dead at 3 p.m. Fuldauer was shot execution-style in the back of the head.

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Three days later Patricia Smith, 23, and Patricia Magers, 32, were working at the La Bride d'Elegance bridal shop in Wichita, Kan., and keeping the store open to accommodate an expected customer — but a killer arrived instead. When the actual customer arrived, he encountered a man carrying a gun who demanded that he go to a back room. The customer refused and escaped; police found Smith and Magers shot to death in the shop's back room.

Next, on April 27, Michael McCown, 40, was killed inside Sylvia's Ceramic Supply in Terre Haute, Ind. Investigators believe the serial killer was targeting women and may have mistaken McCown for a woman because he wore his long hair in a ponytail and was shot from behind. But McCown's sister Teresa Lee says her brother, a professional musician who took over their mom's store when she retired, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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"My God, he was 6-foot-4. He didn't have the body of a woman," says Lee, who says her family was "wrecked" by the loss. "You don't expect anybody you know to be murdered by a serial killer."

I-70 Killer then and now
I-70 Killer, then and now. St Charles Police Department

The trail of terror continued when Nancy Kitzmiller, 24 and working alone at a Boot Village shoe store in St. Charles, was found dead on May 3.

Four days later, Sarah Blessing, 37, who was working in the Store of Many Colors holistic shop in Raytown, Mo., was fatally shot.

Retired Indianapolis homicide detective Mike Crooke, the first officer on the scene at Payless ShoeSource, says the killer left behind identical bullet shell casings at each crime scene. And though cash was missing from the registers, he says, "I don't think money was the primary motive —it's more of an intent to kill."

I-70 Killer rollout
Payless ShoeSource, in Indianapolis, Ind. Fox 59 News

For Det. Rhodes, having agencies across three states poring over the case — as well as multiple pieces of evidence currently undergoing testing — provides a measure of hope answers will be found.

"I've been asked, 'Why now? This case is 30 years old,'" she says. "Every single one of these people, their lives mattered. We are not going to stop; we're not going to give up."

Anyone with information should call St. Charles Police at 800-800-3510; a $25,000 reward is being offered.

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