INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Years after several women were attacked in a string of hotel murders and sexual assaults in the late 1980s and early 1990s along the Interstate 65 corridor in Kentucky and Indiana, authorities say they have identified the assailant.
More than 30 years later, authorities determined the culprit behind the cold case murders using forensic genealogy, Indiana State Police announced at a news conference Tuesday.
Harry Edward Greenwell, who died of cancer in Iowa in 2013, has been identified as the man colloquially known as the “I-65 Killer.” Greenwell has an extensive criminal history in Kentucky and Iowa, stretching from 1963 to 1998, according to authorities.
Police say Greenwell is responsible for the murders of Vicki Heath, Margaret “Peggy” Gill and Jeanne Gilbert as well as assaulting another unidentified woman.
Heath was found dead at a Super 8 Motel in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in February 1987. Gill and Gilbert were killed two years later in March on the same day at Days Inn locations in northwest Indiana. Gill was killed in Merrillville and Gilbert in Remington. In January 1990, another woman was sexually assaulted at the Days Inn in Columbus, Indiana.
All four women were attacked while working night shifts at the respective hotels, and ballistic, forensic and DNA evidence linked the cases. Authorities weren’t able to find a suspect until the use of investigative genealogy.
Indiana State Police, along with the FBI’s Gang Response Investigative Team and Houston FBI Field Office, turned to the forensic technique, which combines the use of DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research and historical records to generate investigative leads for unsolved violent crimes, in 2019.
Authorities matched the DNA samples with a close family member of Greenwell and determined a greater than 99 percent probability that Greenwell was the person responsible for the attacks.
FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Herbert Stapleton offered thanks and condolences to family members of the victims and acknowledged the pain and loss they’ve dealt with in the 30-plus years since the killings. He said he hoped the announcement could “provide some answers” and “bring some sense of peace” for family and friends of the victims. Stapleton also praised the courage of the surviving unidentified woman, whom he described as “critical” to solving the case.
Kimberly Wright, the daughter of Jeanne Gilbert, thanked law enforcement for their efforts in identifying her mother’s killer. She also expressed sympathy for Greenwell’s family and friends, who she said were victims of his crimes as well and would likely feel judged in the court of public opinion.
“Some will believe that learning the identity of the killer provides justice, while others will see justice as the moment a killer is convicted in a court of law and made to sit in prison thinking about the damage he’s done to the families involved,” said Wright, an attorney. “Some others might feel anger that the person has passed and is not able to face that trial and the peers that would judge him for his actions. That’s where we sit today.
“I’d like to believe that whatever each of us defines as justice … or closure, that we’re all now able to share in the healing process, knowing the long unknown attacker has been brought into the light.”