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Though the theory has yet to be proven, more criminal profilers have said the murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell appears to be the work of a serial killer. In the 15 years since the Denver woman's homicide, experts close to the case have said the degree of criminal sophistication displayed by the killer in disposing of Kimmell's body and the removal of evidence -- including a binding -- only raises that possibility.
Kimmell, 18 (pictured, left), disappeared on March 25, 1988 while driving from her job in Denver to Cody, Wyo., to meet a friend. Her car bore distinctive 'Lil Miss' personalized license plates and her disappearance touched off a three-state search.
Kimmell's nude body was found in the North Platte River near Casper on April 2, 1988.
The teen had been sexually assaulted, struck in the head and
stabbed several times in the chest before her body was thrown
off an old bridge.
A coroner's examination concluded Kimmell "had suffered six
separate stab wounds: Five of which were arranged in a circle in
the chest of Lisa Kimmell with a sixth inflicted in the mid-upper
abdomen." Each wound, the coroner said, could have been fatal and
each avoided striking a rib. The autopsy also revealed that Kimmell had been killed just a few days before her body was discovered, leading investigators to conclude that she had been held for up to a week between the time she was abducted and when she was killed.
In July, Kimmell's car was unearthed on Fremont County property
owned by 58-year-old Dale Wayne Eaton. He was charged last month
with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault
in her death.
Burial of Kimmell's car, but not her body, baffles Dr.
Robert Keppel, who led the investigation into serial killer Ted
Bundy. Keppel has written several books on serial killings.
"Why did (the killer) even dump her over that bridge?" Keppel
said. "Why wouldn't (the killer) just bury her in the car?"
Greg Cooper, a former FBI profiler who investigated Kimmell's
murder in association with a series of other killings from 1983 to
1997 in a four-state region, told TheDenverChannel that the car could have been the killer's "trophy." He said the killer might be aroused just by walking over the area where the car was buried. He also said that Kimmell was probably
murdered by "a very organized serial killer."
But Keppel said limited access to crime scene evidence in
Kimmell's case makes it hard for him to say if the teen's homicide
was the work of a serial killer.
From what he knows of the homicide, though, Keppel said he
thinks Kimmell's killer displayed some sophistication on several
"You can't generalize about a topic that's very difficult to
generalize about. Serial killers are different," Keppel said.
"Some serial killers know their victim but the victim doesn't know
the offender. Some serial killers know their victims and the
victims know them."
An eight-page confidential analysis prepared by the FBI 10 years
before authorities got a break in the case also speculated
Kimmell's attacker had killed before.
In the report, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Ronald P. Walker
concluded "it is significant that the assailant removed (a
binding) prior to the disposing of the victim's body; this
assailant is sufficiently sophisticated to realize the evidentiary
value of such items."
"Lisa Marie Kimmell fell victim to an assailant who acted
methodically and with purpose," the FBI reported. "She was a
randomly selected victim whose path crossed with her assailant's by
Serial killers are also often portrayed as having a tendency to
take souvenirs from their victims. They clip news articles, for
example, take the victim's driver's license or keep a lock of hair.
In Kimmell's case, investigators have yet to recover her purse
or driver's license, the clothes she was wearing and a few pieces
of her jewelry, court documents state.
In his analysis, Cooper said last year he believed Kimmell's
murderer had killed before and likely killed after her death.
He said the killer's abduction and sexual assault of Kimmell,
the concealment of her vehicle and the "controlled and organized"
knife wounds were all consistent with an experienced killer.
Eaton was linked to the murder by DNA evidence, according to court documents. Investigators continue to look at the possibility of a second person involved in the abduction and murdered.
Eaton's arrest has resulted in investigators reopening a number of unsolved "Great Basin" murder cases, including three in the area where Kimmell was abducted and murdered to see if there may be any link to him.
- April 21, 2003: 'Lil Miss' Murder Suspect Read His Rights
- August 16, 2002: Woman's Skeleton Found In Wyoming
- August 15, 2002: Old Pickup Sought In Wyoming Murder Case
- August 14, 2002: Recovered Car Gives Former Prosecutor Hope
- August 13, 2002: Buried Car Connected To 1988 Murder
- August 8, 2002: Neighbor Saw Hole Dug Where Car Was Found
- August 7, 2002: Break In Great Basin Murders?
- August 2, 2002: The Kimmell Case In Review
- August 2, 2002: DNA May Match Suspect To 14-Year-Old Murder
- August 1, 2002: Car Of Denver Murder Victim Uncovered