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Trucker Questioned About ‘Redhead Murders’

February 6, 1986

DYERSBURG, Tenn. (AP) _ A trucker accused of kidnapping a young red-haired woman won’t face additional charges in connection with a series of unsolved killings called the ″redhead murders,″ a state official said Wednesday.

″We talked to him as a matter of routine,″ said Steve Watson, deputy director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. ″We were interested in determining if he had been in Tennessee during other times in which we have some unsolved homicides.″

″We’re talking to him and doing some checking, but we don’t anticipate charging him with anything other than what he’s charged with,″ Watson said.

Tommy Lee Elkins, 32, of Pennsylvania, was arrested near Dyersburg and charged with aggravated kidnapping after a 20-year-old woman from Boston told authorities he abducted her in Indiana, kept her captive in his truck and raped her, said Dyer County Sheriff Joe McDowell.

Authorities in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania are investigating the deaths of at least eight young women whose bodies have been dumped beside major highways since October 1978.

Investigators from those states have shared notes on the killings over the past year, but Watson said he is not convinced that the slayings are related.

″We don’t really know. We don’t think so,″ he said.

Several of the slain woman were of similar age and size, had red or reddish hair and were strangled, authorities said.

″While there were similarities, there were a lot of things that were not similar,″ Watson said from his office in Nashville.

TBI agents investigating the murders also have interviewed another trucker who was arrested near Lexington, Tenn., last November and charged with abducting and raping a red-haired teen-ager.

That driver, David Lloyd Rutledge, 41, of Divine, Texas, was indicted by a Henderson County grand jury earlier this week on charges of kidnapping, rape, crime against nature and assault with the intent to murder.

He is accused of raping a 15-year-old girl, beating her with a hammer and leaving her for dead.

Watson said TBI agents do not anticipate charging Rutledge with any crimes relating to the unsolved murders.

The murder victims were found along highways near Memphis, Tenn.; West Memphis, Ark.; Olive Branch, Miss.; Jellico, Tenn.; Ashland City, Tenn.; Corbin, Ky.; Cumru Township, Pa.; and in Green County, Tenn.

Only one of the victims, Lisa Ann Nichols, 26, of Linden, W.Va., has been identified. Her body was found in September 1984 in Arkansas.

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