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What is the status of the murder cases trucker John Boyer may be connected to?

Brian Freskos

Q. What is the status of the murder cases trucker John Boyer may be connected to such as that of Priscilla Rogers?

A. Authorities have not connected Boyer to Rogers’ slaying. Here’s more on Boyer.

NOTE: This story running in the StarNews on Aug. 15, 2012, provides more information about John Boyer:

Police put focus on suspected serial killer in 2000 disappearance

By Brian Freskos

For police, the logic behind breaking the city into districts is so that officers learn their assigned neighborhoods and the people who frequent them. So it is no surprise that when Lee Odham came to the force 12 years ago as a rookie working Wilmington’s south side, he quickly grasped who the players were.

That experience has come in handy lately as Odham, now a homicide investigator, works to solve the disappearance of women he saw walking the blocks that formerly comprised his domain. And he believes a serial killer is to blame.

Odham has been poring over the files of women suspected of dying by the hand of John Boyer, a former long-distance truck driver infamous among authorities as a short-tempered convict who allegedly preyed on women around the Southeast.

Boyer is incarcerated for killing a woman in Wilmington in 2003 and charged with similar slayings in South Carolina and Tennessee. More recently, he has become the target of efforts by detectives seeking the whereabouts of a woman named Virginia Beach, who vanished from Wilmington in 2000 but whose remains have never been located.

Odham says investigators hope news about the case might generate fresh leads. But the development also opens a new chapter in the case of an accused serial killer who authorities say murdered without remorse.

A search by DNA

The police department has sent Beach’s DNA to the University of North Texas, where scientists are expected to compare the samples with unidentified bodies found around the country. It’s not clear when the results will be returned.

Beach is similar to other women Boyer is suspected of killing. She sometimes worked as a prostitute to support a drug addiction. And she was petite, especially compared to Boyer, who weighed 290 pounds when he was booked into the New Hanover County jail in 2006.

Boyer is currently confined at Central Prison in Raleigh for killing Scarlett Wood in early 2003. The 31-year-old prostitute was last seen at the Travelodge on Market Street in Wilmington. Boyer told investigators he pushed Wood and her head hit some furniture in the motel room. Unable to revive her, he dumped her body in an overgrown area behind a house in the 1600 block of North Kerr Avenue. Her body was found more than three months later, but her remains were not positively identified until 2006.

Disputing Boyer’s claim that he shoved Wood into furniture, a forensic anthropologist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington found evidence that Wood suffered broken ribs, facial fractures and stab wounds in the pelvic area. A judge sentenced Boyer to 12 years.

But investigators believe Wood was not Boyer’s first victim, nor his last.

Other possible victims

Michelle Haggadone went missing from Bolivia in 2000. In August of that year, a motorist who walked into the woods at an Interstate 20 rest area in Darlington County, S.C., happened upon the 34-year-old’s body. An autopsy determined she had been strangled with some sort of wire object and laid in the woods three weeks before she was found.

It was not until late 2011, when investigators paid a visit to Boyer and, they say, coaxed a confession out of him that the 55-year-old with a long gray beard was given another murder charge.

A year after Haggadone died, detectives suspect Boyer chose another victim, 26-year-old Rose Marie Mallette, whose body was found wrapped in a blanket by railroad tracks behind the MCO Transport trucking company in New Hanover County. Boyer used to work there, said Detective Ken Murphy, who is leading the investigation for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.

While Boyer has not been charged in Mallette’s case, detectives have focused on him as the prime suspect. When authorities arrested Boyer for Wood’s murder, he told a detective that he knew Mallette, Murphy said.

“Do I think we’re on the right track with Rose Marie Mallette’s murder? Yeah, I do,” Murphy told the StarNews in 2009. “It’s just, we’ve got to get there.”

Authorities also connected Boyer to the 2005 slaying of Jennifer Smith in Hickman County, Tenn. A detective with the sheriff’s office there told The Associated Press that Boyer picked up the 25-year-old prostitute and drove her to an abandoned parking lot off I-40. There, the two argued over money. Then Boyer allegedly strangled her with the seat belt, pushed her body out of the cab and drove off.

After finishing his prison sentence in North Carolina, Boyer is expected to go on trial for the murders in Tennessee and South Carolina.

Linking the victims

The cases are eerily similar. Many of the women worked as prostitutes and went missing for some time before their bodies were found. And in all the cases, the remains went unidentified for years. Haggadone, who vanished in 2000, was a Jane Doe until a DNA sample confirmed her identity in 2011.

While a rookie police officer, Odham had frequent run-ins with many of the women Boyer is alleged to have killed. He said police knew Haggadone as “Mimi,” and she was a known associate of Beach and Mallette.

While Boyer sits in prison, Odham is dealing with a nagging suspicion that will only be resolved if he can find Beach’s remains and bring charges against the culprit. He has met with Boyer before and, like all the other investigators who have come face to face with the convicted killer, was taken aback by his resentment toward women.

“He referred to them as whores and bitches,” Odham recalled.

Odham asks that anyone with information about Beach call him at 343-3686.

Brian Freskos: 343-2327

On Twitter: @BrianFreskos


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User-contributed question by:
Renae E.

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