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Oct 12, 2017

Unsolved: Who is the 'Flat-Tire' Serial Killer?

The year 1975 was a confusing one for residents of Dade County, Florida. Over the course of this short span of time, at least five women were found slain under similar circumstances, creating the fear that a serial killer was at large. Now it's 42 years later, and as much as known about this rash of killings today as there was back when the bodies were fresh. Will we ever learn the identity of the Flat-Tire serial killer?

The first slayings occurred in July 1975. The separate murders of 27-year-old Ronnie Gorlin and Elyse Napp triggered the interest of detectives, who immediately suspected that one person could be behind the slayings. Both women were found slain after their cars' tires had been punctured and flattened. This began the modus operandi of the Flat-Tire killer, and more bodies were to come.

Two classmates, Barbara Schreiber and belinda Zeterower, were also slain in 1975. However, their June murders didn't attract attention until the connections between the two July victims were compared. Authorities in Florida had a serial killer on their hands, with a body count of at least four people -- and counting.

Most of the Flat-Tire serial killer's victims were slain under similar circumstances, though some were killed in their homes. Detectives have also speculated that the perpetrator moved from one end of the country to the other, which means he could be responsible for 30 or more unsolved slayings.

His victims were killed in a number of ways: Shooting, stabbing, blunt-force-trauma. At least one of the victims had been mutilated with an ice pick; Another was beaten with a hammer. It seems that this killer worked with whatever tools he had available to him, and relied on strength and force to murder many of the unsuspecting women. To make matters worse in this case, three victims have never been identified. These Jane Does were so badly disfigured by their killer, that they couldn't be recognized. All these years later, they remain unidentified. The victims often had their teeth removed, which was presumably done to hinder identification. This gruesome detail also earned the killer the nickname of "The Tooth Fairy Killer," though it's not as popularly used when talking about these unsolved murders. He has also been called the South Dade Serial Killer.

Similar cases across the country
On January 20, 1970, a 19-year-old woman went missing never to be seen again. Cindy Mellin was last seen in the parking lot of her place of employment. She was standing next to her car, which had a flat tire. An unidentified man was seen helping her with the vehicle, according to witnesses.
According to loved ones, the Ventura County, California teen never returned home that night, which led to her being reported missing immediately. When her father went looking for her, he found her car in the parking lot of the shopping center where she worked. It was up on a jack, with the flat tire still attached.  Police have noted that Mellin's tire had been punctured by a sharp object. Her disappearance remains unsolved.

On October 12, 1971, 28-year-old Diane Licciardello vanished from the parking lot of Bradlee's Department Store. The day following her disappearance, her car was found abandoned in the parking lot with a flat tire. In this incident, a nail had been embedded into the tire, and it's not known if it was intentional or not. This occurred in the area of Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

On January 03, 1972, 41-year-old Anne Robinson vanished after leaving from work. Her car was later found abandoned a few blocks away from her place of employment. Detectives have noted that the vehicle had a flat tire. The Gardena, California woman's items were left undisturbed in the car, which was left unlocked. Her loved ones claimed that it wasn't in her nature to go missing the way she did. Her case remains unsolved.

On March 15, 1979, a 23-year-old woman named Arrilla Webb-Vaul vanished under circumstances similar to the above-mentioned cases. The pretty blonde was last seen after she dropped her husband off at the Eastgate Shopping Center in Bossier County, Louisiana. From there, she was seen (by witnesses) parking alongside the road over the bridge to Bossier Parish. An unidentified white male was seen pulling up behind her. She vanished beyond this point, never to be seen again. Not long after her mysterious disappearance, authorities discovered her abandoned car. The tires had been slashed, but no other evidence could be found to indicate where she may have gone. Her case, like the others in this article, remains unsolved.

On March 17, 1987, 19-year-old Becky Edmondson vanished after leaving her place of employment. The restaurant employee was never seen or heard from again. However, her vehicle was found abandoned a few days after she vanished. One tire had been flattened. The driver's side door of her car had been forcefully pried open, and her steering column was damaged.

On January 05, 1992 a 17-year-old Texas teen named Kelly Wilson vanished after leaving her place of employment. The bank employee was last seen leaving the place of business, but never seen leaving the parking lot. After she was reported missing, her car was found parked in that very lot. A tire had been flattened, and all of her belongings were left inside.  She's never been found.

Georgia woman Sherri Holland went missing on August 16, 1996. The 34-year-old was last seen driving in her vehicle after vacationing in the state of Florida. Somewhere along the road trip, she disappeared, but her car was found abandoned between Macon and Atlanta. A nail had been driven into one of the tires, flattening it. She's never been found.

Who is the Flat-Tire killer?
Could this serial killer be singlehandedly responsible for the unsolved murders and disappearances of women all across the country? While it's possible that not every one of the above-mentioned cases could be tied to the unidentified slayer, it's easy to see that there are many cases that have similar circumstances. Most of these women have vanished from coastal areas between California and Florida -- and one as far north as Massachusetts. All of these women left behind vehicles with flattened tires and other signs of foul play. If authorities begin connecting more recent cases with the 1975 rash of flat-tire killings, there may be more avenues of investigation available in order to identify this faceless monster. 

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