KANSAS CITY, Missouri - An NBC Action News-Scripps Howard News Service investigation has identified multiple murder clusters in Kansas City, mostly during the 80s and 90s, that a computer program has tagged as suspected serial killings.
Regionally, the computer program only considered cases in Kansas City, Mo. and excluded murders like April Sima’s in Johnson County.
In 1996 James R. Watson, Jr. strangled the life out of 16-year-old April.
“It was taken in January,” said Donata Curtis showing a picture of her daughter taken shortly before her murder. “She was killed in May.”
Shortly after that murder, Watson raped and strangled again, this time 21-year-old Rebecca Carlson.
Now, 15 years later, the high tech computer program , created by the Scripps Howard News Service, raises new concerns about other killers and victims in Kansas City.
“'I’m suspicious,” Curtis says because the computer program identified a dozen of Kansas City strangulations listed as unsolved about the same age as her daughter.
“Those poor women after all this time sit there and wonder what happened to their daughters,” Curtis said about the victims’ mothers.
Veteran Scripps Howard News Service Reporter Tom Hargrove collected a half-million homicide records from FBI files and Freedom of Information Act requests to program the serial killer application that identified the anomaly .
“There's always a chance that it's a coincidence, but it's almost mathematically unlikely,” Hargrove said about the computer program's analysis.
The Scripps Howard News Service application accurately identified the serial killings of Lorenzo Gilyard in Kansas City and BTK in Wichita.
Police in Indiana and Ohio have launched investigations into suspected serial killings based on the Scripps Howard News Service analysis and in Nevada, authorities confirm for the first time that they are hunting a likely serial killer there.
Law enforcement in seven cities confirm that the statistical analysis of murders has detected serial homicides suspected in their communities.
“His cluster picked up on our strangulations,” said Wichita Police Lt. Ken Landwehr. “You know, it’s an interesting tool.”
In Kansas City, the program identified a cluster of 62 female strangulations between 1980 and 2004.
Statistically, Hargrove’s research showed Kansas City had too many unsolved strangulations to be explained without more deaths being related to a serial killer or possibly multiple serial killers.
Of the 62 strangulation cases, 43 remain unsolved according to files obtained by Hargrove.
Kansas City Police say many of those cases have been solved since they were first reported to the FBI.
“These are large clusters of unsolved murders of women in the Kansas City area,” Hargrove said.
“Absolutely,” said Kansas City Police Spokesman Steve Young. “Clearly it shows an abnormal pattern in a window of high incidence of females being strangled.”
But Young warned there is no evidence connecting the cases and in many of the strangulations, evidence specifically excludes connections.
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Police initially declined to release names and details about the crimes the Scripps analysis had identified by date of the murder and age.
NBC Action News filed an open records request and paid for access to limited information on a subset of the cases reported unsolved.
Of the 43 unsolved strangulations, we filed a Missouri Sunshine Request for the identities and status of the 12 victims with ages that were undetermined or under the age of 20.
Of the12 which still show unsolved in FBI files, Kansas City Police say all but five have since been connected to suspects.
Police identified the five remaining unsolved cases as the 1981 strangulation of Cassandra Tuner; and the 1983 murders of Sherrie Hall, Jacqueline Davis, Emma Kyser, and Terri Allen.
NEXT >> Are the cases connected?