Jun 19, 2016

Northern Nevada: Is a serial killer stalking victims on I-80?

Is a serial killer prowling along I-80? Could there be more than one? Geographically speaking, and by the numbers alone, it's absolutely possible that this massive stretch of highway has seen its fair share of predators. From coast to coast, Interstate 80 runs from San Francisco to New York, cutting through several rural areas through Northern Nevada, throughout the Midwest and the historic open country of the eastern United States.

Interstate 80 is an historic highway that took a few decades to construct -- from the years 1956 to 1986. In all, it spans across a staggering 2,902 miles across the United States, and serves as a direct access point to several small towns as well as large cities. This makes I-80 an ideal route for many individual travelers, and also a mandatory route for numerous truckers and courier types. This is a heavily trafficked highway with a history that's lasted for approximately 60 years. Is it possible that one or more serial killers have stalked I-80 over the past 60 years? It's highly, highly probable.

 In particular, it seems that a suspiciously high number of unsolved disappearances and homicide cases happen to surround Utah, Northern Nevada and parts of Northern California, especially over the course of the past 25 to 30 years (approximately half the history of Interstate 80's existence). While there have been bodies and missing cases along the entire stretch of I-80, it seems that an unusual concentration of those cases happen to be in Nevada, Utah and California. Could this be indicative of a serial killer stalking victims between the three states? I believe so.
Strangely, the rural town of Winnemucca, NV is linked to at least two disappearances associated with Interstate 80. On Valentine's day, 2006, 62-year-old Judy Casida went missing from Reno, Nevada. Almost a month after her disappearance, her 1991 Mazda pickup truck was located near the town of Winnemucca, off I-80. Her loved ones believed that she may have been depressed when she disappeared. However, by the year 2011, suspicions of a serial killer became apparent.

In 2011, 86-year-old Patrick Carnes (pictured above-right with his dog, also missing) vanished while driving back from Ohio to his home in Reno. He never made it to his destination, and he has never been located. However, not long after he disappeared, his car was found abandoned on I-80 near Pumpernickel Valley. This is the same spot where the car belonging to Judy Casida was found.

The two aforementioned cases are recent -- in the past decade. However, they share some strange similarities with at least one other case out of Pershing and Humboldt counties. For example, 73-year-old Nan Dixon (pictured right) vanished on September 22, 1978. She was reportedly traveling from Grass Valley to Lovelock, Nevada. She never showed up at her destination and has never been located. However, a handful of years after she vanished, her vehicle was found abandoned near the Seven Troughs turnoff. The car had been deliberately driven off a ravine in an attempt to hide it. Nan Dixon, or any evidence of her, was not found at the scene.

In the year 1992, a man named Johnson White went missing from the Winnemucca area, but very little information is available in his case. I intend on figuring out whether or not Interstate 80 has made any connection with this disappearance. I do know that he was last seen with a neighbor, and may have been driving a Sedan at the time of his disappearance. Wording in the NamUs report is vague, but it's been indicated that his vehicle was found abandoned with items belonging to one of his neighbors in it. The location of this abandoned car has never been publicized. Could it be anywhere near I-80, or even near Pumpernickel Valley?

There have also been several John and Jane Does discovered in Northern Nevada, which have never been identified. While it wouldn't be realistic to think that every one of them are victims of the presumed I-80 killer, it's worth pointing out that this isn't a necessarily high crime area. There is also a handful of unsolved homicides in the area, some of which directly tied to Interstate 80.

In 1978, the body of an unidentified woman between the ages of 40 and 50 was found near Imlay. The body was found in a duffel bag, which was placed in a shallow grave approximately 40 feet from Scossa Road (which is accessible via I-80). The woman had about $200 in cash on her, which immediately told authorities that she wasn't killed in a robbery. Her identity and the person(s) responsible for her death have never been figured out. Her cause of death is unknown, but the disposal of her body definitely indicates homicide.

In 1974, the body of an unidentified woman was found just north of I-80 in Wells, on Old Hwy 93. The woman had been strangled to death, and set on fire with diesel fuel. She's never been identified.

In 1972, the unidentified body of a woman was found off I-80 in the Starr Valley area. The woman appeared to be between 20 and 25-years-old and had been shot to death.

Also in 1972, an unidentified woman was found murdered near Interstate-80 on Devil's Gate Rd., north of Elko. Cause of death unknown.

In 1984, the body of a male estimated to be between 35 and 45-years-old was found near Clark, Nevada off I-80. Undetermined cause of death, but his bones were charred, indicating he was dead prior to a fire that had been started. This could indicate homicide or at least attempted concealment of a death. No identification. 

In 1985, the body of an unidentified male was found near Interstate 80 north of Northern Nevada Medical Center. No cause of death, but the man was estimated to be around 50-years-old.

On June 11, 1990, the body of an unidentified woman was located near Interstate-80 just south of the town of Wendover, Nevada. The woman appeared to be from 45 to 65-years-old and was fully clothed when she was found. A cause of death hasn't been released. The body is presume to be dumped at the location, however.

In February of 1990, the body of an unidentified Jane Doe was found near I-80 near Hilltop Road in Lander County. She may have been upwards of 38-years-old, and had been dismembered. Several body parts, including the bones of her torso, were never found.

Also in 1990, the unidentified body of a woman was located near mile post #9 near Wadsworth, Nevada. This is directly accessible to I-80, and her skeletal remains were scattered about the area. She has also never been identified, and a cause of death isn't known. However, authorities do confirm that she was a victim of homicide.

In 1990 the body of an unidentified male was found in rural Lander County near Crescent Valley. Victim of homicide.

In 1990, the mummified body of an elderly woman was found lying in sagebrush near Interstate 80 in Wendover. Undetermined cause of death.

In 1991, not far from the discovery of 1990's Wadsworth Jane Doe, the skeletal remains of a man aged 23 to 29-years-old was found scattered close to Interstate 80. His cause of death remains undetermined, but a firearm was found in the area.

In 1991, an unidentified male of approximately 50-years-old was found near Sun Valley. His body was decomposing under a mattress and a sheet of metal in what appeared to be an attempt to hide hide him. His cause of death remains undetermined.

In 1993, the body of an unidentified female was found near Interstate 80 in the Shafter area (Elko County). The woman was presumed to had been dumped just a few days before she was discovered, and had died by multiple gunshot wounds to the body. She had also been badly beaten. She looked to be between 25 and 30-years-old. Her identity has never been figured out, nor has the identity of the person responsible for her death.

In 1996, the body of an unidentified male was found near Interstate 80 at the Jessup Exit in Churchill County. He is the victim of homicide, between the ages of 27 and 35-years-old. No identity has ever been confirmed.

In 1998, a skull belonging to a male estimated 40-years-old was found near Airport Road in Winnemucca, NV. Cause of death: Undetermined.

In 2001, a woman named Norma Jean Parker was found deceased just north of the Winnemucca Dry Lake. Her cause of death has never been determined, but she is believed to had met some kind of foul play. She was known to associate with truck drivers, and was in her late 50s.

Also in 2001, a woman named Barbara Louise Nichols was shot to death after she was abducted by someone who had attempted to rob a gas station in Carlin -- where she worked. Her body was found near Interstate 80. Her murder remains unsolved. **Correction** According to people who say they are family members of this victim, Barbara Louise Nichols was actually killed in 1988. I do not know why it's been listed as 2001 on various cold case docs.

In May 2008, the body of a woman aged 35 to 50-years-old was found near the Churchill County Gravel Pit, accessible via Interstate 80. She was in a shallow grave, fully clothed. No cause of death has ever been published.
Most recently, the body of a missing Utah man was found by railroad tracks in what used to be called Tobar -- an old railroad outpost that is near Wells. To get to Tobar, you must veer off Interstate 80, onto Old Highway 93. Tobar is literally a ghost town, out in the middle of nowhere. The skeletal remains of a young man named Robin Putnam were found there in July 2012. His cause of death is not known, and it's certainly not known how he may have gotten where his remains were found.

Is a serial killer responsible for any of these incidents? It's absolutely likely. However, authorities have never really made an absolute connection between any of these cases. Perhaps it's time for a dedicated cold case squad to take a closer look at these unsolved homicides and unidentified persons. While some (or many) of these cases could be nothing more than isolated incidents of homicide or undetermined deaths and disappearances, it's important to pay attention to subtle similarities. It seems that Northern Nevada has seen its fair share of unsolved homicides, and many of them don't seem like they'll ever be solved. 
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