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Engineer Charged as Serial Kidnapper

February 21, 1989 GMT

LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) _ A quiet engineer charged in three kidnappings of young women led a double life, hiding his actions and a stash of pornographic and criminal items from his family, authorities say.

Richard Daniel Starrett has been charged with kidnapping three girls from this rural and suburban area west of Columbia, and abducting and sexually assaulting a teen-ager in Georgia.

Police say Starrett has led deputies to the body of one kidnapping victim, Jeannie McCrea, 15, who was buried Sunday in Columbia. Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said an autopsy showed Miss McCrea was shot twice in the chest with bullets from a .38-caliber gun matching one found in Starrett’s possession, but no murder charge had been filed as of Monday.

Authorities in North Carolina, California, Florida and Tennessee are looking at similarities in unsolved cases. Starrett, 29, was being held pending a bond hearing in Lexington County.

Starrett lived in Martinez, Ga., with a wife and year-old daughter in a three-bedroom bungalow. But less than a mile away, he stocked a mini-warehouse with pornographic and detective magazines and criminal textbooks, investigators say. He kept a .38-caliber revolver and used two aliases, according to Metts.

When his wife and daughter flew to California to see her family, Starrett assumed the role of serial kidnapper and sexual assailant, Metts said.

Starrett found victims by going to homes of people running ads for used household goods. He took them to his home, chained them in a closet, videotaped them and sexually assaulted at least two, Metts says.

″This guy was leading a double life,″ Metts said. ″He was leading one life where he was the family man, employed, known as quiet and reserved, very smart, intellectual.

″On the other side, he was leading the life of a serial kidnapper and sexual assaulter. He was fascinated by pornography. He was fascinated by crimes of violence.″

Starrett was arrested Tuesday night in Texas after a 17-year-old told authorities she escaped from a kidnapper and led police to Starrett’s home in Martinez, Ga.

Neighbors and colleagues knew Starrett as a quiet, friendly design engineer at the Savannah River Plant in Aiken, S.C., a short drive across the Georgia state line from his home.

A native of Atlanta, he grew up as an Army child, living in various U.S. cities and in Central America before his family settled in Martinez in 1977. He studied at Augusta College, Georgia Institute of Technology and San Jose University in California, where he met his wife, Michele, Metts said.

Hired in 1987 by Bechtel National Inc., a San Francisco-based construction company, he was transferred last year to the South Carolina plant, where Bechtel has a contract. Starrett moved back home to Martinez.

Unknown - apparently even to his wife, Metts said - he also rented space at a warehouse complex. There, he hid what Metts described as a ″personal library, boxes and boxes and boxes of books, thousands of them.″

There were books on how to change identity and how to investigate crimes of missing children. There also were books on serial killer Ted Bundy, who died Jan. 24 in the Florida electric chair.

″He was looking for ways to make his crimes look like missing children cases instead of abductions,″ said Metts.

On the day each of the three women was kidnapped, Starrett rented a car. In at least two cases, he used an alias and drove 65 miles east to Lexington County where he chose victims through a shopping guide, Metts said.