The “Redhead murders” are a series of unsolved homicides believed to have been committed by an unidentified serial killer in various parts of the United States, including Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia It is presumed that the killings occurred between October 1978 and the 1980s, but they may have continued until 1992. The victims, many of whom have never been identified, usually had reddish hair and their bodies were abandoned along major highways in the United States; presumably, they were hitchhiking or engaged in prostitution. Authorities are unsure of how many people were responsible for these murders, if they were all performed by the same perpetrator(s), or how many victims there were. It is believed that a total of six to eleven victims were involved.
Wetzel County victim
The body of a white female was found naked alongside Route 250 near Littleton, Wetzel County, West Virginia on February 13, 1983. A pair of senior citizens reported that they thought the remains were a mannequin before discovering it was a human corpse. The body had been placed at the area recently, as the snow was on the ground and absent on the body. Tire tracks and footprints indicate she died at a different area and was transported to the location where she was found. It is presumed that she had died two days before. She had not been an apparent victim of sexual assault, although foul play may have been involved in her death. This woman’s cause of death was not officially determined, but she is a possible victim, as she may have been suffocated or strangled. This woman was one of the older victims, as her age range was between 35 and 45. The woman’s hair was auburn, which matched the criteria for the killer. Her height was estimated to be approximately five feet six inches (168 cm) and weight as 135 pounds (61 kg). Her eyes were presumed to be brown, although decomposition made it difficult to accurately determine eye colour. She had two distinct scars, including one found on her abdomen from a Cesarean section, indicating she had at least one child and another found on one of the index fingers. The woman’s legs and underarms were shaven, indicating an attention to grooming not characteristic of a transient or hitchhiker. A person of interest has emerged in this case, believed to be a middle-aged white male at the height of approximately five feet ten inches (178 cm) and weighing 185 to 200 pounds (84 to 91 kg). The man was seen near the area where the body was found and could have been involved with disposing of her body. The victim herself may have been seen alive in Wheeling, West Virginia as an employee or customer at a bar. She was subsequently buried after a funeral took place.
The body of 28-year-old Lisa Nichols, who also used the last name of Jarvis, was found on September 16, 1984 along Interstate 40 near West Memphis, Arkansas. She was a resident of West Virginia and authorities were not able to come into contact with family members for some time, indicating she was estranged from them, resulting in her remaining unidentified for nearly a year. Her body was not identified until June 1985, nine months after she was strangled and left wearing only a sweater. Nichols is believed to be a part of the Redhead Murders, as she was found along a highway and had strawberry-blond hair at the time of her demise. Her remains were identified by a couple from Florida, who had allowed her to stay with them for a period of time. Nichols may have been murdered after leaving a truck stop along the highway and may have attempted to hitchhike.
Campbell County victim
On January 1, 1985, another victim was found near Jellico, Tennessee, in Campbell County on interstate 75. Although her murder occurred three days before, presumably on December 30, 1984, she was already in an advanced state of decomposition. Like the others, she was white and had short red hair, which was somewhat curly. She was likely between the ages of 17 and 25, although she may have been as old as 30 at the time she was murdered. The victim was found clothed, with a tan pullover, a shirt and jeans. The Jane Doe had green or hazel eyes, which could not be positively confirmed as a certain colour because of the state of her body. The young woman also had freckles, various scars and burn marks on her body and was two and a half to five months pregnant when murdered by an undisclosed method. She had no evidence of dental work, except for a partial denture holding two false teeth on her upper jaw. It is believed that she was between five feet one and five feet four inches (163 cm) when she died and was approximately 110 to 115 pounds (50 to 52 kg), although The Doe Network and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System state her body was too decomposed to estimate the weight of the victim.
Second Campbell County victim
The second Campbell County victim was found on April 3, 1985, but her hair colour is unknown, which does not immediately indicate she was a victim of the Redhead Murderer. She was believed to have died between 1981 and 1984, one to four years before. Unlike the other victims, she was younger, between 9 and 15, when the others were estimated to be over 16. She was located by a passerby about 200 yards off Big Wheel Gap Road, four miles southwest of Jellico in Campbell County, some distance from interstate 75, near a strip mine. The cause of this girl’s death is unknown, as her remains were partial, but still may be homicide. Thirty-two bones, including her skull, were all that were recovered from the scene. Her skull allowed facial reconstruction. She wore a necklace and bracelet made of plastic buttons from clothing. There were a pair of boots recovered that were size 5, which may not belong to the victim, and a few scraps of clothing. Due to the condition of her body, her height, weight, eye colour and hair colour were not possible to estimate.
Cheatham County victim
The skeletonized body of a red-haired female was located on March 31, 1985 in Pleasant View, Cheatham County, Tennessee. She was believed to have died three to five months before, due to an unknown cause. However, her case is possibly linked to the redhead murders because her remains were found at the side of a highway, interstate 24. Unlike some of the other victims, she wore clothing: a shirt, sweater, pants and underwear. She was white, between five feet and five feet two inches (157 cm) tall with an inestimable weight. By examining her teeth, the victim had some evidence of crowding and overlapping of her teeth. This woman was believed to be between the ages of thirty-one and forty at the time of her death.
Knox County victim
The body of a woman who had died by suffocation was found in a white Admiral refrigerator in Gray, Knox County, Kentucky on April 1, 1985, alongside Route 25. The refrigerator had a decal of the words “Super Woman” on the front. The victim had been dead for a few days, and was nude except for two distinctive necklace pendants, one of a heart and the other of a gold-coloured eagle, and two pairs of socks; one white, and the other white with green and yellow stripes. There were reports that the victim may have been soliciting a ride to North Carolina over CB radio. Five hundred people attended her funeral, which was also televised. The case was a local sensation in Gray, as the town was a “quiet” and “sleepy” place where little out of the ordinary usually happened. Distinguishing features of the body included a number of moles (on the right side of her neck, near one ankle, and below each breast), a yellow-stained upper incisor, and a scar and other marks on her abdomen, indicating that she had borne a child. Her eyes were light brown and her hair was red and nearly a foot long, which fit the pattern of the redhead killer. After her autopsy, she was determined to be between 24 and 35 years old and approximately 4 feet 9 to 4 feet 11 inches tall. It is also possible that she owned a pair of boots found near the refrigerator. Several missing persons have been eliminated as possible matches for the victim. After the case was publicised in January 2013, the police received some tips, but it is unknown if they became solid leads.
Greene County victim
On April 14, 1985, a young white female’s body was located in Greenville, Greene County, Tennessee. She had died by severe blunt-force trauma and possibly a stab wound three to six weeks before and was an advanced state of decomposition. However, her fingerprints were possible to obtain, as well as her DNA and dental information. She had been approximately six to eight weeks pregnant shortly before she died, but had miscarried recently. She was estimated to be 14 to 20 years old (possibly as old as 25) and was five feet four inches to five feet six inches (168 cm) tall at a weight of 130 to 140 pounds (59 to 64 kg). She had a slight overbite and had some fillings in her teeth, showing that she had dental care in life. She had also painted her fingernails pink. Because she had light brown to blond hair with red highlights, it is possible that her case could be related to the Redhead murders. Authorities hoped in late April 1985 that they would identify her body through fingerprints but were unsuccessful, as she remains unidentified today. Six missing women were ruled out as possible identities of the victim.
Other possible victims
It is possible that the Rising Fawn Jane Doe, located in 1988 in Georgia may have been a victim of the Redhead Murderer, according to amateur sleuths online. This victim was sexually assaulted, and had been strangled to death; she was between 16 and 25 years old. She had red hair, like the other victims and was found near interstate 59. Also suggested as possible victims included the female victim of the Pemiscot County Does, found in Arkansas in 1978, the Desoto County Jane Doe, found in 1985, the Pulaski County Jane Doe, found in 1985 in Arkansas, the Hawayr County Jane Doe (identified as Priscilla Ann Blevins), the Roane County Jane Doe, found in 1987, the Benton County Jane Doe, found in 1990, the Hebron Jane Doe, found in Ohio in 1990 (identified as Patrice Corley in 2017) and the Simpson County Jane Doe, found in Tennessee in 2001.
- The Mississippi County victim has an inconsistency with the murders since she was seen alive with a man, also unidentified, whose body was found in Missouri, but is believed to have been killed by the same person. She also had blond hair and was murdered by gunshot, years before most of the Redhead murders took place. She was, however, found alongside interstate 55.
- Priscilla Blevins was located in North Carolina along interstate 40 in March 1985, 10 years after she disappeared from her home in Charlotte. Her remains were identified in 2012. Blevins’ cause of death has not been established, however, it is believed that she died in July 1975 at the time of her disappearance and that her body was dumped at the side of I-40 soon after her death, where it remained until discovered by a member of a highway work crew.
- Although the Roane County victim was found in Tennessee and was white, her body had been burned, unlike any of the suspected victims. She also had a hysterectomy and tracheotomy, which none of the other victims had. Also, it has not been stated if her remains were located near a highway. Her hair colour was impossible to determine because of the condition of the body.
- The Pulaski County Jane Doe was also found in 1985 alongside a road. She had auburn hair but was not located along a highway. Her cause of death is not known and she had died sometime earlier, as her body was reduced to bones.
- The Benton County Jane Doe was found in 1990 along Highway 102 and was murdered by a gunshot wound. Her skeletonized remains had been set on fire and only some bones were recovered. It is known that she was shot before she was burned during the same year she was located. She was found near interstate 102.
- The Hebron Jane Doe, a suspected prostitute, was located in Ohio in 1990, which is a considerable distance from most of the states where the red-haired victims were found. She was also killed five years after most of the murders happened, but had red hair and was left near an interstate. She had also had sexual intercourse shortly before her death.
- April Lacy was murdered in 1996 and left along a road in Texas. Some believe she may have been a victim of the same killer, although the date of her death was not around the same time as the other victims.
- The Simpson County Jane Doe remains largely inconsistent with the time span of the murders, as she died in 2001, as decomposition suggests. She was, however, found near interstate 75 and had reddish-coloured hair.
It is believed that most of the victims remain unidentified due to being estranged or not close with existing family members or may not have been native to the states in which that they were found. In 1985, not long after the Greene County victim was found, the states of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi requested the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance with the cases. There were inconsistencies with some of the victims, as some were found with or without clothing and some had a sexual encounter before their murders. During the conference, it was stated that four victims found in Texas and a victim found in 1981 in Ohio, nicknamed “Buckskin Girl,” were ruled out as possible victims in 1985.
A possible suspect emerged in the mid-eighties when a 37-year-old trucker attacked and attempted to strangle a woman with reddish hair, but was later dismissed, although he had left her lying near a highway, presuming she was dead. Another suspect was a 32-year-old trucker in Pennsylvania who was questioned after kidnapping and raping a young woman in the state of Indiana before she managed to escape. This suspect was also dismissed, after being questioned by Tennessee police.