Serial killing suspect wrote about Depies
KATHERINE M. SKIBA
Authorities are widening their investigation of a 32-year-old janitor from Indiana who police say is a strong suspect in the disappearance of Laurie Depies of Appleton, and who may be linked to as many as 20 murders across the country.
The suspect, whose travels are outlined in a detailed diary seized by authorities, is a “talker” who has connected himself to eight killings and sexual assaults of women, law enforcement sources say.
The man, Larry D. Hall, of Wabash, Ind., is being held in an Illinois jail in the kidnapping of Jessica Roach, a 15-year-old Illinois girl who was later killed.
His diary account, one investigator said, contained brief references to women, many of whom are being found to be murder victims.
The diary gives details of the 1992 disappearance of Depies, whose case drew wide attention after her empty car was found in her boyfriend’s parking lot with a filled soft-drink cup on the roof. She has not been found.
Hall, of Wabash, Ind., is being held without bail in the Vermilion County Jail in Danville, Ill. He has been held since November in connection with the stalking, kidnapping and killing of Jessica Roach, 15, of Georgetown, Ill., just south of Danville, which is on the Indiana border 140 miles south of Chicago.
Authorities are still checking Hall’s statements and how they match up with various unsolved murders. An FBI agent in Illinois and others sources suggested the probe could widen significantly. Depies
“In three search warrants carried out we have retrieved significant evidence that tends to implicate him beyond the Jessica Roach killing,” FBI Special Agent Alec Wade, in Springfield, Ill., said Friday.
Wade said complete analysis of the evidence was needed before determining how many deaths Hall might be connected to. When asked if the number was as many as eight, Wade said it was a “safe” estimate.
Another investigator with knowledge of the case who spoke to The Journal said that Hall ultimately may be linked to as many as 20 strangulation-sex murders of women around the US, based on entries in the diary and other evidence.
The killings are thought to date back as far as 1982. In addition to Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, locations being probed include Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and the area where Wyoming borders Colorado, he said.
The investigator spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Depies is the only victim thought to be from Wisconsin, the investigator said.
Hall has been questioned in another Wisconsin case, the death of Berit Beck, 18, of Sturtevant, but he is not considered a suspect, one source said. Beck’s van was found abandoned in a Fond du Lac shopping center July 17, 1990. She had been driving to Appleton from Racine County. Her body was found a month later beside a road near Waupun.
In the diary, Hall often penned a woman’s name, city and specific date, or year, she was killed. Sometimes he wrote “Unknown” in place of a name, but described a victim’s height, hair color or features, and wrote of her attractiveness. His notations include “hooker,” leading authorities to suspect prostitutes were among his quarry.
Federal, state and local investigators have been questioning Hall since last summer, after Illinois investigators traced a van and license plate description from a reported stalking to Hall in Wabash, Capt. John Burnsworth of the Wabash Police Department said. Civil War Re-enactment Buff
The stalking incident in Illinois followed a Civil War re-enactment event there. Hall’s interest in such events has placed him in the area of the disappearance of several girls and young women, Burnsworth said.
Depies, 22, was last seen after she left work in the Town of Menasha on Aug. 19, 1992, three days after a Civil War re-enactment held Aug. 15-16 at the Grignon Mansion in Kaukauna, 10 miles from the site of her disappearance.
“Larry Hall was real big into Civil War re-enactment,” Burnsworth said. “That’s why we got him traveling in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.”
Police can place Hall in the Appleton-Menasha area in September 1993, and are investigating whether he was in the area in 1992, Town of Menasha Police Lt. Steven Malchow said.
Hall carried his yen for the Civil War to such an extreme that he modeled himself after the period, favoring muttonchops and a big, bushy mustache. He stands about 5 feet, 6 inches and at 180 pounds carries a stocky build.
Another hobby, in addition to the Civil War, was going to car shows around the US, the investigator said. Confession Reported
According to the investigator who spoke to The Journal, Hall gave an oral confession in the Depies case and then signed a written confession based on his statements.
The investigator said authorities had seized from Hall’s possessions a diary containing details about Depies’ disappearance, mentioning her by name. The investigator said that in Hall’s oral confession, he gave certain facts, such as the name of the mall where Depies worked, where he spotted her and how he followed her from the mall.
Complicating the Depies case is the fact that her body has not been recovered; murder prosecutions without a body are rare, but not impossible.
Hall did not reveal what happened to Depies’ body, the investigator said.
“He talked in generalities about what he did with some of the bodies some were left in the woods, others were transported to other states,” the investigator said.
Malchow, the Town of Menasha lieutenant, categorized Hall Thursday as “a good suspect” who was being looked at hard.
But he was more cautious about the Depies link.
“Obviously, something links this guy to the Depies case,” Malchow said. “But there’s nothing to pound our hands on our desks and say, `We got our man.’ We won’t know that for a while.
Town of Menasha Detective Michael Krueger and Thomas Martin, an FBI agent in Green Bay, were expected to travel to southern Illinois sometime next week to meet with FBI agents working on the case there. Search In Case
A couple of months ago FBI agents in Illinois, working in collaboration with agents from Wisconsin, had the chance to interview the suspect.
The women he admitted murdering tended to be from 15 to 25, though most were about college age, the investigator who spoke to The Journal said.
The investigator said Hall first was considered as a possible suspect in connection with the slaying of Cora Jones, 12. Her murder ultimately was linked to serial killer David Spanbauer, who admitted the killing.
Mark Depies, Laurie Depies’ father, said Thursday that he did not want to get his hopes up too high. He said he had been contacted by Menasha Police about Hall but added that he feared it was like the “Spanbauer thing all over again.” Arrested Last Summer
Burnsworth said Wabash Police arrested Hall early in the summer and charged him with stalking two girls in their early teens in separate incidents.
Illinois authorities traced his brown two-toned Dodge van back to Hall and found similarities between the stalking incidents, Burnsworth said.
After questioning Hall, FBI agents were asked to investigate because of links to the death of Jessica Roach, who disappeared Sept. 20, 1993, in Georgetown. Her body was found nearly two months later in a cornfield across the state line in Perrysville, Ind.
Hall is under federal indictment, charged with kidnapping Roach, according to FBI agent Wade. There is no federal charge for murder, he said.
Hall also was questioned in the January 1992 stabbing death of Holly Ann Anderson, 18, of Danville, whose body was found about three miles from where Jessica’s body was found.
Authorities in Marion, Ind., about 20 miles south of Wabash, consider Hall a prime suspect in the disappearance of Tricia Reitler, 19, a freshman at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Lt. Jay Kay said.
Reitler, of Homestead, Ohio, was last seen March 29, 1993, on her way home from a grocery store about seven blocks from her dormitory on the Wesleyan campus, Kay said. Investigators found articles of clothing belonging to Reitler in a schoolyard nearby, Kay said, but Reitler has not been found.
Also, the Fort-Wayne News- Sentinel reported last month that FBI agents had told LaPorte, Ind., police that Hall had confessed to killing Rayna Rison, 16, of LaPorte, who disappeared March 26, 1993. Her body was found in a pond one month later.
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