Break In Great Basin Murders?

Wyoming Authorities To Discuss Investigation

Wyoming authorities said they will soon be releasing information about their investigation in Moneta, where the car of a Denver murder victim was reportedly uncovered last week.

A break in the case came last week after investigators discovered a buried car that is connected to one of the victims of the "Great Basin Murders."

The car, belonging to Lisa Marie Kimmell, 18, (pictured, left) was dug up on a rural farm that belongs to a Wyoming man who is now in a Colorado federal prison for another murder.

Authorities consider Kimmell's 1988 murder as one of the nine so-called Great Basin murders, all connected by similarities and patterns.

What Are The Great Basin Murders?

The Great Basin murders all took place between 1983 to 1997 and involved women between the ages of 18 and 35. In each case, the women were violently attacked and killed and their bodies dumped along remote highways in the Great Basin.

The Great Basin is a natural bowl that stretches from the Rockies to the Sierra Nevada. It gets its name from an odd geographical trait: its few streams have no outlet to the sea and the water evaporates in the basin's low spots.

At least three of the victims' bodies were posed in the shape of a cross after death, which investigators consider significant because it points to a serial killer.

The perpetrator, or perpetrators, of the nine murders have never been arrested. Authorities are unsure if they are all connected.

Kimmell's Murder Detailed

Kimmell, an 18-year-old who worked in Denver, was raped and sodomized in 1998. Authorities said she was held eight days before she was killed.

According to investigators, Kimmel's body showed signs of "extreme sexual activity." Her body was found in the North Platte River near Casper, Wyo., with six deep stab wounds to her chest. None of the stab wounds hit her ribs, which, according to a case review press release, "possibly indicated the suspect had medical training." Five of the stab wounds were patterned in the shape of fingers on a hand, according to investigators.

Authorities have a DNA sample of her killer that was taken from her body during her autopsy in 1988. Until last week, they had no suspect to compare it to. A source close to the investigation said they will seek a DNA sample from a Colorado prisoner to determine if he was involved in the Kimmell murder.

Digging Continues In Moneta

Natrona County authorities would not return telephone calls seeking comment on any possible connection between the owner of the land where the car was unearthed and other Great Basin murder cases. Authorities had been looking for Kimmell's car for 14 years in an effort to solve the crime.

The land was abandoned by Dale Wayne Eaton, who is serving time in the Federal Correctional Facility in Englewood, Colo., after being convicted of a felony in possession of a firearm. Eaton was also recently charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Sept. 3 death of his cellmate at the federal prison in Florence, Colo., according to FBI reports.

In April 1998, Eaton was sentenced in Sweetwater County to a two- to five-year prison sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The sentence was suspended and he was placed on five years supervised probation and ordered to a halfway house in Casper.

In June 1998, he escaped from the facility, which led to his probation being revoked and him being sent to the Wyoming State Penitentiary to serve the original sentence.

About the same time he was also sentenced by a federal court to three years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. In October 2000, Wyoming officials paroled him and turned him over to federal authorities.

Eaton, who previously worked as a welder in several states, has refused requests for a prison interview.

Natrona County Sheriff Mark Benton said that investigators returned to the Wyoming dig site Monday and would continue digging and looking for evidence. This week, investigators were digging additional holes and going through an old trailer that sits on the property outside the tiny hamlet of Moneta, 75 miles west of Casper.

In nearby Converse County, a sheriff's deputy recently accompanied Natrona County officials to a home where Eaton had once stayed.

Dean Schifferns, who owns the residence north of Glenrock and who is a close friend of Eaton, told the Casper Tribune that law enforcement agents showed up at his home with a search warrant. Schifferns said the visit occurred before the search in Moneta last week, but he wasn't sure when.

Schifferns told the Tribune that officials took items belonging to Eaton, including a number of cars that he was holding, and some of Eaton's boxes that were stored in a trailer behind the house. Schifferns and his wife also gave investigators letters that Eaton had written to them.

Shirley Widmer, who lives in Waltman, Wyo., 30 miles east of Moneta, said Eaton is well-known in the area.

"He used to come over and help my husband and then he went to Utah or Nevada to work in a mine out there," she said. "He was gone a lot. He wasn't around much. My husband has a salvage yard and he'd help him out there in the salvage yard."

A number of law enforcement agencies are looking into Eaton's past, although authorities would not confirm that he is the prime suspect in the Kimmell case or explain how he came to their attention.

Utah Task Force Investigating, Too

As reported Aug. 2, Gregg Cooper, a former FBI profiler and current chairman of a criminal tracking task force in Utah, compiled data on the Great Basin murders and the Kimmell case. Cooper confirmed again Tuesday that Kimmell was probably murdered by "a very organized serial killer." He also said there might be more than one killer.

"The burying of the car indicates not just an attempt to conceal, but an attempt to keep a souvenir, or trophy, from the crime," Cooper told Wednesday.

Cooper said investigators could likely get good fingerprints and other evidence, from the interior of the car.

"From my perspective, this is a serial homicide," said Cooper. "This would not be a case where you would look at this and suggest that it was a singular event, but one of a series by an individual who participates in these types of crimes over a period of time."

The state of Utah, the scene of a number of Great Basin murders, developed the Utah Criminal Tracking Analysis Project to pool information on unsolved cases. It is a regional version of the FBI's violent crimes and serial homicide profiling unit, where Cooper worked previously. It was the Utah tracking project that first brought investigators together from 11 agencies to discuss the Great Basin murders.

Kimmell disappeared on March 25, 1988, between Douglas and Casper, Wyo. She was driving from Denver to Cody, Wyo., when she was abducted. Her nude body was found dumped southwest of Casper on April 2, 1988. The Kimmell case was classified as a Great Basin murder by investigators.

In addition to the nine known Great Basin murders, two other murder victims have been found in the Casper, Wyo., area in the past 11 years that involved women walking alone, and dumped along a highway. One of the victims was a 21-year-old female whose nude body was found dumped along I-25 north of Casper.

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